Winged Wednesdays: Sandalphon, the Angel Formerly Known as Elijah

The Transfiguration featuring Elijah, Jesus and Moses holding tablets of the law

In today’s post, I explore angels who used to be human. Although it’s not in the Bible (why get people’s hopes up?), in the apochryphal texts Enoch became Metatron and the prophet Elijah became Sandalphon. Since I’ve talked a bit about Enoch before, today, I’ll focus on Sandalphon.

An Angel by any other name is just as… tall?

First off, Sandalphon is really tall, his height is described as a 500 year journey by foot. He is an archangel in Jewish and Christian traditions and the left hand feminine cherub of the Ark.

Aside from his human identity of Elijah (Elias in Hebrew), he is also known as “Ophan,” which is Hebrew for “wheel.” The name Ophan is considered to be a reference to the merkabah, which Ezekiel called the “wheel within a wheel” in Ezekiel chapter 1.

Sandalphon is also said to be instrumental in bringing about the differentiation of sex in the embryo.

How Does a human become an angel?

By being really, really holy, or so it seems.

Apparently, Elijah was a great prophet, responsible for defending the worship of the one God (Yahweh) over other gods (like Baal). Like Jesus, he could raise the dead, and he brought fire down from the sky. He traveled for forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb, where Moses had received the 10 Commandments.

While Wikipedia talks about his many righteous actions, they’re pretty sparse on the part about how he became an angel. According to his job description, Sandalphon battles Samael and brings humankind together. While I’m not so sure I want the job, personally, I’m curious how he did it.

Aren’t you?

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