Who is the Archangel Raphael?
In the book of Tobit and 1st Enoch, both dating from the last few centuries before Christ, the Archangel Raphael was mentioned. Although not referenced in the bible, the Archangel Raphael is said to be an angel of healing—where he is seen healing Tobit of his blindness and killing the demon Asmodeus—as later Christian tradition identified him as the angel who stirred the waters of the pool of Bethesda in John 5:2-4.
In the faith, it is known that angels exist in some form or another. They appear in the Bible and the other holy texts in the rarest number of ways. They often seem to bring messages from God to provide insight or have been interpreted to involve themselves in the affairs of men.
Others see them as incorporeal beings, spirits, or supernatural entities, that serve to bring God’s wisdom to the realm of men. These angels are thought, in some faiths, to exist within their angelic hierarchical system—which sees angels having different ranks, some of which determine their power and their closeness to God.
The highest rank of Angel is thought to be the Archangels, and like the angels, have a similar task of delivering God’s message. Their duties, however, are usually more profound—such as Archangel Gabriel delivering the news to Mary that she was pregnant with Jesus, or Archangel Michael defeating Lucifer in the heavenly Battle of Revelations.
One Archangel though who seems to be up for much contention is the Archangel Raphael—an archangel who though absent from the Bible has developed a strong resonance with believers.
The number of Archangels differs depending on what you believe in. The Bible only ever speaks of one, Michael, and Gabriel as an angel (not an Archangel), and yet many Christians note Raphael as being one of the three most famous Archangels.
Others would add archangel Uriel to this list, making it four, and some counts up to seven archangels—all of whom are thought to exist to bring peace guidance and strength upon those who seek it.
Raphael specifically is an interesting case, given that he is not mentioned in the Bible, unlike his comrades Michael and Gabriel, despite having gained an equal level of prestige. So, where did Raphael come from?
Where the Archangel Raphael Appears in
As you may know, the Bible had several key stories removed from its pages. Throughout history, the Bible has been changed, redacted, and been added to, and this means that several of the books detailing some epic events were axed due to political and cultural reasons.
The story of Paul and Thecla, for example, were seen as encouraging too much independence in women, and the Book of Enoch was seen as not being inspired by the Holy Spirit, and so was disregarded.
Such is the same for the book of Tobit—an apocryphal book the details the life of a righteous Israelite known as Tobit, and his son Tobias.
The Book of Tobit — Defeating Asmodeus
Tobit was a god-fearing man. He lived his life with good intentions, sought to feed the poor and spared kindness where he could. Most importantly, he loved his God and would do anything that a law commanded.
But one fateful day, Tobit lost his eyesight and became blind. Though not through battle, disease or some frightful encounter, but because of birds shat in his eyes—Yes! You heard me correctly! Tobit was just there, minding his own business, thinking about how great his god was and then a bird flew over and took a dump, right there in his eyes.
I guess you can, kind of, see why they took this one out.
Anyway, Tobit tells his son Tobias to go on an errand to the city of Media and reclaim some money he had lent to a man named Gabelus. Tobias, though, was a bit wary of this task, but his father gave him a note to give to Gabelus to verify who he is and tells his son to seek up a righteous man to guide him on his way.
It is here that Tobias stumbles on what is described as a beautiful man, who he asks to join on his adventure and to serve as the guide which his father had insisted upon. The beautiful man identifies himself as Azariah. The narrator of the story tells us that this was Archangel Raphael in disguise.
Azariah, or Raphael, agrees to help Tobias on his journey, promising to keep him safe and to ensure his quest of reclaiming his father’s money is completed.
At the same time, we also learn of the character Sarah from Meade, who we see is suffering from a curse and haunted by a demon named Asmodeus. The curse appears to kill every suitor Sarah marries and sees that each man dies on their wedding night before the consummation of the marriage.
We understand that this has happened a total of seven times. Sarah is insulted by a maid who taunts her unfortunate curse, and this sees Sarah retreat to her room to pray for three days straight.
Meanwhile, on the road, Tobias and Azariah settle down to camp where Tobias is attacked by a monstrous fish that comes up from the river to devour him. Azariah saves Tobias, snatches the fish out of the water before telling Tobias to gut it. The innards of the fish are removed and Azariah tells Tobias that one may use these parts of the fish for healing the sick and wounded.
Tobias doesn’t appear to fully grasp the notion of this, but he collects the fish’s guts and packs them away.
Tobias and Azariah arrive at Raguel’s home—a kinsman of one of the tribes of Israel and an ally, according to Azariah. Raguel is also the father of the cursed Sarah. Azariah rather forwardly and randomly tells Tobias that he should marry Sarah and Tobias, despite being aware of her husband killing curse, agrees.
He does show some reluctance, but Azariah is keen to play matchmaker and tells Tobias to pray with Sarah for three days before consummating their marriage. He tells them that on the first day, he should lay the liver of the fish on the fire, and that this will keep the demon away and that by the third night he will receive a blessing that will see him impregnate Sarah.
On the fourth day, he will give her child, though not for lust, but the love of children. Tobias sees nothing strange by any of this and does exactly as Azariah tells him. He receives the blessing of Sarah’s father, who recognizes Tobias to be the son of a good man in Tobit and receives Sarah’s hand in marriage.
Tobias and Sarah retreat to their chambers, but instead of consummating the marriage immediately, Tobias remembered Azariah’s words and whip out the fish liver and began to burn it over a set of coals.
At the same time, Azariah, now noted as Raphael, and unbeknownst to anyone, sought up the demon Asmodeus and defeated him. He then took him to the desert of Upper Egypt and bound him there, preventing him from having any further influence on Sarah ever again.
Tobias and Sarah spent three days praying, as told by Azariah. On the fourth day, they are thought to have finally slept together. Raguel, who is distressed that Tobias is now dead because of the curse, begins to dig his grave. He tells his wife to send the maidservant to see if he is dead and means to bury him before the end of the day.
However, the maidservant finds Tobias to be alive and well. Returning to Raguel, the maidservant informed him of the good news—to which Raguel rejoices; Perhaps, the only man in the world to be abundantly thrilled that his daughter’s virginity has been taken.
A feast is prepared and both Tobias and Sarah are celebrated. Tobias appears to get pretty comfortable. He receives half of what Raguel will own and seems to live a life of luxury. In fact, he gets so comfortable he folds off his original quest to get his father’s money and asks Azariah to give the note to Gabelus for him.
Azariah agrees, meets with Gabelus and gets the money. He even invites Gabelus to the celebrations—Tobias does nothing in this story. You might say he gets power level by Azariah, lives off the reputation of his father being a good man, and maintains a single shred of heroics for having boned Sarah and not died—courtesy of Archangel Raphael defeating the demon Asmodeus.
Tobias doesn’t even send word to his parents that he is okay, and they are seen to be fretting about him. Raguel even offers to send a message to them on his behalf, but Tobias simply tells him not to bother as he will do a task by himself for once.
Infuriatingly, Raguel is seen to give him half of his servants, cattle, camels, and money for the journey. It may also be that he also presents him with a gift-wrapped box containing his testicles, but the book doesn’t say—this is merely my interpretation.
As they return home, Azariah tossed Tobias to kiss his father, and immediately place the parts of the fish he’d killed upon his father’s forehead. Immediately Tobit recovers his eyesight, and they all glorify God and proceed to engage in several days of feasts and celebrations.
In the final chapters, Tobias calls his son over and tells him, “Look, you really didn’t do anything on this journey, so, we should probably give something to Azariah.”
Tobias agrees that Azariah is the real MVP, and he offers half of everything that he’d been given to the angel in disguise. Azariah then reveals himself to Tobias and Tobit as Rafael, and he tells them that he’d been sent by the Lord to help them.
In Tobit 12: 13 through 15, he states
‘Because thou hast been acceptable to God, it was necessary the temptation should prove thee and now the Lord hath sent me to heal thee and to deliver Sara thy son’s wife from the devil.
For I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven who stand before the Lord’
Tobit and his son fall to their knees, in fear and reverence, but Raphael tells them,
“Do not fear; peace be with you! Bless God now and forever.
As for me, when I was with you, I was not acting out of any favour on my part, but by God’s will. So, bless God every day; give praise with song.
Even though you saw me eat and drink, I did not eat or drink anything; what you were seeing was a vision.
So now bless the Lord on earth and give thanks to God. Look, I am ascending to the one who sent me. Write down all that has happened to you.”
Raphael then disappears from their sight, and Tobit and Tobias proceeded to bless God and spread the word of his wonderful works, as Raphael told them to.
The Book of Enoch — Defeating Azazel, A Watcher
Archangel Raphael also appears in everyone’s favourite book of Enoch. The story is a fascinating tale of how the watchers, a group of angels that ultimately betrayed God and descend upon the mortal women to impregnate them.
The women gave birth to a race of vicious giants, known as the Nephilim, as they go about destroying the earth, and soon, God is made aware of this betrayal by the Archangels who hear the cries of the mortals.
We understand that amongst the Watchers is Azazel, an angel who teaches the mortals how to fight and how to use weapons against each other. While the watchers begin to share many secrets of God, after having fornicated with the women, it is Azazel who is held with the most contempt. Possibly because the divulging of warfare to the mortals was seen as the most detrimental.
In the 10th chapter of the Book of Enoch, God acts. He sends his Archangels to sort out the earth and gives them all a specific set of tasks. Interestingly, Raphael is given a set of complex orders, as God tells him,
‘Bind Azâzêl hand and foot and put him in the darkness; make an opening in the desert, which is in Dudâêl, and put him there. And lay upon him rough and pointed rocks and cover him with darkness that he may remain there forever and cover his face that he may not see the light! And on the great day of judgment, he will be cast into the fire. And heal the earth which the angels have defiled and announce the healing of the earth that I will heal it.’
What’s interesting here is the parallel between Raphael here and Raphael in Tobit. Notice how in both stories, it is Raphael who’s responsible for the binding of an evil entity in the desert. While in Tobit he binds the demon Asmodeus, Enoch sees him bind Azazel, a watcher, one who some attribute to being a demon as well.
In this, Archangel Raphael can be seen as the one who destroys demons or vanquishes evil.
Though, on the other hand, Raphael is also seen as an angel who heals people in need. We see him heal Tobit’s blindness, and in another way, we see him heal Sarah’s pain as he breaks her curse.
Raphael in Enoch’s book, however, seemed to heal the earth as God tells him to restore the earth after they had been corrupted by the Watchers and their spawn. He is told to announce life here, almost like he’s been told to rebuild or restore it to the perfect state it once was before the intervention of the Watchers.
So, while Raphael is seen to be a destroyer of demons, he essentially has a softer side reserved to bring healing upon birth people and the land itself.
Where is archangel Raphael mentioned in the Bible?
The Archangel Raphael has become a most popular and celebrated figure amongst Christians. In fact, many are shocked to learn that their favourite Archangel isn’t even mentioned in the Bible.
While he is specifically known mainly as the Archangel of healing, he doesn’t have much of a presence beyond Tobit and Enoch. However, an interesting idea is that Raphael is in the Bible, but we just don’t know it’s him, similarly to how Toby and Tobias don’t know the identity of Azariah. By this, Raphael could be lurking in any one of the characters in the Bible, for we understand he is something of a shapeshifter and can take the form of anyone, adopting a whole new persona with practice deficiency.
Therefore, Raphael could be anyone and we would be none the wiser much as Tobias was.
There is one area in the Bible which some believers attribute to Archangel Raphael; that is in John 5, where John refers to the Pool of Bethesda, where several disabled people lay in wait of the movement of the water—a sign thought to signify that an angel was descending upon the area, and he who went into the water at this time would be miraculously healed of his condition.
The passage reads,
‘Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a multitude of them that were sick, blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
For an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the waters stepped in was made whole, with whatsoever disease he was holden.’ —John 5: 2-5
Because of the nature of Raphael having healed Tobit and Sarah, and because of his restoration of the earth in Enoch, the angel in this verse of John is often associated with Raphael—having brought healing upon whoever enters the waters first.
It is through these events and ideas that we begin to see how Raphael earned his reputation as an archangel of healing, and his efforts usually pertain to the alleviation or mending of one’s illnesses.
The idea of Raphael being an angel of healing extends to other religious works where we see him appear alongside Michael and Gabriel in the Babylonian Talmud. He’s identified on the left side of Gabriel and appears before Abraham at the Oak Grove of Mamre.
Here, they are each given a mission, similarly to how they are given missions in Enoch. Raphael is ordered to heal Abraham after his recent circumcision—again, conforming to the idea of him easing pain—as well as to save Lot (Abraham’s Nephew) from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—again, another act that fits into his rescuing nature.
Archangel Raphael in Islam — Israfil
Raphael is mentioned in a few apocryphal Jewish books by name and usually appears in connection with the other Archangels.
Meanwhile, in Islam, Raphael is known as Israfil in Arabic, and he is thought to traditionally take the role of an angel who halted trumpet at his lips and stands atop a holy rock in Jerusalem.
It’s thought that he holds the trumpet at his lips constantly so that he can immediately blow it once Allah has given him the green light, to signify the Day of Resurrection.
While Israfil is not mentioned in the Quran, believers often attribute the angel mentioned in Az-Zumar 39:68 as him where it states,
‘And the Horn will be blown, and whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth will fall dead except whom Allah wills. Then it will be blown again, and at once they will be standing, looking on.’
Some Islamic beliefs see Israfil possess four wings, that he’s tall enough to reach the heights of heaven whilst being on the base of earth. He is thought to be a Master of Music and he’s heard to be singing praises to God in several different languages.
His songs are thought to be contagious too and that they cause the other angels to join in with the singing too.
Israfil is also seen as one of the highest angels, in that he serves as a mediator between God and the other Archangels, he is something of a conduit through God’s commands. Some Sufi beliefs—Sufi, being a sort of Islamic mysticism—that is Israfil is the being that man should aspire to be most like. To be like this Archangel is to have a strong heart and by being like Israfil, one can be seen as a perfect human being.
Archangel Raphael’s Role in the Religious Texts
Due to Raphael’s actions in the book of Tobit, he has since become known as the patron of travellers, the blind, physicians, medicine, and general healing. He is also the angelic hitch, as he serves as a matchmaker, and sometimes is even dubbed as an angel of love, bringing people together in holy matrimony.
He’s thought to be the enemy of demons and actively seeks to banish them when called upon. Most notably though, his prime patronage is reserved for travellers and pilgrims, where he’s often depicted walking beside them with a staff.
Often, he is seen holding a fish, which some might say is a throwback to the fish in Tobit and alludes to the idea that he’s always ready to heal someone using his unorthodox methods of disembowelling a fish and using its organs.
Archangel Raphael’s Impact in Today’s World
Today many people of the faith believe they see Archangel Raphael and can call to him for guidance and protection.
There are some common signs which people may report when they experienced the presence of Raphael. The notable one being, the witnessing of emerald-green. Often, this comes to them in the form of bright green lights or the vivid image of a green flashing before the mind’s eye.
Others see flashes of green or might see the green of trees, grass, and shrubbery, which they attributed the presence of Raphael.
The general feeling of relaxation or calmness is said to overcome those who experience it. Minor elements such as block noses, sore throats or stomach aches are said to be alleviated in these moments.
Others speak of seeing Archangel Raphael—a very tall angel who wears a green mantle and is adorned in gold. He said to radiates healing energy, and to simply be beside him is to cure oneself of their ailments.
Warm sensations and vibrations in wounded areas are also considered to be a sign that Raphael’s healing hands are placed on the individual, that he is trying to make them feel better.
Dreams also play a factor in seeing Archangel Raphael, where believers have reported being healed by the angel and are thought to see him in his absolute true form. It is here that one may hear the voice of Raphael whispering soothing words and offering suggestions about how to better take care of one’s health. It is thought not to be a dream one would easily forget, and they said to account for a sudden health change that one may implement into their life or the breaking of a habit.
Archangel Raphael’s Prayer
“Raphael of the glorious seven who stands before
the throne of Him who lives and reigns.
Angel of health, the Lord has filled thy hand with
balm from heaven to soothe and cure our pain.
Heal and console the victims of disease and guide our
steps when doubtful of our ways.”
“Holy Raphael, I entreat thee to help me in all my needs
and in all the trials of this life. And since thou art the
“physician” of God, I pray thee to heal my soul of its many
infirmities, and my body of the ills that afflict it, if this
favour be for my greater good.
I plead for angelic purity that I may be fit to be the
living temple of the Holy Spirit.
Art Sources: Google Images, League of Angels.