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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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(Heb. מִיכָאַל, ‘Who is like God?’)

In Daniel 10:21 Michael is described as the ‘prince,’ i.e. the patron or guardian angel of Israel, in antithesis to the ‘prince’ of Persia and the ‘prince’ of Greece (Daniel 10:20). In the account of the troublous times of the Last Days in Daniel 12:1, Michael, ‘the great prince,’ is Israel’s champion, by whom deliverance is wrought. These are the only references supplied by the OT, but they exercised a powerful influence upon the Jewish tradition that grew up regarding Michael (in which he further appears as one of the seven archangels and the chief of the four great archangels), and through this upon NT conceptions. In the NT he is twice mentioned by name (Judges 1:9, where he is described as ‘the archangel,’ and Revelation 12:7), and in both cases discharges functions that are in keeping with the position assigned him in Daniel. (1) In Judges 1:9 (cf. Deuteronomy 34:6), which is based on the apocryphal Assumption of Moses (see Orig. de Princip. III. ii. 1), he stands forward as the representative of Israel to dispute the Devil’s claim to possess the body of Moses, a claim made, according to the apocryphal book, on the two grounds that the Devil was the lord of matter and that Moses had been guilty of slaying the Egyptian (see Charles, Assumption of Moses, 1897, p. 105 ff.). (2) In Revelation 12:7 as in Daniel 12 Michael plays a leading part in the conflict that is to issue in the Messianic triumph of the Last Days. In accordance with the Jewish eschatological idea of a celestial battle which is to precede this triumph (Sib. Orac. iii. 796 ff.), there is war in heaven, and Michael and his angels go forth to war with the great red dragon (otherwise described as ‘the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan,’ Daniel 12:9) and his angels, with the result that the latter are overthrown and cast down to the earth. The significant thing here is the position assigned to Michael. It is by him, not by the ‘man child who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron’ (Daniel 12:5), that the dragon is overcome and cast out from heaven (cf. Bousset, Der Antichrist, 1895, p. 151 ff.).

There are two other passages in the NT where Michael, though not mentioned, appears to be referred to. (1) In Acts 7:38 he is probably to be identified with the angel who spoke to Moses in Mount Sinai. According to Galatians 3:19 the Law was ‘ordained by angels,’ and in Hebrews 2:2 ‘the word’ is described as ‘spoken by angels’ (cf. Jos. Ant. XV. v. 3). In Jub. i. 27, ii. 1, however, it is the angel of the presence who instructs Moses and delivers to him the tables of the Law, and in what was probably the original Assumption of Moses (preserved only in Greek fragments) ‘Michael the archangel’ is expressly said to have taught Moses at the giving of the Law. (2) In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ‘the voice of the archangel and the trump of God’ suggests another reference to the Michael of Jewish tradition. This is the only place in the NT besides Judges 1:9 where the word ‘archangel’ occurs, and though the archangel in this case is not named, it is natural to suppose that the great archangel is meant. ‘The voice of the archangel’ and ‘the trump of God’ are evidently to be taken as parallel expressions (cf. Matthew 24:31, ‘He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet’), and it is a common feature of the later Jewish tradition of the Day of Judgment that the trumpet is blown by Michael the archangel (see Bousset, op. cit. p. 166).

J. C. Lambert.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Michael'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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