Bible Overview encompasses all of our Bible-related articles in one section. Bible Characters "Did You Know" goes into detail about a Bible character we are studying either from that book in the Bible or from one of many stories in the Bible.
This month’s “Did You Know” section focuses on the Angel Uriel…
Did you know...
- The angel known as Uriel is not found in the canonical writings.
- Only three angels are named in Scripture: Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael.
- Yet, some Jewish writings refer to seven archangels. When they do, Uriel is the fourth.
- Archangels are thought to range from the lowest of spirits to the highest ranks. All are under the purview of the Holy Spirit.
- Generally, they are represented as male figures. Lesser angels have been portrayed as female. (This is obviously a cultural bias since no one really thinks angels are gender specific!)
- These four angels, however, are often referred to as being the angels of the four winds: Uriel (south); Michael (east), Raphael (west), and Gabriel (north).
- Uriel has also been thought to be a member of the seraphim and cherubim.
- The name “Uriel” has various meanings: “Light of God” or “fire of God” or “flame of God.” Some even refer to him as “Sun of God.”
- His name can be divided: U = space; ra = the sun; el = God. Therefore Uriel stands for “Space-Sun-God.”
- His name has also been associated with Uriah.
- He has been variously referred to as the “Prince of the Sun,” the “Angel of the Presence,” the “Archangel of Salvation,” and the “Patron of Prophecy.”
- Isaiah 63:9 mentions an angel of the divine presence. Uriel has also been identified with the face of God. At the very least, it means he can be in the presence of God.
- Uriel is one of the archangels of post-exilic Rabbinic tradition.
- Uriel is often referred to as the archangel of the earth, having to do with all things of substance.
- All that we know about Uriel comes from legends, tales, and angel lore. They present a wide variety of functions throughout Biblical tradition.
- In one apocryphal book, The Life of Adam and Eve, he is one of the cherubs in the Garden of Eden.
- Later on, he was the one standing guard at the gates of Eden.
- He was supposedly one of the angels who buried Adam and Abel. They were buried side by side in the very field where Adam had been formed out of dust.
- Uriel was the one who offered the last chance of redemption to Cain (who refused him).
- He was also one of the four who asked for divine intervention on behalf of the fallen watchers who took human wives and created the Nephilim, the half-angel, half-human offspring mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4.
- According to the Book of Enoch, Uriel is the one who spoke to Noah about the flood. He is also the one with dominion over thunder and terror.
- He was the one who supposedly led Abraham out of Ur.
- Another legend names him as the angel that wrestled with Jacob at Peniel.
- Some think he was the angel sent by God to wreak havoc upon Moses for failing to circumcise his son.
- Some say it was Uriel who checked the doors for blood during the Passover that last night in Egypt.
- He was also supposed to be the angel who announced the birth of Samson.
- Still another places him as the destroyer of the hosts of Sennacherib.
- Christian apocryphal gospels have him saving John the Baptist during the slaughter of innocents (a different angel told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt).
- Leonardo da Vinci memorialized the reunion between Mary and Elizabeth in Egypt in a painting known as “Virgin of the Rocks."
- In the Apocalypse of Peter, he is known as the Angel of Repentance. At that time, hell was ruled by fearsome angels. The most noted was Uriel, who was feared by all.
- He also had no pity on souls that had been lost.
- In the Sibylline Oracles, he leads men’s souls to judgment.
- In the Gospel of Barnabas found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Uriel is one of the four leaders of the War of the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness.
- In this war, the human warriors are given explicit instructions about who should fight where.
- There were four subdivisions, each represented by an archangel and each warrior has his angel’s name on his shield.
- Most see Uriel as the mightiest of all the angels.
- He rules over Tartarus (hell) where the watchers await judgment.
- Some have called Uriel the “Lord of powerful action.”
- He is found in various Christian Gnostic writings and referred to by Gregory the Great.
- He is also found in the Testament of Solomon.
- In 2 Esdras, he is the angel sent by God to answer Ezra’s questions and to instruct him.
- He is also thought to be one of the angels that will rule at the end of time.
- Believers pray to Uriel as the angel of peace and repentance.
- Others see him as the patron saint of music and poetry. It has been said that this is to compensate for the darker side of humans that he has to deal with.
- Because he is also the angel that interprets prophecy, he is usually shown holding a flame or fiery sword.
- On other occasions, he has been represented with a scroll and a book for his wisdom.
- In 745, the reigning Pope, St. Zachary, tried to clarify the church’s position on angel worship. He condemned any obsession with angels but affirmed the practice. They removed Uriel and many other angels from the list of those that could be venerated. Basically, the only ones left were Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.
- Shortly after being stripped of his status of venerated angel, the Church made him Saint Uriel.
- In the 11th century, however, Uriel was venerated by Bulgarian followers who were dualists.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow names him in The Golden Legend as the angel of Mars.
- In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Uriel serves as the “eyes of God.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson penned a poem after him entitled, “Uriel.” In the poem, he is a young god in Paradise who irritates the other gods.
- Uriel even shows up in several of Madeleine L’Engle’s books.
- In Haydn’s oratorio, The Creation, it is Uriel who narrates God’s words in his work of creation: “And God saw the light…that it was good…”
- His special feast day is July 28th, and it is thought that his greatest influence is felt during the summer.
- Uriel is known in Hebrew, Kabbalistic, Islamic, and Christian traditions.
- He is also the patron angel of Jerusalem.
Coggins, R. J. and M.A. Knibb. “The First and Second Books of Esdras.” The Cambridge Bible Commentary. London, Great Britain: Cambridge University Press. 1979.
deSilva, David. Introducing the Apocrypha. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2002.
Jones, Ivor. “The Apocrypha.” Epworth Commentaries. London, Great Britain: Epworth Press. 2003.
Kee, Howard Clark. Cambridge Annotated Study Apocrypha. Cambridge, Great Britain: Cambridge University Press. 1989.
Kohlenberger, John, III. The Parallel Apocrypha. New York: Oxford University Press. 1997.
Meeks, Wayne, ed. The Harper Collins Study Bible. San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins Publishers. 1993.
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