(Book III. ch. 1.)
Without here entering on a discussion of the doctrine of Angels and devils as presented in Holy Scripture, the Apocrypha, and the Pseudepigrapha, it will be admitted that considerable progression may be marked as we advance from even the latest Canonical to Apocryphal, and again from these to the Pseudepigraphic Writings. The same remark applies even more strongly to a comparison of the latter with Rabbinic literature. There we have comparatively little of the Biblical in its purity. But, added to it, we now find much that is the outcome of Eastern or of prurient imagination, of national conceit, of ignorant superstition, and of foreign, especially Persian, elements. In this latter respect it is true – not, indeed, as regards the doctrine of good and evil Angels, but much of its Rabbinic elaboration – that ‘the names of the Angels (and of the months) were brought from Babylon’ (Jer. Rosh. haSh. 56d; Ber. R. 48), and with the ‘names,’ not a few of the notions regarding them. At the same time, it would be unjust to deny that much of the symbolism which it is evidently intended to convey is singularly beautiful.
1. Creation, Number, Duration, and Location of the Angels. We are now considering not the Angel-Princes but that vast unnumbered ‘Host’ generally designated as ‘the ministering Angels’ (מלאכי השרת). Opinions differ (Ber. R. 3) whether they were created on the second day as being ‘spirits,’ ‘winds’(Psa_104:4), or on the fifth day (Isa_6:2) in accordance with the works of Creation on those days. Viewed in reference to God’s Service and Praise, they are ‘a flaming fire:’ in regard to their office, winged messengers (Pirqé de R. El. 4). But not only so: every day ministering Angels are created, whose apparent destiny is only to raise the praises of God, after which they pass away into the fiery stream (nahar denur) whence they originally issued (Chag. 14a; Ber. R. 78). More than this – a new Angel is created to execute every behest of God, and then passeth away (Chag. u.s.). This continual new creation of Angels, which is partly a beautiful allegory, partly savours of the doctrine of ‘emanation,’ is Biblically supported ‘by an appeal to Lam_3:23. Thus it may be said that daily a kaṯ, or company, of Angels is created for the daily service of God, and that every word which proceedeth from His mouth becomes an ‘Angel’ [Messenger – mark here the ideal unity of Word and Deed], (Chag. 14a).
The vast number of that Angelic Host, and the consequent safety of Israel as against its enemies, was described in the most hyperbolic language. There were 12 mazzaloṯ (signs of the Zodiac), each having 30 chiefs of armies, each chief with 30 legions, each legion with 30 leaders, each leader with 30 captains, each captain with 30 under him, and each of these with 365,000 stars – and all were created for the sake of Israel! (Ber. 32b). Similarly, when Nebuchadnezzar proposed to ascend into heaven, and to exalt his throne above the stars, and be like the Most High, the Bath Qol replied to this grandson of Nimrod that man’s age was 70, or at most 80 years, while the way from earth to the firmament occupied 500 years, the thickness of the firmament was 500 years, from one firmament to the other occupied other 500 years, the feet of the living creatures were equal to all that had preceded, and the joints of their feet to as many as had preceded them, and so on increasingly through all their members up to their horns, after which came the Throne of Glory, the feet of which again equalled all that had preceded and soon (Chag. 13a). In connection with this were read in Chag. 12b that there are seven heavens: the Vilon, in which there is the sun; reqia, in which the sun shines, and the moon, stars, and planets are fixed; sheḥaqim, in which are the millstones to make the manna for the pious; zeḇul, in which the Upper Jerusalem, and the Temple and the Altar are, and in which Michael, the chief Angel-Prince, offers sacrifices; maon, in which the Angels of the Ministry are, who sing by night and are silent by day for the sake of the honour of Israel (who now have their services); maḥon, in which are the treasuries of snow, hail, the chambers of noxious dews, and of the receptacles of water, the chamber of the wind, and the cave of mist and their doors are of fire; lastly, Araboṯ, wherein Justice, Judgment, and Righteousness are, the treasures of Life, of Peace, and of Blessing, the souls of the righteous, and the spirits and souls of those who are to be born in the future, and the dew by which the dead are to be raised. There also are the Ophanim, and the Seraphim, and the living creatures, and the ministering Angels, and the Throne of Glory, and over them is enthroned the Great King. [For a description of this Throne and of the Appearance of its King, see Pirqé de R. Eliez. 4.] On the, other hand, sometimes every power and phenomenon in Nature is hypostatised into an Angel – such as hail, rain, wind, sea, etc.; similarly, every occurrence, such as life, death, nourishment, poverty, nay, as it is expressed: ‘there is not a stalk of grass upon earth but it has its Angel in heaven’ (Ber. R. 10). This seems to approximate the views of Alexandrian Mysticism. So also, perhaps, the idea that certain Biblical heroes became after death Angels. But as this may be regarded as implying their service as messengers of God, we leave it for the present.
2. The Angel-Princes, their location, names, and offices. Any limitation, as to duration or otherwise, of the Ministering Angels does not apply either to the Op̱anim (or wheel-angels), the serap̱im, the ḥayoṯ (or living creatures), nor to the Angel-Princes (Ber. R. 78). In Chag. 13a, b the name ḥashmal is given to the ‘living creatures.’ The word is explained as composed of two others which silence and speech – it being beautifully explained, that they keep silence when the Word proceeds out of the mouth of God, and speak when He has ceased. It would be difficult exactly to state the number of the Angel-Princes. The 70 nations, of which the world is composed, had each their Angel-Prince (Targ. Je on Gen_11:7, Gen_11:8; comp. Ber. R. 56; Shem. R. 21; Vayyi. R. 29; Ruth R. ed. Warsh. p. 36b), who plead their cause with God. Hence these Angels are really hostile to Israel, and may be regarded as not quite good Angels, and are cast down when the nationality which they represent is destroyed. It may have been as a reflection on Christian teaching that Israel was described as not requiring any representative with God, like the Gentiles. For, as will soon appear, this was not the general view entertained. Besides these Gentile Angel-Princes there were other chiefs, whose office will be explained in the sequel. Of these 5 are specially mentioned, of whom four surround the Throne of God: Michael, Gabriel, Rephael, and Uriel. But the greatest of all is Metatron, who is under the Throne, and before it. These Angels are privileged to be within the pargod, or cloudy veil, while the others only hear the Divine commands or counsels outside this curtain (Chag. 16a, Pirqé d. R. El. iv.). It is a slight variation when the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Deu_34:6 enumerates the following as the 6 principal Angels: Michael, Gabriel, Metatron, Yophiel, Uriel, and Yophyophyah. The Book of Enoch (ch. xx.) speaks also of 6 principal Angels, while Pirqé d. R. Eliez. iv. mentions seven. In that very curious passage (Berakhoth 51a) we read of three directions given by Suriel, Prince of the Face, to preserve the Rabbis from the Techaspith (company of Evil Angels), or, according to others, from Istalganith (another company of Evil Angels). In Chag. 13b we read of an Angel called Sandalpon, who stands upon the earth, while his head reaches 500 years’ way beyond the living creatures. He is supposed to stand behind the Merkabah (the throne-chariot), and make crowns for the Creator, which rise of their own accord. We also read of Sagsagel, who taught Moses the sacred Name of God, and was present at his death. But, confining ourselves to the five principal Angel-chiefs, we have,
a. Metatron, who appears most closely to correspond to the Angel of the Face, or the Logos. He is the representative of God. In the Talmud (Sanh. 38b) a Christian is introduced as clumsily starting a controversy on this point, that, according to the Jewish contention, Exo_24:1 should have read, ‘Come up to Me.’ On this R. Idith explained that the expression referred to the Metatron (Exo_33:21), but denied the inference that Metatron was either to be adored, or had power to forgive sins, or that he was to be regarded as a Mediator. In continuation of this controversy we are told (Chag. 15 a, b) that, when an apostate Rabbi had seen Metatron sitting in heaven, and would have inferred from it that there were two supreme powers, Metatron received from another Angel 60 fiery stripes so as to prove his inferiority! In Targ. Ps.-Jon. on Gen_5:24 he is called the Great Scribe, and also the Prince of this world. He is also designated as ‘the Youth,’ and in the Kabbalah as ‘the Little God,’ who had 7 names like the Almighty, and shared His Majesty. He is also called the ‘Prince of the Face,’ and described as the Angel who sits in the innermost chamber (Chag. 5b), while the other Angels hear their commands outside the Veil (Chag. 16a). He is represented as showing the unseen to Moses (Siphré, p. 141a), and as instructing infants who have died without receiving knowledge (Abhod. Zar. 3b). In the introduction to the Midrash on Lamentations there is a revolting story in which Metatron is represented as proposing to shed tears in order that God might not have to weep over the destruction of Jerusalem, to which, however, the Almighty is made to refuse His assent. We hesitate to quote further from the passage. In Siphré on Dt (ed. Friedm. p. 141a) Metatron is said to have shown Moses the whole of Palestine. He is also said to have gone before Israel in the wilderness.
b. Michael (‘who is like God?’), or the Great Prince (Chag. 12b). He stands at the right hand of the throne of God. According to Targ. Ps.-Jon. on Exo_24:1, he is the Prince of Wisdom. According to the Targum on Psa_137:7, Psa_137:8, the Prince of Jerusalem, the representative of Israel. According to Sebach. 62a he offers upon the heavenly Altar; according to some, the souls of the pious; according to others, lambs of fire. But, although Michael is the Prince of Israel, he is not to be invoked by them (Jer. Ber. ix. 13a). In Yoma 77a we have an instance of his ineffectual advocacy for Israel before the destruction of Jerusalem. The origin of his name as connected with the Song of Moses at the Red Sea is explained in Bemidb. R. 2. Many instances of his activity are related. Thus, he delivered Abraham from the fiery oven of Nimrod, and afterwards, also, the Three Children out of the fiery furnace. He was the principal or middle Angel of the three who came to announce to Abraham the birth of Isaac, Gabriel being at his right, and Rephael at his left. Michael also saved Lot. Michael and Gabriel wrote down that the primogeniture belonged to Jacob, and God confirmed it. Michael and Gabriel acted as ‘friends of the bridegroom’ in the nuptials of Adam. Yet they could not bear to look upon the glory of Moses. Michael is also supposed to have been the Angel in the bush (according to others, Gabriel). At the death of Moses, Michael prepared his bier, Gabriel spread a cloth over the head of Moses, and Sagsagel over his feet. In the world to come Michael would pronounce the blessing over the fruits of Eden, then hand them to Gabriel, who would give them to the patriarchs, and so on to David. The superiority of Michael over Gabriel is asserted in Ber. 4b, where, by an ingenious combination with Dan_10:13, it is shown that Isa_6:6 applies to him (both having the word אחד, one). It is added that Michael flies in one flight, Gabriel in two, Elijah in four, and the Angel of Death in eight flights (no doubt to give time for repentance).
c. Gabriel (‘the Hero of God’) represents rather judgment, while Michael represents mercy. Thus he destroyed Sodom (Bab. Mez. 86b, and other places). He restored to Tamar the pledges of Judah, which Sammael had taken away (Sot. 10b). He struck the servants of the Egyptian princess, who would have kept their mistress from taking Moses out of the water (Sot. 12b); also Moses, that he might cry and so awaken pity. According to some, it was he who delivered the Three Children; but all are agreed that he killed the men that were standing outside the furnace. He also smote the array of Sennacherib. The passage in Eze_10:2, Eze_10:7 was applied to Gabriel, who had received from the Cherub two coals, which, however, he retained for six years, in the hope that Israel might repent. He is supposed to be referred to in Eze_9:4 as affixing the mark on the forehead which is a ת, drawn, in the case of the wicked, in blood (Shabb. 55a). We are also told that he had instructed Moses about making the Candlestick, on which occasion he had put on an apron, like a goldsmith; and that he had disputed with Michael about the meaning of a word. To his activity the bringing of fruits to maturity is ascribed – perhaps because he was regarded as made of fire, while Michael was made of snow (Deb. R. 5). These Angels are supposed to stand beside each other, without the fire of the one injuring the snow of the other. The curious legend is connected with him (Shabb. 56b, Sanh. 21b), that, when Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh, Gabriel descended into the sea, and fixed a reed in it, around which a mudbank gathered, on which a forest sprang up. On this site imperial Rome was built. The meaning of the legend – or perhaps rather allegory – seems (as explained in other parts of this book) that, when Israel began to decline from God, the punishment through its enemies was prepared, which culminated in the dominion of Rome. In the future age Gabriel would hunt and slay Leviathan. This also may be a parabolic representation of the destruction of Israel’s enemies.
d. Of Uriel (‘God is my light’) and Rephael (‘God heals’) it need only be said, that the one stands at the left side of the Throne of glory, the other behind it.
3. The Ministering Angels and their Ministry. The ministry of the Angels may be divided into two parts, that of praising God, and that of executing His behests. In regard to the former, there are 694,000 myriads who daily praise the Name of God. From sunrise to sundown they say: Holy, holy, holy, and from sundown to sunrise: Blessed be the Glory of God from its place. In connection with this we may mention the beautiful allegory (Shem. R. 21) that the Angel of prayer weaves crowns for God out of the prayers of Israel. As to the execution of the Divine commands by the Angels, it is suggested (Aboth d. R. Nathan 8) that their general designation as ministering Angels might have led to jealousy among them. Accordingly, their names were always a composition of that of God with the special commission entrusted to them (Shem. R 29), so that the name of each Angel depended on his message, and might vary with it (Ber. R. 78). This is beautifully explained in Yalkut (vol. 2 Par. 797), where we are told that each Angel has a tablet on his heart, in which the Name of God and that of the Angel is combined. This change of names explained the answer of the Angel to Manoah (Bemidb. R. 10). It is impossible to enumerate all the instances of Angelic activity recorded in Talmudic writings. Angels had performed the music at the first sacrifice of Adam; they had announced the consequences of his punishment; they had cut off the hands and feet of the serpent; they had appeared to Abraham in the form of a baker, a sailor, and an Arab. 120,000 of them had danced before Jacob when he left Laban; 4,000 myriads of them were ready to fight for him against Esau; 22,000 of them descended on and stood beside Israel when, in their terror at the Voice of God, they fled for twelve miles. Angels were directed to close the gates of heaven when the prayer of Moses with the All-powerful, Ineffable Name in it, which he had learnt from Sagsagel, would have prevented his death. Finally, as they were pledged to help Israel, so would they also punish every apostate Israelite. Especially would they execute that most terrible punishment of throwing souls to each other from one world to another. By the side of these debasing superstitions we come upon beautiful allegories, such as that a good and an evil Angel always accompanied man, but specially on the eve of the Sabbath when he returned from the Synagogue, and that for every precept he observed God sent him a protecting Angel. This idea is realistically developed in Pirké d. R. El. 15, where the various modes and times in which the good Angels keep man from destruction are set forth.
It is quite in accordance with what we know of the system of Rabbinism, that the heavenly host should be represented as forming a sort of consultative Sanhedrin. Since God never did anything without first taking counsel with the family above (Sanh. 38b), it had been so when He resolved to create man. Afterwards the Angels had interceded for Adam, and, when God pointed to his disobedience, they had urged that thus death would also come upon Moses and Aaron, who were sinless, since one fate must come to the just and the unjust. Similarly, they had interceded for Isaac, when Abraham was about to offer him, and finally dropped three tears on the sacrificial knife by which its edge became blunted. And so through the rest of Israel’s history, where on all critical occasions Jewish legend introduces the Angels on the scene.
4. Limitations of the power of the Angels. According to Jewish ideas, the faculties, the powers, and even the knowledge of Angels were limited. They are, indeed, pure spiritual beings (Vayyikra R. 24), without sensuous requirements (Yoma 75b), without hatred, envy, or jealousy (Chag. 14), and without sin (Pirqé d. R. El. 46). They know much, notably the future (Ab. d. R. Nath. 37), and have part in the Divine Light. They live on the beams of the Divine Glory (Bem. R. 21), are not subject to our limitations as to movement, see but are not seen (Ab. d. R. Nath. u.s.), can turn their face to any side (Ab. d. R. Nath. 37), and only appear to share in our ways, such as in eating (Ber. R. 48). Still, in many respects they are inferior to Israel, and had been employed in ministry (Ber. R. 75). They were unable to give names to the animals, which Adam did (Pirqé d. R. El. 13). Jacob had wrestled with the Angel and prevailed over him when the Angel wept (Chull. 92a). Thus it was rather their nature than their powers or dignity which distinguished them from man. No Angel could do two messages at the same time (Ber. R. 50). In general they are merely instruments blindly to do a certain work, not even beholding the Throne of Glory (Bemidb. R. 14), but needed mutual assistance (Vayyikra R. 31). They are also liable to punishments (Chag. 16a). Thus, they were banished from their station for 138 years, because they had told Lot that God would destroy Sodom, while the Angel-Princes of the Gentiles were kept in chains till the days of Jeremiah. As regards their limited knowledge, with the exception of Gabriel, they do not understand Chaldee or Syriac (Sot. 33a). The realistic application of their supposed ignorance on this score need not here be repeated (see Shabb. 12b). As the Angels are inferior to the righteous, it follows that they are so to Israel. God had informed the Angels that the creation of man was superior to theirs, and it had excited their envy. Adam attained a place much nearer to God than they, and God loved Israel more than the Angels. And God had left all the ministering Angels in order to come to Moses, and when He communicated with him it was directly, and the Angels standing between them did not hear what passed. In connection with this ministry of the Angels on behalf of Biblical heroes a curious legend may here find its place. From a combination of Exo_18:4 with Exo_2:15 the strange inference was made that Moses had actually been seized by Pharaoh. Two different accounts of how he escaped from his power are given. According to the one, the sword with which he was to be executed rebounded from the neck of Moses, and was broken, to which Son_7:5 was supposed to refer, it being added that the rebound killed the would-be executioner. According to another account, an Angel took the place of Moses, and thus enabled him to fly, his flight being facilitated by the circumstance that all the attendants of the king were miraculously rendered either dumb, deaf, or blind, so that they could not execute the behests of their master. Of this miraculous interposition Moses is supposed to have been reminded in Exo_4:11, for his encouragement in undertaking his mission to Pharaoh. In the exaggeration of Jewish boastfulness in the Law, it was said that the Angels had wished to receive the Law, but that they had not been granted this privilege (Job_28:21). And sixty myriads of Angels had crowned with two crowns every Israelite who at Mount Sinai had taken upon himself the Law (Shabb. 88a). In view of all this we need scarcely mention the Rabbinic prohibition to address to the Angels prayers, even although they bore them to heaven (Jer. Ber. ix. 1), or to make pictorial representations of them (Targ. Ps.-Jon. on Exo_20:23; Mechilta on the passage, ed Weiss, p. 80a).
5. The Angels are not absolutely good. Strange as it may seem, this is really the view expressed by the Rabbis. Thus it is said that, when God consulted the Angels, they opposed the creation of man, and that, for this reason, God had concealed from them that man would sin. But more than this – the Angels had actually conspired for the fall of man (the whole of this is also related In Pirqé d. R. El. 13). Nor had their jealousy and envy been confined to that occasion. They had accused Abraham, that, when he gave a great feast at the weaning of Isaac, he did not even offer to God a bullock or a goat. Similarly, they had laid charges against Ishmael, in the hope that he might be left to perish of thirst. They had expostulated with Jacob, because he went to sleep at Bethel. But especially had they, from envy, opposed Moses’ ascension into heaven; they had objected to his being allowed to write down the Law, falsely urging that Moses would claim the glory of it for himself, and they are represented, in a strangely blasphemous manner, as having been with difficulty appeased by God. In Shabb. 88b we have an account of how Moses pacified the Angels, by showing that the Law was not suitable for them, since they were not subject to sinful desires, upon which they became the friends of Moses, and each taught him some secret, among others the Angel of death how to arrest the pestilence. Again, it is said, that the Angels were wont to bring charges against Israel, and that, when Manasseh wished to repent, the Angels shut the entrance to heaven, so that his prayer might not penetrate into the presence of God.
Equally profane, though in another direction, is the notion that Angels might be employed for magical purposes. This had happened at the siege of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar, when, after the death of that mighty hero Abika, the son of Gaphteri, Chananeel, the uncle of Jeremiah, had conjured up ministering Angels who affrighted the Chaldees into flight. On this God had changed their names, when Chananeel, unable any longer to command their services, had summoned up the Prince of the World by using the Ineffable Name, and lifted Jerusalem into the air, but God had trodden it down again, to all which Lam_2:1 referred (Yalk. vol. 2 p. 166c and d, Par. 1001). The same story is repeated in another place (p. 167, last line of col. c, and col. d), with the addition that the leading inhabitants of Jerusalem had proposed to defend the city by conjuring up the Angels of Water and Fire, and surrounding their city with walls of water, of fire, or of iron; but their hopes were disappointed when God assigned to the Angels names different from those which they had previously so that when called upon they were unable to do what was expected of them.
6. The Names of the Angels. Besides those already enumerated, we may here mention, the sar haOlam, or ‘Prince of the World’ (Yeb. 16b); the Prince of the Sea, whose name is supposed to have been rahab, and whom God destroyed because he had refused to receive the waters which had covered the world, and the smell of whose dead body would kill every one if it were not covered by water. dumah is the Angel of the realm of the dead (Ber. 18b). When the soul of the righteous leaves the body, the ministering Angels announce it before God, Who deputes them to meet it. Three hosts of Angels then proceed on this errand, each quoting successively one clause of Isa_57:2. On the other hand, when the wicked leave the body, they are met by three hosts of destroying Angels, one of which repeats Isa_48:22, another Isa_50:11, and the third Eze_32:19 (Keth. 104a). Then the souls of all the dead, good or bad, are handed over to Dumah. yorqemi is the Prince of hail. He had proposed to cool the fiery furnace into which the Three Children were cast, but Gabriel had objected that this might seem a deliverance by natural means, and being himself the Prince of the fire, had proposed, instead of this, to make the furnace cold within and hot without, in order both to deliver the Three Children and to destroy those who watched outside (Pes. 118a and b). ridya, or radya is the Angel of rain. One of the Rabbis professed to describe him from actual vision as like a calf whose lips were open, standing between the Upper and the Lower Deep, and saying to the Upper Deep, Let your waters run down, and to the Lower, Let your waters spring up. The representation of this Angel as a calf may be due to the connection between rain and ploughing, and in connection with this it may be noticed that Ridya means both a plough and ploughing (Taan. 25b). Of other Angels we will only name the ruaḥ pisqoniṯ, or Spirit of decision, who is supposed to have made most daring objection to what God had said, Eze_16:3, in which he is defended by the Rabbis since his activity had been on behalf of Israel (Sanh. 44b); naqid, the Angel of Food; naḇel, the Angel of Poverty; the two Angels of Healing; the Angel of Dreams, lailah: and even the Angels of Lust.
It is, of course, not asserted that all these grossly materialistic superstitions and profane views were entertained in Palestine, or at the time of our Lord, still less that they are shared by educated Jews in the West. But they certainly date from Talmudic times; they embody the only teaching of Rabbinic writings about the Angels which we possess, and hence, whencesoever introduced, or however developed, their roots must be traced back to far earlier times than those when they were propounded in Rabbinic Academies. All the more that modern Judaism would indignantly repudiate them, do they bear testimony against Rabbinic teaching. And one thing at least must be evident, for the sake of which we have undertaken the task of recording at such length views and statements repugnant to all reverent feeling. The contention of certain modern writers that the teaching about Angels in the New Testament is derived from, and represents Jewish notions, must be perceived to be absolutely groundless and contrary to fact. In truth the teaching of the New Testament on the subject of Angels represents, as compared with that of the Rabbis, not only a return to the purity of Old Testament teaching, but, we might almost say, a new revelation.
II. Satanology and Fall of the Angels.
The difference between the Satanology of the Rabbis and of the New Testament is, if possible, even more marked than that in their Angelology. In general we note that, with the exception of the word Satan, none of the names given to the great enemy in the New Testament occurs in Rabbinic writings. More important still, the latter contain no mention of a Kingdom of Satan. In other words, the power of evil is not contained with that of good, nor Satan with God. The devil is presented rather as the enemy of man, than of God and of good. This marks a fundamental difference. The New Testament sets before us two opposing kingdoms, or principles, which exercise absolute sway over man. Christ is ‘the Stronger one’ who overcometh ‘the strong man armed,’ and taketh from him not only his spoils, but his armour (Luk_11:21, Luk_11:22). It is a moral contest in which Satan is vanquished, and the liberation of his subjects is the consequence of his own subdual. This implies the deliverance of man from the power of the enemy, not only externally but internally, and the substitution of a new principle of spiritual life for the old one. It introduces a moral element, both as the ground and as the result of the contest. From this point of view the difference between the New Testament and Rabbinism cannot be too much emphasised, and it is no exaggeration to say that this alone – the question here being one of principle not of details – would mark the doctrine of Christ as fundamentally divergent from, and incomparably superior to that of Rabbinism. ‘Whence hath this Man this wisdom?’ Assuredly, it may be answered, not from His contemporaries.
Since Rabbinism viewed the ‘great enemy’ only as the envious and malicious opponent of man, the spiritual element was entirely eliminated. Instead of the personified principle of Evil, to which there is response in us, and of which all have some experience, we have only a clumsy and – to speak plainly – often a stupid hater. This holds equally true in regard to the threefold aspect under which Rabbinism presents the devil: as Satan (also called Sammael); as the yeṣer hara, or evil impulse personified; and as the Angel of Death – in other words, as the Accuser, Tempter and Punisher. Before explaining the Rabbinic views on each of these points, it is necessary to indicate them in regard to –
1. The Fall of Satan and of his Angels. This took place, not antecedently, but subsequently to the creation of man. As related in Pirqé de R. Eliezer, ch. 13, the primary cause of it was jealousy and envy on the part of the Angels. Their opposition to man’s creation is also described in Ber. R. 8 Although there the fall of man is not traced to Satanic agency. But we have (as before stated) a somewhat blasphemous account of the discussions in the heavenly Sanhedrin, whether or not man should be created. While the dispute was still proceeding God actually created Man, and then addressed the ministering Angels: ‘Why dispute any longer? Man is already created.’ In the Pirqé de R. Eliezer, we are only told that the Angels had in vain attempted to oppose the creation of man. The circumstance that his superiority was evidenced by his ability to give names to all creatures, induced them to ‘lay a plot against Adam,’ so that by his fall they might obtain supremacy. Now of all Angel-Princes in heaven Sammael was the first – distinguished above the company of Angels subject to him, he came down upon earth, and selected as the only fit instrument for his designs the serpent, which at that time had not only speech, but hands and feet, and was in stature and appearance like the camel. In the language of the Pirqé de R. Eliezer, Sammael took complete possession of the serpent, even as demoniacs act under the absolute control of evil spirits. Then Sammael, in the serpent, first deceived the woman, and next imposed on her by touching the tree of life (although the tree cried out), saying, that he had actually ‘touched’ the tree, of which he pretended the touch had been forbidden on pain of death (Gen_3:3) – yet he had not died! Upon this Eve followed his example, and touched the tree when she immediately saw the Angel of Death coming against her. Afraid that she would die and God give another wife to Adam, she led her husband into the sin of disobedience. The story of the Fall is somewhat differently related in Ber. R. 18, 19. No mention is there made either of Sammael or of his agency, and the serpent is represented as beguiling Eve from a wish to marry her, and for that purpose to compass the death of Adam.
Critical ingenuity may attempt to find a symbolic meaning in many of the details of the Jewish legend of the Fall, although, to use moderate language, they seem equally profane and repulsive. But this will surely be admitted by all, that the Rabbinic account of the fall of the Angels, as connected with the fall of man, equally contrasts with the reverent reticence of the Old Testament narrative and the sublime teaching of the New Testament about sin and evil.
2. Satan, or Sammael, as the accuser of man. And clumsy, indeed, are his accusations. Thus the statement (Gen_22:1) that ‘God tempted Abraham’ is, in Jewish legend, transformed (Sanh. 89b) into a scene, where, in the great upper Sanhedrin (Ber. R. 56), Satan brings accusation against the Patriarch. All his previous piety had been merely interested; and now when, at the age of one hundred, God had given him a son, he had made a great feast and not offered aught to the Almighty. On this God is represented as answering, that Abraham was ready to sacrifice not only an animal but his own son; and this had been the occasion of the temptation of Abraham. That this legend is very ancient, indeed, preChristian (a circumstance of considerable importance to the student of this history) from its occurrence, though in more general form, in the Book of Jubilees, ch. xvii. In Ber. R. 55 and in Tanchuma (ed. Warsh. p. 29a and b), the legend is connected with a dispute between Isaac and Ishmael as to their respective merits, when the former declares himself ready to offer up even his life unto God. In Tanchuma (u.s.) we are told that this was one of the great merits of man, to which the Almighty had pointed when the Angels made objection to his creation.
3. Satan, or Sammael, as the seducer of man. The statement in Baba B. 16a which identifies Satan with the yeṣer hara, or evil impulse in man, must be regarded as a rationalistic attempt to gloss over the older teaching about Sammael, by representing him as a personification of the evil inclination within us. For, the Talmud not only distinguishes between a personal Satan without, and evil inclination within man, but expressly ascribes to God the creation of the yeṣer hara in man as he was before the Fall, the occurrence of two י י in the word וייצר (‘and He formed,’ Gen_2:7) being supposed to indicate the existence of two impulses in us – the yeṣer toḇ and the yeṣer hara (Ber. 61a). And it is stated that this existence of evil in man’s original nature was of infinite comfort in the fear which would otherwise beset us in trouble (Ber. R. 14). More than this (as will presently be shown), the existence of this evil principle within us was declared to be absolutely necessary for the continuance of the world (Yoma 69b, Sanh. 64a).
Satan, or Sammael, is introduced as the seducer of man in all the great events of Israel’s history. With varying legendary additions the story of Satan’s attempts to prevent the obedience of Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac is told in Sanh. 89b, Ber. R. 56, and Tanchuma, p. 30 a and b. Yet there is nothing even astute, only a coarse realism, about the description of the clumsy attempts of Satan to turn Abraham from, or to hinder him in, his purpose; to influence Isaac; or to frighten Sarah. Nor are the other personages in the legend more successfully sketched. There is a want of all higher conception in the references to the Almighty, a painful amount of downright untruthfulness about Abraham, lamentable boastfulness and petty spite about Isaac, while the Sarah of the Jewish legend is rather a weak old, Eastern woman than the mother in Israel. To hold such perversions of the Old Testament by the side of the New Testament conception of the motives and lives of the heroes of old, or the doctrinal inferences and teaching of the Rabbis by those of Christ and His Apostles, were to compare darkness with light.
The same remarks apply to the other legends in which Satan is introduced as seducer. Anything more childish could scarcely be invented than this, that, when Sammael could not otherwise persuade Israel that Moses would not return from Mount Sinai, he at last made his bier appear before them in the clouds (Shab. 89a), unless it be this story, that when Satan would seduce David he assumed the form of a bird, and that, when David shot at it, Bath-Sheba suddenly looked up, thus gaining the king by her beauty (Sanh. 107a). In both these instances the obvious purpose is to palliate the guilt whether of Israel or of David, which, indeed, is in other places entirely explained away as not due to disobedience or to lust (comp. Ab. Zar. 4b, 5a).
4. As the Enemy of man, Satan seeks to hurt and destroy him; and he is the Angel of Death. Thus, when Satan had failed in shaking the constancy of Abraham and Isaac, he attacked Sarah (Yalkut. i. Par. 98, last lines p. 28b). To his suggestions, or rather false reports, her death had been due, either from fright at being told that Isaac had been offered (Pirqé de R. El. 32, and Targum Ps.-Jon.), or else from the shock, when after all she learned that Isaac was not dead (Ber. R. 58). Similarly, Satan had sought to take from Tamar the pledges which Judah had given her. He appeared as an old man to show Nimrod how to have Abraham cast into the fiery oven, at the same time persuading Abraham not to resist it, etc. Equally puerile are the representations of Satan as the Angel of Death. According to Abod. Zar. 20b, the dying sees his enemy with a drawn sword, on the point of which a drop of gall trembles. In his fright he opens his mouth and swallows this drop, which accounts for the pallor of the face and the corruption that follows. According to another Rabbi, the Angel of Death really uses his sword, although, on account of the dignity of humanity, the wound which he inflicts is not allowed to be visible. It is difficult to imagine a narrative more repulsive than that of the death of Moses according to Deb. R. 11. Beginning with the triumph of Sammael over Michael at the expected event, it tells how Moses had entreated rather to be changed into a beast or a bird than to die; how Gabriel and Michael had successively refused to bring the soul of Moses; how Moses, knowing that Sammael was coming for the purpose, had armed himself with the Ineffable Name; how Moses had in boastfulness recounted to Sammael all his achievements, real and legendary; and how at last Moses had pursued the Enemy with the Ineffable Name, and in his anger taken off one of his horns of glory and blinded Satan in one eye. We must be excused from further following this story through its revolting details.
But, whether as the Angel of Death or as the seducer of man, Sammael has not absolute power. When Israel took the Law upon themselves at Mount Sinai, they became entirely free from his sway, and would have remained so, but for the sin of the Golden Calf. Similarly, in the time of Ezra, the object of Israel’s prayer (Neh_8:6) was to have Satan delivered to them. After a three days’ fast it was granted, and the Yetser haRa of idolatry, in the shape of a young lion, was delivered up to them. It would serve no good purpose to repeat the story of what was done with the bound enemy, or how his cries were rendered inaudible in heaven. Suffice it that, in view of the requirements of the present world, Israel liberated him from the ephah covered with lead (Zec_5:8), under which, by advice of the prophet Zechariah, they had confined him, although for precaution they first put out his eyes (Yoma, 69b). And yet, in view, or probably, rather, in ignorance, of such teaching, modern criticism would derive the Satanology of the New Testament and the history of the Temptation from Jewish sources!
Over these six persons – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, with whom some apparently rank Benjamin – the Angel of Death had no power (Baba B. 17a). Benjamin, Amram, Jesse, and Chileb (the son of David) are said to have died (only) through ‘the sin of the serpent.’ In other cases, also, Sammael may not be able to exercise his sway till, for example, he has by some ruse diverted a theologian from his sacred study. Thus he interrupted the pious meditations of David by going up into a tree and shaking it, when, as David went to examine it, a rung of the ladder, on which he stood, broke, and so interrupted David’s holy thoughts. Similarly, Rabbi Chasda, by occupation with sacred study, warded off the Angel of Death till the crackling of a beam diverted his attention. Instances, of the awkwardness of the Enemy are related (Kethub. 77b), and one Rabbi – Joshua – actually took away his sword, only returning it by direct command of God. Where such views of Satan could even find temporary expression, superstitious fears may have been excited; but the thought of moral evil and of a moral combat with it could never have found lodgment.
III. Evil Spirits
(shedim, ruc̣in, ruc̣oṯ, lilin).
Here also, as throughout, we mark the presence of Parsee elements of superstition. In general, these spirits resemble the gnomes, hobgoblins, elves, and sprites of our fairy tales. They are cunning and malicious, and contact with them is dangerous; but they can scarcely be described as absolutely evil. Indeed, they often prove kind and useful; and may at all times be rendered innocuous, and even made serviceable.
1. Their origin, nature, and numbers. Opinions differ as to their origin, in fact, they variously originated. According to Ab. 12b, Ber. R. 7, they were created on the eve of the first Sabbath. But since that time their numbers have greatly increased. For, according to Erub. 18b. Ber. R. 20 (ed. Warsh. p. 40b), multitudes of them were the offspring of Eve and of male spirits, and of Adam with female spirits,.or with Lilith (the queen of the female spirits), during the 130 years that Adam had been under the ban, and before Seth was born (Gen_5:3): comp. Erub. 18b. Again, their number can scarcely be limited, since they propagate themselves (Chag. 16a), resembling men in this as well as in their taking of nourishment and dying. On the other hand, like the Angels they have wings, pass unhindered through space, and know the future. Still further, they are produced by a process of transformation from vipers, which, in the course of four times seven years, successively pass through the forms of vampires, thistles and thorns, into shedim (Bab. K. 16a) – perhaps a parabolic form of indicating the origination of shedim through the fall of man. Another parabolic idea may be implied in the saying that shedim spring from the backbone of those who have not bent in worship (u.s.).
Although shedim bear, when they appear, the form of human beings, they may assume any other form. Those of their number who are identified with dirty places are represented as themselves black (Kidd. 72a). But the reflection of their likeness is not the same as that of man. When conjured up, their position (whether with the head or the feet uppermost) depends on the mode of conjuring. Some of the shedim have defects. Thus, those of them who lodge in the caper bushes are blind, and an instance is related when one of their number, in pursuit of a Rabbi, fell over the root of a tree and perished (Pes. 111b). Trees, gardens, vineyards, and also ruined and desolate houses, but especially dirty places, were their favourite habitation, and the night-time, or before cock-crowing, their special time of appearance. Hence the, danger of going alone into such places (Ber. 3a, b; 62a). A company of two escaped the danger, while before three the Shed did not even appear (Ber. 43b). For the same reason it was dangerous to sleep alone in a house (Shabb. 151b), while the man who went out before cock-crow, without at least carrying for protection a burning torch (though moonlight was far safer) had his blood on his own head. If you greeted anyone in the dark you might unawares bid Godspeed to a Shed (Sanh. 44a). Nor was the danger of this inconsiderable, since one of the worst of these shedim, especially hurtful to Rabbis, was like a dragon with seven heads, each of which dropped off with every successive lowly bending during Rabbi Acha’s devotions (Kidd. 29b). Specially dangerous times were the eves of Wednesday and of the Sabbath. But it was a comfort to know that the shedim could not create or produce anything; nor had they power over that which had been counted, measured, tied up and sealed (Chull. 105b); they could be conquered by the ‘Ineffable Name;’ and they might be banished by the use of certain formulas, which, when written and worn, served as amulets.
The number of these spirits was like the earth that is thrown up around a bed that is sown. Indeed, no one would survive it, if he saw their number. A thousand at your right hand and ten thousand at your left, such crowding in the Academy or by the side of a bride; such weariness and faintness through their malignant touch, which rent the very dress of the wearers! (Ber. 6a.) The queen of the female spirits had no less a following than 180,000 (Pes. 112b). Little as we imagine it, these spirits lurk everywhere around us: in the crumbs on the floor, in the oil in the vessels, in the water which we would drink, in the diseases which attack us, in the even-numbered cups of our drinking, in the air, in the room, by day and by night.
2. Their arrangement. Generally, they may be arranged into male and female spirits, the former under their king Ashmedai, the latter under their queen liliṯ, probably the same as Agraṯ baṯ maḥlaṯ – only that the latter may more fully present the hurtful aspect of the demoness. The hurtful spirits are specially designated as ruc̣in, mazziqin (harmers), malakhey ḥabalah (angels of damage), etc. From another aspect they are arranged into four classes (Targ. Pseudo-Jon. Num_6:24): the ṣap̱rirey, or morning spirits (Targ. on Psa_121:6; Targ. Cant. iv. 6); the tiharey, or midday spirits (Targ. Pseudo-Jon. Deu_32:24; Targ. Cant. iv. 6); the telaney, or evening spirits (Targ. Cant. iii. 8; iv. 6; Targ. Eccles. ii. 5); and the lilin, or night spirits (Targ. Pseudo-Jon. on Deu_32:34; Targ. Isa_34:14). [According to 2 Targ. Es ii. 1, 3, Solomon had such power over them, that at his bidding they executed dances before him.]
a. Ashmedai (perhaps a Parsee name), Ashmodi, Ashmedon, or shamdon, the king of the demons (Gitt. 68a, b; Pes. 110a). It deserves notice, that this name does not occur in the Jerusalem Talmud nor in older Palestinian sources. He is represented as of immense size and strength, as cunning, malignant, and dissolute. At times, however, he is known also to do works of kindness – such as to lead the blind, or to show the road to a drunken man. Of course, he foreknows the future, can do magic, but may be rendered serviceable by the use of the ‘Ineffable Name,’ and especially by the signet of King Solomon, on which it was graven. The story of Solomon’s power over him is well known, and can here only be referred to in briefest outline. It is said, that as no iron was to be used in the construction of the Temple, Solomon was anxious to secure the services of the worm shamir, which possessed the power of cutting stones (see about him Ab. Z. 12a; Sot. 48b; Gitt. a, b). By advice of the Sanhedrin, Solomon conjured up for this purpose a male and a female shed, who directed him to Ashmedai. The latter lived at the bottom of a deep cistern on a high mountain. Every morning on leaving it to go into heaven and hear the decrees of the Upper Sanhedrin, he covered the cistern with a stone, and sealed it. On this Benayah, armed with a chain, and Solomon’s signet with the Ineffable Name, went and filled the cistern with wine, which Ashmedai, as all other spirits, hated. But as he could not otherwise quench his thirst, Ashmedai became drunk, when it was easy, by means of the magical signet, to secure the chain around him. Without entering on the story of his exploits, or how he indicated the custody of shamir, and how ultimately the worm (which was in the custody of the moor-cock) was secured, it appears that, by his cunning, Ashmedai finally got released, when he immediately hurled Solomon to a great distance, assumed his form, and reigned in his stead; till at last, after a series of adventures, Solomon recovered his signet, which Ashmedai had flung away, and a fish swallowed. Solomon was recognised by the Sanhedrin and Ashmedai fled at sight of his signet. [Possibly the whole of this is only a parabolic form for the story of Solomon’s spiritual declension, and final repentance.]
b. liliṯ, the queen of female spirits – to be distinguished from the lilin or night-spirits, and from lela or lailah, an Angel who accompanied Abraham on his expedition against Chedorlaomer (Sanh. 96a). Here we recognise still more distinctly the Parsee elements. liliṯ is ‘the queen of Zemargad’ (Targ. on Job_1:15) – ‘Zemargad’ representing all green crystals, malachite, and emerald – and the land of Zemargad being ‘Sheba.’ liliṯ is described as the mother of Hormiz or Hormuz (Baba B. 73a). Sometimes she is represented as a very fair woman, but mostly with long, wild-flowing hair, and winged (Nidd. 24b; Erub. 100b). In Pes. 111a we have a formula for exorcising liliṯ. In Pes. 112b (towards the end) we are told how Agraṯ baṯ maḥlaṯ (probably the Zend word Agra – ‘smiting, very wicked’ – baṯ maḥlaṯ ‘the dancer’) threatened Rabbi Chanina with serious mischief, had it not been that his greatness had been proclaimed in heaven, on which the Rabbi would have shown his power by banning her from all inhabited places, but finally gave her liberty on the eve of the fourth day and of the Sabbath, which nights accordingly are the most dangerous seasons.
3. Character and habits of the shedim. As many of the Angels, so many of the shedim, are only personifications. Thus, as diseases were often ascribed to their agency, there were shedim of certain diseases, as of asthma, croup, canine rabies, madness, stomachic diseases, etc. Again, there were local shedim, as of Samaria, Tiberias, etc. On the other hand, shedim might be employed in the magic cure of diseases (Shabb. 67a). In fact, to conjure up and make use of demons was considered lawful, although dangerous (Sanh. 101a), while a little knowledge of the subject would enable a person to avoid any danger from them. Thus, although ḥamaṯ, the demon of oil, brings eruptions on the face, yet the danger is avoided if the oil is used out of the hollow of the hand, and not out of a vessel. Similarly, there are formulas by which the power of the demons can be counteracted. In these formulas, where they are not Biblical verses, the names of the demons are inserted. This subject will be further treated in another Appendix.
In general, we may expect to find demons on water, oil, or anything else that has stood uncovered all night; on the hands before they have been washed for religious purposes, and on the water in which they have been washed; and on the breadcrumbs on the floor. Demons may imitate or perform all that the prophets or great men of old had wrought. The magicians of Egypt had imitated the miracles of Moses by demoniacal power (Shem. R. 9). So general at the time of our Lord was the belief in demons and in the power of employing them, that even Josephus (Ant. viii. 2, 5) contended that the power of conjuring up, and driving out demons, and of magical cures had been derived from King Hezekiah, to whom God had given it. Josephus declares himself to have been an eye-witness of such a wonderful cure by the repetition of a magical formula. This illustrates the contention of the Scribes that the miraculous cures of our Lord were due to demoniac agency.
Legions of demons lay in waiting for any error or failing on the part of man. Their power extended over all even numbers. Hence, care must be had not to drink an even number of cups (Ber. 51b), except on the Passover night, when the demons have no power over Israel (Pes. 109b). On the other hand, there are demons who might almost be designated as familiar spirits, who taught the Rabbis, shed Joseph (Pes. 110a) and the shed Jonathan (Yeb. 122a). Rabbi Papa had a young shed to wait upon him (Chull. 105b). There can, however, be no difficulty in making sure of their real existence. As shedim have cock’s feet, nothing more is required than to strew ashes by the side of one’s bed, when in the morning their marks will be perceived (Ber. 6a; Gitt. 68b). It was by the shape of his feet that the Sanhedrin hoped to recognise, whether Ashmedai was really Solomon, or not, but it was found that he never appeared with his feet uncovered. The Talmud (Ber. 6a) describes the following as an infallible means for actually seeing these spirits: Take the afterbirth of a black cat which is the daughter of a black cat – both mother and daughter being firstborn – burn it in the fire, and put some of the ashes in your eyes. Before using them, the ashes must be put into an iron tube, and sealed with an iron signet. It is added, that Rabbi Bibi successfully tried this experiment, but was hurt by the demons, on which he was restored to health by the prayers of the Rabbis.
Other and kindred questions, such as those of amulets, etc., will be treated under demoniac possessions. But may we not here once more and confidently appeal to impartial students whether, in view of this sketch of Jewish Angelology and Satanology, the contention can be sustained that the teaching of Christ on this subject has been derived from Jewish sources?