Genesis 1-2 Deleted Scenes #4: Angels helped with creation

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Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.

—Genesis 1:26

The persistent suggestion that angels were created on the first day with a multitude of responsibilities subsequently lead some writers to believe that they helped God with creation, especially that of man. It is said that before creating him God first consults with his heavenly hosts about the endeavor:

When God wished to create man, He first created a company of ministering angels and said to them: “Shall we make man in our image?”

They asked, “Master of the Universe, what will be his character?”

God replied, “Righteous descendants will come forth from him.” But He did not report to them that wicked descendants would come forth as well.

They answered, “Master of the Universe, what will his deeds be?”

God recounted their deeds, and the angels exclaimed, “What is man that You have been mindful of him, mortal man that You have taken note of him” (Ps. 8:5).

Thereupon, God stretched out His little finger among them and consumed them with fire. The same thing happened with the second group of angels.

When God consulted with the third company of angels, they replied, “Master of the Universe, what did the other angels accomplish when they spoke to You as they did? The whole world is Yours, and whatever You wish to do with your world, You can do it.”

Others say that the angels formed parties and sects over the question of whether man should be created. Some called for him to be created, others for him not to be created.

While the angels were engaged in contentious arguments with each other, God went ahead and created man. Then God said to the angels, “What good are you doing? Man has already been made!” [1]

Some midrashim claim that when it came time for man to be created God assigned the task to the archangel Michael (or Gabriel in some version), who shaped him into a clay figure in the image of god (Gen. 1:27) using dust he had gathered from the four corners of the earth. In other versions, such as Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer 12, it is said that God created Adam using dust he had taken from took the dust from the site of the Temple – the holiest and purest place. Other sources say that Adam’s body came from Babylon, his head from the Land of Israel, and his limbs from the other lands. [2]

It has also been written that angels helped not only with Adam but other aspects of creation as well. For instance, some fragmentary sources say that it was the highly exalted angel Anafiel who helped God create the world.[3]

The idea that God had help for his heavenly hosts in creation gained a lot of backlash in parts of the rabbinic community, especially around the 3rd century CE:

All agree that none of the angels were created on the first day. It should therefore not be said that Michael drew out the heaven at the south, and Gabriel drew it out at the north, while God arranged things in the middle. —Sefer ha-Bahir 22

Such denial is found in earlier sources as well. 4 Ezra states: “O Lord, did You not speak when You created earth, which You did without help, and command the dust, so that it gave You Adam?” The famous Jewish historian Josephus makes a similiar point in Against Apion 2:192: “God created the world and its contents not with hands, not with toil, and not with assistants, for He had no need of them. He willed it into existence.”

Sources and Further Reading:


[1] Schwartz, Howard. Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism (p. 132-133).

Primary sourcesB. Sanhedrin 38b; Genesis Rabbah 8:4, 8:5, 8-6, 8:8; Midrash ha-Ne’elamZohar Hadash 16a-b; Midrash ha-Gadol on Genesis 1:26.

[2] Schwartz, Howard. Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism (p. 131-132).

Primary sourcesGenesis Rabbah 14.8; Midrash Konen in Beit ha-Midrash 2:27; Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer 11, 12, 20; Midrash Tehillim 92:6; Y. Nazir 7.2, 56b; Seder Eliyahu Zuta 2; Sefer Zikhronot 15.

[3] Fragments of the Hekhalot and Merkavah literature

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