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Samael (Hebrew: סמאל) (Severity of God) (also Sammael or Samil) is an important archangel in Talmudic and post-Talmudic lore, a figure who is accuser, seducer and destroyer, and has been regarded as both good and evil. It is said that he was the guardian angel of Esau and a patron of the Roman empire.
He is considered in Talmudic texts to be a member of the heavenly host (with often grim and destructive duties). One of Samael's greatest roles in Jewish lore is that of the angel of death. He remains one of the Lord's servants even though he appears to want men to do evil. As a good angel, Samael resides in the seventh heaven, although he is declared to be the chief angel of the fifth heaven, the reason for this being the presence of the throne of glory in the fifth heaven.
In Judaism, Samael is said to be the angel of death, the chief ruler of the Fifth Heaven and one of the seven regents of the world served by two million angels; he resides in the Seven Heavens. Yalkut I, 110 of the Talmud speaks of Samael as Esau's guardian angel. Samael is also sometimes identified as the angel who wrestled with Jacob and the angel who held back the arm of Abraham as he was about to sacrifice his son.
According to The Ascension of Moses Samael is also mentioned as being in 7th Heaven:
In the last heaven Moses saw two angels, each five hundred parasangs in height, forged out of chains of black fire and red fire, the angels Af, "Anger," and Hemah, "Wrath," whom God created at the beginning of the world, to execute His will. Moses was disquieted when he looked upon them, but Metatron embraced him, and said, "Moses, Moses, thou favorite of God, fear not, and be not terrified," and Moses became calm. There was another angel in the seventh heaven, different in appearance from all the others, and of frightful mein. His height was so great, it would have taken five hundred years to cover a distance equal to it, and from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet he was studded with glaring eyes, at the sight of which the beholder fell prostrate in awe. "This one," said Metatron, addressing Moses, "is Samael, who takes the soul away from man." "Whither goes he now?" asked Moses, and Metatron replied, "To fetch the soul of Job the pious." Thereupon Moses prayed to God in these words, "O may it be Thy will, my God and the God of my fathers, not to let me fall into the hands of this angel."
In The Holy Kabbalah (Arthur Edward Waite, 255), Samael is described as the "severity of God", and is listed as fifth of the archangels of the world of Briah.
Samael is sometimes confused in some books with Camael, an archangel of God, whose name is similar to words meaning "like God" (but Camael with a waw missing).
It is also said that the Baal Shem once summoned Samael, to make him do his bidding.
In several interpretations of the Ascension of Isaiah, Samael is often identified as Malkira (Heb.: מלך רוע melek roa; lit. "king of evil" or "king of the wicked") or Belkira (prob. בעל קיר baal qir, "lord of the wall"), which are both epithets of the false prophet sent by the demon Beliar to accuse Isaiah of treason.
It should be noted, however, that this link is a dubious one and likely arises from a case of mistaken identity equating Samael with the demon Azazel whom is himself in Zoharistic lore a combination of the angels Azael and Aza.
In the Apocryphon of John, found in the Nag Hammadi library, Samael is the third name of the demiurge, whose other names are Yaldabaoth and Saklas. In this context, Samael means "the blind god", the theme of blindness running throughout gnostic works. His appearance is that of a lion-faced serpent. In On the Origin of the World in the Nag Hammadi library texts, he is also referred to as Ariael, the Archangel of Principalities.
To anthroposophists, Samael is known as one of the seven archangels: Saint Gregory gives the seven archangels as Anael, Gabriel, Michael, Oriphiel, Raphael, Samael and Zachariel. They are all imagined to have a special assignment to act as a global zeitgeist ("time-spirit"), each for periods of about 3600 years. Since 1879, anthroposophists posit, Michael has been the leading time spirit. Four important archangels are also supposed to display periodic spiritual activity over the seasons: Raphael during the spring, Uriel during the summer, Michael during the autumn, and Gabriel during the winter. In anthroposophy, archangels may be good or evil; in particular, some of their rank are collaborators of Ahriman, whose purpose (anthroposophists believe) is to alienate humanity from the spiritual world and promote materialism and heartless technical control.
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