Tuesday, July 16, 2013

There's Always Something More to Learn

There's a topic that I have sometimes taught in my Bible classes: Angels: Pretty Ladies with Wings or God's Warriors?

Many, perhaps most, of the images of angels that we see are of the pretty lady variety. But in the Bible angels are generally pictured as young men--sometimes looking like ordinary people, sometimes awe-inspiring, and sometimes glowing. Wings are not mentioned, although there are classes of heavenly beings that are mentioned as having wings. It is hard for me to know whether "angel" which means "messenger" is a generic title for all heavenly beings, or as a specific category of God's servants. I think the latter. When angels appear they deliver messages, help prophets understand their visions, or report having battled another on the way to the prophet. Jesus said he could call on angels to defend him; that, however, would spoil his completion of his mission.

So why do we see angels as winged ladies? Well, now, I have not tried to research this, but my instinct is that we find that image comforting, non-threatening, sweet, and attractive. I have quite a few angelic images around my house, most of which were gifts. I really enjoy them, even though I've not considered them Biblically accurate representations.
Some of my angels. I have some that don't have wings.

Why am I thinking about this today? Well, I am reading the book of the prophet Zechariah. And there, in chapter 5, verse 9, this rose up and grabbed my attention:

"Right after this I saw two women coming through the sky like storks with wings outstretched in the wind." (Isn't that a cool image?)  These two winged women picked up a basket containing a woman representing "evil" (the Hebrew word is in the feminine gender, hence a woman) and carried it away from Israel. Of course, this was an allegorical vision given to the prophet. But it is women with wings! I've read this passage many times over the years, but it never struck me before and I had no memory of it. They aren't actually identified as "angels". . .but they are carrying out a job for God. So, now I am happy to think that my lovely ladies with wings may actually fit into the messengers of God category accurately!

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