Raphael

RAPHAEL, răf’ ĭ əl (רָפָאֶל; ̔Ραφαήλ, divine healer). Raphael was “one of seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One” (Tobit 12:15). In the same passage from Tobit, Raphael is said to have told Tobit: “When you and your daughter-in-law Sarah prayed, I brought a reminder of your prayer before the Holy One; and when you buried the dead, I was likewise present with you” (12:12). He goes on to say: “So now God sent me to heal you and your daughter-in-law Sarah” (12:14).

The seven angels were Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel, Michael, Izidkiel, Hanael, and Kepharel. These were the seven archangels, the princes of the angelic host, the only angels permitted to enter within the radiance of God’s glory (cf. Luke 1:19, where Gabriel describes himself as one that stands in God’s presence). These angels heard the prayers of the saints, brought the requests to God, and then stood ready to execute God’s answer. Raphael served as a guardian angel for Tobit, protecting him from death for burying Jews who had been massacred in Nineveh, and acting as his traveling companion in his journey from Nineveh to Ecbatana. Raphael’s chief function, however, was as a healer of men’s diseases. He cured the blindness of Tobit and expelled the demon from Sarah, the woman who later married Tobit’s son Tobias.

In the Book of Enoch, Raphael and Michael are commissioned to punish the fallen angels, the angels who had married human wives in the time of Noah. Raphael was told to bind Azazal hand and foot and throw him into a pit (Enoch 10:4; cf. 2 Pet 2:4). Even in this mission, however, Raphael is acting as a healer, for the purpose of this action was that he might heal the earth that had been defiled by these evil angels. According to the Book of Noah, a treatise on medicine mentioned in the Jewish midrashim, men were afflicted with various diseases after the Flood, and God sent Raphael to disclose to Noah the use of curative plants and roots to heal them. Another Jewish tradition names Raphael as the third of the angels who appeared to Abraham (Gen 18:2-22). Raphael imparted to Sarah the strength to conceive even though she was past the age of childbearing. He is not mentioned in the canonical books of the Bible.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ra’-a-el, ra’-fa-el (repha’el, from rapha’ ’el, "God has healed"; Rhaphael): The name of the angel who, as Azarias, guides Tobias to ECBATANA and RAGES (which see). The purpose of his mission is, in accordance with his name, to cure Tobit of blindness, and to deliver Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, from the power of the evil spirit Asmodaeus (Tobit 3:8; 12:14). Later, in addition, when he reveals himself (Tobit 12:15), he declares that he is "one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and go in before the glory of the Holy One." These seven angels are derived, according to Dr. Kohut, from the seven Am-shaspands (Amesha-spentas) of Zoroastrianism (compare Re 4:5). At the head of the elaborate angelology of the Enoch books there are "four presences," and Raphael is one of them (En 40:9; 54:6). In the first of these passages Raphael is the healer; in the second, he with Michael, Gabriel and Phanuel lead the wicked away to punishment. These four presences seem related to the four "living creatures" of Ezekiel (1:5) and of the Apocalypse (Re 4:6). While this is the general representation of Raphael’s position in Enoch, in 20:3 he is named among the angels who "watch," whose number according to the Greek text is seven. Raphael shared in the function assigned to the archangels, in the Oracula Sibyllina, of leading souls to the judgment seat of God (II, 215, Alexandre’s text). He occupies a prominent place in Jewish medieval writings; he with Michael and Gabriel cured Abraham (Yoma’ 37a); according to the book Zohar, Raphael conveyed to Adam a book containing 72 kinds of wisdom in 670 writings. The painters of the Renaissance frequently depicted Raphael.