There are some incredible depictions of angelic beings throughout the Bible and they’ve also been a staple to the role playing community in many forms. What is consistent throughout the descriptions is that no matter what they look like, they inspire fear and awe in those who see them. One of my favorite depictions is from the book of Ezekiel and is pretty wacky, but paints a fantastic picture of what these bizarre otherworldly beings look like.
“I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north—an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. All four of them had faces and
wings, and the wings of one touched the wings of another.
Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved.
Their faces looked like this:
Each of the four had the face of a human being, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces.
They each had two wings spreading out upward,
each wing touching that of the creature on either side; and each had two other wings covering its body. Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went. The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning.” (Ezekiel 1:4-14 NIV)
So that’s pretty far from the little baby cherubs picture that dominates the hallmark depiction of an angel. Angels get their name from the Greek word ἄγγελος (pronounced An-gael-os) which simply means messenger. The role that an angel fills is one who travels to deliver messages on behalf of God. This job is pretty huge and the beings who go around ferrying divine messages are pretty epic. In most games that I’ve played, they come across pretty weak sauce and I think we deserve a higher caliber of angel. I specifically like the description from Ezekiel because of the way the author uses referential language to try and carry across this absolutely bizarre concept of an angelic being. It’s obviously something beyond human experience and is reflected in just how weird the author describes these beings. When I’m playing a game and trying to breath life into something that only exists in my imagination, it is far to easy to simply name the thing and depend on the assumptions of my players instead of really painting a picture. Now I don’t need to spend five minutes of descriptive words and then try to wake my players up to continue the game, but there is something about building a more complete picture of what is happening and what the characters are experiencing that can really drive home the feel and tone of a scene.
This picture from Ezekiel drives home a sense of awe and wonder and leaves me feeling small in comparison to these wondrous beings and that seems to be the authors intent. The coming of the angels in the passage is followed by a vision of God Himself. The lead up of these images and depictions culminates in one of the most awe-inspiring visions of God’s presence in the Bible. The description builds up the sense of wonder and aids in setting the overall tone that points the reader towards a truth about God. It is great storytelling too and I could learn something from that.