This article traces the meanings and uses of the Hebrew concept mal'akhei abalah [angels of destruction], a common designation for monsters that has been mentioned in Jewish texts for over two millennia. Thus far, scholars have considered mal'akhei abalah only in isolated contexts. In contrast, we examine these monsters' long history, which provided Jews with familiar horror images and figures to visualize and embody experienced and anticipated fears and threats. We argue that Jewish references to them were intended to horrify in order to deter people from sin and to express God's might and authority, thus maintaining religious and communal order in Jewish societies. At the same time, mal'akhei abalah were used to articulate the crises that threatened and challenged the existing social and political order. Although mal'akhei abalah developed within religious interpretations, by the modern era they expanded their applications and relevance for various avenues of Jewish life.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cultural Studies
- Religious studies
- Literature and Literary Theory