Who are the “evil angels” in Psalm 78:49 (KJV)?
~ John & Pamela, USA
Psalm 78 speaks of the rebellious history of Israel even though God brought His favor and blessings to them again and again. In His anger toward their sin, God brought judgment against Israel in a variety of ways. One of the ways God punished Israel is given to us in v.49.
King James Version: “He (God) cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.”
New International Version: “(God) unleashed against them his hot anger, his wrath, indignation and hostility—a band of destroying angels.”
According to Strong’s Concordance, the Hebrew word “malak” used in this verse can mean angel, messenger, or ambassador (Strong’s H4397). The Hebrew word “ra” used in this verse can mean evil, distress, injury, or calamity (Strong’s H7451).
Therefore, technically, both the KJV and the NIV are correct. How, then, are we to understand this verse? If you take the translation “evil angels” to mean demons, then you have a problem because “shed” is the Hebrew word for demon. That is not the word used here. If you understand “evil angels” to mean “angels who bring distress, injury, or calamity” you will be in a better interpretive position. Angels who are carrying out God’s judgment on mankind can be seen as “evil” in the sense that what they are doing hurts. Judgment is painful.
Charles Spurgeon says it this way in The Treasure of David: “The angels were evil to them, though good enough in themselves; those who to the heirs of salvation are ministers of grace, are to the heirs of wrath executioners of judgment.” In his classic commentary on the Bible, Matthew Henry writes this about the angel messengers from God, “…those who to the heirs of salvation are ministers of grace, are to the heirs of wrath executioners of judgment.”
Three examples of angels bringing calamity from God are found in Genesis 19:1-13; 2 Samuel 24:16; and Revelation 15-16. We will do well to make sure that there is no rebellion against God in our hearts.
~ Pastor Chris