Is there any mention in Tanach of Angels have the ability to shapeshift into a human form?

I ask because Matthew Henry Commentary says:

18:1-8 Abraham was waiting to entertain any weary traveller, for inns were not to be met with as among us. While Abraham was thus sitting, he saw three men coming. These were three heavenly beings in human bodies.

  • 3
    I see that Matthew Henry (18 October 1662 – 22 June 1714) was a Nonconformist minister and author, born in Wales but spending much of his life in England. 1) We have to ask to what extent his commentary is appropriate for our site which is for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. 2) The essential quote from the commentary ends with the sentence “These were three heavenly beings in human bodies.” 3) Can you please edit the quote to remove everything after that sentence? May 2, 2017 at 8:27
  • In many (most?) instances of angels appearing on Earth they appear as some human form.
    – DonielF
    May 2, 2017 at 11:22
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    I agree with @AY. At the moment I'm going to VTC, but it might be worth reopening after you make those edits.
    – DonielF
    May 2, 2017 at 11:24
  • @AvrohomYitzchok That is silly. Asking whether something that you heard is found in Tanakh is perfectly on topic. Regardless of where you heard it. Admitting that you heard it from a non-traditional source doesn't turn a question about what Jewish texts teach, off topic.
    – mevaqesh
    May 2, 2017 at 14:00
  • ^^^^cc @DonielF
    – mevaqesh
    May 2, 2017 at 14:01

2 Answers 2


We see in a number of cases that malachim (usually translated as angels) can be or appear to be anything that is appropriate to the task. For example, the man that Yaakov wrestled with or the man that appeared to the wife of Manoach (mother of Shimshon) both of which turned out to be mal'achim. Other times we see that they appeared as the pillar of cloud or fire that traveled with Bnai Yisrael in the desert, the earthquake or the storm that appeared to Elijah etc.

The word itself means messenger and is whatever Hashem sends to accomplish a task with whatever appearance required.

You do not need to reference on non-Jew to ask or answer this question.


See this article on Angels in Judaism. I extract an important part:

Assuming Human Form

There is some debate among the great Jewish philosophers whether the angels that the Torah describes as appearing actually assumed a visible physical form,(this is the opinion of Nachmanides, Genesis 18:1. ) or they appeared in the course of a spiritual vision or prophecy—in which the angels appeared as physical beings,(the opinion espoused by Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed 2:42. ) According to all approaches, however, seeing an angel requires extra-sensory perception, as the bodies of the angels are not comprised of all the basic elements of a physical being.

and see here - extract:

Real angels don't have bodies, wings, or one drop of physicality.

So the answer is nuanced: angels appear as physical brings without physicality.

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