Understanding Angels and Satan


Moshe Ben-Chaim



Reader: Dear Sir, I would like to know about angels, the archangel Michael in particular. I have read about the three angels who visited Avraham and the adversary in Job but really know nothing about them.



Mesora: According to Judaism’s chief commentator Maimonides, any time “angel” is mentioned in Scripture, it refers to a vision, and not an Earthly account. Deep and profound ideas are conveyed through such metaphorical accounts of angels in visions. Therefore, visions themselves are not the goal, but rather, the concealed ideas and principles transferred to man from G-d in such prophecies. The account of the three angels who visited Abraham, according to Maimonides, was in fact not an Earthly event, but a vision Abraham had while unconscious, whose illustration via angels contained important ideas.


You must also note that such areas are quite elusive, and were given to such great minds like Abraham and other prophets, as they were intellectually prepared to unravel such mysteries. Unless we earnestly toil in Torah study for many years, such areas will remain inexplicable to us.


The adversary, “Satan”, mentioned in Job, according to my understanding, represents the Job’s opinions. Perhaps this is why it refers to Satan as walking to and fro in the Earth. Satan is not viewed as a real being, out to do harm. This would be an injustice on G-d’s part, to create such a being, while not informing man. Judaism views Satan as ‘man’s instincts’. Nothing more. He is called Satan, as this word means, “to turn aside” in Hebrew. Satan turns man aside from the proper life intended by G-d for all mankind. Maimonides writes extensively on Job in his “Guide for the Perplexed.”