The angels mentioned in the older books of the Hebrew Bible are without names. Indeed, rabbi Simeon ben Lakish of Tiberias (AD 230Ц270), asserted that all the specific names for the angels were brought back by the Jews from Babylon, and some modern commentators would tend to agree. Of seven archangels in the angelology of post-Exilic Judaism, only three, Gabriel, Michael and Raphael, are mentioned by name in the scriptures that gradually became accepted as canonical.
Where a fourth archangel is added to the named three, to represent the four cardinal points, Uriel is generally the fourth (Jewish Encyclopedia). Uriel is listed as the fourth angel in Christian Gnostics (under the name Phanuel), by Gregory the Great, and in the angelology of Pseudo-Dionysius. Uriel is the third angel listed in the Testament of Solomon, the fourth being Sabrael.
Uriel also appears in the Second Book of Esdras, an apocryphal addition in the tradition of apocalyptic literature made to Esdras, in which the prophet Ezra asks God a series of questions, and Uriel is sent by God to instruct him. According to the Revelation of Esdras, the angels that will rule at the end of the world are Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael, Gabuthelon, Beburos, Zebuleon, Aker, Arphugitonos. The last five listed only appear in this book and nowhere else in apocryphal or apocalyptic works.
Uriel is often identified as a cherub and angel of repentance. He "stands at the Gate of Eden with a fiery sword," or as the angel who "watches over thunder and terror." In the Apocalypse of Peter he appears as the Angel of Repentance, who is graphically represented as being as pitiless as any demon. In the Life of Adam and Eve, Uriel is regarded as the spirit (i.e., one of the cherubs) of the third chapter of Genesis. He is also identified as one of the angels who helped bury Adam and Abel in Paradise.
Stemming from medieval Jewish mystical traditions, Uriel has also become the Angel of Sunday (Jewish Encyclopedia), the Angel of Poetry, and one of the Holy Sephiroth. It was Uriel who wrestled Jacob at Peniel and Uriel is depicted as the destroyer of the hosts of Sennacherib.
The prayer of Jospeth in the Legends of the Jews reads "Jacob - ФWhen I was coming from Mesopotamia of Syria, Uriel, the angel of God, came forth and spoke: СI have come down to earth to make my dwelling among men, and I am called Jacob by name.ТФ"
He checked the doors of Egypt for lamb's blood during the plague. He also holds the key to the Pit during the End Times and led Abraham to the West.
In modern and only marginally Christian angelology, Uriel is identified variously as a seraph, cherub, regent of the sun, flame of God, angel of the Divine Presence, presider over Tartarus (hell), archangel of salvation, and, in later scriptures, identified with Phanuel "face of God." He is often depicted carrying a book or a papyrus scroll representing wisdom. Uriel is a patron of the Arts.
In Thomas Heywood's Hierarchy of Blessed Angels (1635), Uriel is described as an Angel of the Earth. Heywood's list is actually of the Angels of the Four Winds: Uriel (south), Michael (east), Raphael (west) (serving also a governor of the south, with Uriel), and Gabriel (north). He is also listed as an Angel of the four winds in the medieval Jewish Book of the Angel Raziel which lists him as Usiel (Uzziel); according to it, this book was inscribed on a sapphire stone and handed down from Seraph to Metatron and then to Adam.
At the Council of Rome of 745, Pope St. Zachary, intending to clarify the Church's teaching on the subject of angels and curb a tendency toward angel worship, condemned obsession with angelic intervention and angelolatry, but reaffirmed the approval of the practice of the reverence of angels. This synod struck many angels' names from the list of those eligible for veneration in the Church of Rome, including Uriel. Only the reverence of the archangels mentioned in the recognized Catholic canon of scriptures, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, remained licit.
In the first half of the 11th century Bulgarian followers of the dualist heresy called Bogomilism who lived in the dukedom of Ahtum in present day Banat invoked Uriel in rituals. This is witnessed by St. Gerard, Roman Catholic bishop of the area after 1028.
In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's translation of The Golden Legend, Uriel is one of the angels of the seven planets. Uriel is the angel of Mars. He is also listed as such in Benjamin Camfield's A Theological Discourse of Angels (1678).
Possibly Uriel's highest position is that of an Angel of Presence, Prince of Presence, Angel of the Face, Angel of Sanctification, Angel of Glory. A Prince of the Presence is an angel who is allowed to enter the presence of God. Uriel along with Suriel, Jehol, Zagagel, Akatriel, Metatron, Yefefiah, Satanel, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Nathanel (Zathael) holds this position. The Angel of His Presence title is often taken to mean Shekinah but it and the other terms mentioned are also often used as alternate names for the angel Metatron. R. H. Charles comments in his translation of The Book Of Enoch that in later Judaism "we find Uriel instead of Phanuel" as one of the four angels of the presence.
A scriptural reference to an angel of presence is found in Isaiah 63:9 Ч
In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.
In the Sibylline Oracles, Uriel, along with Samiel, Aziel, and Araquiel (a fallen angel in 1 Enoch), leads men's souls to judgment.
The Book of Ceremonial Magic discusses Ablati, Josta, Agla and Caila as the four words spoken by God to Moses. These words are used in a magical rite to conjure Uriel. This information also appears in the book the Greater Key of Solomon; the Book of Ceremonial Magic uses the Greater Key of Solomon as a foundation which would explain this.