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The Angel of Death, sculpture of a funeral gondola, Venice. Photo by Paolo Monti, 1951.

The Destroying Angel or Angel of Death in the Hebrew Bible is an entity sent out by Yahweh on several occasions to kill enemies of the Israelites. In 2 Samuel 24:15, it kills the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In I Chronicles 21:15, the same "angel of the Lord" is seen by David to stand "between the earth and the heaven, with a drawn sword in his hand stretched out against Jerusalem." Later, the angel of the Lord kills 185,000 men of Sennacherib's Assyrian army, thereby saving Hezekiah's Jerusalem in II Kings 19:35.

The angel (malak) is referred to under various terms, including Mashḥit (pron. mash-heet(h) or -kheet(h)) (Mashchit(h), מַשְׁחִית and Ha-Mashchit(h)/Ha-Mashḥit, הַמַשְׁחִית), "destroying angel" (מַלְאָך הַמַשְׁחִית, malak ha-mashḥit or in the plural מַשְׁחִיתִים, mashchitim/mashchithim/mashḥitim - "spoilers, ravagers"), Angel of the Lord, "destroyer" (מְמִיתִים, memitim - "executioners", "slayers") is found in Job 33:22 and in Proverbs 16:14 in the plural, "Messengers of death"

Mashchith was also used as an alternate name for one of the seven compartments of Gehenna.[1]

The action of an angel of God, killing a lot of human people, may be found in 2 Samuel (chapter 24, v. 15-16), and in 2 Kings (chapter 19, v. 35). The angel was not called by his proper noun, nor called as an "angel of death", despite in the facts he seemed completely to be like this. In the first case, there were killed 70.000 people of Israel after three days of scourges, with the same word as "pestilence" also meaning the stench of the human sin. In the second above mentioned biblical passage, the angel killed 185.000 Syrian soldiers, enemies of Israel, in only one single night.

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  1. ^ (edit.) Boustan, Ra'anan S. and Reed, Annette Yoshiko. Heavenly Realms and Earthly Realities in Late Antique Religions. Cambridge University Press, 2004.