When we think of the Christmas story we often ponder those who were present…the Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, magi, but what about the angel Gabriel. This is one of the prominent characters in the Nativity narrative. He’s remembered as the angel who told Mary she would give birth to the Son of God. But what else can we know about him from the Bible? Here is a list….
- Gabriel is mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. He’s known for bearing good news of Jesus’ coming birth, but his first biblical appearance is in Daniel 8:16, when he is told to explain a vision to the prophet.
- Gabriel stands in the presence of God. This is how he describes himself to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist (Luke 1:19). The Greek word for “stands” is paristánō, which means to wait before a superior. The Septuagint uses this word to describe how Joshua served Moses and how David assisted King Saul.
- Gabriel is one of only two angels explicitly named in the Protestant Bible. The other is Michael, a warrior archangel.
- The Bible doesn’t call Gabriel the “archangel.” The Book of Tobit (of Catholic and Orthodox canon) identifies the angels who stand in the presence of God as archangels, and so Gabriel has been called an archangel by tradition.
- Gabriel looks like a man (but see #6). The name Gabriel means “man of God” or “strength of God.” The second time Daniel encounters Gabriel (Daniel 9:21), he describes Gabriel as a “man [. . .] seen in the vision previously.” We don’t get any more details on Gabriel’s looks. Perhaps that’s because his messages are always so important.
- Gabriel scares people. When Daniel meets Gabriel, he is frightened and falls on his face. When Gabriel greets Zacharias, his first words are, “Do not be afraid.” Mary’s greeting is more celebratory, but Gabriel still follows up by telling her not to fear.
- Gabriel anticipates Jesus. Gabriel relays a prophecy concerning “Messiah the Prince” to Daniel. He tells Zacharias that John the Baptist will be a forerunner before the Lord. And most famously, he tells Mary that her son will be called “the Son of the Most High.”