We experience our ‘beliefs’ culturally. We take a quick/brief look at The Word. All individuals experienced other worldly beings without an untoward description of ‘color’.
From ancient times, angels have been present in most religions and beliefs in Western culture. Stories of angels were passed down from generation to generation. They were believed to be the missionaries of God who were sent on missions to assist God in taking care of humans and punishing sinners.
Angels in Abrahamic Tradition
In Judaism, angels are referred to as malachim, which means messengers. These angels are ranked in a hierarchy, but their existence is contingent upon performing specific tasks; once that task is finished, the angel disappears. These tasks might range from imparting a message of prophecy to facilitating the normative laws of nature. While there are descriptions of angels in the writings of the prophet, they are not depicted in Jewish art.
It was Christianity that developed angels into more fixed figures with human-like personas and unique personalities. One only has to look at religious art through the ages to see that angels evolved in Christian iconography. In early art (such as catacomb mosaics), an angelic presence might be communicated with a simple dove; in later art (such as Baroque ceiling frescoes) angels are human figures with well-sculpted bodies and wings.
Angels also appear in Islam, who are mentioned in the Koran by name. Similar to their depiction in Judaism and Christianity, the malak is a divine messenger with a specific task, who is believed to have wings—but due to islamic rules about what is permitted in artistic rendering, angels are not depicted as they are in the Western world.
Angelic Beings in Eastern Religions
Angels also appear in Eastern religions such as Hinduism, but the only similarity they bear to their Western counterparts is their identity as spiritual facilitators who interact with people. Devas are spiritual guardians who watch over people and facilitate their process of becoming one with the universe—they are believed to inhabit a higher astral plane, and may be worshipped by some Hindus as a minor deity.
In Buddhism, angelic beings are also referred to as Devas. They are not immortal, but rather souls who have been reincarnated into a higher spiritual plane. Invisible to the human eye, they can only be seen by the spiritually awakened, who might benefit from their communion with the Deva by achieving spiritual enlightenment. Devas can appear in physical form, may shine with their own illumination, and move great distances, perhaps by flying or riding a flying chariot.
In Japan and China, there were supernatural beings called Tennin, who have been compared to the angels, nymphs, and fairy-folk of the Western world. Their colorful feathered kimonos facilitate their flying powers, or they may have flying wings. They appear frequently in tales where they come to earth, marry a mortal, and perhaps return to their own reality once they are discovered. There were also spirit-like beings in Shintoism referred to as Kami, spirits embodied in the landscape (such as a river or a mountain).
Angels around the World and throughout History
Primitive or indigenous societies around the world are filled with animate beings that hover between the spirit world and this world. In most cultures, an “angel” implies some status as a messenger between mankind and a Higher Power—but many indigenous cultures have a more polytheistic view of the world. However, the spirits of animals or ancestors may still bring messages to people, especially in dreams or in a vision quest. In many cultures, each person may have a totem or guardian spirit. Interestingly, many indigenous societies that converted to Christianity cast their once-deities into the roles of angels and saints. Two places where this was very common are Mexico and the British Isles.
In the Ancient World, such as in Greek and Roman mythology, there were not necessarily angels, but there were messenger gods charged with carrying information between the deities and from the gods to man—such as Hermes (Mercury). However, philosophers like Aristotle conjectured that if there was a “Prime Mover,” there must be secondary movers…and indeed, the very word “angel” comes from the Greek aggelos. Similarly, in ancient Egypt and Babylon, the people believed in multiple gods charged with a variety of specific tasks, but not in angels per se.
Amazing, the experiences of many are angels that are of ‘race’/color or lack of it!
The Angel of the Lord appearing to Hagar in the wilderness.
Angel of Yahweh
Examples of use of the Hebrew term מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה are found in the following verses, here given in the King James Version translation:
- Genesis 16:7–14. The angel of the Lord appears to Hagar. The angel speaks as God in the first person, and in verse 13 Hagar identifies “the LORD that spake unto her” as “Thou God seest me”.
- Genesis 22:11–15. The angel of the Lord appears to Abraham and refers to God in the first person.
- Exodus 3:2–4. The angel of the Lord appears to Moses in a flame in verse 2, and God speaks to Moses from the flame in verse 4.
- Numbers 22:22–38. The angel of the Lord meets the prophet Balaam on the road. In verse 38, Balaam identifies the angel who spoke to him as delivering the word of God.
- Judges 2:1–3. An angel of the Lord appears to Israel.
- Judges 6:11–23. An angel of the Lord appears to Gideon, and in verse 22 Gideon fears for his life because he has seen an angel of the Lord face to face.
- Judges 13:3–22. The angel of the Lord appears to Manoah and his wife and, in verse 16, tells them to offer to the LORD if they are to make an offering (“And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah […] if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the LORD.”). Later Manoah thought he and his wife will die for they “have seen God”
- Zechariah 1:12. The angel of the Lord pleads with the Lord to have mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah.
- Zechariah 3:4. The angel of the Lord takes away the sin of the high priest Joshua.
The Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint translates the Hebrew phrase מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה as ἄγγελος Κυρίου, “angel of the Lord” or as ὁ ἄγγελος Κυρίου, “the angel of the Lord”. “Owing to the Hebrew idiom, this may mean no more than ‘an angel of God’, and the Septuagint renders it with or without the article at will.”
Mind you ‘other worldly experiences never speak of cultural ‘description.’
The KJV and NKJV capitalize “Angel” in the Old Testament references to “the Angel of the Lord”, while using lower-case “angel” in the Old Testament references to “an angel of the Lord” (and in the New Testament references). Most versions, including NASB, RSV, ESV, etc., do not capitalize “angel” in the mentions of “angel of the Lord”.
Angel of ElohimEdit
The term “angel of God” (Heb. mal’akh ‘Elohim) occurs 12 times (2 of which are plural). The following are examples:
- Genesis 31:11. The angel of God calls out to Jacob in a dream and tells him “I am the God of Bethel“.
- Exodus 14:19. The angel of God leads the camp of Israel, and also follows behind them, with the pillar of fire.
- Judges 13:9. The angel of God approached Manoah’s wife after the Lord heard Manoah.
David is depicted interceding for the people to end the plague (1 Chronicles 21) in this 1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld
In addition, there are mentions of God “sending an angel”, of which the following are examples:
- Exodus 23:20–21. The LORD says he will send an Angel before the Israelites, and warns them to obey the Angel’s voice, and that the Angel “will not pardon transgressions” because the LORD’s “name is in him”.
- Exodus 33:2. God says he will send an angel before the Israelites, and that God will drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
- Numbers 20:16. The LORD sent an angel and brought the people of Israel forth from Egypt.
- 1 Chronicles 21:15. God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem, but then repented and told the angel to stay his hand.
- 2 Chronicles 32:21. The LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria.
The term malakh YHWH, which occurs 65 times in the text of the Hebrew Bible, can be translated either as “the angel of the Lord” or “an angel of the Lord”. The King James Version usually translates it as “the angel of the LORD”; less frequently as “an angel of the LORD”. The Septuagint (LXX) sometimes uses ἄγγελος Κυρίου (an angel of the Lord), sometimes ὁ ἄγγελος Κυρίου (the angel of the Lord): in Genesis 16:7–11, it gives first the form without the Greek article, then, in all the subsequent mentions with the article, as in the anaphoric use of the article.
A closely related term is “angel of God” (mal’akh ‘Elohim), mentioned 12 times (2 of which are plural). Another related expression, Angel of the Presence, occurs only once (Isaiah 63:9).
“Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone…” 1 Tim. 2:1
“For God always purposes our greatest good. Even the prayer offered in ignorance and blindness cannot swerve Him from that, although, when we persistently pray for some harmful thing, our willfulness may bring it about, and we suffer accordingly. ‘He gave them their request,’ says the Psalmist, ‘but sent leanness into their soul’ (Psalms cvi. 15). They brought this ‘leanness’ upon themselves. They were ‘cursed with the burden of a granted prayer.’
“Prayer, in the minds of some people, is only for emergencies! Danger threatens, sickness comes, things are lacking, difficulties arise — then they pray.”
“Prayer is, however, much more than merely asking God for something, although that is a very valuable part of prayer if only because it reminds us of our utter dependence upon God. It is also communion with God — intercourse with God — talking with (not only to) God. We get to know people by talking with them. We get to know God in like manner. The highest result of prayer is not deliverance from evil, or the securing of some coveted thing, but knowledge of God. ‘And this is life eternal, that they should know Thee, the only true God’ (John xvii. 3). Yes, prayer discovers more of God, and that is the soul’s greatest discovery. Men still cry out, ‘O, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to His seat’ (Job xxiii. 3).”