Michael the Great Prince and Saviour of Israel


In the New Testament, Christ is mankind’s divine mediator and intercessor, their high priest in the heavenly temple, the Holy One who sits at God’s right hand, and the saviour who descends to earth at the end of the age to vanquish Satan. But this multifaceted, cosmic identity wasn’t introduced by an itinerant Galilean preacher, nor did it originate with the teachings of the early apostles, for the notion of a divine saviour described in these terms was already widespread in Judaism before Christianity was born. He went by many names, but the one he was known by most often was Michael. In this article, I want to explore his development and his importance to both Judaism and Christianity.

The Four Archangels of the Apocalypse

Michael, of course, is one of the four archangels of late Second Temple Judaism. Christians are used to taking the existence of named angels for granted, since both Michael and Gabriel appear in the New Testament.1 However, their appearance in the Jewish religion is abrupt and late. In the canonical Old Testament, they are mentioned only in Daniel, written around 167 BCE. Prior to that, their first known appearance is in the oldest portion of 1 Enoch, the Book of Watchers, which presents us with the four archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Sariel2 in God’s throne room. The questionable source of these named angels was acknowledged even by some Jews. In the Talmud, Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish states that “Israel took the names of the angels from the Babylonians during the period of the Exile” (Yer. R. H. 56d).

Today, academic theories about the origin of the archangel tradition abound. In a recent paper, New Zealand Old Testament scholar Deane Galbraith (2019) lists eight different (non-exclusive) explanations that have been proposed by scholars. Galbraith himself has a refreshing new approach. He builds on the work of Philip Esler (2017), who argues that God’s realm in the Book of Watchers is primarily envisaged as a royal court based on the Persian and Hellenistic royal courts, and on that of J. Edward Wright (2000), who had highlighted the displacement of the older three-story universe with the more complex Hellenistic model of planetary and astral spheres, which made the transcendent God more distant and emphasized the importance of intermediary beings (whom the Hellenized Jews called “angels”).3 Galbraith combines these elements with the prominence of elite, heroic warriors in the later biblical narratives4 — particularly the Gibborim and the Rephaim — and concludes that the four archangels are based on “traditions about heroic warriors and nobles serving in the king’s inner court” (Galbraith p. 220). Linguistics seems to support this view. Gabriel is literally the Gibbor (mighty one) of El. Raphael is the Rapha (leader/great one) of El. Michael (“who is like El?”) is a prince or son of God, as is Sariel (“prince of El”) (ibid.). Furthermore, Psalm 103:20 appears to identify angels as Gibborim.

Bless Yahweh, you his angels,
you mighty ones (gibbore) who do his bidding,
obedient to his spoken word. 

Oracles in Joel (3:11) and Isaiah (13:3–4) also speak of summoning the Gibborim of heaven to fight Yahweh’s enemies on earth.

With this development, the role of angels in Judaism changes as well. No longer are they simply anonymous messengers of God as they always were in the earlier Hebrew Bible; now, their main roles are to serve God in his heavenly court and to wage war against rebellious powers in the lower heavens and on earth (Galbraith, p. 221).

Archangel Michael by Cesare Giuseppe, 1629
Archangel Michael by Cesare Giuseppe, 1629

Michael in the Book of Watchers

In his earliest extant literary appearance, Michael is commissioned along with three other archangels in 1 Enoch 10. Although nothing here suggests his superiority over the other three, Michael is prominent by being listed first. In the story that follows, he is sent to bind and imprison the fallen Watcher Shemihazah and his associates, who have mated with the daughters of men, and to destroy their offspring, cleansing the earth of all impurity and sin so that eternal peace and prosperity can be restored.

And to Michael [the Most High] said, “Go, Michael, bind Shemihazah and the others with him, who have mated with the daughters of men, so that they were defiled by them in their uncleanness. And when their sons perish and they see the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, until the day of their judgment and consummation, until the everlasting judgment is consummated. (1 Enoch 10:11–12)

In 1 Enoch 20, which was added sometime later, there are now seven archangels (called “holy angels”) whose roles are each defined. Michael has been put in charge of the people of Israel. A bit further on, in 24:6, Michael is specifically described as the leader of the holy angels. There is a clear progression that elevates Michael’s superiority over the others.

The Angels of the Nations

Another important development in Jewish angelology took place in the Hellenistic period under the influence of the Septuagint. The original Hebrew of Deuteronomy 32:8 reflects a polytheistic milieu in which each of the gods, including Yahweh, is assigned a nation to watch over:

When Elyon apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods.5 Yahweh’s own portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share.

Some manuscripts of the Greek Septuagint (LXX) preserve the reading “sons of God”, but most have adopted the interpretive phrase “according to the number of angels of God” instead. Thus, Jews reading the LXX would have concluded that each nation had an angel assigned to it. The evidence for this belief beginning in the second century BCE is widespread (Sirach 17:17 and 24, Jubilees 15.31f., the Animal Apocalypse in 1 Enoch, etc.; see Culianu, p. 81). Furthermore, these angels were held responsible for the actions of worldly kings (cf. Isaiah 24:21-22), and the angels of the nations would even fight amongst each other, as explicitly depicted in The Ascension of Isaiah.

1 Enoch 20 and book of Daniel applied this tradition to Israel itself and identified Michael as the angelic guardian of the Jewish nation.

“Daniel in the Lions’ Den” by Richard André, The Coloured Picture Bible for Children, 1884
“Daniel in the Lions’ Den” by Richard André, The Coloured Picture Bible for Children, 1884

Michael the Prince in Daniel

The mythological imagery and angelology of Daniel were almost certainly influenced by 1 Enoch. The description of God and his throne in Daniel 7, for example, appears to have been borrowed from 1 Enoch 14 or a similar source, with Dan 7:9 being nearly a direct quotation of 1 En 14:22 (Black, pp. 149–151).6 Michael plays an instrumental role in Daniel’s visions, just as he did in those of Enoch.

In Daniel 10, a messenger angel visits with a revelation for Daniel. He explains that he was opposed by the angelic prince of Persia and was only able to reach Daniel after Michael intervened:

…the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me twenty-one days. So Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia. (10:13)

Now I must return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I am through with him, the prince of Greece will come. … There is no one with me who contends against these princes except Michael, your prince. (10:20b, 21b)

The revelation given to Daniel describes the turbulent events of the last days and the final deliverance of the Jews by Michael:

At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. (12:1)

In the first two examples, Michael is fulfilling the dual roles of Israel’s prince and the angelic warrior who fights on God’s behalf in the lower heavenly realms. (Remember that in Hellenistic Jewish cosmology, God’s transcendence prevents him from taking direct control of events in the lower and more corrupt levels of heaven and earth.) In the latter example, Michael also fulfills the role of eschatological saviour — a role many associate with messianism, though no Davidic messiah can be found in the book of Daniel.

A similar intercessory angel who mediates on behalf of Israel can be found in other texts, such as the Testament of Levi:

And I said to him, ‘I beg you, Lord, teach me your name, so that I may call on you in the day of tribulation. And he said, ‘I am the angel who makes intercession for the nation Israel, that they might not be beaten.’ (T. Levi 5:5–6)

While the name of the angel is not always specified, the widespread tradition that such an angel exists is significant.

Fontaine Saint-Michel, Paris
Fontaine Saint-Michel, Paris

Michael’s Presence at Creation

From his very first appearance 1 Enoch, Michael plays a fundamental role in primeval times. As we have already seen, he is the angel tasked by God with binding the Watchers and supervising their imprisonment for the duration of world history, seventy generations. The leaders of these fallen angels include Asael, a Promethean figure who had introduced “all iniquity on the earth” and revealed eternal mysteries (1 En 9:6), and Shemihazah, the chief of the two hundred Watchers who had descended to earth to take human women (1 En 6:1–6, 9:6, 10:11). Michael also destroys the off-spring of the Watchers and cleanses the earth from all defilement and uncleanness, allowing the earth to flourish and humanity to live in peace (1 Enoch 10:15–11:2).

Subsequent Jewish legends would push back the corruption of mankind to the time of Adam and Eve, and here again, Michael has a critical role to play. This legend is first fully attested in The Life of Adam and Eve, which exists in a number of Jewish and Christian versions. In the story, Michael is present when Adam is created. He instructs, on God’s command, all the angels to worship the newly created Adam, a being created in God’s image. In this legend, Satan is a heavenly angel who is dismayed by this event. Satan refuses to worship what he regards as an inferior being and, as a result, is expelled from heaven to the earth along with some of the other angels.

When God blew into you the breath of life and your countenance and likeness were made in the image of God, Michael brought you and made (us) worship you in the sight of God, and the Lord God said, ‘Behold Adam! I have made you in our image and likeness.’ And Michael went out and called all the angels, saying, ‘Worship the image of the Lord God, as the Lord God has instructed.’ (Life of Adam and Eve [Latin] 13:3–14:1)

Some version of this legend seems to have existed quite early, during the Second Temple period (Moffitt, p. 90 n. 16), and we find echoes of it in the book of Hebrews, with Christ in the role of Adam:

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” (Hebrews 1:6)7

We’ll examine this further on in connection with the book of Revelation.

Michael as Eschatological Warrior-Saviour

Having looked at Michael’s role in creation and primeval times, we now look at his role in the eschaton, or end times.

Although the aforementioned role of Michael in 1 Enoch concerns mainly primordial times and the origins of evil in the world, he also has an implicit role in the eschatological judgment of the Watchers. Furthermore, he is explicitly given the task of cleansing the earth and restoring an everlasting peace. Thus, Michael is understood already as an agent of salvation with “eschatological dimensions” (Nickelsburg, p. 51).

Outside of 1 Enoch, Michael is frequently described as the Commander-in-chief (archistrategos)8 of God’s angels, and in apocalyptic texts, he is often the one who leads the final battle against the adversary and brings salvation to Israel.

In Daniel 12:1, he is the Great Prince, prophesied to appear as the deliverer of Israel at the end of the present age. The War Scroll of Qumran, written about a half century after Daniel, describes Michael as the Prince of Light, a warrior angel who will defeat the devil Belial and establish his own kingdom in heaven and on earth.

This is the day appointed by Him for the defeat and overthrow of the Prince of the kingdom of wickedness, and He will send eternal succour to the company of His redeemed by the might of the princely Angel of the kingdom of Michael. …He will raise up the kingdom of Michael in the midst of the gods, and the realm of Israel in the midst of all flesh. (1QM 17.5–9) 

And the Prince of Light Thou hast appointed from ancient 10 times to come to our support; [all the sons of righteousness are in his hand], and all the spirits of truth are under his dominion. But Belial, the Angel of Malevolence, Thou hast created for the Pit; his [rule] is in Darkness and his purpose is to bring about wickedness and iniquity. (1QM 13.10)

According to my reading, most scholars agree that Michael and Melchizedek were regarded as two names of the same Prince of Light by the authors of many of the Qumran scrolls.9 Thus, when 2QMelch describes Melchizedek as an eschatological warrior who exacts God’s vengeance against Belial and then reigns as king, we can infer this deliverer also to be Michael, the same Prince of Light (Hannah, pp. 70–72).

John J. Collins, arguably the world’s most renowned scholar of apocalyptic literature, describes the notion of a transcendent savior figure as “perhaps the most significant development in Jewish messianism…in the second century B.C.E.” He notes that Persian influence is “widely and plausibly believed” as having shaped the Jewish dualistic framework of a Prince of Light, Michael, who is balanced by an Angel of Darkness, Belial (Collins 1987, p. 101).

Virgin of the Assumption and St. Michael the Archangel by Dosso Dossi, 1533–1534
Virgin of the Assumption and St. Michael the Archangel by Dosso Dossi, 1533–1534

Michael as the One Like a Son of Man

Daniel 7 contains one of the most influential apocalyptic passages in all biblical literature. It describes, for the first time in scripture, “one like a son of man” who rides on the clouds of heaven — a striking description inherited from the old Canaanite Baal mythology — and is given dominion over all the earth by the Ancient of Days. A common interpretation of this text is that the son of man represents the collective nation of Israel, based on the understanding that the preceding four beasts who rule the world are other earthly kingdoms. However, an older interpretation that has been revived by John J. Collins and is supported by Darrel D. Hannah (pp. 34ff.) is that the four beasts are four kings, and the “one like a son of man”10 is the angelic leader of Israel and of God’s angels, i.e. Michael. After all, angels are described elsewhere in Daniel as resembling humans, and the role explicitly given to Michael in Daniel 12 is essentially the same as what Daniel 7 describes. Under this interpretation, the “holy ones of the Most High” who receive the kingdom in 7:18 are the angels, and the “people of the holy ones” given dominion over all other kingdoms are the righteous Israelites.

Even if the human-like being in Daniel 7 is not meant to be Michael, this notion of a divine second-in-command over Israel is developed further in later chapters, where he is explicitly named Michael.

One Old Testament passage that seems to have had special significance for Jewish eschatology was Psalm 82. In this very short psalm, a figure called Elohim stands among the great assembly of God (El) and is given dominion over all the nations in order to judge them. While this text is generally understood to be describing Yahweh and El Elyon, the merger of these deities into a single God left a vacancy for the figure who resides in heaven alongside God and judges the world. Daniel 7 seems to be drawing on this interpretation in its portrayal of the exalted angel (M. Segal, p. 152). In one Qumran scroll (11QMelch), Melchizedek (i.e., Michael) is explicitly equated with the Elohim of psalm 82. Another Qumran text, the Self-Exaltation Hymn, describes an unnamed being who has been exalted above the gods (angels) in heaven. The identity and nature (human or angel?) of this being is disputed, but a few scholars have made the case that it is Michael (Collins 2016, pp. 26, 32).

Michael in the Book of Revelation

The New Testament book of Revelation ties together various Michael legends in connection with both creation and the eschaton. Chapter 12 describes a battle in which angels led by Michael expel a great dragon from heaven:

Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. […] And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:3, 7–9)

Here we see Michael in his role as God’s commander-in-chief. However, the description of the dragon as “that ancient serpent…the deceiver of the whole earth” ties him to primeval times, and his being cast out of heaven by Michael clearly echoes the legend found in The Life of Adam and Eve. However, in the larger context of chapter 12, this battle ushers in the kingdom of God and his Christ, which suggests an eschatological context reminiscent of the war between Michael and Belial in the Qumran War Scroll. Rev 12:7 also contains a specific allusion to Dan 10:20, which implies that the author has Daniel’s vision of Michael and the end of the age in mind (Beale, p. 334).

Furthermore, there is a second battle in Revelation 19 in which it is Christ who defeats the dragon on earth. An unnamed angel (Michael?) then binds him in a pit for a thousand years not unlike what happened to the Watchers in 1 Enoch. The exact relationship between these two battles is not clear; one interpretation is that these are two views of the same event, because earthly events are mirrored by events in heaven (Hannah, p. 129, based on the arguments of Caird, pp. 153–157). Interestingly, this interpretation creates a direct association between Christ and Michael.11

Revelation also appears to draw from the tradition in 1 Enoch 69 that Michael was the possessor of a secret unknownable name through which creation is bound together. In Rev 19:12, it is Christ who is possessor of a secret name “that no one knows but himself.”

One more potential connection between Revelation and other Jewish Michael traditions is found in Rev 8:3-5, where an unnamed angel functions as a priest who delivers the prayers of the saints to God.

 Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. (Rev 8:3–4)

In the apocryphal Jewish book of 3 Baruch, written roughly around the same time as Revelation, we find a similar tradition about Michael in the heavenly temple. His role is to receive the prayers of men, put them in a large bowl, and bring them before God. According to Hannah (p. 44), it is likely that the author was drawing on “an already established tradition of Michael as heavenly high priest.”

“Saint Michael Battling a Demon” from a 15th Century Book of Hours
“Saint Michael Battling a Demon” from a 15th Century Book of Hours (source)

Between Judaism and Christianity: Michael as Christ?

The evidence considered so far points to far-ranging similarities between the roles of Michael in various strands of Judaism and of Christ in Christianity, and we haven’t fully examined the Jewish traditions of Michael as high priest in the heavenly temple (e.g., in 3 Baruch and the rabbinical literature) or his role as intercessor and psychopomp (e.g., in the Testament of Isaac, the Testament of Jacob, the Assumption of Moses, 4 Baruch, and Jude 9 in the New Testament). Considering that the earliest Christians — who did not yet use that label — simply practiced an offshoot of Judaism, perhaps it should not surprise us to find instances in which the distinction between Michael and Christ is blurred.

I’ve already noted that Michael is interpreted by some scholars as the heavenly counterpart of the Christ who defeats the dragon on earth. According to New Testament scholar Ranko Stefanovic, the context of chapter 12 on its own makes it clear that when Michael’s victory is accompanied by the proclamation of salvation and the authority of Christ, it must mean that Michael is Christ (Stefanovic, p. 386). I’m not sure I agree with this conclusion myself, but it’s not an outlandish argument.

Another intriguing connection is made in The Shepherd of Hermas, a second-century Christian text sometimes included in early Bibles. It describes a glorious angel who justifies the penitent (Mandate 5) and tests believers (Parable 8) among his various roles. In Parable 8, this angel, previously referred to as Christ, is given the name Michael.

But the great and glorious angel is Michael, who hath the power over this people and is their captain. For this is he that putteth the law into the hearts of the believers; therefore he himself inspecteth them to whom he gave it, to see whether they have observed it. (Hermas, Parable 8.3.3)

Significantly, the name “Jesus” is never used. In other passages, however, this angel is seemingly referred to as the Son of God (Osiek, p. 195).

I would also note, without getting into the details here, that many scholars argue for a tradition of angelic christology in early Christianity. The simile in Galatians 4:14 is often pointed to as evidence that Paul thought of Christ as an angel, for example:

Though my condition put you to the test, you did not scorn or despise me, but welcomed me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.

Scholar Alan Segel, in his famous book Two Powers in Heaven, argues that the Christian understanding of Christ was based on “a combination of traditions of exegesis about various angelic figures with messianic prophecies” (A. Segal, p. 208), and that “Jesus is not called an angel in the New Testament because he was not believed to be merely an angel” (p. 210). As Segal understands it, early Christians created a unified redemption myth by applying the diverse angelic messiah and Son of Man traditions to Jesus in order to vindicate his martyrdom (p. 208). 

The Angel Michael in Xena: Warrior Princess

Angel Worship and Michael Cults

There is also some evidence that Michael was directly venerated or worshipped in certain Jewish or Christian cults as a mediator or saviour the way Jesus was in what became normative Christianity. Colossians 2:18, for example, seems to warn against the worship of angels — implying that this was something some Christians did.

Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels…

Hebrews 1 and 2 is also focused on demonstrating the superiority of Christ over the angels, citing a number of Psalms as evidence. This passage has been interpreted as meaning that the audience was either attracted to angel veneration or perceived Christ as an angel, and thus needed to be corrected by the writer (Stuckenbruck, pp. 124–125).

The rabbinical literature also prohibits worship of Michael and other angels, although its relevance to first-century Judaism (and Christianity) is unclear. Here’s one example (Stuckenbruck, p. 64) that denies the need for a mediator and insists that Jews should call upon God directly:

When distress comes upon a man, he should not cry out to either Michael or to Gabriel; instead, he should cry out to me, and I will answer him immediately. That is what is written: ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’. (j. Berakhoth 9:13)

Another rabbinical text deals with sacrifices performed in the name of celestial bodies and “in the name of Michael, the great prince of the army” (t. Hullin 2:18; see Stuckenbruck 1995, p. 59).

There are also abundant examples of ancient charms and prayers that called upon Michael directly, sometimes addressing him as a god (Stuckenbruck 1995, pp. 194–196).

The Council of Laodicea (360 CE) forbade the worship of angels, and the theologian Theodoret, writing a few decades later, mentioned a cult of the angel Michael practiced in Phrygia and Pisidia (Stuckenbruck, p. 112).

Nevertheless, despite all these intriguing data points, the likelihood that some groups engaged in the veneration of Michael and other angels remains disputed by some scholars (Hannah, p. 9).

Erzengel Michael, Universität Bonn Haupteingang
Erzengel Michael, Universität Bonn Haupteingang


The study of Second Temple angelology and the Jewish belief in a Great Angel or Second Power goes off in so many tangents, it was difficult to focus on a single thread of development for this article. However, I hope I have managed to demonstrate the following connections:

  1. The post-exilic belief in named angels serving in God’s heavenly court developed from legends of earthly analogs who were great warriors from Israel’s past.
  2. The earliest extant text that describes the chief archangels, 1 Enoch, gave Michael an important role — binding the fallen watchers and cleansing the earth — that was primordial yet had eschatological dimensions.
  3. LXX Deut. 32:8 influenced the Jewish belief that each nation had an angel in charge of it.
  4. Daniel 12 established Michael as the angelic Prince of Israel who would deliver Israel at the end of the age.
  5. Another Jewish legend associated Michael with the creation of Adam and the fall of Satan.
  6. Numerous other Jewish texts variously assigned priestly, eschatological, and intercessory functions to Michael and other divine beings that may have been equated with Michael.
  7. Early Christian literature created a christology for Jesus that combined the various functions and legends about Michael with legends about Adam, resulting in a divine being who was both a “second Adam” and an angelic mediator/priest/saviour second only to God in authority.


  1. David Friedrich Strauss, one of the earliest theologians to examine the Gospels critically, remarked in his magisterial book The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, pp. 96-97, how inconceivable it was that the “celestial hierarchy should actually correspond with the notions entertained by Jews subsequent to the exile; and that the names given to the angels should be in the language of the people” — particularly since named angels appeared not in the books of Moses or the prophets, but only in late works like Daniel and Tobit written under the influence of the Persians. I have not found any Christian apologetics source that defends the literal existence of Gabriel and the other archangels against Strauss’s criticisms.
  2. There is inconsistency regarding the identity of the fourth archangel. In many manuscripts of 1 Enoch and other texts, he is called Phanuel or Uriel, but Sariel appears to be his name in the oldest traditions. See Galbraith, p. 233 n. 31 and the source listed there.
  3. I have covered the influence of Hellenistic cosmology and angelology on Judaism and Christianity in an earlier article that I highly recommend reading.
  4. For more on the elite warriors of the biblical narratives, see my article on Shamgar son of Anat.
  5. The Masoretic Text reads “according to the number of the sons of Israel”, which doesn’t really make sense, but the original reading is preserved by one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 4QDeutj. See Michael Heiser, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God”, Bibliotheca Sacra 158, 2001.
  6. As Black notes, literary interdependence is evident between Daniel 7 and 1 Enoch 14, and the latter was written around 250 BCE, almost 100 years earlier than Daniel.
  7. Margaret Barker (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, pp. 215–216) believes that Deut. 32:43 is also an allusion to the Adam legend: “Praise, O heavens, his people, worship him all you gods [LXX: angels of God].” On the subject of Christ presented as a new Adam by the book of Hebrews, note that Christ takes the place of Adam in the quotation of LXX Psalm 8:5 in Hebrews 2:6–9 (Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 1964, pp. 34–35).
  8. He is called this in 3 Baruch, the Testament of Abraham, and 2 Enoch, among other texts (Hannah, p. 39). It is often thought that title archistrategos originates with the title “commander-in-chief of the forces of the Lord” given to the angel in LXX Joshua 5:13–15. In fact, some ancient Christian commentators held that the angel in Joshua was indeed Michael (Hannah, p. 40).
  9. In the scroll 4QVisions of Amram, the great angel is described as having three names: Prince of Light, Melchizedek, and a third one that is missing due to a lacuna in the text. For various reasons, nearly all commentators believe the third name was Michael.
  10. In Daniel, this simply means that the angelic being looks like a human. Under Daniel’s influence, however, the term “Son of Man” would come to have eschatological significance.
  11. However, it seems to me that Christ’s role is also analogous to Adam in Revelation 12. Just as Adam’s creation triggers Satan’s expulsion from heaven in the Life of Adam and Eve, in Revelation 12, it is the birth of the child which causes Satan’s downfall.


Deane Galbraith, The Origin of Archangels, Class Struggle in the New Testament, 2019.

Philip Esler, God’s Court and Courtiers in the Book of the Watchers: Re-interpreting Heaven in 1 Enoch 1-36, 2017.

J. Edward Wright, The Early History of Heaven, 2000.

I.P. Culianu, Angels of the Nations and Gnostic Dualism, Studies in Gnosticism and Hellenistic Religions, 1981.

Matthew Black, The Book of Enoch or I Enoch: A New English Edition, 1985.

Moffitt, The Interpretation of Scripture, Reading the Epistle to the Hebrews: A Resource for Students, 2011.

George W. E. Nickelsburg, Salvation without and with a Messiah, Judaisms and their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era, 1987.

Darrel D. Hannah, Michael and Christ: Michael Traditions and Angel Christology in Early Christianity, 1999.

John J. Collins, Messianism in the Maccabean Period, Judaism and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era, 1987.

John J. Collins, The Self-Glorification Hymn from Qumran, Crossing Boundaries in Early Judaism and Christianity, 2016.

Michael Segal, Dreams, Riddles, and Visions: Textual, Contextual, and Intertextual Approaches to the Book of Daniel, 2016.

Gregory K. Beale, John’s Use of the Old Testament in Revelation, 1998.

George Bradford Caird, A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine, 1966.

Ranko Stefanovic, The Revelation of Jesus Christ: A Commentary on the Book of Revelation, 2002.

Carolyn Osiek, The Shepherd of Hermas (Hermeneia), 1999.

Alan Segal, Two Powers in Heaven, 1977.

Loren Stuckenbruck, Angel Veneration and Christology, 1995.

17 thoughts on “Michael the Great Prince and Saviour of Israel

  1. Informative article. There was one point I think needs some correction:

    “Furthermore, there is a second battle in Revelation 19 in which it is Christ who defeats the dragon on earth, binding him in a pit for a thousand years not unlike what happened to the Watchers in 1 Enoch.”

    In Revelation 20, it is an unnamed ‘angel coming down from heaven’ who binds the dragon, rather than the Messiah of chapter 19.


  2. Paul wrote: Thus, Jews reading the LXX would have concluded that each nation had an angel assigned to it. The evidence for this belief beginning in the second century BCE is widespread (Sirach 23:12…

    I’ve read Sirach 23:12 multiple times but don’t see its significance. Did you perhaps mean Sirach 17:17? Psalm 33:12?

    Paul wrote: It is often thought that title archistrategos originates with the title “commander-in-chief of the forces of the Lord” given to the angel in LXX Joshua 5:13–15. In fact, some ancient Christian commentators held that the angel in Joshua was indeed Michael (Hannah, p. 40).

    I’ll note that the title given, “commander,” is the same Hebrew word translated “prince” in Daniel 10, so Joshua 5:14 could be translated “Prince of the army/host of Yahweh.” In fact, the American Standard Version, Douay-Rheims Bible, and Young’s Literal Translation all say “Prince.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Now I want an article on how the archangel Michael played a role in Xena: Warrior Princess, which I presume would be Greek Mythology. And also fashion tips on how I can look like him.


  4. Paul,

    Your content is simply amazing. Thank you for the hundreds of hours you’ve put in over all the articles you’ve written. I’ve been gobbling them up like a delicious bowl of lentil stew and can’t get enough! You’re the man.


      • I’m just going to follow up with Cain. I’ve been reading your articles for years and am always excited when I see a new one come out. Admittedly, you took a break at some point so I quit checking so frequently.

        Searched your website on a whim a week or two ago and am excited to get a chance to read all the new articles.

        Keep it up, man.

        —Michael, Atlanta, GA


        • Thanks for the comment, Michael. I’m always actively working on content, including a new project I hope people will like, but work and family demands have to take priority.


  5. Are you aware of criticism that interacts with Ryan E. Stokes 2008 paper on the interrelation of throne visions in Daniel, 1 Enoch 14, and the Book of Giants? I think I remember another text that follows such a comparison to argue for Daniel->Enoch/Giants, but I might have imagined such a paper/or reasoned that argument in my own head from Stokes.


    Stokes, Ryan E. “The Throne Visions of Daniel 7, 1 “Enoch” 14, and the Qumran “Book of Giants’ (4Q530): An Analysis of Their Literary Relationship.” https://www.jstor.org/stable/40387625?seq=1


  6. I don’t know if anyone still checks here, but the Hebrew translations are badly done.

    1) The “prince” someone above mentioned is inaccurate – שר/ה is not a royal or heraldic position, but rather an administrative leadership role – שר צבא means army commander.

    2) רפא the root that appears in both רפאל and רפאים, means healing and medicine – רופא is a medical doctor. The relevant section is incorrect.

    3) Gabriel is associated above with גיבור hero, but could also (probably)mean גבר man, this use is in Chronicles.

    4) Nephilim נפילים is the plural form of נפיל from the root נפל in English fall. Fallen [ones] is much better translation than Giants or the rest of the creative interpretations.

    I haven’t read the whole article so there could be many more but as impertinent as it sounds I would advise learning some Hebrew before trying to derive meaning from Hebrew writings- the translations are notoriously inaccurate.


    • Hi Maya. Thanks for the comment. Here are my responses to your main points.

      1) שר/ה is not a royal or heraldic position, but rather an administrative leadership role – שר צבא means army commander.

      As I have explained, the focus is on the angel’s role as the patron angel of Persia or Israel and the background of that belief. While every translation I’ve consulted as well as Collins’s commentary prefers the word “prince” both here and elsewhere where the word occurs (e.g. Daniel 8:11), the point would not differ if you used a word with martial overtones.

      2) רפא the root that appears in both רפאל and רפאים, means healing and medicine…

      That is true, at least regarding the root. Regarding rephaim, much less likely. The question regarding the etymology of “Raphael” is more complicated. Here is the full quote by Galbraith:

      The plot of Tobit (ca. third century BCE) and 1 Enoch 40:9 clearly understand that the name Raphael is based on the verb “to heal” (רפא). But it is unlikely that the biblical term Rephaim (רפאים; sg. רפא Rapha) possessed such a meaning. For the character and role of the Rephaim in biblical texts, who are consistently presented there as long-dead royal warriors (either ancient, autochthonous inhabitants of Canaan and neighboring territories or now-deceased occupants of the underworld) have no obvious connection with healing. The conclusion is made reasonably certain by the existence of the Rāpiˀūma in Ugaritic texts, clearly related to the biblical Rephaim. For the verb rpˀ (“to heal”) is unattested at Ugarit, and a different regular Ugaritic verb (bny) is regularly used instead. Given these considerations, we should look elsewhere for the meaning of the closely related Ugaritic and Hebrew terms. It is likely that the root of Rephaim is related to Akk. rabā’um (“to be large, great”), and its derivative rabium (< rabūm; “leader, chief, prince”), and Amoritic rpˀ (“great, strong”). Given that rpˀ (“to be strong/great”) was rendered rbˀ in Hebrew, and that rpˀ is the Hebrew root of words related to healing, we may conclude that the healing attributes of the archangel Raphael in Tobit and later works resulted from popular etymologies, resulting from a loss of understanding of the term from which it was constructed, Rapha/Rephaim. (Galbraith, pp.215-216)

      You are free, of course, to reject Galbraith’s position.

      4) Nephilim נפילים is the plural form of נפיל from the root נפל in English fall. Fallen is much better translation than Giants or the rest of the creative interpretations.

      I don’t mention nephilim or giants in this article, so I’m not sure what you’re referring to.


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