Judaism reveres the spiritual beings known as angels, who worship God and act as His messengers toward people. God has created a tremendous amount of angels -- more than people can count. The Torah uses the figure of speech “thousands” (meaning a huge number) to describe the innumerable amount of angels that the prophet Daniel sees in a vision of God in heaven: "…Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him…” (Daniel 7:10).
How do you begin to comprehend the vast amount of angels who exist? It helps to start by understanding how God has organized them. Three major world religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) have set up hierarchies of angels to answer the question: “What are angel types?”. Here’s a look at who’s who among Jewish angels:
Rabbi, Torah scholar, and Jewish philosopher Moshe ben Maimon, (also known as Maimonides) described 10 different levels of angels in a hierarchy that he detailed in his book Mishneh Torah (circa 1180). Maimonides ranked the angels from highest to lowest:
Chayot Ha Kodesh
The first and highest type of angels are called Chayot Ha Kodesh. They are known for their enlightenment, and they’re responsible for holding up God’s throne, and also for holding Earth in its proper position in space. The Chayot Ha Kodesh emanate such powerful light that they often appear fiery. The famous archangel Metatron leads the Chayot Ha Kodesh, according to mystical branch of Judaism known as Kabbalah.
Members of the Ophanim rank of angels never sleep, because they’re constantly busy guarding God’s throne in heaven. They are known for their wisdom. Their name comes from the Hebrew word “ophan,” which means “wheel,” due to the Torah’s description of them in Ezekiel 1:15-21 as having their spirits encased inside wheels that moved along with them wherever they went. In Kabbalah, the famous archangel Raziel leads the Ophanim.
These angels are known for their courage and understanding. The famous archangel Tzaphkiel leads the Erelim, in Kabbalah.
The Hashmallim are known for their love, kindness, and grace. The famous archangel Zadkiel leads this angelic rank, according to Kabbalah. Zadkiel is thought to be the "angel of the Lord" who shows merciful kindness in Genesis chapter 22 of the Torah when the prophet Abraham is preparing to sacrifice his son Isaac.
Seraphim angels are known for their work for justice. Kabbalah says that the famous archangel Chamuel leads the Seraphim. The Torah records a vision that the prophet Isaiah had of Seraphim angels near God in heaven: “Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’” (Isaiah 6:2-3).
MalakhimMembers of the Malakhim rank of angels are known for their beauty and mercy. In Kabbalah, famous archangel Raphael leads this class of angels.
Angels within the Elohim are known for their commitment to the victory of good over evil. The famous archangel Haniel leads the Elohim, according to Kabbalah.
The Bene Elohim focus their work on giving glory to God. Kabbalah says that the famous archangel Michael leads this angelic rank. Michael is mentioned in major religious texts more than any other named angel, and he is often shown as a warrior who fights for what’s right to bring glory to God. Daniel 12:21 of the Torah describes Michael as “the great prince” who will protect God’s people even during the struggle between good and evil at the end of the world.
The Cherubim angels are known for their work helping people deal with sin that separates them from God so they can draw closer to God. The famous archangel Gabriel leads the Cherubim, according to Kabbalah. Cherubim angels appear in the Torah’s account of what happened after humans brought sin into the world while in the Garden of Eden: “After he [God] drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:24).
The Ishim rank of angels is the closest level to human beings. Members of the Ishim focus on building God’s kingdom on Earth. In Kabbalah, their leader is the famous archangel Sandalphon.