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When I think of the Judaism, I don't think of Angelic armies attacking the armies of evil directly. G-d usually works in far more subtle ways than this, e.g. appearing as a burning bush to motivate Moses to act, rather than acting himself.

Yet upon further study, perhaps this was a misconception on my part?

From Shoftim 5.20

מִן שָׁמַיִם נִלְחָמוּ הַכּוֹכָבִים מִמְּסִלּוֹתָם נִלְחֲמוּ עִם סִיסְרָא:

From heaven they fought; the stars from their courses fought against Sisera.

From Isaiah 24.21-23:

וְהָיָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יִפְקֹד יְהֹוָה עַל צְבָא הַמָּרוֹם בַּמָּרוֹם וְעַל מַלְכֵי הָאֲדָמָה עַל הָאֲדָמָה: כבוְאֻסְּפוּ אֲסֵפָה אַסִּיר עַל בּוֹר וְסֻגְּרוּ עַל מַסְגֵּר וּמֵרֹב יָמִים יִפָּקֵדוּ: וְחָפְרָה הַלְּבָנָה וּבוֹשָׁה הַחַמָּה כִּי מָלַךְ יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת בְּהַר צִיּוֹן וּבִירוּשָׁלִַם וְנֶגֶד זְקֵנָיו כָּבוֹד:

And it shall come to pass on that day, that the Lord shall visit punishment upon the host of heaven on high and upon the kings of the earth on the earth. And they shall be gathered a gathering [as] prisoners into a dungeon, and they shall be shut up in the prison, and [sins] of many days shall be visited [upon them]. And the moon shall be ashamed and the sun shall be abashed, for the Lord of Hosts has reigned in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before His elders will be glory.

And in Isaiah 31.4-5:

כִּי כֹה אָמַר יְהֹוָה | אֵלַי כַּאֲשֶׁר יֶהְגֶּה הָאַרְיֵה וְהַכְּפִיר עַל טַרְפּוֹ אֲשֶׁר יִקָּרֵא עָלָיו מְלֹא רֹעִים מִקּוֹלָם לֹא יֵחָת וּמֵהֲמוֹנָם לֹא יַעֲנֶה כֵּן יֵרֵד יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת לִצְבֹּא עַל הַר צִיּוֹן וְעַל גִּבְעָתָהּ: כְּצִפֳּרִים עָפוֹת כֵּן יָגֵן יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת עַל יְרוּשָׁלִָם גָּנוֹן וְהִצִּיל פָּסוֹחַ וְהִמְלִיט:

For so has the Lord said to me, "As a lion or a young lion growls over his prey, although a band of shepherds gather against him, from their voice he is not dismayed and from their stirring he is not subdued, so shall the Lord of Hosts descend to gather an army on Mount Zion and on its hill. Like flying birds, so shall the Lord of Hosts protect Jerusalem, protecting and saving, passing over and rescuing."

In Daniel 10.13, it seems to suggest an angel has been fighting a war with the King of Persia:

וְשַׂר | מַלְכוּת פָּרַס עֹמֵד לְנֶגְדִּי עֶשְׂרִים וְאֶחָד יוֹם וְהִנֵּה מִיכָאֵל אַחַד הַשָּׂרִים הָרִאשֹׁנִים בָּא לְעָזְרֵנִי וַאֲנִי נוֹתַרְתִּי שָׁם אֵצֶל מַלְכֵי פָרָס: And the prince of the kingdom of Persia has been standing against me for twenty-one days, and behold Michael, one of the first princes, has come to help, and I remained there beside the kings of Persia.

However, in Samuel 17:45 it seems like what is being referred to by "Lord of Hosts" is the armies of Israel, not of Heaven:

וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד אֶל הַפְּלִשְׁתִּי אַתָּה בָּא אֵלַי בְּחֶרֶב וּבַחֲנִית וּבְכִידוֹן וְאָנֹכִי בָא אֵלֶיךָ בְּשֵׁם יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת אֱלֹהֵי מַעַרְכוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר חֵרַפְתָּ:

And David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with spear and javelin, and I come to you with the Name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel which you have taunted.

I am very confused. What exactly is meant by Hosts in the term Lord of Hosts (צְבָאוֹת)? Is it referring the all human armies, Heavenly Armies (as Christians believe in Revelations 12), or both? Do we believe that G-d actually has armies of angels?

  • That name of god denotes his power to influence the battles of the men. In your question you presented two options: either god has an 'angelic army' or he merely motivates people to act. Neither of these is true, god decides who will win a war by means of his divine providence. – Emilios1995 May 10 '15 at 2:34
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    Welcome to Judaism.SE! Nice, well-sourced question (+1). Hope to see you around here. :) – Scimonster May 10 '15 at 6:46
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    +1 Good timing! This was bothering me during davening the other evening. I haven't researched yet, let's hope someone has something nice. – user6591 May 10 '15 at 15:35
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    Welcome! I see two questions here: "does god act through angels" and "what does צבאות mean in context of God". I can answer either, or both, but those two are not identical (in my mind) – הנער הזה May 10 '15 at 20:39
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    @Matt Sorry for the lack of clarity, but I'm mostly asking the second one. – durron597 May 10 '15 at 21:37
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The Ibn Ezra (cited by the Malbim as being in Parshas Bo, but I assume he means to refer to his comments to Shemos 3:15) explains that ה' צבא-ות refers to Hashem being the upholder of the צבא השמים.

The Radak to Yeshaya 6:3 says that it refers to the armies on High and below.

The Malbim to Yeshaya 6:3 (you can see it here), in explaining the line ק' ק' ק' ה' צבא-ות explains that it refers to the Heavenly hosts.

The implications of the Gemara in Berachos 31b, which explains Chana's use of this name for Hashem, is that it refers to all of the abundant creations in this world, as Chana asked Hashem, "From all of the צבאי צבאות that You created in Your world, is it difficult to give me one son?"

The overall implication is that it does not refer to an "army" in the sense of soldiers who will go and fight actual battles for Hashem, but rather to the vast abundance of creations, be they spiritual or physical, at His control.

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for this multiply authoritative answer! Do you have a verse reference for the first citation? – Isaac Moses May 11 '15 at 18:48
  • @IsaacMoses looking at instances of צבאו in that parsha it's either 12:17 or 12:41 with the latter being more liekly – Double AA May 11 '15 at 18:50
  • @DoubleAA Doesn't look like it. Also, the phrase in that verse is the reverse of the one mentioned here. – Isaac Moses May 11 '15 at 18:58
  • +1 This qualifies as a nice answer. Welcome (back) to Mi Yodeya:) – user6591 May 11 '15 at 20:50
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    @IsaacMoses I went back to my handwritten notes and found where I got Bo from. – Y     e     z May 12 '15 at 3:52
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From 1 Kings 22:19:

וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לָכֵ֖ן שְׁמַ֣ע דְּבַר־יְהוָ֑ה רָאִ֤יתִי אֶת־יְהוָה֙ יֹשֵׁ֣ב עַל־כִּסְאֹ֔ו וְכָל־צְבָ֤א הַשָּׁמַ֙יִם֙ עֹמֵ֣ד עָלָ֔יו מִימִינֹ֖ו וּמִשְּׂמֹאלֹֽו׃

Here the צבא are native to השמים, are able to speak and reason (1 Kings 22:20), and even include a lying spirit (1 Kings 22:22, רוח שקר).

In Joshua 5:14 a man presents himself as (שר צבא יהוה) and consequently receives homage. So the hosts of יהוה have a captain.

Examples could be multiplied to demonstrate that the Scriptures indicate that there are military divisions of intelligent creatures whose native domain is the heavenly regions. The title יהוה צבאות seems to indicate God's preeminence within that sphere.

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