What are Evil Angels?

Question

Psalm 78:49 - He cast upon them the fierceness of His anger, wrath and indignation and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.

I was wondering: how does God send evil angels among them? By just “withdrawing His protection” and “evil angels move into the vacuum” or is it a more deliberate “sending” than that?

Answer

The particular event referred to in this Psalm is the plagues that God had set upon Egypt prior to the Israelites leaving, specifically the periods in Exodus 9:13 - 11:10. These angels (messengers) are not evil, but bring evil (calamity), in this case upon the disobedient:

Psalm 78:41-53 - Again and again they tempted God, and pained the Holy One of Israel.
They did not remember His power, the day when He redeemed them from the adversary,
When He performed His signs in Egypt and His marvels in the field of Zoan,
And turned their rivers to blood, and their streams, they could not drink.
He sent among them swarms of flies which devoured them, and frogs which destroyed them.
He gave also their crops to the grasshopper and the product of their labor to the locust.
He destroyed their vines with hailstones and their sycamore trees with frost.
He gave over their cattle also to the hailstones and their herds to bolts of lightning.
He sent upon them His burning anger, fury and indignation and trouble, a band of destroying angels.
He leveled a path for His anger; He did not spare their soul from death, but gave over their life to the plague,
and smote all the firstborn in Egypt
, the first issue of their virility in the tents of Ham.
But He led forth His own people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock;
He led them safely, so that they did not fear; but the sea engulfed their enemies. (NASB)

This is backed up by other modern translations such as the Amplified Bible (angels of calamity), ESV (a company of destroying angels), NIV (a band of destroying angels), NKJV (angels of destruction) and the RSV (a company of destroying angels).

The concept of God bringing evil (calamity) upon the unbelieving or disobedient is a regular feature of the Bible:

Isaiah 45:7 - I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

Amos 3:6 - Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?

Jeremiah 25:29 - For, lo, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my name, and should ye be utterly unpunished? Ye shall not be unpunished: for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, saith the LORD of hosts.

Jeremiah 39:16 - Go and speak to Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring my words upon this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee.

Nehemiah 13:18 - Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.

Written by Matthew Smith