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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Heb. Mikael', מַיכָאֵל , who is like God? Sept. and N.T. Μιχαήλ), the name of an archangel and of several men.

1. The title given in the angelology of the Jews adopted during the exile, to one of the chief angels, who, in Daniel 10:13-21; Daniel 12:1, is described as having special charge of the Israelites as a nation, and in Judges 1:9 as disputing with Satan about the body of Moses, in which dispute, instead of bringing against the archenemy any railing accusation, he only said, "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan!" Again, in Revelation 12:7-9, Michael and his angels are represented as warring with Satan and his angels in the upper regions, from which the latter are cast down upon the earth. "This representation served not only to give that vividness to man's faith in God's supernatural agents, which was so much needed at a time of captivity, during the abeyance of his local manifestations and regular agencies, but also to mark the finite and ministerial nature of the angels, lest they should be worshipped in themselves. Accordingly, as Gabriel represents the ministration of the angels towards man, so Michael is the type and leader of their strife, in God's name and his strength, against the power of Satan. In the O.T. therefore he is the guardian of the Jewish people in their antagonism to godless power and heathenism. In the N.T. (see Revelation 12:7) he fights in heaven against the dragon that old serpent called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: and so takes part in that struggle which is the work of the Church on earth. The nature and method of his war against Satan are not explained, because the knowledge would be unnecessary and perhaps impossible to us: the fact itself is revealed rarely, and with that mysterious vagueness which hangs over all angelic ministrations, but yet with plainness and certainty." On the authority of the first of these texts the Jews have named Michael not only one of the "seven" archangels, but the chief of them (comp. the Targum on Song of Solomon 8:9); and on the authority of all three the Christian Church has been disposed to concur in this impression (see J.D. Haberlin, Selecta de Mich. ejusque apparitionibus, gestis et cultu, Helmst. 1758).

The Jews regard the archangels as being such, not simply as a class by themselves, but as respectively the chiefs of the several classes into which they suppose the angels to be divided; and of these classes Michael is the head of the first, and therefore chief of all the archangels (Sepher Othioth, fol. 16). "The rabbinical traditions constantly oppose him to Sammael, the accuser and enemy of Israel, as disputing for the soul of Moses: as bringing the ram the substitute for Isaac, which Sammael sought to keep back, etc.: they give him the title of the great high-priest in heaven,' as well as that of the great prince and conqueror;' and finally lay it down that wherever Michael is said to have appeared, there the glory of the Shechinah is intended.' It is clear that the sounder among them, in making such use of the name, intended to personify the divine power, and typify the Messiah (see Schottgen, Hor. Hebr. 1:1079, 1119; 2:8,15, ed. Dresd. 1742)." Hengstenberg maintains at length (both in his Christology and his Commentary on the Apocalypse) that Michael is no other than the Lord Jesus Christ himself; but this is hardly in accordance with the mention of the other archangel, Gabriel, nor with the other theophanies of the O.T., in which the Logos appears only as the Angel [of] Jehovah, or the Angel of the Covenant. The passages in Daniel and Revelations must be taken as symbolical, and in that view offer little difficulty. In the former, one of the guardian angels of the Jews (probably Gabriel, Daniel 9:21) exhibits himself as a protector, and as struggling with the prince of Persia for the liberation of the Jewish exiles. In the discharge of this duty, Michael, the chief guardian of the same people, comes to help him. The first angel promises to return (from his visit to Daniel) to renew the contest, and indicates his success by declaring that "the prince of Greece will come," i.e., to overthrow the Persian empire. Here also Michael, in particular, is designated as the prince of the Jews. So in Zechariah 1:8; Zechariah 1:14, the guardian angel of the Jews exhibits his solicitude for them and his care over them. The same thling is again exhibited in Zechariah 3:1-2, where the angel of the Lord rebukes Satan on account of his malignant intentions towards the high-priest Joshua. So again in Revelation 12:7; Revelation 12:9, Michael and his angels are represented as waging war with Satan and his angels.

This passage stands connected with Revelation 12:5 of the context, which represents the Man-Child (Jesus) as caught up to the throne of God. The war waged would seem to have arisen from the efforts of Satan to annoy the ascending Saviour. Such appears to be the symbolic representation (see Stuart's Comment. ad loc.). The allusion in Judges 1:9 is more difficult to understand, unless, with Vitringa, Lardner, Macknight, and others, we regard it also as symbolical; in which case the dispute referred to is that indicated in Zechariah 3:1; and "the body of Moses" as a symbolical phrase for the Mosaical law and institutions, see JUDE, in accordance with the usual mode of speaking among Christians, who called the Church "the body of Christ" (Colossians 1:18; Colossians 1:24; Romans 12:5). Acomparison of Judges 1:9 with Zechariah 1:8-14 gives much force and probability to this conjecture (see F.U. Wolter, De Michaeli cuns diabolo litigante [Rinteln, 1727-9]). According to others, "the body of Moses" here means his proper and literal body, which the Lord secretly buried (Deuteronomy 34:5-6), and which Satan wished to present to the Jews as an object of idolatry (comp. 2 Kings 18:4). "The allusion seems to be to a Jewish legend attached to Deuteronomy 34:6. The Targum of Jonathan attributes the burial of Moses to the hands of the angels of God, and particularly of the archangel. Michael, as the guardian of Israel. Later traditions (see OEcumen. in Jud. cap. 1) set forth how Satan disputed the burial, claiming for himself the dead body because of the blood of the Egyptian (Exodus 2:13) which was on Moses's hands" (see Quistorp, Num Michaelis de corpore Mosis disceptatio fabula sit? [Gryph. 1770]).


Michael as a Saint in the Church of Rome. This archangel is canonized in the Roman calendar, and his festival, called Michaelmas (q.v.), is celebrated on the 29th of September., The legends preserved by Roman Catholics relate that Michael appeared to the Virgin Mary to announce to her the time of her death, and that he received her soul and bore it to Jesus. And again, that during the 6th century, when a fearful pestilence was raging in Rome, St. Gregory advised that a procession should be made, which should pass through the streets singing the service which since then has been called the Great Litanies. This was done for three days, and on the last day, when they came opposite to the tomb of Hadrian, Gregory beheld the archangel Michael hovering over the city; and he alighted on the top of the mausoleum and sheathed his word, which was dripping with blood. Then the plague was stayed, and the tomb of Hadrian has been called the Castle of Sant' Angelo from that day, and a chapel was there consecrated, the name of which was Ecclesia Sancti Angeli usque ad Ccelos. Michael is also said to have appeared to command the building of two churches (see Mrs. Clement, Legendary and Mytholog. Art, page 229). The first was on the eastern coast of Italy, and was called the church of Monte Galgano, which became a resort for numerous pilgrims. Again, in the reign of Childebert II, Michael appeared to Aubert, bishop of Avranches, and commanded that a church should be built on the summit of a rock in the Gulf of Avranches, in Normandy; and Mont-Saint-Michel became one of the most celebrated places of pilgrimage, as it is one of the most picturesque in scenery. From this time Michael was greatly venerated in the Church of Rome, especially in France. He was selected as patron saint of the country and of the order which Louis instituted in his honor.

Representations of the Archangel as a Saint. "Michael is always represented as young and beautiful.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Michael'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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