“In the beginning, God created the heaven and earth.”
Introduction to Angelology and Abarbanel
Throughout his groundbreaking Biblical commentaries, Don Isaac Abravanel (also spelled Abarbanel)
(1437-1508) writes extensively on angels. This should not come as a surprise. After all, angels or
heavenly facilitators played and continue to play significant roles in heaven and on earth. What is
surprising, Abravanel asks, is this: Given that of all God’s creations, angels rate topnotch. Why is the
creation of them not mentioned here?
Many classic commentators, among them Ibn Ezra, Ramban, Rabbi Bachya, Ralbag and of course, the
Talmudic sages, have put forth their respective reasons for the apparent and glaring void in the Torah.
Abravanel sought a simple answer to this key question. He writes that he did not find it among the
ancient sages or classic commentators.
Below is Abravanel’s approach to and explanation for a lack of verses discussing the creation of angels.
“In the beginning, God created the heaven and earth.” The Torah’s opening verses do not encompass a
narrative featuring all of the higher and lower creations, those that are simple or essential, nor those
that are composites of other creations. Instead, “In the beginning…”, teaches that when the Almighty
created His world out of nothing, there initially existed what we may call a blob. Everything was jumbled
and clumped together. Celestials and planets, sun and moon, as well as other more complex creations,
had not been defined, let alone formed. To be sure, that was also the original state of what would later
become angels, wholly, non-corporeal beings.
We circle back to Abravanel’s question concerning angels. Where in the creation story do we read about
angels being created? “In the beginning, God created heaven and earth.” According to Abravanel, in an
in-depth essay about the Torah’s lead verse, he learns that the word “heaven” alludes to angels or
heavenly facilitators, among other creations. Furthermore, Abravanel asserts that a close reading of the
words of the midrash corroborates his opinion.