I’ve read quite a few books on angels, and most of the say that angels are hierarchical. That is, they’re sorted into nine choirs, with each choir having its own set of characteristics and responsibilities, and that within each choir they’re in a strict hierarchy. So if you are angel #742, you take orders from 741 angels above you and give orders to any angel ranked below you. Sounds good, but is it accurate?
We cannot prove or disprove this with the information we’re given in the Bible. I’ve made comments to the effect that I’d like to see a Heavenly org chart, and none has materialized. Ivy and I have played with the idea a bit, though. I like the idea of a points system, like you’d have in D&D: angel number 742 is built on 1000 points, and God spent those points on the angel in whatever way He wanted to. Angel number 741 is built on 1001 points. The top angel would have been Lucifer, built on like five million points, and it goes on down the line to the lowest angel in the lowest choir, built on maybe 150 points. Under this system, the highest human being would be built on 149 points, but we aren’t all different points; humans seem to be built mostly on the same general number of points.
That doesn’t mean that principality #1 is better at everything than every other angel in the choir of principalities (if he has five points in math and another principality has 10 points in math, for example) but overall, the higher ranked the angel, the more natural aptitude he’d have.
Then I wondered if maybe humans aren’t built on huge numbers of points as well: say you’ve got two people of the same intelligence and the same general skill set, but one was born in 21st century America with good access to education and technology, and the other was born in 500 BC and highly unlikely to ever learn to read and write or have access to medical care. How many “points” does it cost to be born into a life of luxury and educational opportunity where you’re not going to die of the plague before you turn six?
This is all well and good, but then the obvious question arises: Isn’t all this hierarchy a human construction? Or is classification next to Godliness?
The point of classifying would be to understand something without needing to understand all of it. It’s quite obvious that God doesn’t need to do that, and yet it’s orderly to have, for example, the living creatures divided into insects and plants and mammals and marsupials. But on the other hand, the ones who would most be in need of classifying things in order to understand them (animals without as much intelligence) only seem to classify the world into two types: “things I can eat” and “things that can eat me.”
Jesus describes the last Judgment as having people sorted, and then even among the sorting of “sheep” and “goats” you have people sorted as ones whose deeds fell into certain types of categories. Jesus describes his disciples as going on to do works even greater than his own, indicating that some works would indeed be greater than others.
In Revelation we see the four living creatures and the elders and the seven archangels of the presence who seem to have authority over others. There are divisions into virgins and martyrs and saints. It all does seem very orderly (whereas evil souls are tossed into Hell all in a clump.) Jesus describes “legions of angels” and legions are organized by rank.
I’ve been leaning more toward an understanding that angels aren’t in a rigid single-file hierarchy, but I can’t tell you why this is. I’ve never seen that advocated in the literature, but I like the idea of those “seven Archangels of the presence” being the heads of certain “departments” and then having a hierarchical structure beneath them. Any angel of any choir could be mixed into any different department where his skills were required. So, for example, you have the “department of healing” with the archangel Raphael as its head, and beneath him you have several angels in charge of several different types of healing, and then on downward. You have Michael in charge of the “department of defense” with several lieutenants beneath him to help organize the fight. And so on and so forth.
Which leads to another question, which is whether angels can shift from one department to another, or whether they can be promoted within their departments. But in this lifetime, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to find this out.
It’s fun to speculate, though. So for now, I leave you with one question: does God organize/hierarchicalize things? Or is that only a human crutch that we’ve attributed to Him?
I would say it’s a human crutch, largely because some things don’t fit conveniently into any slot. There was that debate as to whether the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. Hemp is thought of as the plant used in marijuana production, but there are two strains of the hemp plant. One is tall; one is short. One produces usable marijuana; the other produces rot-proof rope and yarn. Both are illegal to grow in the U.S., but the U.S. military imports literally tons of the stuff in the form of hemp rope for ships.
In small companies (and I’m told in Japanese companies) someone hops departmental duties all the time. When I was with Law.com I was supposed to be doing tech support for MA3000, then I was editing the web site, then working in advertising, whatever was needed. We didn’t have many people, so people pitched in to do whatever had to be done. I don’t think this conversation would ever occur:
G-d: Haniel, go heal Rick over there.
Hamiel: I’d love to, but it’s not my job. See Raphael.
Raphael: I’m stopping a plague here. Can you handle it?
Hamiel: I’m in the relationships department. You have to find one of your own guys.
G-d: His guys are busy. I’m asking you.
Hamiel: Okay. Let me just check with my supervisor first.
Per Aquinas, God is a God of order. I’m still getting to know Aquinas, but he certainly seems to think that God’s creations are well-ordered, and that would include angels. He has something to say about it here:
I’m sure there’s more in the Summa Theologiae.
what comes to my mind is the 12 tribes of isreal…. and all the notes given to moses on who was doing what.
sort them into groups, put these groups in this spot, have this group do this task, make leaders of each group responsible for such and such…
granted, the organizing was for human benefit… and partically just based on who was born to who when (more direct control of placement i guess) but still, was organizing within organizing.
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I haven’t done any reading on the subject, but I don’t like a strict caste system for angels.
I don’t think the angels are ordered into bosses and employees and manages and foremen in a strict, “I’m your boss so do what I say” sort of way.
Some specialize in seeing the big picture and organizing things. Some specialize in other things. Some have more experience. But it’s not “Do it because I outrank you.”