Michael ("who is like God?", Hebrew: מִיכָאֵל (pronounced [mixåˈʔel]), Micha'el or Mîkhā'ēl; Greek: Μιχαήλ, Mikhaḗl; Latin: Michael (in the Vulgate Michahel); Arabic: ميخائيل, Mīkhā'īl) 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 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".
The Book of Revelation (12:7-9) describes a war in heaven in which Michael, being stronger, defeats Satan:
- "...there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven."
After the conflict, Satan is thrown to earth along with the fallen angels, where he ("that ancient serpent called the devil") still tries to "lead the whole world astray".
Separately, in the Epistle of Jude 1:9 Michael is specifically referred to as an "archangel" when he again confronts Satan:
- "Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses"
- "... the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first" (American Standard Version of 1901, a version that uses the definite article, "the archangel", absent in the original Greek and in English translations (such as the English Standard Version of 2001, which has: "the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God").
This archangel who heralds the second coming of Christ is not named, but is probably Michael.
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.
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. 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. ThusJeremiah 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.