"Therefore this is what the LORD says concerning the king of Assyria:
"He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here.
He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it.
By the way that he came he will return;
he will not enter this city," declares the LORD.
"I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!"
Then the angel of the LORD 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! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.
As far as badass angelic jobs go, this one is pretty popular and everybody seems to want a shot at the title. Here's a short list of those who could be considered Angels of Death:
- Azrael - in some Jewish and Christian traditions, as well as Islam and Sikhism.
- Death (Personification)
- St. Gabriel, an archangel. Mainly for his role of enciting the Nephilim to make war on one another in the book of Enoch.
- The Grim Reaper
- Malak Almawt, an Islamic angel of death1.
- St. Michael, an archangel. He is viewed as the good Angel of Death or, more normally, as God's general.
- Samael, an archangel (in Judaism). He is viewed as the evil Angel of Death.
- Santa Muerte
- Sariel, thought by some to be another name of Azrael, in Judaism.
- Shinigami, Japanese Personification / God of Death
- Vanth, Etruscan psychopomp whose wings are covered with eyes (a characteristic often associated with Azrael).
Unsurprisingly this is a culturally ambiguous role - no-one can deny that death is part of the divine order, but it also feels like an evil to most people, and so its anthropomorphisation is likewise feared, even when it is explicitly a servant of God. Of course a lot of your experience of the Angel of Death may depend on who you are - to the faithful, it may be more of a kindly psychopomp, conveying them to their new home, to the evil and faithless it is more likely to be a thing of terror, dragging them to judgement and damnation … encountering the Angel as a third party may tell you about the person it has come to collect - or you may only see the form most fitted to your own situation.
Game and Story Use
- Depending on the type of tale you're telling, and the nature of your setting, the Angel of Death could be antagonist or protagonist. There may be only one at any given time, they may somehow split the chores, or perhaps there's many angels of death competing for souls.
- What starts as an investigation into hospital-based serial killings may turn out to have a supernatural / religious explanation. The FBI is equipped to apprehend mad men, but can they imprison an angel?
- Alterntatively, the PCs could be investigating an apparent massacre - perhaps one where the cause of death is almost impossible to determine. What could kill so many people in a brief period of time without leaving a mark?
- The ability to ward off or hide from the angel could be an important skill - as, in the right circumstances, could the ability to summon it. Combining several of these skills could be even more useful.
- Steal an idea from Preacher: The Angel of Death replaced by a deceased mortal - the Saint of Killers.
- The idea of seeing the Angel in action might be a good way to mess with your player's heads - a good and virtuous person sees a villain's soul being collected by what appears to be a kindly and gentle creature and may have moral qualms as a result - did they kill an innocent person? Alternatively the Knight Templar feels justified by his visions of terrible monsters coming to sieze the souls of the blameless victims of his excess. In both cases, they have seen an angel appropriate to their own condition and drawn the wrong conclusions. Alternatively, seeing the friendly angel come for your kills may actually mean that you have killed a good person. This would be a good moment for a Raiders of the Lost Ark style glamour failure.