Samael (Hebrew: סַמָּאֵל, "Venom of God" or "Poison of God," or "Blindness of God" Sammael or Samil) is an important archangel in Talmudic and post-Talmudic lore, a figure who is an accuser, seducer, and destroyer, and has been regarded as both good and evil. Rabbinical writings describe Samael as the guardian angel of Esau (and the Roman empire) and a patron of Edom.
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.
In Judaism, Samael is said to be the angel of death, and sometimes the name of 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. 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 Satans. Yalkut Shimoni (I, 110) presents Samael as Esau's guardian angel.
According to The Ascension of Moses 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" (or Asmodai).
In several interpretations of the Ascension of Isaiah, Samael is often identified as Malkira (Heb.: מלך רע melek ra - lit. "king of evil", "king of the wicked"; or מלאך רע 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"), which are all epithets of the false prophet sent by Belial to accuse Isaiah of treason, notably the Ascension of Isaiah also identifies him as Satan.
In Christian demonology Samael is sometimes regarded as a powerful demon.
It should be noted, however, that this link is a dubious one and likely arises from a case of mistaken identity equating Samael with the demon Azazel who is himself in Zoharistic lore a combination of the angels Azael and Aza.
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", the theme of blindness running throughout gnostic works. His appearance is that of a lion-faced serpent. 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 Zachariel. They are all imagined to have a special assignment to act as a global zeitgeist ("time-spirit"), each for periods of about 360 years. Since 1879, anthroposophists posit, Michael has been the leading time spirit.
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