The Archangels – Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael – are familiar figures for most of us. But there are some places that they turn up in the Bible that might surprise you.
The name Michael means, in Hebrew who is like unto God? and he’s most commonly known for the way he’s portrayed in the Book of Revelation:
Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. (Rev 12:7-8)
We invoke St. Michael for protection against Satan for ourselves or others especially at the hour of death. Rightfully so. He’s a powerful warrior against evil.
But, did you know that St. Michael also appears twice in the Book of Daniel?
but the prince of the kingdom of Persia stood in my way for twenty-one days, until finally Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me. I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia, (Dan 10:13)
“At that time there shall arise Michael,
the great prince,
guardian of your people;
It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress
since the nation began until that time.
At that time your people shall escape,
everyone who is found written in the book.
Many of those who sleep
in the dust of the earth shall awake;
Some to everlasting life,
others to reproach and everlasting disgrace.
But those with insight shall shine brightly
like the splendor of the firmament,
And those who lead the many to justice
shall be like the stars forever.
“As for you, Daniel, keep secret the message and seal the book until the end time; many shall wander aimlessly and evil shall increase.”
I, Daniel, looked and saw two others, one standing on either bank of the river. One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was upstream, “How long shall it be to the end of these appalling things?” The man clothed in linen, who was upstream, lifted his hands to heaven; and I heard him swear by him who lives forever that it should be for a time, two times, and half a time; and that, when the power of the destroyer of the holy people was brought to an end, all these things should end. I heard, but I did not understand; so I asked, “My lord, what follows this?” “Go, Daniel,” he said, “because the words are to be kept secret and sealed until the end time. Many shall be refined, purified, and tested, but the wicked shall prove wicked; the wicked shall have no understanding, but those with insight shall. From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the desolating abomination is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed are they who have patience and persevere for the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. Go, take your rest, you shall rise for your reward at the end of days.” (Dan 12: 1-13)
In Hebrew, Gabriel means God is my strength, and it’s fitting that, with that name, he was chosen as the one to appear to the Blessed Virgin Mary. His greeting, “Hail Mary, full of grace” has echoed throughout the generations of Christians. By agreeing to St. Gabriel’s request to become the Mother of God, Mary certainly needed every bit of strength God could give her.
But, there are others to whom Gabriel acted as messenger. Again, we find him – twice – in the Book of Daniel.
While I, Daniel, sought the meaning of the vision I had seen, one who looked like a man stood before me,
and on the Ulai I heard a human voice that cried out, “Gabriel, explain the vision to this man.”
When he came near where I was standing, I fell prostrate in terror. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision refers to the end time.”
As he spoke to me, I fell forward unconscious; he touched me and made me stand up.
“I will show you,” he said, “what is to happen in the last days of wrath; for it is for the appointed time of the end. (Dan 8: 15-19)
I was still praying to the LORD, my God, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, presenting my petition concerning the holy mountain of my God—
I was still praying, when the man, Gabriel, whom I had seen in vision before, came to me in flight at the time of the evening offering.
He instructed me in these words: “Daniel, I have now come to give you understanding.
When you began your petition, an answer was given which I have come to announce, because you are beloved. Therefore, mark the answer and understand the vision.
“Seventy weeks are decreed
for your people and for your holy city:
Then transgression will stop and sin will end,
guilt will be expiated,
Everlasting justice will be introduced,
vision and prophecy ratified,
and a holy of holies will be anointed.
Know and understand:
From the utterance of the word
that Jerusalem was to be rebuilt
Until there is an anointed ruler,
there shall be seven weeks.
In the course of sixty-two weeks
it shall be rebuilt,
With squares and trenches,
in time of affliction.
After the sixty-two weeks
an anointed one* shall be cut down
with no one to help him.
And the people of a leader who will come
shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
His end shall come in a flood;
until the end of the war, which is decreed,
there will be desolation.
For one week he shall make
a firm covenant with the many;
Half the week
he shall abolish sacrifice and offering;
In their place shall be the desolating abomination
until the ruin that is decreed
is poured out upon the desolator.” (Dan 9:21-27)
Raphael, in Hebrew, means one who has healed. You may recall that St. Raphael came to the rescue when Tobiah’s worried parents, Tobit and Anna, sent him off on an arduous journey to Media to seek his destiny. The trouble was, Tobiah didn’t know the way. St. Raphael did, though, and he appeared to Tobiah in the guise of a relative named Azariah and offered to be his guide.
He did much more than that.
He accompanied Tobiah through nine chapters, leading him to Echbatana where he met Sarah and married her, and on to Rages, and all the way home again. St. Raphael taught Tobiah how to use fish gall, liver, and heart for medicine as well as the expulsion of demons. Using the fish gall as he’d learned from Raphael, Tobiah cured Tobit’s blindness.
Finally, at the end of the journey, Raphael revealed his identity to Tobiah and Sarah:
“I shall now tell you the whole truth and conceal nothing at all from you. I have already said to you, ‘A king’s secret should be kept secret, but one must declare the works of God with due honor.’
Now when you, Tobit, and Sarah prayed, it was I who presented the record of your prayer before the Glory of the Lord; and likewise whenever you used to bury the dead.
When you did not hesitate to get up and leave your dinner in order to go and bury that dead man,
I was sent to put you to the test. At the same time, however, God sent me to heal you and your daughter-in-law Sarah.
I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand and serve before the Glory of the Lord.” (Tobit 12:11-15)
There are many other places in Scripture that tell about Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael and searching a Bible index will lead you to them. There’s so much more to the role they’ve had, and continue to have, in salvation history. Much of it, I’m sure, will surprise you.