Michael (who is like God?) is an archangel in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic teachings. Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans refer to him as “Saint Michael the Archangel” and also as “Saint Michael”. Orthodox Christians refer to him as the “Taxiarch Archangel Michael” or simply “Archangel Michael”.
Michael is mentioned three times in the Book of Daniel, once as a “great prince who stands up for the children of your people”. The idea that Michael was the advocate of the Jews became so prevalent that in spite of the rabbinical prohibition against appealing to angels as intermediaries between God and his people, Michael came to occupy a certain place in the Jewish liturgy.
In the New Testament Michael leads God’s armies against Satan’s forces in the Book of Revelation, where during the war in heaven he defeats Satan. In the Epistle of Jude Michael is specifically referred to as “the archangel Michael”. Christian sanctuaries to Michael appeared in the 4th century, when he was first seen as a healing angel, and then over time as a protector and the leader of the army of God against the forces of evil. By the 6th century, devotions to Archangel Michael were widespread both in the Eastern and Western Churches. Over time, teachings on Michael began to vary among Christian denominations.
In Islam, Mikail (Michael) provides nourishments for bodies and souls. Mikail is often depicted as the archangel of mercy who is responsible for the rewards doled out to good persons in this life. Michael, is one of the two archangels mentioned in the Quran, alongside Jibreel (Gabriel). In the Quran, Michael is mentioned once only, in Sura 2:98. Some Muslims believe that the reference in Sura 11:69 is Michael, one of the three angels who visited Abraham.
The Qur’an mentions Michael together with Gabriel in the sura Al-Baqara:
“Whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and messengers, to Gabriel and Michael,- Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject Faith.”
—Quran, sura 2 (Al-Baqara) ayat 97-98
In Sunni Islam, Michael will be sent to bring a handful of Earth, but the Earth will not want to yield a piece of itself, some of which will burn. This is articulated by Al-Tha’labi whose narrative states that God will tell Earth that some will obey him and others not. The Ahmadiyya movement believes in Michael along with other angels such as Gabriel. They are called Mala’ikah and are described as spiritual beings who obey Allah’s command.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, and the Old Testament, the prophet Daniel experiences a vision after having undergone a period of fasting. In the vision in Daniel 10:13-21 an angel identifies Michael as the protector of Israel. Daniel refers to Michael as a “prince of the first rank”. Later in the vision in Daniel 12:1 Daniel is informed about the role of Michael during the “Time of the End” when there will be “distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations” and that:
- “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise.”
In view of this, Michael is seen as playing an important role as the protector of Israel, and later of the Christian Church.
Although the three occurrences of Michael in the Book of Daniel 10:13, 10:21 and 12:1 all refer to the same individual, who acts in similar ways in all three cases, the last one is set at the “end times”, while the first two refer to local time in Persia. These are the only three references to Michael in the Hebrew Bible.
The references to the “captain of the host of the Lord” encountered by Joshua in the early days of his campaigns in the Promised Land (Joshua 5:13-15) have at times been interpreted as Michael the Archangel, but there is no theological basis for that assumption, given that Joshua then worshiped this figure, and angels are not to be worshiped. Some scholars also point that the figure may refer to God himself. In the book of Joshua’s account of the fall of Jericho, Joshua “looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand”. When the still unaware Joshua asks which side of the fight the Archangel is on, the response was, “neither…but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come”.
According to rabbinic Jewish tradition, Michael acted as the advocate of Israel, and sometimes had to fight with the princes of the other nations (cf. Daniel 10:13) and particularly with the angel Samael, Israel’s accuser. Michael’s enmity with Samael dates from the time when the latter was thrown down from heaven. Samael took hold of the wings of Michael, whom he wished to bring down with him in his fall; but Michael was saved by God. Michael is also said to have had a dispute with Samael over the soul of Moses.
There were two prayers written beseeching him as the prince of mercy to intercede in favor of Israel: one composed by Eliezer ha-Kalir, and the other by Judah ben Samuel he-Hasid. But appeal to Michael seems to have been more common in ancient times. Thus Jeremiah is said to have addressed a prayer to him. “When a man is in need he must pray directly to God, and neither to Michael nor to Gabriel.”
The rabbis declare that Michael entered upon his role of defender at the time of the biblical patriarchs. Thus, according to Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob, it was Michael who rescued Abraham from the furnace into which he had been thrown by Nimrod (Midrash Genesis Rabbah xliv. 16). It was Michael, the “one that had escaped” (Genesis 14:13), who told Abraham that Lot had been taken captive (Midrash Pirke R. El.), and who protected Sarah from being defiled by Abimelech. He announced to Sarah that she would bear a son and he rescued Lot at the destruction of Sodom.
It is said that Michael prevented Isaac from being sacrificed by his father by substituting a ram in his place, and saved Jacob, while yet in his mother’s womb, from being killed by Samael. Later Michael prevented Laban from harming Jacob.(Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer, xxxvi). It was Michael who wrestled with Jacob and who afterward blessed him.
The midrash Exodus Rabbah holds that Michael exercised his function of advocate of Israel at the time of the Exodus also, when Satan (as an adversary) accused the Israelites of idolatry and declared that they were consequently deserving of death by drowning in the Red Sea. Michael is also said to have destroyed the army of Sennacherib.
There is a legend which seems to be of Jewish origin, and which was adopted by the Copts, to the effect that Michael was first sent by God to bring Nebuchadnezzar (c. 600 BC) against Jerusalem, and that Michael was afterward very active in freeing his nation from Babylonian captivity. According to midrash Genesis Rabbah, Michael saved Hananiah and his companions from the Fiery furnace. Michael was active in the time of Esther: “The more Haman accused Israel on earth, the more Michael defended Israel in heaven”. It was Michael who reminded Ahasuerus that he was Mordecai’s debtor; and there is a legend that Michael appeared to the high priest Hyrcanus, promising him assistance.
In late medieval Christianity, Michael, together with Saint George, became the patron saint of chivalry and is now also considered the patron saint of police officers, paramedics, firefighters and the military. Apart from his being a patron of warriors, the sick and the suffering also consider Archangel Michael their patron saint. Michael was the patron saint of the Holy Roman Empire and still is the patron saint of modern Germany and other German speaking regions formerly covered by the realm. He has been the patron saint of Brussels since the Middle Ages. The city of Arkhangelsk in Russia is named for the Archangel. Ukraine and its capital Kiev also consider Michael their patron saint and protector.