What is the “death angel”? Is there a “death angel”?
A lot of people believe in a “death angel.” In fact, if you research things a bit, you can find references to a “death angel” Jewish, Catholic and Islamic literature. Jews not only believe in a death angel, they had a name for it: Azrael. They also believed the death angel had an assistant (Sammael). Supposedly a death angel exists, has a “death list,” people “die in a certain order,” and collects souls (not every believer in a death angel necessarily accepts all these ideas). Some even think a death angel rules over death or is the vehicle to carry out God’s wrath on wicked people.
Bible passages often used to prove the existence of a death angel. Before the nation of Israel left Egyptian bondage, there was the “death of the firstborn” throughout the land. If Ex. 12 is carefully examined, the Bible does not say “death angel.” It simply says “destroyer” and the original term simply has the idea of ruin or decay. Nothing in Ex. 12 proves the existence of a death angel.
Another “death angel proof text” is 2 Sam. 24:16, but this passage is also not relevant. This verse specifically refers to the “angel of Jehovah” (this is a reference to Jesus). Before the Lord came to the earth about 2,000 years ago He interacted with man as the “Angel of Jehovah.” Jesus is not an angel; the “Angel of Jehovah” is a way of saying He was and is deity. Since it is the “Angel of Jehovah” being described in 2 Sam. 24, it is not the death angel.
Another common “death angel passage” is 1 Cor. 10:10. If this is studied (see the author’s commentary on 1 Cor. 10:10), it seems Paul had in mind the death of Korah and his helpers described in Num. 16. First Corinthians 10:10 does not say “death angel.” It simply says “destroyer.” There was something thing or someone that destroyed many of the Hebrew people. Based on Num. 16 (the historical background for 1 Cor. 10:10), that “thing” turned out to be a series of natural disasters, not the least of which were an earthquake and fire.
Some Bible translations such as the “Living Bible” refer to a death angel in Heb. 11:28, but this is taking great liberty with the Greek text. There was simply a force or power used to destroy; there is no evidence of any special angel.
A final “proof text” for a death angel is Rev. 9:11, but upon close examination this verse deals with Satan and his helpers. The stories and beliefs about a special angel of death, if true, are not provable by the Bible.