Michael is an angel mentioned in the Bible; he is one of the archangels (Daniel 10:13), who is also represented as the advocate of Israel (ib. x. 21, xii. 1). Catholic and Orthodox Christians refer to him as St. Michael the Archangel and also simply as Saint Michael.

Table of contents
1 Michael in the Bible
2 Michael in Judaism
3 In the Apocrypha
4 Michael in Christianity
5 Shrines of St. Michael
6 Michael in Islam

Michael in the Bible

In the Book of Daniel, the prophet Daniel experiences a vision after having undergone a period of fasting. In the vision, an angel identifies Michael as the protector of Israel (10:13, 21). Later in the vision (12:1), Daniel is informed that Michael will stand for Israel during the tribulation to come.

No more mention is made of Michael until the New Testament. In the Book of Jude, reference is made to the tradition that Michael guards the body of Moses, to prevent the people from falling into hero-worship. The Book of Revelation shows Michael fighting the seven-headed dragon in a battle in heaven.

Michael in Judaism

Michael is designated in early Jewish writings, and in the Book of Enoch, as "the prince of Israel". In later Jewish writings, particularly in Kabbalistic works, he is viewed as "the advocate of the Jews."

According to rabbinic Jewish tradition, Michael acted as the advocate of Israel, and sometimes had to fight with the princes of the other nations (comp. Dan. x. 13) and particularly with the angel Samael, Israel's accuser.

According to rabbinic Jewish tradition, Michael's enmity with Samael dates from the time when the latter was thrown down from heaven. Samael took hold of the wings of Michael, whom he wished to bring down with him in his fall; but Michael was saved by God (Midrash Pirke R. El. xxvi.).

The rabbis declare that Michael entered upon his role of defender at the time of the biblical patriarchs. Thus, according to Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob, it was Michael who rescued Abraham from the furnace into which he had been thrown by Nimrod (Midrash Genesis Rabbah xliv. 16). It was Michael, the "one that had escaped" (Genesis xiv. 13), who told Abraham that Lot had been taken captive (Midrash Pirke R. El.), and who protected Sarah from being defiled by Abimelech. He announced to Sarah that she would bear a son and he rescued Lot at the destruction of Sodom (Talmud B. M. 86b).

It is said that Michael prevented Isaac from being sacrificed by his father by substituting a ram in his place, and saved Jacob, while yet in his mother's womb, from being killed by Samael (Midr. Abkir, in Yalḳ., Gen. 110). Later Michael prevented Laban from harming Jacob (Pirke R. El. xxxvi.). According to one source, it was Michael who wrestled with Jacob and who afterward blessed him (Targum pseudo-Jonathan to Genesis xxxii. 25; Pirke R. El. xxxvii.).

The midrash Exodus Rabbah holds that Michael exercised his function of advocate of Israel at the time of the Exodus also, when Satan accused the Israelites of idolatry and declared that they were consequently deserving of death by drowning in the Red Sea (Ex. R. xviii. 5). But according to Midr. Abkir, when Uzza, the tutelar angel of Egypt, summoned Michael to plead before God, Michael remained silent, and it was God Himself who defended Israel.

Legend makes Michael the teacher of Moses; so that the Israelites are indebted to their advocate for the supreme good of the Torah. This idea is alluded to in Midrash Deuteronomy Rabbah xi. 6 in the statement that Michael declined to bring Moses' soul to God on the ground that he had been Moses' teacher.

Michael is said to have destroyed the army of Sennacherib (Midrash Exodus Rabbah xviii. 5). He is said to have tried to prevent Israel from being led into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar and to save the Temple from destruction; but the sins of the people were so great that he was powerless to carry his purposes into effect.

There is a legend which seems to be of Jewish origin, and which was adopted by the Copts, to the effect that Michael was first sent by God to bring Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem, and that Michael was afterward very active in freeing his nation from Babylonian captivity (Amélineau, "Contes et Romans de l'Egypte Chrétienne," ii. 142 et seq.). According to a midrash, Michael saved Hananiah and his companions from the furnace (Midrash Genesis Rabbah xliv. 16). Michael was active in the time of Esther: "The more Haman accused Israel on earth, the more Michael defended Israel in heaven" (Midrash Esther Rabbah iii. 8). It was Michael who reminded Ahasuerus that he was Mordecai's debtor (Targum to Esther vi. 1); and there is a legend that Michael appeared to the high priest Hyrcanus, promising him assistance (comp. Josephus, "Ant." xiii. 10, § 3).

It was Michael's fight with Samael (with the devil in Assumptio Mosis, x.) which gave rise to the well-known legend of Michael and the dragon. This legend is not found in Jewish sources except in so far as Samael or Satan is called in the Cabala "the primitive serpent".

The idea that Michael was the advocate of the Jews became so prevalent that in spite of the rabbinical prohibition against appealing to angels as intermediaries between God and His people, Michael came to occupy a certain place in the Jewish liturgy. There were two prayers written beseeching him as the prince of mercy to intercede in favor of Israel: one composed by Eliezer ha-Kalir, and the other by Judah b. Samuel he-Hasid. But appeal to Michael seems to have been more common in ancient times. Thus Jeremiah is said (Baruch Apoc. Ethiopic, ix. 5) to have addressed a prayer to him. "When a man is in need he must pray directly to God, and neither to Michael nor to Gabriel" (Yer. Ber. ix. 13a).

With regard to the nature of the offerings which Michael brings to the altar, one opinion is that they are the souls of the just, while according to another they are fiery sheep. The former opinion, which has become prevalent in Jewish mystical writings, explains the important position occupied by Michael in Jewish eschatology. The idea that Michael is the Charon of individual souls, which is common among Christians, is not found in Jewish sources, but that he is in charge of the souls of the just appears in many Jewish writings.

Michale is said to have had a discussion with Samael over the soul of Moses (Midrash Deut. Rabbah xi. 6.) According to the Zohar, Michael accompanies the souls of the pious and helps them to enter the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem. It is said that Michael and his host are stationed at the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem and give admittance to the souls of the just. Michael's function is to open the gates also of justice to the just. It is also said that at the resurrection Michael will sound the trumpet, at which the graves will open and the dead will rise

In the Apocrypha

In the Apocrypha, it is stated in Apoc. Mosis, i. that Moses received the two tables through the mediation of Michael. In the Book of Jubilees (i. 27, ii. 1) the angel who is said to have instructed Moses on Mount Sinai and to have delivered to him the tables of the Law is most probably Michael.

Michael in Christianity

Catholic and Orthodox Christians often refer to the angel Michael as "Saint Michael", an honorific title that does not indicate canonisation. He is generally referred to in Christian litanies as "Saint Michael the Archangel".

Michael was usually honored on mountain tops and high places, and many famous shrines to him survive on those places, often replacing shrines of pre-Christian gods concerned with weather, like Wotan. He was also seen as replacing Hermes or Mercury in his role as weigher of souls on Judgment Day - as is frequently depicted in Medieval and Renaissance art.

In the Roman Calendar of the Saints, the feast, once widely known as Michaelmas, was celebrated September 29 and was one of the quarter days on which accounts were settled and school terms began. St. Michael is the patron saint of police officers, the archdioceses of Seattle, paramedics/EMTs and all other emergency workers.

Shrines of St. Michael

Michael in Islam

In Arabic literature, Michael is called "Mika'il" or (in the Quran) "Mikal." He is one of the four archangels, and, according to Arabic tradition, he occupies a similar position among the Jews to that occupied by Gabriel among the Arabs; that is to say, he is their peculiar guardian.

In the Quran Michael is mentioned once only, in sura ii. 92. In his commentary on verse 91 of that sura, Baiḍawi relates that on one occasion Omar went into a Jewish school and inquired concerning Gabriel. The pupils said he was their enemy, but that Michael was a good angel, bringing peace and plenty. In answer to Omar's question as to the respective positions of Michael and Gabriel in God's presence, they said that Gabriel was on His right hand and Michael on His left. Omar exclaimed at their untruthfulness, and declared that whoever was an enemy to God and His angels, to him God would be an enemy. Upon returning to Mohammed, Omar found that Gabriel had forestalled him by revealing the same message, which is contained in verse 92. Muslim commentators state with reference to sura xi. 72 that Michael was one of the three angels who visited Abraham.

In Arabic tradition Michael always appears as second to Gabriel. When God is creating Adam He sends first Gabriel and then Michael to fetch the clay out of which man is to be formed. Both are restrained by the earth's protests; only Israfil pays no heed to them. When Adam and Eve are expelled from paradise, Gabriel is sent to the former, and Michael to the latter, to impart comfort. On his death-bed Mohammed stated that Gabriel would be the first and Michael the second to pray over him.

See also: Angel