Heavenly host

Blessed Be the Host of the King of Heaven, a Russian icon from the 1550s

Heavenly host (Hebrew: צבאות sabaoth, "armies") refers to the army (Luke 2:13) of angels mentioned both in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, as well as other Jewish and Christian texts.

Several descriptions of angels in the Bible describe them in military terms, such as encampment (Genesis 32:1-2), command structure (Psalms 91:11-12; Matt.13:41; Rev.7:2), and combat (Jdg.5:20; Job 19:12; Rev.12:7). The heavenly host participate in the War in Heaven and, according to some interpretations, will battle Satan and Satan's own army at the End of Days and be victorious.

Biblical accounts

Depiction of the Commander of the Lord's Army in Joshua 5, by Ferdinand Bol, 1642.

Book of Joshua

In the Book of Joshua 5:13-15, Joshua encounters a "captain of the host of the Lord" in the early days of his campaigns in the Promised Land. This unnamed heavenly messenger is sent by God to encourage Joshua in the upcoming claiming of the Promised Land:

Once when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you one of us, or one of our adversaries?’ He replied, ‘Neither; but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and he said to him, ‘What do you command your servant, my Lord?’ The commander of the army of the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy.’ And Joshua did so.


Visions of John the Evangelist, as depicted in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. Four cherubim surround the throne and twenty-four elders sit to the left and right.


Main article: Cherub

Cherubim are depicted as accompanying God's chariot-throne (Ps.80:1). Exodus 25:18-22 refers to statues of two cherubim placed on top of the Ark of the Covenant. J. A. Motyer writes: 'the cherbim overshadowing the ark were a pedestal for the invisible throne of the invisible God'.[1] Other guard-like duties include being posted in locations such as the gates of Eden (Gen.3:24). Cherubim were mythological winged bulls or other beasts that were part of ancient Near Eastern traditions.[2]


Main article: Archangel

This designation might be given to angels of various ranks. An example would be Raphael who is ranked variously as a Seraph, Cherub, and Archangel.[3] This is usually a result of conflicting schemes of hierarchies of angels.


Main article: Angel

In Revelation 5:11 a figure of ten thousand times ten thousand (100 million) is given for the number of "many angels in a circle around the throne, as well as the living creatures and the elders".

Angelic combat

Guido Reni's archangel Michael.

In the Book of Revelation, the rebellious forces of Satan are defeated by the Heavenly Host led by Michael the Archangel during the War in Heaven (Rev.12:7-9).

In the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible)

In the Hebrew Bible, the name Yahweh and the title Elohim frequently occur with the word tzevaot or sabaoth ("hosts" or "armies", Hebrew: צבאות) as YHWH Elohe Tzevaot ("YHWH God of Hosts"), Elohe Tzevaot ("God of Hosts"), Adonai YHWH Tzevaot ("Lord YHWH of Hosts") or, most frequently, YHWH Tzevaot ("YHWH of Hosts"). This name is traditionally transliterated in Latin as Sabaoth, a form that will be more familiar to many English readers, as it was used in the King James Version of the Bible.[4]


The term "Lord of Hosts" is also used in the Bahá'í Faith as a title of God.[5] Bahá'u'lláh, claiming to be the Manifestation of God, wrote tablets to many of the kings and rulers of the world inviting them to recognize Him as the Promised One of all ages and faiths, some of which were compiled and published in English as The Summons of the Lord of Hosts.[6]

In literature

In the English epic poem Paradise Lost by John Milton, the Archangel Michael commands the army of angels loyal to God against the rebel forces of Satan. Armed with a sword from God's armory, he bests Satan in personal combat, wounding his side.[7]

See also


  1. IVP New Bible Commentary p538
  2. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, by David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, Astrid B. Beck; contributors: David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, Astrid B. Beck (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000 ISBN 0-8028-2400-5, ISBN 978-0-8028-2400-4), s.v. Cherubim
  3. Davidson, Gustav (1994) [1967]. A Dictionary of Fallen Angels, Including the Fallen Angels. New York, NY: Macmillan, Inc. ISBN 978-0-02-907052-9.
  4. Jewish Encyclopedia: Host of Heaven New York, May 1, 1901
  5. The Summons of the Lord of Hosts Bahá'í Reference Library
  6. The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, Page 1 Bahá'í Reference Library
  7. John Milton, Paradise Lost 1674 Book VI line 320
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