Metatron In Jewish lore, one of the four great ARCHANGELS and the greatest of angels, second only to God and a “Lesser Yahweh” in stature and power. In various accounts about Metatron, scarcely an angelic duty or function is not related to him. Primarily, he sustains the physical world and carries Jewish prayers through 900 HEAVENS to God. He is an important angelic figure in the MERKABAH and KABBALAH literature and the Talmud.
Metatron apparently absorbed characteristics originally ascribed to the angel Jahoel. He is huge in size, a pillar of ﬁre with 36 pairs of wings and myriad eyes. His face is more dazzling than the sun. As PRINCE OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE, he is the only angel who has the high privilege of serving in God’s immediate presence inside the curtain (pargod) that surrounds God on his throne of Glory.
Metatron stands at the top of the TREE OF LIFE as the ANGEL OF YAHWEH. He also is identiﬁed with the “tree of knowledge of good and bad,” which means he embodies both human and angelic perfection. This enables him to be an excellent interface between the two realms, but his success depends on the righteousness of humans. The good deeds of people generate a spiritual energy that literally vitalizes Metatron, and, without it, he grows weak and less effective.
Metatron is the representative of God who led the tribes of Israel through the wilderness, and he is one of the angels identiﬁed as the dark angel who wrestles with JACOB. He is sometimes identiﬁed as the angel who stays the hand of ABRAHAM as he is about to sacriﬁce his son, ISAAC, and he is credited with ordering the angelic announcement of the coming of the Flood. (See URIEL.) Metatron also is said to have given the wisdom of the Kabbalah to humanity.
Metatron is sometimes called THE PRINCE OF THE COUNTENANCE, meaning he is the chief angel of those angels who are privileged to look upon the face of God. He serves as God’s ANGEL OF DEATH, instructing Gabriel and Samael which human souls to take at any given moment. The ﬂames that issue from him create legions of angels. He is minister to the Throne of Glory, on which God sits; High Priest of the heavenly Temple (a role also ascribed to the archangel Michael); minister of wisdom, who holds the secrets to all divine affairs; and minister of the GUARDIAN ANGELS of the “70 peoples of the world.” In addition, he teaches prematurely dead children who arrive in Paradise.
The etymology of the name Metatron is unclear. The name appears in two forms, Mttrwn and Myttrwn. Possibly, the name itself was intended to be a secret, and may have been produced through a glossolalia type of altered state of consciousness. Glossolalia is speaking in tongues, and it is perhaps best known for its part in charismatic religions. According to the Zohar, the name of Metatron is the equivalent of Shaddai, one of the NAMES of God. This association is derived from the mystical numerology called GEMATRIA, which assigns a numerical value to each letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Names and words that have the same numerical value have a mystical connection. Both Shaddai and Metatron equal 314. As another aspect of God, Metatron is sometimes called the “shining light of the SHEKINAH” and he “whose name is like that of his Master.” Eleazar of Worms speculated that “Metatron” comes from the Latin term metator, which means a guide, measurer, or one who prepares the way, an apt description of this important angel. Other possible etymologies are the Greek term metaturannos, which means “the one next to the ruler,” and the Greek term (ho) meta thronon, which means “(the throne) next to the (divine) throne” or “the second throne.”
The earliest references to Metatron in literature use the term as a simple noun and not as a proper name. “Metatron” is a guide or function. In the Sifre Deuteronomy, an early-third-century work from Palestine, God’s ﬁnger is a “metatron to MOSES and showed him the whole land of Israel” (32:49). The Genesis Rabbah says “the voice of God was made a metatron over the waters” (5:4).
According to the book of Enoch, Metatron originally was the human prophet ENOCH, who is so righteous that God transforms him directly into an angel. Enoch had been a scribe, and as Metatron he continues as a heavenly scribe, residing in the seventh heaven where he logs all celestial and earthly events. The Zohar says that Enoch was able to be transformed into Metatron because the divine spark lost by Adam in the Fall entered Enoch. Since mortals cannot contain the divine spark of perfection, it was then necessary for God to take Enoch into heaven and turn him into an angel.
3 Enoch gives a detailed description of the transformation of Enoch into Metatron. God sends the angel Anapiel to bring Enoch to heaven on the wings of the Shekinah. But as soon as he reaches the heavenly heights the holy angels who attend the throne of God—the OPHANIM, SERAPHIM, CHERUBIM, THRONES, and the ministers of consuming ﬁre—smell his human odor 365,000 myriads of PARASANGS away. They ask God why a human being has been brought up to heaven. God says that due to the corruption of mankind he has removed his Shekinah from their midst but Enoch is righteous and worth all the rest of the people.
In heaven Enoch is transformed into ﬁre. Metatron describes the transformation:
at once my ﬂesh turned to ﬂame, my sinews to blazing ﬁre, my bones to juniper coals, my eyelashes to lightning ﬂashes, my eyeballs to ﬁery torches, the hairs of my head to hot ﬂames, all my limbs to wings of burning ﬁre, and the substance of my body to blazing ﬁre. On my right— those who cleave ﬂames of ﬁre—on my left—burning brands—round about me swept wind, tempest, and storm; and the roar of earthquake upon earthquake was before and behind me. (15:1–2)
God places his hand on Enoch and gives him 1,365,000 blessings. Enoch becomes enlarged and increases in size until he reaches the world in length and breadth. He grows 72 wings, 36 on each side, and each single wing covers the entire world. Metatron is given 365,000 eyes, and each eye is like the Great Light. He is given a brilliant robe and a crown of 49 stones each like the orb of the sun and that shine into the four quarters of heaven.
There is no splendor, brilliance, brightness or beauty that God does not bestow upon Metatron: wisdom, power, all the virtues, and 300,000 gates each of understanding, prudence, life, grace and favor, love, Torah, humility, sustenance, mercy, and reverence. He is given to know all the mysteries, including the thoughts of people before they have them.
God names Metatron “the Lesser Yahweh” before the entire heavenly court and proclaims, “My name is in him.” Metatron is set above all angels to serve the throne of glory; he has the privilege of accessing God behind the curtain of mystery that surrounds him. But when scholars on earth object to his status as a second power in heaven, God reduces his stature by having him lashed with a whip of ﬁre by the angel Anapiel.
In 3 Enoch Metatron serves as the heavenly guide to Rabbi Ishmael.
In the Visions of Ezekiel, a composite work probably dating from the fourth century C.E., Metatron is identiﬁed with Michael and also with the DYNAMEIS, an order of angels.
Metatron has numerous alternative names; from 70 to more than 100 are mentioned in various texts. The following are 93 names given in 3 Enoch:
Yahoel Yah Yoppiel Apapel Margayel Geyorel Tanduel Tatnadiel Tatriel Tabtabiel Ozahyah Zahzahyah Ebed Zebuliel Sapsapiel Sopriel Paspasiel Senigron Sarpupirin Mitatron Sigron Adrigon Astas Saqpas SaqpusMikon Miton Ruah Pisqonit Atatyah Asasyah Zazzazyah Paspasyah Mesamyah Masmasyah Absannis Mebargas Bardas Mekarkar Maspad Tasgas Tasbas Metarpits Paspisahu Besihi Itmon Pisqon Sapsapyah Zerah Zerahyah Ababyah Habhabyah Pepatpalyah Rakrakyah Hashasyah Taptapyah Tamtamyah Sahsahyah Araryah Alalyah Zazruyah Aramyah Sebar Suhasyah Razrazyah Tahsanyah Sasrasyah Sabsebibyah Qeliqalyah Hahhahyah Warwahyah Zakzakyah Titrisyah Sewiryah Zehapnuryah Zazayah Galrazyah Melakmelapyah Attaryah Perisyah Amqaqyah Salsalyah Sabsabyah Geit Zeityah Geityay Perisperisyah Sepat Sepatyah Hasamyah Sar Saryah Gebir Geburyah Gurtaryah Ziwa Rabba Naar Neeman Lesser Yhvh Rabrakiel Neamiel Seganzagel, Prince of Wisdom
- Barker, Margaret. The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992.
- Charlesworth, James H., ed. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Vols. 1 and 2. New York: Doubleday, 1983, 1985.
- Margolies, Morris B. A Gathering of Angels. New York: Ballantine Books, 1994.
- Scholem, Gershom. Kabbalah. New York: Dorset Press, 1987. First published 1974.