[Study Reference: Zechariah 5:5-11]
For centuries, art has depicted angels as these tranquil, gorgeous women. It’s a prevalent idea that’s survived from the Medieval period to today, yet have you ever wondered why? As we search the Scriptures, we find that every mention of an angel is in the male sense, and they’re usually described to have the appearance of men. Even the original Hebrew and Greek word for ‘angel’ is associated to the masculine. The only angelic beings ever mentioned by name, Micheal, Gabriel, and Lucifer (Yes, Lucifer too), all have masculine names. Thus, angels all being decidedly male is pretty solid. So when did we as a society start portraying angels as women?
Well, this highly speculative question would require a little guessing, since none of us have lived long enough to witness this particular myth’s development. Some sources believe the inclusion of female angels might have branched from the ‘christianization’ of pagan goddesses and spirits. I think that does offer a pretty decent explanation. However, there exists a possible second reason for this idea that bears mentioning, and you’ll find it in Zechariah 5:5-11.
The book of Zechariah is categorized as one of the minor prophets - not because it lacked importance but rather because it is dwarfed in length by larger prophetic books such as Jeremiah and Isaiah. In it, God is revealing several visions to Zechariah, meant to depict Israel’s future cleansing from sin through the coming Messiah: Jesus Christ. There’s one vision of particular interest to us for our discussion. It showed two women with wings like a stork’s carrying a basket with a woman called ‘wickedness’ inside. Now, for some people, this gives cause to the possibility of female angels existing. It’s a thought, but let’s take a moment to consider a few things that punch a few holes in that theory.
First of all, remember this is a vision. God communicated future events to His prophets through metaphors and symbols. Such narratives were not meant to be taken literally but figuratively. When God compared Alexander the Great to a conquering goat in Daniel chapter 8, He didn’t mean Alexander was an actual goat did He? No. Of course not. A goat was simply used to represent the man’s stubborn attitude. Thus, it stands to reason that these winged women should be treated the same way as well. So if they’re symbolic what did the winged ladies represent? Most Bible scholars believe they likely were metaphors for other nations such as Babylon and Assyria. Their wings being a heron’s wings also bears special significance too, since herons were counted as ‘unclean’ birds in the Levitical law. Thus, their metaphorical portrayal of the sinfulness of nations was pretty solid if you asked any of Zechariah’s original Jewish audience.
Of course, there may be some who might be thinking ‘but what the ladies aren’t metaphorical?’ Well, the last thing to consider is that the word for ‘angel’ (which, again, is associated to the masculine) is not applied to those ladies. No matter if they were real or not, this term is not applied to them. Ironically, it was applied to the very angel who explained those very same visions to Zechariah at that moment. I’d say it’s pretty safe to debunk those girls as angels at this point. Which leaves us to return to our original conclusion. Angels are all confirmed to be male. They appear as males. Their names are male. God created them as males.
So what does them being male say about God’s character and His creative design? Well, we’re going to have to explore that in a later blog when we discuss the angel’s ‘male’-hood more closely through one of the most jarring angelic mysteries of Scripture: the Nephilim of Genesis. (Which actually might end up as a two-parter. It’s one doozy of a subject). But that my friends, will be a topic for another day.
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