Religious Beliefs

Do Jews believe in angels? What about the devil?

A number of important biblical narratives seem to describe encounters between divine emissaries or messengers and major religious figures. Three “visitors” tell Abraham that he and his barren wife will have a son in their old age (Genesis 18:1-15). Jacob dreams of a ladder to Heaven on which “messengers” ascend and descend (Genesis 28:10-22) and later wrestles with a mysterious “man” (Genesis 32:22-32). Tradition has often interpreted these and dozens of other texts in the Hebrew Bible as referring to angels. The texts are often quite ambiguous and do not describe the mysterious actors as winged beings of light or in ways that many people today would recognize as characteristic of angels. These figures are generally understood as messengers from God, and only much later did they acquire the features now commonly associated with angels. Demonic or diabolical presences also appear in the Hebrew scriptures. Tradition has sometimes identified the wily serpent in Genesis as Satan or the Devil, but not until the very latest books of the Bible, such as Job and Zechariah, do we find malevolent forces specifically called Satan. Post-biblical Jewish tradition often identifies Satan with the angel of death or with the innate human inclination to evil.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Religion Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App