Hebrews and the Angels

The Archangel MichaelI re-read Hebrews a few years ago, and wondered for the first time about all the references to angels, a usually rare topic in the Bible.

Why does one of the deepest theological books in the Bible bring up angels again and again?

The writer could have started with heaven or hell, end times or salvation, even brought in Melchizedek and Moses earlier in the book, yet he begins with angels.

As a reminder, it is imperative to understand what the original readers were hearing. We as twenty first century readers must look at the Bible through the eyes of a first century Jew.

Only then will we understand why angels are so important and why the writer would then compare and contrast them against Christ.

In this contemporary world, we don’t think much about angels. There are certain sects that follow angels, but Christians generally understand that angels are at most just helpers to Jesus and, in no way, anywhere near comparable. However, to a first century Jew, angels were paramount in their theology.

The earliest priests began to embellish on the concepts of angels from scripture received at that time. In the Talmud, a written component of Judah’s laws, they would think and write freely on the subject – eventually making these creatures the highest beings and very close to God.

Angels were believed to be ethereal creatures made of fiery substance like blazing light, which did not eat, drink, or create. That sounds true enough, but many also believed they acted as God’s senate or council and that God did nothing without consulting them (Gen. 1:26 (us).

They believed God was surrounded by angels. They were the instruments of bringing His Word to men and of working out His will in the universe.

The Talmud states that two hundred angels controlled the movements of the stars. The calendar angel controlled the never-ending succession of days, months and years. One angel took care of all water (oceans, dew, rain).

There were recording angels who wrote down every word of man. Warden angels of hell who tortured the damned.

They taught that a guardian angel AND an angel of death was assigned to each child and every nation. The Talmud says there is not a thing in the world, not even a tiny blade of grass, over which there is not an angel set.

To take this a little deeper, many Jews believed the Old Covenant, the Ten Commandments, was brought to man by angels and then maintained and mediated by them.

It is easy to see an unhealthy fascination and belief in angels by the Jewish leaders, which was then taught to the Jewish population.

Because of this deep belief in angels by the Jewish people the writer had to show Jesus as higher and greater than they.

If the author of Hebrews was to persuade his fellow Jews that Christ was the Mediator of a better Covenant than that given through Moses, he would have to show among other things that Christ is better than angels.

So that explains the angel phenomenon in Hebrews. I hope it also furthers your desire to see God’s Word through the eyes of the original readers, as well as listen to the Holy Spirit as He enlightens your understanding of the Scripture.

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