The destroying angel is also commonly referred to as the angel of death. On numerous occasions, God used angelic beings— heavenly messengers of some kind—to bring judgment to sinners on earth. Various Bible translations refer to this being as a “destroying angel.” There is no clear biblical evidence that any one particular angel was given the title “destroying angel” or “angel of death.” The most we can say is that the Bible’s mentions of a “destroying angel” are references to a heavenly being or beings that came to destroy those under God’s judgment.
The most famous visitation of a destroying angel was on the first Passover. Egypt was about to experience the tenth and final plague, the death of the firstborn. Moses’ instructions to the Hebrews contained this warning:
“For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.” Exodus 12:23.
Some other translations have “Angel of Death” (GNT) or “death angel” (NLT) instead of “destroyer.” This being is called “the destroyer of the firstborn” in Hebrews 11:28.
Interestingly, the original Hebrew text of Exodus 12:23 does not mention an “angel” at all. It simply says that “the destroyer” or “the spoiler” or “the one who causes damage” would slay the firstborn of Egypt. Psalm 78 recounts the plagues in Egypt and sums them up as God’s unleashing of “a band of destroying angels” (verse 49).
The Hebrew word for “angel” is used here, but it is not limited to one particular angel.
A destroying angel—a heavenly messenger who brought destruction—was also sent by God to judge the Israelites because of David’s sin in numbering the people: “The Lord sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died.
When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, ‘Enough! Withdraw your hand.’ The angel of the Lord was then at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the Lord, ‘I have sinned’ (2 Samuel 24:15–17).
The Assyrians who attacked Jerusalem during King Hezekiah’s reign also met what could be called an angel of death or a destroying angel: “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!” 2 Kings 19:32–35. In this passage and in 2 Samuel 24, the destroying angel is actually called “the angel of the Lord,” which many scholars take to be a reference to Christ in a pre-incarnate appearance.
Another angel who brought death and destruction is mentioned in the judgment of King Herod (Acts 12:23). An angel with lethal intent bearing a sword gives a warning to Balaam (Numbers 22:31–33).
And Jesus mentions that angels will be involved in the end-times judgment of the wicked (Matthew 13:49–50).
In none of these cases are the angels called “the angel of destruction” or “the angel of death.” We might refer to an angel who metes out God’s judgment as an “angel of destruction,” but it is not an explicitly biblical term.
Finally, the names of Angels are generally a secret, but a few of their names have been revealed (Judges 13:16-18; Luke 1:11-20; Revelation 12:7-9, Tobit 3:17, 5:6)
“And Manoah said unto the angel of the Lord, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honour?
And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?” Judges 13:17-18
The first cannon of the Bible reveals the names of only two Angels: Michael and Gabriel. Michael is the only Archangel described in the first canon (Daniel 10:13; Jude 9). Gabriel is thought to be an Archangel, but the Bible in its present iteration does not support the designation (Daniel 8:16, 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26).
The 1611 version of the bible includes the Apocrypha or the second cannon of the Bible, in which other Archangels are discussed, including the office of Gabriel.
“And Manoah said unto the angel of the Lord, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honour? And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?” Judges 13:17-18