Destroying angel (Bible)

The destroying angel passes through Egypt
The destroying angel passes through Egypt.

In the Hebrew Bible, the destroying angel (Hebrew: מַלְאָך הַמַשְׁחִית, malʾāḵ hamašḥīṯ), also known as mashḥit (מַשְׁחִית mašḥīṯ, 'destroyer'; plural: מַשְׁחִיתִים, mašḥīṯīm, 'spoilers, ravagers'), is an entity sent out by YHWH on several occasions to kill the enemies of the Hebrews.

These angels (mal'akh) are also variously referred to as memitim (מְמִיתִים, 'executioners, slayers'), or Angel of the Lord. The latter is found in Job 33:22, as well as in Proverbs 16:14 in the plural, "messengers of death". Mashchith was also used as an alternate name for one of the seven compartments of Gehenna.

In 2 Samuel 24:15-16, the destroying angel kills the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In 1 Chronicles 21:15, the same "Angel of the Lord" is seen by David to stand "between the earth and the heaven, with a drawn sword in his hand stretched out against the Hebrews' enemies". Later, in 2 Kings 19:35, the angel kills 185,000 Assyrian soldiers.

In the Book of Enoch, angels of punishment and destruction belong to a group of angels called satans with Satan as their leader. First they tempt, then accuse and finally punish and torment, both wicked humans and fallen angels. Importantly, none of the canonical Jewish scriptures use the word satan.

In Judaism, such angels might be seen as created by one's sins. As long as a person lives, God allows them to repent. However, after death, the angels of destruction are allowed to execute the sentence proclaimed in the heavenly court.

Islamic view

The angels of punishment as satans are recounted in Islam in the form of a hadith. According to which, a murderer is instructed to repent from their sins by leaving their evil environment and moving to a better one. However, they die on their way, thereupon a disagreement between the angels of mercy and the angels of punishment under the leadership of Iblīs (Satan) occurs, who may take the soul of the repenting murderer.

However, a more truthful view of Islam held that Satan did not have control over those angels as he had lost authority during the rebellion, instead tempting and manipulating others to do his dirty work. As he was not the one committing the sin, punishment goes to the wrong doer, and Satan instead will become a victim along with other sinners from humankind to be tortured by those angels.

See also

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