Every spring, as Jewish families gather to celebrate Passover Pesach , they retell the story of the Israelites' hasty exodus from Egypt. The ancient holiday takes its English name from God's promise to "pass over" the homes of faithful Israelites while delivering the 10th and most painful plague upon the Egyptians, the death of their firstborn. As it's written in Exodus In the popular retelling of the Passover story, the "destroyer" is often called the "angel of death," but the words "angel of death" don't actually appear anywhere in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian New Testament or the Islamic Quran. Does that mean that the angel of death doesn't exist in the monotheistic traditions? Not at all. It only means that our popular conception of the angel of death doesn't come from the standard biblical canon , but from curious texts like the "Testament of Abraham" from the first century C. The angels Michael and Gabriel make appearances in the book of Daniel, and God sends the angel Gabriel to inform Mary that she will be the mother of Jesus. But the authors of the Bible took great pains to emphasize that God was the only one calling the shots, not angels. Indeed, in the Bible, there is no mention of an angel who ushers people from death to the afterlife.
Relative to similar concepts of such beings, Azrael holds a rather benevolent role as the angel of death, wherein he acts as a psychopomp , responsible for transporting the souls of the deceased after death. Depending on the perspective and precepts of various religions in which he is a figure, he may also be portrayed as residing in the Third Heaven. In one description, he has 4 faces, wings, and 70, feet, and his whole body consists of eyes and tongues whose number corresponds to the number of men inhabiting the Earth. The name Azrael indicates a Hebrew origin, and archaeological evidence found in Jewish settlements in Mesopotamia confirm that it was indeed used in Aramaic Incantation texts from the 7th century. After the emergence of Islam, the name Azrael becomes popular among both Jewish and Islamic literature, as well as folklore. In Jewish mysticism , he is the embodiment of evil. Surah 32 mentions an angel of death, identified with Azrael.
A Religious Perspective
Some say the Archangel Michael plays some role in the process from passing from this world to the next as the "angel of death", but no Bible verse or passage supports this notion. In Scripture, Michael appears to fight spiritual battles and carry out the commands of God, none of which seem to indicate a grim reaper role. The name Azrael never appears in the Bible as well.
For example, just before famous inventor Thomas Edison died in , he remarked, "It is very beautiful over there. However, the Midrash explains that God does not allow the Angel of Death to bring evil to righteous people. In Christian tradition, the Archangel Michael supervises all of the angels who work with dying people. Michael appears to each person just prior to the moment of death to give the person the last chance to consider the spiritual state of his or her soul. Those who aren't yet saved but change their minds at the last moment can be redeemed. By telling Michael with faith that they say "yes" to God's offer of salvation, they can go to heaven rather than hell when they die. But the New Testament does say that angels are "all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation" Hebrews Traditionally, Christians believe that all angels who help people make the transition into the afterlife are working under Archangel Michael's supervision. The Quran also mentions an Angel of Death: "The Angel of Death who is charged with taking your souls will take your souls; then you will be returned to your Lord" As-Sajdah