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Gustave Doré, Jacob Wrestles with the Angel Samael (1855)

Samael (Hebrew: סַמָּאֵל Sammāʾēl, "Venom of God",[1] "Poison of God", or "Blindness of God"; rarely "Smil", "Samil", or "Samiel")[2][3][4] is an important archangel in Talmudic and post-Talmudic lore, a figure who is the accuser (Ha-Satan), seducer, and destroyer (Mashhit), and has been regarded as both good and evil.

He is considered in Talmudic texts to be a member of the heavenly host (with often grim and destructive duties). One of Samael's greatest roles in Jewish lore is that of the main archangel of death. He remains one of God's servants even though he condones the sins of man. As an angel, Samael resides in the seventh heaven, although he is declared to be the chief angel of the fifth heaven, the reason for this being the presence of the throne of glory in the seventh heaven.[5]

Other sources have him explicitly as a fallen angel, who rebelled against God and engineered the fall of Adam and Eve.[6] He is also believed to be the father of Cain in some traditions,[7] as well as the partner of Lilith and other demons.


In Judaism, Samael is said to be the angel of death, and the title "Satan" is accorded to him. While Satan describes his function as an accuser, Samael is considered to be his proper name. While Michael defends Israel's actions, Samael tempts people to sin.[8] He is also depicted as the angel of death and one of the seven archangels, the ruler over the Fifth Heaven and commander of two million angels such as the chief of other destroying angels. Rabbinical writings like Yalkut Shimoni (I, 110) describe Samael as the guardian angel of Esau, the one who wrestled with Jacob, the angel who ordered Abraham into sacrificing Isaac, and a patron of Edom.[2][9]

According to The Ascension of Moses,[10] Samael is also mentioned as being in 7th Heaven:

In the last heaven Moses saw two angels, each five hundred parasangs in height, forged out of chains of black fire and red fire, the angels Af, "Anger," and Hemah, "Wrath," whom God created at the beginning of the world, to execute His will. Moses was disquieted when he looked upon them, but Metatron embraced him, and said, "Moses, Moses, thou favorite of God, fear not, and be not terrified," and Moses became calm. There was another angel in the seventh heaven, different in appearance from all the others, and of frightful mien. His height was so great, it would have taken five hundred years to cover a distance equal to it, and from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet he was studded with glaring eyes. "This one," said Metatron, addressing Moses, "is Samael, who takes the soul away from man." "Whither goes he now?" asked Moses, and Metatron replied, "To fetch the soul of Job the pious." Thereupon Moses prayed to God in these words, "O may it be Thy will, my God and the God of my fathers, not to let me fall into the hands of this angel."

In The Holy Kabbalah (Arthur Edward Waite, 255), Samael is described as the "severity of God", and is listed as fifth of the archangels of the world of Briah. Samael then became the consort of Adam's first wife, Lilith. Lilith is a demon created alongside Adam, originally created for the role Eve would fill. Samael created with her a host of demon children, including a son, the "Sword of Samael"[11] (or Asmodai).[12]

It is also said that the Baal Shem once summoned Samael, to make him do his bidding.[13]

Furthermore, probably adopted from Apocryphon of John, Cain was born from Eve by intercourse with Samael.[14][15]

Samael is sometimes confused in some books with Camael, an archangel of God, whose name is similar to words meaning "like God" (but Camael with a waw missing).


Samael's first mention in the Book of Enoch describes him as one of the angels who rebelled against God, though not their leader.[6] They are identified with the Watchers, who chose to descend to Earth to mate with human women.[7]

Another version of his rebellion upon by the Greek Apocalypse of Baruch, where he planted the Tree of Knowledge in order to cause the fall of Adam out of envy.[7] After the act, Samael himself was expelled and cursed by God.[6] The same source states Samael took the shape of a snake in order to tempt Eve,[7] an idea that was omitted in other Talmudic versions,[6] although his role as a rebellious angel pervived.[7]

In the Ascension of Isaiah, Samael is often identified as "Melkira" (Heb.: מלך רע melek ra - lit. "king of evil", "king of the wicked") or "Malkira"/"Malchira" (מלאך רע malakh/malach ra - "messenger of evil", "angel of iniquity") or "Belkira" (prob. בעל קיר baal qir - "lord of the wall") or "Bechira" (בחיר רע bachir ra, - "the elect of evil", "chosen by evil"). He is identified here as Belial and Satan and called the leader of the forces of evil, and gains control of King Manasseh in order to accuse Isaiah of treason.[5][7]

In Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer, a Midrash work, dated to the period during the spread of Islam, Samael appears again as the cause of the temptation of Adam and Eve in Genesis. Probably influenced by the Quran due to its parallels to the Islamic equivalent of Iblis,[16][17] Samael, consisting of fire, disapproved the creation of Adam made from dust, so he descended from heaven to seduce Adam and Eve to eat from the forbidden fruit.[18] The serpent is not a form of Samael, but a beast he rode like a camel.[19] In the same work, he is the father of Cain after he impregnated Eve.[7][20]

In the Kabbalistic work Treatise on the Left Emanation, Samael is part of the Qliphoth, prince of all demons, and spouse of Lilith.[7] He and Lilith are said to parallel Adam and Eve. Asmodeus is also mentioned to be subservient to Samael and married to a younger, lesser Lilith.[21]

In the Zohar, Samael is mentioned again as the serpent's rider.[19] However, the same work later calls him Azazel.[19] This link might arise from a case of mistaken identity, as Azazel might be himself in Zoharistic lore a combination of the angels Aza and Azrael.[22] Samael also mated with Eisheth Zenunim, Na'amah, and Agrat bat Mahlat, all being "angels" of sacred prostitution.[23]


In the Apocryphon of John, found in the Nag Hammadi library, Samael is the third name of the demiurge, whose other names are Yaldabaoth and Saklas. In this context, Samael means "the blind god",[24] the theme of blindness running throughout gnostic works[citation needed]. His appearance is that of a lion-faced serpent.[25] In On the Origin of the World in the Nag Hammadi library texts, he is also referred to as Ariael, the Archangel of Principalities.


To anthroposophists, Samael is known as one of the seven archangels: Saint Gregory gives the seven archangels as Anael, Gabriel, Michael, Oriphiel, Raphael, Samael, and Zerachiel.[citation needed] They are all imagined to have a special assignment to act as a global zeitgeist ("time-spirit"), each for periods of about 360 years.[26] Since 1879, anthroposophists posit, Michael has been the leading time spirit.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Samael" - Jewish Encyclopedia
  2. ^ a b "Samael" in A Dictionary of Angels, including the fallen angels by Gustav Davidson, Simon & Schuster, p.255
  3. ^ Jung, Leo (1925). "Fallen Angels in Jewish, Christian and Mohammedan Literature. A Study in Comparative Folk-Lore", The Jewish Quarterly Review, vol. 16, no. 1 (July 1925), p. 88
  4. ^ The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: Apocalyptic literature and testaments, ed. James H. Charlesworth, Hendrickson Publishers, 1 Feb 2010, p.658
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ a b c d Jewish Virtual Library - Samael
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Raphael Patai, Encyclopedia of Jewish Folklore and Traditions
  8. ^ Sara E. Karesh, Mitchell M. Hurvitz Encyclopedia of Judaism Infobase Publishing, 2005 ISBN 978-0-816-06982-8 page 447
  9. ^ Howard Schwartz Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism Oxford University Press 2006 ISBN 978-0-195-32713-7 page 361
  10. ^ Louis Ginzberg, The Ascension of Moses, Chapter IV "Aggadah: The Legend of the Jews"
  11. ^ Rosemary Ellen Guiley (2009). The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology. Infobase Publishing. pp. 222–. ISBN 978-1-4381-3191-7.
  12. ^ "Lilith the younger". Liber 777 Notes. Archived from the original on 25 October 2014.
  13. ^ Tales of the Hasidim, by Martin Buber. Book 1, page 77.
  14. ^ Natalie B. Dohrmann, David Stern Jewish Biblical Interpretation and Cultural Exchange: Comparative Exegesis in Context University of Pennsylvania Press 2013 ISBN 978-0-812-20945-7
  15. ^ Rachel Adelman The Return of the Repressed: Pirqe De-Rabbi Eliezer and the Pseudepigrapha BRILL 2009 ISBN 978-9-004-17049-0 page 104
  16. ^ Joseph Dan Gershom Scholem and the Mystical Dimension of Jewish History NYU Press 1987 ISBN 978-0-814-72097-4
  17. ^ David Mevorach Seidenberg Kabbalah and Ecology Cambridge University Press 2015 ISBN 978-1-107-08133-8 page 65
  18. ^ William Irwin Thompson The Time Falling Bodies Take To Light: Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture Palgrave Macmillan 1996 ISBN 978-0-312-16062-3 page 14
  19. ^ a b c Andrei A. Orlov, Heavenly Priesthood in the Apocalypse of Abraham
  20. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia - Samael
  21. ^ Kristen E. Kvam, Linda S. Schearing, Valarie H. Ziegler, Valarie Ziegler, Eve and Adam: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Readings on Genesis and Gender
  22. ^ (Rav Michael Laitman, PhD)
  23. ^ (Erika D. Johnson) citing The Oxford Classical Dictionary definition [Retrieved 2012-12-13]
  24. ^ "Jewish Virtual Library". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
  25. ^ "The Apocryphon of John". Retrieved 2011-12-05.
  26. ^ Matharene, B. (2003). The Archangel Michael, GA# 67 – review. Retrieved from: on 11 October 2014
  • Bunson, Matthew, (1996). Angels A to Z : A Who's Who of the Heavenly Host. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 0-517-88537-9.
  • Davidson, Gustav. A Dictionary of Angels: Including the Fallen Angels. Free Press. ISBN 0-02-907052-X

Further reading[edit]

  • Charles, R.H. (trans.) (1900) The Ascension of Isaiah London, Adam & Charles Black.
  • Bamberger, Bernard Jacob, (March 15, 2006). Fallen Angels: Soldiers of Satan's Realm. Jewish Publication Society of America. ISBN 0-8276-0797-0
  • Cruz, Joan C. (1999). Angels and Devils. Tan Books & Publishers. ISBN 0-89555-638-3.
  • Jung, Leo (1925). "Fallen Angels in Jewish, Christian and Mohammedan Literature. A Study in Comparative Folk-Lore", published in four parts in The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Ser.

External links[edit]