In divine dealings with Israel and the nations, we don't really see divine armies employed much. More often foreign armies are employed in order to punish Israel and bring her into exile.

We do see angelic armies, though, as well, at least as a vision.

Is this designation intended as "divine warrior" imagery, speaking metaphorically of G-d's greatness, metaphor of his supreme control of nations or a literal military maintained in heaven which is intended to say that "the cops are watching"?

Put another way, given divine omnipotence, how metaphorically should we understand "angel armies", both in our conception of the divine realm and in regard to divine interventions in the affairs of men?

To clarify even further, is "ruler of armies" simply anthropomorphism?

For example:

1 Samuel 1: 3And that man was wont to go up from his city from appointed time to appointed time, to prostrate himself and to slaughter (peace offerings) to the Lord of Hosts in Shiloh, and there the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinhas, were serving the Lord.

גוְעָלָה֩ הָאִ֨ישׁ הַה֚וּא מֵֽעִירוֹ֙ מִיָּמִ֣ים | יָמִ֔ימָה לְהִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֹ֧ת וְלִזְבֹּ֛חַ לַיהֹוָ֥ה צְבָא֖וֹת בְּשִׁלֹ֑ה וְשָׁ֞ם שְׁנֵ֣י בְנֵֽי־עֵלִ֗י חָפְנִי֙ וּפִ֣נְחָ֔ס כֹּהֲנִ֖ים לַיהֹוָֽה:

  • Is there a particular example (e.g. a Scriptural passage that talks about angelic armies) that you are thinking of?
    – Alex
    Feb 21, 2021 at 19:17
  • Hi Alex. I added an example to the end of my question.
    – Ruminator
    Feb 21, 2021 at 19:23
  • BTW, an angelic army was deployed at least once: sefaria.org.il/II_Kings.6.17
    – Mordechai
    Jul 21, 2021 at 21:29

1 Answer 1


The Talmud (Berachot 31a) describes the origin of Tzevaot as a name of God:

ותדר נדר ותאמר ה' צבאות אמר רבי אלעזר מיום שברא הקב"ה את עולמו לא היה אדם שקראו להקב"ה צבאות עד שבאתה חנה וקראתו צבאות אמרה חנה לפני הקב"ה רבש"ע מכל צבאי צבאות שבראת בעולמך קשה בעיניך שתתן לי בן אחד משל למה הדבר דומה למלך בשר ודם שעשה סעודה לעבדיו בא עני אחד ועמד על הפתח אמר להם תנו לי פרוסה אחת ולא השגיחו עליו דחק ונכנס אצל המלך א"ל אדוני המלך מכל סעודה שעשית קשה בעיניך ליתן לי פרוסה אחת

And she vowed a vow and said, O Lord of Zebaoth [Hosts]. R. Eleazar said: From the day that God created His world there was no man called the Holy One, blessed be He, Zebaoth [hosts] until Hannah came and called Him Zebaoth. Said Hannah before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, of all the hosts and hosts that Thou hast created in Thy world, is it so hard in Thy eyes to give me one son? A parable: To what is this matter like? To a king who made a feast for his servants, and a poor man came and stood by the door and said to them, Give me a bite, and no one took any notice of him, so he forced his way into the presence of the king and said to him, Your Majesty, out of all the feast which thou hast made, is it so hard in thine eyes to give me one bite?

(Soncino translation)

  • So "hosts" is "many" of anything, not just troops?
    – Ruminator
    Jul 24, 2021 at 22:01
  • It's interesting that erasing צבאות is seemingly a biblical prohibition
    – Double AA
    Aug 20, 2021 at 22:03
  • @DoubleAA You’re mechavein to this guy
    – Alex
    Aug 20, 2021 at 22:06
  • You have a tendency to provide a quote and hope that people will automatically understand the connection to the question. -1 Please explain what you mean.
    – Al Berko
    Aug 21, 2021 at 21:04

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