Death is life’s big mystery, it’s the big adventure, the abyss, the unknown, the void. We still don’t really know a lot about death which is why we’re so obsessed with it. In Victorian times life practically revolved around death and mortality. In Abrahamic religions, like Judaism, Azrael is usually considered the angel of death, though the name translates as “one whom God helps”. In Islam, he is responsible for ferrying the souls of the deceased much like the Greek Charon. He’s considered to be fairly high in God’s hierarchy and resides in the Third Heaven.
The Meaning of The Angel of Death
According to scripture, Azrael is a helper who helps both those who have been bereaved to deal with the death and moving on as well as helping ministers to counsel their flock after a death. He is considered to be helpful in all endings and not just deaths. For example, transitioning between careers, relationships, or times in our life where something is “ending” he makes the transition easier – but it is the ending between life and death that is foremost.
Death vs The Angel of Death
The key thing here is that Death and the Angel of Death are one and the same. Both are a psychopomp, a religious figure whose role is only to carry the soul between one realm and another not to pass judgment. They are merely a guide, an entity, and have no control over the destiny of each being itself. The angel of death is only commanded to take a soul and does not have any say in the choice.
As with many biblical writings things are open to interpretation. According to the Christian bible there is an angel of death but it is not Azrael despite being an Ambrahamic religion. According to apocryphal texts a judge known as Ezra or Azra ascended to heaven without dying after being given tasks by the angel Uriel and by adding the suffix “el” to his name it shows that he became a heavenly being. This could be seen as his becoming the angel Azrael and therefore the angel of death.
Harbingers of Death
The term “angel of death” is often used to describe a particularly horrible person. A harbinger, by definition, is one who heralds the arrival of another so really these people are harbingers rather than angels themselves. The misnomer is simply because these people usually are responsible for the deaths of other people or of bringing death upon them.
The most famous “Angel of Death” is Josef Mengele, a doctor from Auschwitz who performed unspeakable atrocities on his captives and was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Often considered to be the worst war criminal ever, his death-toll and the brutality of those deaths means that he’s probably deserving of a much worse title.
Does the Angel of Death Exist?
The concept clearly exists, and it’s there in many different religions, but a being whose sole purpose is to end lives without conscience seems really brutal. That’s a terrible karmic existence and there’s no actual being named in the bible as the “angel of death” so while these religions may make noise about there being an angel there’s no supporting evidence. Even then, most of the passages quoted use the term “The Lord” meaning God himself and not an angel.
As with many religions, there’s very little evidence to support anything about doctrine but if it makes you feel better that there’s an “angel” waiting for you when you snuff it and that works for you then enjoy it. One day we’ll all find out that’s for sure.
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