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We now have to make a

We now have to make a note that will appear as a manifest to the reader who wants to master this information and will read all quoted texts: malakhìms' presence often strikes fear and terror, it is rarely appeasing; and many of those who see them believe they will not survive the event. So we are very far from that poetic vision kindly describing angels as “beings of light”, always “positive” apparitions, entities that, always and in any case, protect those who are entrusted to them. By contrast, they often convey messages of death, and when death is evaded, they are responsible for events that produce destruction and great suffering. These are figures that men would be better off not meeting. In this regard, we will end this chapter by introducing the figure of the exterminating, or destroying angel. The angel in Egypt It is called “destroyer” and “exterminator” for the first time in Exodus 12:23. This scene is set in Egypt and the Jews are about to leave the country and move towards the Promised Land. This “exterminator, destroyer” (maschìt, ) has mandated to hit and kill all Egyptian firstborns, sparing Jews' homes distinguished by the lamb blood. Actually, the text does not allow understanding exactly whether this exterminator is sent by Yahweh or is Yahweh himself, but the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews included in the New Testament already recalls the episode and describes this figure as o olothréuon, “the destroyer” (11:28). The siege of Sennacherìb A second intervention of this malàkh is described in the second book of Kings that tells about the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib: We are in 701 BC and the Assyrian king is waging his campaign to conquest over the territories of 86

Palestine. The biblical text says (2Kings 19:35) that night the malàkh of Yahweh went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning--there were all the dead bodies! It seems that on this occasion the angel made use of an infestation of mice as confirmed by the Greek historian Herodotus (Chronicles, 2:141), who tells of a very similar event happened to the army of Sennacherib during a siege: rats gnawed the quivers, bow strings, and leather shield handles, thus disarming the military force, many fell. The plague on Israel A third intervention of this “Exterminating Angel” is narrated in the second book of Samuel that, in Chapter 24, describes a census ordered by King David. The census, however, was an act contrary to the Elohìms' will, who therefore hits the people with the plague. The text says - with the same "journalistic" accuracy we have already noted elsewhere - that it was the time of the barley harvest (2Sam 24:15) and that 70,000 men died in the territory between Dan and Beersheba. The angel then stretches out his hand toward Jerusalem to devastate it (24:16), but Yahweh feels pity for the people and orders the angel (malàkh) to stop. The important fact is that up to this point we may think that the story is but a figurative representation of God's will, a sort of "personification of his will", but the verse 16 contains a surprising clarification: 87

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