Bible Answers: Pastor offers an explanation of the 'angel of death'

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Pastor Chuck McCullough

“Was it the ‘angel of death’ which passed over the Hebrew and Egyptian homes and killed the first born where the blood was not on the door post? Does this “angel of death” appear other places, like where 70,000 were killed?” — Hunter

Sometimes we use a phrase that we think is in the Bible because it sounds like it ought to be biblical. The phrase “angel of death” is a good example. Actually, the phrase does not appear in Scripture. Its source seems to be a loose combining over time of various Bible stories, some that recount events of death and destruction and others that speak of warrior-type angels.
No “angel of death” is mentioned in the account of the first Passover. In Ex. 12:12ff, it is God Himself who passes over and destroys the first-born. This is affirmed in Num. 8:17 and 33:4 as well as in Heb. 11:28, in the New Testament.
There are angels mentioned in Scripture who serve as agents of God to deliver a message or to render judgment. We read of an “angel of the Lord” with drawn sword in Num. 22:22ff.
There are references to angels who fight Satan (cf. Jude 1:9; Rev. 12:7-9.) There are, however, no obvious connections of these angels with the events of Exodus 12.
You astutely identify a Bible story that involves both considerable loss of life and a “destroying angel.” In II Sam. 24:15-16 (and the parallel passage, I Chr. 21:14ff), 70,000 people died of a pestilence. In these accounts, God sent the plague.
The angel, again with drawn sword, had stricken some of the people and was poised to destroy Jerusalem when God relented and stopped the carnage. This angel was certainly an instrument of God’s judgment in this instance but was not referred to specifically as the “angel of death.”

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To send questions or to communicate with Pastor McCullough, write to wrbc-pastor