Judaism does not believe in the free will of angels. What is the scriptural evidence for that and since when has such belief been held within the Jewish community?

  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/17414/…
    – b a
    Aug 28, 2012 at 6:37
  • (By the way, when researching the question, I found this footnote. It's worth reading. I didn't find that midrash, not in Midrash Rabah nor in Yalkut Shimoni, though.)
    – b a
    Aug 28, 2012 at 13:31
  • What do you mean by "free will"? Does the adversary in Job count as having free will? Aug 28, 2012 at 13:32
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    The question presumes that the default position would be that angels do have free will. I think that needs justification. Otherwise the answer is simply that the belief that people have free will doesn't extend to angels because nothing extends it.
    – Yishai
    Aug 28, 2012 at 15:38
  • @CharlesKoppelman If you do not take some of the Job sentences as a metaphor, you could get an image that the adversary does operate as a agent possessing free will. Aug 28, 2012 at 18:37

6 Answers 6


I believe the idea that angels do not have free will comes from a medieval understanding of what the gemora means that an angel can only have 1 task. (Mesechet Baba Metziah 86b)

There are numerous statements in midrash and gemora that an angel can only do one thing. They have one single mission. When angels appear to have more than one mission, Chazal discuss and find ways to explain it. (Mesechet Baba Metziah 86b)

The question arises then, if an angel can only have a single task, does that mean it has free will or not? This is a question addressed by the Rishonim, and is really more of a philosophy question regarding the nature of free will, than it is a theological question regarding the nature of angels.


When Moshe Rabeinu went up to receive the Torah, the angels wanted it for themselves, so Moshe replied to them "do you have a Yetzer Hora?". Thus we see that this has been known since the beginning Yidishkeit.

The source of Avodah Zorah actually comes from this misconception that Angels have free will, this led the generations before Noach to 'serve' them (so that they can get favors from them)

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    Does this mean that you interpret the angels challenging Moshe as doing so on divine command? Otherwise, how did they decide to do it if they had no free will? Do we know that the yetzer hara is the only source of free will? Aug 29, 2012 at 15:33
  • Mosheh never asked them "Do you have a yetzer hara?" in this version of the story: hebrewbooks.org/shas.aspx?mesechta=2&daf=88b&format=pdf (start from the very bottom of the amud)
    – b a
    Aug 29, 2012 at 15:50
  • Thanks for the source but @b a please read the source you mentioned "יצר הרע יש ביניכם"?
    – pzkd
    Aug 29, 2012 at 15:57
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    @Monica Cellio there are two groups of angels (in this discussion) one group has absolutely no will (they are like pre-programmed robots) the other group does have free will (within certain paramaters) but not anywhere near what us humans have. so in short yes it was by divine command
    – pzkd
    Aug 29, 2012 at 16:01
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    -1. The question asked for scriptural evidence, which you didn't provide. You also failed to bring a source for the rabbinic evidence that you did provide. If you add one, I'll remove my downvote.
    – Shimon bM
    Oct 13, 2012 at 23:17

IIRC Rabbi Bension Shafier (Shmuz.com) says that angels do have free will.


I can bring you a proof that some angels do have at least limited free will. At the time of the Churban when the Yidden were besieged, the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni II:1023) tells us that the Yidden were not scared. they said to one another we will call the names of the Angles like 'fire' and 'water' to come and save us. However Hashem arranged for them all to change names temporarily so when the Yidden screamed out to them they were not called.

This implies that had God not changed thier names they would have had free will to save them.

Another Medrash (Devarim Rabbah 1:17) says that when Titus was about to enter the Beis HaMikdash 600,000 demons were waiting to attack him. When they saw the Holy One did not interfere, they said we too will not then interfere. This too implies that they could have interfered had they wanted.

Lastly the Gemoro brings the story of 2 Malachim who saw Bnos Elokim who were extremely attractive earthly women and requested to be tested against them (to which they failed [the test]). This however, only shows that they could want thier own things, but not that they could carry them out. However, my first 2 proofs stand!

Perhaps there are different levels of angels with different levels of free will.

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    First of call, can you cite the midrashim? Second, I don't see why changing their names implies they would have had free will: maybe they would have automatically responded. Similarly, maybe God's noninterference implied the angels', without free will.
    – msh210
    Sep 13, 2012 at 19:20
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    @msh210 in that case what do you define as free will? Perhaps God is giving them the will so you anyway cant call it free will. Regardless the Yalkut is clearly mashmah that on a usual basis the Malachim have the power to choose but in this special case their power was revoked.
    – Yehuda
    Sep 13, 2012 at 20:06
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  • @Yehuda can you provide the gemara location for the last part (the 2 angels)?
    – rosends
    May 13, 2018 at 20:23

Judaism does not believe in the free will of angels.

This premise is incorrect. Some jewish sources may say this. But to say it unequivically is wrong. Some of the greatest jewish sages thought angels had free will. For example, the Rambam writes in Moreh Nevuchim 2:7

These passages show that angels are conscious of what they do, and have free will in the sphere of action intrusted to them, just as we have free will within our province, and in accordance with the power given to us with our very existence. (Friedlander Translation)


Rabbinic Jews do not believe angels have "free will" because angels are the natural forces (Maimonides). How, therefore, can rain, wind, and snow have free will?

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