Scripture says that God was accompanied by myriads of angels as He led the Israelites from Mount Sinai to the Promised Land. Moses recorded in a special song for the nation: “The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir [in Edom as the Israelites traveled through]; He shone forth from Mount Paran [nearby], and He came with ten thousands of saints; from His right hand came a fiery law for them’” (Deuteronomy 33:2 Deuteronomy 33:2And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir to them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.
American King James Version×). The word translated “saints” here, meaning “holy ones,” can refer to people or angels. The Living Bible says the Lord came “surrounded by ten thousands of holy angels.”
The prophets of old, such as Daniel, were given amazing visions about God and His angels!
King David tells us of angelic chariots accompanying God and Israel in the wilderness: “O God, when [You did] go forth before [Your] people, marching across the wilderness, earth trembled … Twice ten thousands were God’s chariots, thousands upon thousands, when the Lord came in holiness from Sinai” (Psalms 68:7 Psalms 68:7O God, when you went forth before your people, when you did march through the wilderness; Selah:
American King James Version×, 17, New English Bible)—or when “the Lord came from Sinai into the holy place [or Holy Land]” (New Revised Standard Version). Yet this is only part of the picture.
The host of heaven
A name for God that repeatedly occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures is Yhwh Sabaoth, the Lord (or Eternal) of hosts—also referred to in the New Testament (Romans 9:29 Romans 9:29And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like to Gomorrha.
American King James Version×; James 5:4 James 5:4Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, cries: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
American King James Version×). “Hosts” here is a reference to armies or multitudes . We see “Lord of hosts” used in parallel with “the God of the armies of Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45 1 Samuel 17:45Then said David to the Philistine, You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
American King James Version×). So the “hosts” can refer on one level to the people of God on earth.
But another host of God is the “host of heaven.” This is sometimes a reference to all the celestial bodies God created—the sun, moon and stars throughout the universe (Genesis 2:1 Genesis 2:1Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
American King James Version×; Deuteronomy 4:19 Deuteronomy 4:19And lest you lift up your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, should be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD your God has divided to all nations under the whole heaven.
American King James Version×). Yet “host of heaven” is also a description of the multitudes of angels with God who worship and serve Him, including serving as His heavenly army (2 Chronicles 18:18 2 Chronicles 18:18Again he said, Therefore hear the word of the LORD; I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left.
American King James Version×; Nehemiah 9:6 Nehemiah 9:6You, even you, are LORD alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and you preserve them all; and the host of heaven worships you.
American King James Version×). God said that the host of heaven could not be numbered—a reference to the physical stars and the throngs of angels who are represented as stars (Jeremiah 33:22 Jeremiah 33:22As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister to me.
American King James Version×).
But just how many angels are we talking about?
Ten thousand times ten thousand—an innumerable company
Consider what the prophet Daniel witnessed in vision: “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days [God] was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:9-10 Daniel 7:9-10 9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
American King James Version×).
The prophets of old were given amazing visions about God and His angels! Daniel here says he saw a total of millions serving God— even 100 million before Him. These were just those at His throne!
The apostle John also witnessed a countless number of angelic beings, as recorded in the last book of the Bible: “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain [Jesus Christ] to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’” (Revelation 5:11-12 Revelation 5:11-12 11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.
American King James Version×). This is essentially the same number that Daniel mentioned, yet with 100 million listed first.
We should also note that the writer of Hebrews states that there are too many angels to count—an innumerable number: “For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire [that is, Mount Sinai], and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore …
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant …” (Hebrews 12:18-24 Hebrews 12:18-24 18 For you are not come to the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor to blackness, and darkness, and tempest,
19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:
20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:
21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
22 But you are come to mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things that that of Abel.
American King James Version×).
An innumerable number of angels, it states in verse 22! The Jerusalem Bible puts it this way: “… the heavenly Jerusalem where millions of angels have gathered.”
When we put all of these scriptures together, the numbers of angels might be in the hundreds of millions, but this could be used to indicate a huge number even greater that is beyond our individual ability to count—“an innumerable multitude” or, as some translations put it, a “countless number.”
As the passage in Hebrews shows, through Jesus by His sacrifice and role as “Mediator of the new covenant,” we may now come directly before the throne of grace (compare Hebrews 4:16 Hebrews 4:16Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
American King James Version×), the heavenly Jerusalem, to the ultimate Holy of Holies, right where those angels are! And in times of need, God sends some of these angels to us—right where we are. In fact, His angels are among us already, as we will see!
Twelve legions on hand if asked for
Remember the words of Jesus to His disciples? “Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53 Matthew 26:53Think you that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
American King James Version×).
This was in response to Peter trying to defend Him with a sword, so perhaps the idea was that Jesus could have a lot more than His 12 disciples to defend Him. He could have 12 legions of defenders—a vast, invincible force. So while the number may not have been meant literally, such a force was certainly available to Him.
A typical Roman legion of this period had 5,120 legionaries along with auxiliaries, possibly totaling 6,000 fighting men or even more. Yet some legions were smaller, perhaps 3,000. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes on this verse that “the entire Roman province of Syria (which included Judea) normally had only three legions altogether (Josephus Antiquities 17.286).” Assuming a figure of about 5,000 per legion, 12 times that would have meant around 60,000 angels coming to rescue Jesus. And we’ve already seen that God has many more angels to send than that.
Of course, Jesus did not pray for such intervention, instead humbly submitting to His role as the sacrifice to deliver all of us. Yet amid His anguish just before this, an angel had come to help strengthen Him (Luke 22:41-44 Luke 22:41-44 41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42 Saying, Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.
43 And there appeared an angel to him from heaven, strengthening him.
44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
American King James Version×), as some also did when He struggled against Satan’s temptations at the outset of His ministry (Matthew 4:11 Matthew 4:11Then the devil leaves him, and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
American King James Version×; Mark 1:13 Mark 1:13And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.
American King James Version×).
Those with us are more than those with them
This same kind of help is available to all of God’s people. And it might even involve angel armies. It was not only for Jesus or the nation of Israel at large that God would send such aid.
Consider the case of the prophet Elisha and his servant, who were surrounded by an entire Syrian army. The terrified servant asked Elisha what they should do, and Elisha told him they had no need to worry, saying, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Elisha prayed that God would open the young man’s eyes to see this reality. God did so. And what did the young man see? “And behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:11-17 2 Kings 6:11-17 11 Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said to them, Will you not show me which of us is for the king of Israel?
12 And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedchamber.
13 And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan.
14 Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.
15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray you, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
American King James Version×). Then further amazing events followed in this account.
As large as this heavenly army was, it represents just a small part of the vast spiritual forces God has available to carry out His will and assist His people! And remember that God the Father and Jesus Christ, who rule these hosts, are omnipotent or all-powerful in Their own right. Truly, there is no reason to fear!
We have much to be grateful for in terms of what the angels do for us. Yet our focus must always be on God who sends them. (See “Should We Worship or Pray to Angels? ”) We should, of course, look at what God reveals about the angels, just as we are now doing.