The concept of an angel of death exists in multiple religious traditions. However, is there an "angel of death" in the Bible? Is there a being whose primary or sole purpose is to destroy human life?
Does an angel of death exist?
There is no being named the "angel of death" in the Bible. Those who believe in an angel of death typically point to three passages. First, there is the claim that Exodus 11:4-5 speaks of an angel of death: "About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle." This foreboding is soon fulfilled: "At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock" (Exodus 12:29).
However, there is no angel mentioned in the above verses. It is the LORD performs this judgment, not an angel. Exodus 11:4 says, "I will go out." Exodus 12:29 says, "The LORD stuck down."
A second passage that some use to support the idea of an angel of death is 2 Kings 19:35, "And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies." The "angel of the LORD" performs this act, not an "angel of death."
The third passage also associates death with an angel. Second Samuel 24:15-16 says, "So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning until the appointed time. And there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men. And when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, 'It is enough; now stay your hand.' And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite." Here, as in 2 Kings 19:35, the "angel of the LORD" causes the deaths. He is not an "angel of death." In fact, many theologians view the "angel of the LORD" as a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ (see Judges 6:22-24).
Revelation 9 speaks of angels or "messengers" who will kill many in the last days. Again, none of these angels are called an "angel of death." The Bible supports the idea that God can use angels to carry out His judgments, including death. But this is a far cry from a special "angel of death" whose only task is to take life. In short, the concept of an angel of death is not explicitly taught in the Bible.
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