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Answer by John Mackay

Perhaps first, a little on angels in general will help. The word translated angel in English is from the NT Greek aggelos. It’s a masculine noun, so forget all those pretty female angels on the Christmas trees. They are fakes and frauds.

Aggelos is best defined as ‘a messenger’, and generally a messenger from God, one who conveys news from God to men. It is used 176 times in the NT with the vast majority (150) of the ‘messengers’ being angelic spiritual beings, but only the context determines whether a human or celestial messenger is intended. It can refer to a human messenger, e.g. John the Baptist, Matthew 11:10, quoting Malachi 3:1.

What is the Origin of Angels?

Apart from the Lord God, who is the eternal Triune Creator, nothing exists in this universe except what was created. As Paul reminds us in Colossian 1:16: “For by Him (Christ) all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him”

This covers the spiritual realm as well as the physical. Hence all angels, celestial or earthly, came about as a result of creation by God. The book of Hebrews reminds that there are specific heavenly angelic beings, designed to be “ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1:7) to the people of God on earth.

What about the Angel of Death?

When you normally hear a storytelling account of the Passover starting with the tenth plague in Egypt, the story usually proceeds “Then the Angel of Death visited the house of the Egyptians and the first-born son in every household was struck down. But when the Angel of Death saw the blood on the door posts of the people of Israel, he passed over so none of them was afflicted by the Angel of Death.” However what surprises most people is the discovery that the term Death Angel or Angel of Death appears in no Bible translation at all.

The words Death Angel are seen in The Message, an American language-expanded retelling of the Bible by E. Peterson where 1 Chronicles 21:14-15 reads: “So God unleashed an epidemic in Israel — 70,000 Israelites died. God then sent the angel to Jerusalem but when he saw the destruction about to begin, he compassionately changed his mind and ordered the death angel, “Enough’s enough! Pull back!”, but Peterson’s use of ‘Death Angel’ is not actually a translation of any term in the Hebrew scriptures.

When you actually check what is in the Bible, you read in Exodus 12: The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.” (v1-2) … “Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. (v6-7) This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover (v11) … The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. (v12)

Note well – the text records it is not an angel who was sent to strike down the people, but the striker is named as the Lord God Himself. Likewise consider who saw the blood on the door posts of the Israelites; Exodus 12: 21-23 records: Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning. When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.”

The only possible source of confusion is in verse 23, where the Lord states that upon seeing the blood on the door posts of the Israelites, He will not allow “the destroyer” to enter the house. But in this case the destroyer is not a person, but the coming of the penalty of death which destroys life. If you like checking the Hebrew the word destroyer here, is “shachath” (see Strong’s number 7843) which as a verb means to decay, to destroy, to devastate, to ruin.

So, the bottom line is there was no Angel of Death, or Death Angel involved in the Passover after all. Therefore, to answer the specific question: “Was the Angel of Death a created being?” Since God the Lord Jehovah/Yahweh was the bringer of death and He is eternal and uncreated, the answer is no on all counts.

But to decrease your confusion, let’s ask; are there any angels in the entire Bible who do function as Death Angels, or perhaps we can ask about any “created angelic beings” who have brought or do bring death?

The answer is yes. The classic example is in 2 Samuel 24:12-17 where we read; “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’” So Gad went to David and said to him, “Shall there come on you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.” David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” So, the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.” The angel of the Lord was then at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the Lord, “I have sinned; I, the shepherd, have done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall on me and my family.”

When those 70,000 people from Dan to Beersheba died, the Bible specifically mentions the Lord sent an angel who brought this to pass. The Bible reports David even saw this angel. The similarity of the deaths in Israel in David’s day to the Egyptian Passover are what has often given rise to the thought that a similar death angel was involved in the tenth plague in Egypt.

So, the moral of the story is why whenever we tell the story of the Passover we should stick to the narrative in Exodus 12, where we read in v24-27; “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’”

Since it is God the Lord (Jehovah/Yahweh) who as the Creator is the Giver of Life and the Taker of it, neither angels nor demons can act to remove life without the authorisation of the one true God.

But the importance of this Passover account is that it was this God Himself, who came as the God-man Jesus, as a first-born Son who would give up His life, as payment for the sins of the people of God. No Angel of Death removed the life of Christ at Calvary! He willingly gave it up in obedience to God the Father’s specific requirement that the ‘wages of sin’ had to be paid. Jesus’ death was a just penalty for sin in accordance to God’s own standard: “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life, and blood for blood”.  One man, Adam, had sinned, so one sinless man, Jesus, needed to die to buy redemption.

Now it’s over, tell your children every year of the significance of the Passover. But don’t stop there! There’s more! Go on to share how the original Passover heralded the coming of Christ as Son, and the glorious resurrection of Jesus the Saviour.

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About The Contributor

Diane Eager