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June 5, 2008 Angels*

Angels come in every shape and size.

And the Bible never refers to them as bearing giant feathered wings. (Or if it does, I haven’t found it bit yet.) I’ve been looking at some of the places where the Bible refers to angels; the Hebrew word that King James’s team translated as “angel” is mal’ak (not to be confused with the word for king, melek*). But actually, mal’ak means “messenger”. Most of the Bible stories where angels play a big role – like when Jacob saw angels climbing up and down to and from heaven, or when he wrestled with one, or when Lot entertained angels in Sodom, or when Elijah was comforted by one – also use the word to refer to human messengers. Jacob sent a mal’ak to see if Esau was still mad at him. Lot sent a mal’ak to the nearby kings. Elijah received a mal’ak from the king. Etc. Sometimes, the divine messengers are identified specifically as mal’ak Elohim or mal’ak Yehowah – messengers from God – to distinguish them from royal emissaries or other message-bearers. But the whole floating, winged, trumpet-blowing image…maybe that’s from Revelation or another part of the Bible I haven’t gotten to yet, but it’s certainly not universal.

So anyone who brings a message from God – or really, any message from God, however delivered – is an angel, as we commonly use the term.

I’m not really going anywhere with this, yet…but it’s interesting food for thought.

* Interesting sidenote: the Arabic word for king is malik. I don’t know much classical Arabic yet, but some of the few words I do know are very similar to Hebrew words – salaam and shalom for peace, shems and shemsh for sun, etc.

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