Michael in Christianity and Judaism
Michael (Hebrew: מיכאל, Micha'el or MîkhāТēl; Greek: Μιχαήλ, Mikhaíl; Latin: Michael or Míchaël; Arabic: ميكائيل, Mikha'il) is the archangel mentioned in the Book of Revelation 12:7; in the Old Testament Michael is mentioned by name in the Persian context of the post-Exilic Book of Daniel. He is generally presented as the field commander of the Army of God. There Michael appears as "one of the chief princes" (10:13) who in Daniel's vision comes to the angel Gabriel's aid in his contest with the angel of Persia, and is also described there as the advocate of Israel and "great prince who stands up for the children of your (Daniel's) people" (10:21, 12:1). The Talmud tradition rendered his name as meaning "who is like El (God)(but literally "El's Likeness")" (compare the late prophet Micah), but according to Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish (AD 230Ц270), all the specific names for the angels were brought back by the Jews from Babylon, and many modern commentators would agree. Michael is one of the principal angels in Abrahamic tradition; his name was said to have been the war-cry of the angels in the battle fought in heaven against Satan and his followers.
Much of the late Midrash detail about Michael was transmitted to Christian mythology through the Book of Enoch whence it was taken up and further elaborated. In late medieval Christianity, Michael together with St George became the patron of chivalry, and the patron of the first chivalric order of France, the Order of Saint Michael of 1469. In the British honours system, a chivalric order founded in 1818 is also named for these two saints, the Order of St Michael and St George. St Michael is also considered in many Christian circles as the patron saint of the warrior. Police officers and soldiers, particularly paratroopers, regard him as their patron saint.
The numinous "captain of the host of the Lord" encountered by Joshua in the early days of his campaigns in the Promised Land (Joshua 5:13-15) has the character of Michael the Archangel, as the unnamed heavenly messenger is of supernatural and holy origin, likely sent by God:
Once when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, 'Are you one of us, or one of our adversaries?' He replied, 'Neither; but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.' And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshipped, and he said to him, 'What do you command your servant, my lord?' The commander of the army of the LORD said to Joshua, 'Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy.' And Joshua did so. (Joshua 5:13Ц15, NRSV)
There is some controversy about this passage, however. An orthodox Christian interpretation would be that this person is the pre-Incarnate Christ. In other places in the Bible, angels do not accept the worship of humans (see Rev. 22:9 for an example); the willingness of this person to accept Joshua's worship implies that he was divine. However, it is not clear whether the angel was the subject of Joshua's worship or merely instigated worship of God.
Catholics refer to him as Saint Michael the Archangel and also simply as Saint Michael; here, "Saint" is a title meaning "holy", and is not meant to indicate that Michael is a saint (a human soul in heaven). Orthodox Christians refer to him as the Taxiarch Archangel Michael or simply Archangel Michael.
In the Epistle of Jude of the New Testament in verse 9, Michael disputes with the devil over the body of Moses. In Revelation 12:7-8, "And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven." John describes Satan being thrown out of heaven three and a half years from the end of the age, "a time, times and half a time" Revelation 12:14. Satan being thrown from heaven coincides with the "abomination that causes desolation" as spoken of by the prophet (Daniel 9:27).
Michael in arabic literatureIn Arabic literature, Michael is called Mikha'il or (in the Qur'an) Mikhal. In the Qur'an Michael is mentioned once only, in Sura 2:98. In his commentary on verse 91 of that sura, Baiawi 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's angels, to him God would be an enemy. Upon returning to Muhammad, 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 11:72 that Michael was one of the three angels who visited Abraham.
He resides in the seventh heaven and is popularly believed to have wings of emerald green.
As the Chief Commander of the Heavenly hosts, Michael usually holds a sword in one hand. In the other he often carries carries a either a shield, date-tree branch, a spear, or a white banner (possibly with a scarlet cross). He is most likely to be wearing red. In many instances, Michael tramples the devil under his feet, which may be depicted as a dragon. This comes from the tradition that Michael was the main opponent of Satan in the battle for Heaven. Satan was always looking to discredit Israel, while Michael was its main protector. In the end, Satan attempted to drag Michael down in his fall from the heights, but Michael was rescued by God.