Who is Metatron?

By The Late Rev. Sam Stern

Who is Metatron? He is the highest archangel, esteemed more than any other of Godís hosts. The letters [of his name] are the great mystery. You may translate the letters vav, hay which is [part of] the name of God… He rules over all, the living things below and the living things above. This is hidden in them and taken from them.

Readings from the Zohar

The above quotation is from the Jewish mystical book, the Zohar, in its comment on Genesis 1:1, which introduces Metatron as being present in this very first verse of the Torah. The writer, Simeon ben Yochai, continues his comment, stating that Metatron is the very first [kadmoni], as well as the highest. He also states that Metatron is eternal.

…He [Metraton] is the very first. Nobody can understand anything higher than this. Why? Because it is closed for the mind. Godís mind is a closed mystery from above. The mind of man can be connected with things, but no one can connect Godís mind from above, the more His thoughts. He is without end.

The Zohar gives the above definition, but the origin of the name Metatron remains a mystery. According to Jewish scholarsí statements, it could come from the Hebrew matara, which means "keeper of the watch;" from the Hebrew cabalistic term metator, which means "guide or messenger" or from two Greek words, meta thronos, which mean "one who serves behind the throne." The Jewish sages do not present a unified opinion regarding the etymology of the name Metatron.

Rabbi Bechai Writes

Another of the ancient sages writing in the Zohar, Rabbi Bechai, relates the letters hay and yod, which are also found in the name of God, to Metatron. Exodus 24:1, upon which Rabbi Bechai writes his comment, refers to Godís summoning Moses to the top of the mount and reads as follows:

And he said unto Moses, come up unto the LORD, thou and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu [Aaronís sons] and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off.

Rabbi Bechai comments as follows:

…This is Metatron, the Lordís messenger, Israelís helper [Psalm 121:4]. God told Moses to go down, thy people sinned [Exodus 32:7]. Then Moses prayed with the letter hay and with the letter yodÖ Noah did not pray for the sinners so he went down with themÖ

Godís name, Jehovah, is composed of the Hebrew letters yod, hay, vav, hay [JHVH]. The Jewish people consider this name of God too holy to pronounce, so when they read it aloud, they say Adonai [my Lord] instead.

Eliezer Seeks a Bride for Isaac

Genesis Chapter 24 relates the narrative of Abraham sending his eldest servant to seek a bride for his son Isaac. Abraham tells his servant Eliezer to put his hand under Abrahamís thigh, which Rashi says was the way a person took an oath in that time [Genesis 24:2].

In a lengthy comment on this verse, Simeon ben Yochai writes the following in the Zohar, teaching that the servant Eliezer is Metatron and also the Shekinah, who is God! He also presents Metatron as the ruler of the world, the one who will resurrect the bodies in the graves:

And Abraham said to his servant. Rabbi Shimeon opens saying: Who is his servant? -- The Shekinah. That is Metatron, who is the servant, the messenger of the creator, Metatron, who is also called the youth, as it is written, "I was young and also old" [Psalm 37:25]. He is the ruler of the world.

He is revealed in green, white and red, which represent grace, judgment and mercy. It is known that the world is ruled by these three natures.

Put your hand under my thigh. This is the righteous one. The mystery is that the world exists on these three: [grace, judgment and mercy, as mentioned above]. He is appointed from the mystery above to resurrect those who sleep in the grave. He will come with the will from the one who is above to bring back the breath and the soul to the proper place.

Simeon ben Yochai Continues

In continuing his comment, Simeon ben Yochai asks the question, Why did Abraham speak to his servant?

And Abraham said to his servant. Why to his servant? He looked at his wisdom. Rabbi Mehorai says, He looked only at what he said. Godís servant and who is he? This is Metatron, as we said. He will be the one who will give life to the bodies in the graves.

Abraham spoke to his servant. He is Metatron, the elder in his house, the first of Godís creatures, who rules all His house. God, blessed be his name, gave him to rule over his hosts.

Talmudic References

Some writers in the Talmud also deal with this subject, for example, in their discussion of Ecclesiastes 5:5, which Scripture reads as follows:

Better it is that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.

The Talmud, in Hagiga 15a, while stating that breaking a pledge is a sin, relates this verse to Metatron:

Do not give your mouth to make your flesh to sin. What did he see? He saw Metatron, to whom was given permission to sit down and write the merits of Israel…

Another Talmudic passage, Yebamoth 16b, also refers to Psalm 37:25, "I was young and was old," as Simeon ben Yochai does in his comment on Genesis 24:2 previously quoted, and comes to the same conclusion that the person mentioned is Metatron. Some believe that Metatron is Enoch, but Yebamoth 16b refutes this conclusion:

Who said it? If God said it, can old age be applied to God? But David said it. Was he so old? But from this we learn that the prince of the world said it. [Tosefos said this prince is young. He is Metatron, the glorified and the fearful. Metatron is the prince of the world. He is called "the youth."]

In the poem Yesod Tokeh, [Strong Foundation], Metatron is a prince turned to fire from the flesh. In this poem it seems to mean that Enoch is Metatron, but he cannot be. He cannot be the prince of the world because in [the Talmudic book] Chulin 60:1 it says that in the first six days the prince of the world [Metatron] said, "God is rejoicing in his work," and Enoch was not yet born…[Tosefos Yebamoth 16b.]

Ezekielís Vision of Living Creatures

Another passage in the Talmud relates Metatron to Ezekielís vision in Babylon, in which he saw living creaturesÖ Ezekiel 1:15 reads as follows in the Bible:

Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.

Sandalfon

Hagiga 13b interprets the above verse as follows, using the name Sandalfon, which is another name for Metatron:

Rabbi Eliezer says, One angel is standing on the ground and his hand reaches unto the living creatures. In a Matnita [small Midrash, or sayings of rabbis] we learned that he is Sandalfon. This is his name. He is taller than his fellows [a height that would take] five hundred years to walk. He stands behind the chariots and fashions crowns for his maker.

Metatron Not in the Bible

The Bible itself does not mention the word Metatron; yet the ancient Jewish sages conceive of such an important being, who some say has the active aspects of God. As noted in the previous references, they acknowledge Metatronís presence and actions at strategic times in Israelís history and his ability to resurrect the bodies from the graves.

© 2003 Dorothy Stern