Andrei A. Orlov


an excerpt from A. Orlov, From Apocalypticism to Merkabah Mysticism: Studies in the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha (Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, 114; Leiden: Brill, 2007)



.... Another prominent trait that links Jacob’s account in the Ladder with both above mentioned Enochic accounts (1 En. 71 and 2 En. 22) is the reference to the angel Sariel, also known in various traditions under the names of Phanuel and Uriel.[1]

In 2 Enoch 22-23, Uriel[2] plays an important role during Enoch’s initiations near the Throne of Glory.[3] He instructs Enoch about various subjects of esoteric knowledge in order to prepare him for various celestial offices, including the office of the Heavenly Scribe.

1 Enoch 71 also refers to the same angel and names him Phanuel. In the Similitudes, he occupies an important place among the four principal angels, namely, the place usually assigned to Uriel. In fact, the angelic name “Phanuel” might be a title which stresses the celestial status of Uriel/Sariel[4] as one of the servants of the divine Panim.[5]

The title “Phanuel” is reminiscent of the terminology found in various Jacob’s accounts. In Gen. 32:31, Jacob names the place (Mwqmh) of his wrestling with God as Peniel (l)ynp) – the Face of God.[6] Scholars believe that the angelic name Phanuel and the place Peniel are etymologically connected.[7]

Although the Ladder’s narrative does not directly refer to the angel named Phanuel, it uses another of his names, Sariel, in reference to the angelic being, who interprets Jacob’s dream and announces to him his new angelic status, depicted symbolically in the changing of the patriarch’s name to Israel. The Ladder of Jacob 2 portrays Jacob asking God in prayer for help in interpreting the dream. Chapter 3 of the Ladder relates that God responds to Jacob’s prayer by commanding: “Sariel, leader of those who comfort, you who in charge of dreams, go and make Jacob understand the meaning of the dream.”  The text further depicts the angelophany of Sariel who comes to the patriarch to inform him about his new angelic name and status.

This reference to Sariel/Uriel as the angel who instructs/wrestles with Jacob and announces to him his new angelic name is documented in several other sources, including Targum Neofiti and Prayer of Joseph. In Prayer of Joseph, Jacob attests that “Uriel, the angel of God, came forth and said that ‘I [Jacob-Israel] had descended to earth and I had tabernacled among men and that I had been called by the name of Jacob’. He envied me and fought with me and wrestled with me....”[8]

In targumic and rabbinic accounts, Sariel/Uriel is also depicted as the angel who wrestled with Jacob and announced him his new angelic name.

Targum Neofiti to Gen. 32.25-31 reads:

And Jacob was left alone; and the angel Sariel (l)yr#) wrestled with him in the appearance of a man and he embraced him until the time the dawn arose. When he saw that he could not prevail against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh became benumbed in his wrestling with him. And he said: “Let me go because the rise of the dawn has arrived, and because the time of the angels on high to praise has arrived, and I am a chief of those who praise” ()yxb#ml #yr )n)w).  And he said: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him: “What is your name?” And he said: “Jacob.” And he said: “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob but Israel, because you have claimed superiority with angels from before the Lord and with men and you have prevailed against them. And Jacob asked and said: “Tell me your name I pray”; and he said: “Why, now, do you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel  (l)ynp) because: “I have seen angels from before the Lord face to face and my life has been spared.”[9]

Scholars have previously noted that “in the circles represented by the Similitudes of Enoch, Qumran and Neofiti variety of the Palestinian Targum, the angelic adversary of Jacob was recognized as one of the four celestial princes and called alternatively Sariel or Phanuel.”[10] It appears that Ladder also belongs to the same circles.  In Targ. Neof.  and Frag. Targ.[11] to Gen 32:27, Sariel is defined as “the chief of those who give praise” ()yxb#ml #yr). The Ladder seems to allude to this title. In the Ladder 3:2 Sariel is described as “stareishino uslazhdaemych[12] which can be translated as “the chief of those who give joy.”[13]

It is of interest to note that in the Ladder, Sariel/Phanuel imagery seems to be influenced by the Enochic tradition even more extensively than in the Targums; in the Ladder, the motif of wrestling is completely absent and is replaced by the depiction of Sariel as the interpreter of dreams. It seems that Sariel/Uriel in the Ladder assumes the traditional “Enochic” functions of angelus interpres.[14]

                                                                                     Princes of the Face

In the Ladder and the Prayer of Joseph, Jacob’s identification with his heavenly counterpart, the angel Israel, involves the initiatory encounter with the angel Sariel/Uriel, who in other texts is also known as Phanuel, the angel of  the Divine Presence or the Face. The same state of events is observable in Enochic materials where Uriel serves as a principal heavenly guide to another prominent visionary who has also acquired knowledge about his own heavenly counterpart, namely, Enoch/Metatron. In both traditions, Uriel/Sariel/Phanuel appears as the guide who assists the visionaries in acquiring or identifying with their new celestial identities.

The process of establishing twinship with the heavenly counterpart might be reflected in the initiatory procedure of becoming a Sar ha-Panim, one of the angelic[15] Princes of the Divine Face or Presence, the prominent celestial office, which is often described in detail in various apocalyptic and Merkabah accounts. The installation of a visionary as Sar ha-Panim seems to correlate with the procedure of identifying a visionary with his heavenly counterpart. [16] In 1 Enoch 71, Enoch is transformed and identified with the Son of Man in front of God’s Throne. In 2 En. 22:6-10, Enoch’s initiation into one of the Princes of Presence[17] also takes place in front of the fiery Face of the Lord. This encounter transforms Enoch into a glorious being. It is important to note that after this procedure Enoch observes that he had become like one of the glorious ones, and there was no observable difference.[18] The last phrase describes Enoch’s transition to his new identity as “one of the glorious ones.” This identity might refer to his angelic counterpart. It also indicates that Enoch’s earthly appearance/face has been radically altered and that the visionary has now acquired a new “face” which “mirrors” or “doubles” the Face of the Lord.[19] The motif of engraving the image of the visionary on the Throne might also serve as a metaphor for the similarity between the visionary’s face and the Face. There is no doubt that one of the features which unifies both “faces” is their luminosity.

2 Enoch’s narrative gives evidence that Enoch’s face acquired the same qualities of luminosity as the Face of the Lord. In 2 Enoch 37, the Lord calls one of his angels to chill the face of Enoch before his return to earth. The angel, who “appeared frigid,” then chilled Enoch’s face with his icy hands. Immediately after this procedure, the Lord tells Enoch that if his face had not been chilled in such a way, no human being would be able to look at his face. This chilling procedure indicates that Enoch’s metamorphosis near the Face into the Sar ha-Panim involves the transformation of the visionary’s face into the fiery, perilous entity which now resembles Kavod. We can find a detailed description of this process in another “Enochic” text, Sefer Hekhalot, which describes the transformation of Enoch/Metatron, the Prince of the Divine Presence, into the fiery creature:

R. Ishmael said: The angel Metatron, Prince of the Divine Presence, the glory of highest heaven, said to me: When the Holy One, blessed be he, took me to serve the throne of glory, the wheels of the chariot and all needs of the Shekinah, at once my flesh turned to flame, my sinews to blazing fire, my bones to juniper coals, my eyelashes to lightning flashes, my eyeballs to fiery torches, the hairs of my head to hot flames, all my limbs to wings of burning fire, and the substance of my body to blazing fire.[20]

It is possible that the reference to the heavenly counterpart of Jacob in the form of his image (engraved) on the Throne of Glory also implies that Jacob is one of the servants of the Divine Face. This possibility is already hinted at in the biblical account where Jacob is attested as one who saw God face to face.[21] Moreover, in some of Jacob’s traditions, he is directly described (in a manner similar to Enoch/Metatron) as the Prince of the Divine Face. We learn about this title from the Prayer of Joseph 8,[22] where Jacob-Israel himself unveils his status as the Sar[23] ha-Panim, [24] proclaiming that he is “the first minister before the Face of God.”

It is also not coincidental that the initiation of  Jacob into an angelic being involves another servant of the Face, the angel Sariel whose last name, Phanuel,[25] reflects his close proximity to the Face of God.  As has been mentioned previously, this initiatory pattern is already observable in the Enochic tradition, where Sariel/Uriel/Phanuel (along with another angel of the Presence, Michael[26]) actively participates in the initiation of the another prominent servant of the Divine Face, Enoch/Metatron.

However, Jacob’s identification with a Sar ha-Panim seems to be missing one detail that constitutes a distinct feature of the descriptions of visionaries initiated in this office, that is the luminous metamorphosis of an adept’s face and body. The Ladder of Jacob and Prayer of Joseph, as well as the biblical account of Jacob’s vision, are silent about any transformation of Jacob’s body and his face. This tradition, however, can be found in another prominent account connected with the Jacob story.[27] In this important material, the eyes of Jacob, similar to the eyes of the transformed Metatron, are emitting flashes of lighting.....


[1] J. Smith observes that in five instances in 1 Enoch (40:9; 54:6; 71:8, 9, 13), confined to the Similitudes, Phanuel replaces Uriel in a catalog of the four archangels. He also points out that while Sariel is a relatively unknown angelic figure, his name seems to be quite frequently conflated with Uriel, as in 1 En. 9:1. Cf. J. Z. Smith, “Prayer of Joseph,” in OTP, 2.699-714 (708-709). For the discussion about Uriel/Sariel/Phanuel, see J. Greenfield, “Prolegomenon,” in Odeberg, 3 Enoch, xxxiv-xxxv; Lunt, “The Ladder of Jacob,” 405, n. 10; J. Milik, The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), 170-74; Olyan, A Thousand Thousands Served Him: 105-109; J. Z. Smith, “The Prayer of Joseph,” in J. Neusner (ed.), Religions in Antiquity: Essays in Memory of Erwin Ramsdell Goodenough (SHR, 14; Leiden: Brill, 1968), 270 and 227; G. Vermes, “The Archangel Sariel: A Targumic Parallel to the Dead Sea Scrolls,” in J. Neusner (ed.), Christianity, Judaism and Other Greco-Roman Cults (SJLA, 12.3; Leiden: Brill, 1975), 159-166; idem, “The Impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls on Jewish Studies During the Last Twenty-Five Years,” JJS 26 (1975) 1-14 (13).

[2] Slav. Vereveil] (Vereveil).

[3] The beginning of this tradition can be found in the Book of Heavenly Luminaries (1 En. 74:2), where Enoch writes the instructions of the angel Uriel regarding the secrets of heavenly bodies and their movements. See Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.173.

[4] Vermes observes that at Qumran, “Sariel becomes one of the four chief angels, replacing Uriel, the traditional fourth archangel in the Greek Enoch and midrashic literature ... He also appears in an Aramaic fragment of 4Q Enoch 9.1” (Vermes, “The Impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls on Jewish Studies,” 13).

[5] Hekhalot Rabbati (Synopse §108) refers to the angel Suria/Suriel as the Prince of the Face: Mynph r# l)yrws/)yrws. Cf. Schäfer, with Schlüter and von Mutius, Synopse zur Hekhalot-Literatur, 52. On the identification of Sariel with the Prince of the Presence, see Odeberg, 3 Enoch, 99-100; Smith, “Prayer of Joseph,” 709.

[6] The connection between the terms God’s Face (l)ynp) and the Place (Mwqmh) in Gen. 32:31 is important. In later theophanic contexts the term Mwqmh is closely associated with the Kavod imagery. This tradition can be found, for example, in 3 En. 45:1; 47:1; 48D:8. 3 Enoch also uses an expression “the Curtain (pargod) of the Place” in reference to the celestial veil, which shields the angelic hosts from the harmful luminescence of the Kavod.

[7] G. Vermes suggests that the angelic name Phanuel “is depended on the Peniel/Penuel of Genesis 32.” Cf. Vermes, “The Impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls on Jewish Studies,” 13.  Smith supports Vermes’ position. In his opinion, “it is most likely that the name Phanuel is to be derived from the place name Peniel/Penuel (the face of God) in Genesis 32:30, and therefore may be related to the title ‘a man seeing God’” (Smith, “Prayer of Joseph,” 709). See also S. Olyan, who argues that “the angel Penuel was either derived from texts such Exod. 13:14-15 and Deut. 4:37, where the divine presence is given figurative treatment, or it emerged from the exegesis of Gen. 32:25-33” (Olyan, A Thousand Thousands Served Him, 108-109).

[8] Smith, “Prayer of Joseph,” 713.

[9] Targum Neofiti 1: Genesis, 158; A. Díez Macho, Neophyti 1, Targum Palistinense Ms de la Biblioteca Vaticana (6 vols.; Textos y Estudios, 7; Madrid/Barcelona: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1968), 1.217-19.

      [10] Vermes, “The Impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls on Jewish Studies,” 13; Smith, “Prayer of Joseph,” 709.

[11] Klein, The Fragment-Targums of the Pentateuch, 1.59 and 2.22.

[12] Slav. Starýiqino uslaædaemyh]. MSS S, R, F. Cf. Tolkovaja paleja 1477 goda, 101b; Kushelev-Bezborodko, Pamjatniki starinnoj russkoj literatury, 3.28; Franko, Apokrifi i legendi, 1.110.

[13] Slavonic uslaædaemyh] (uslazhdaemych) can be literally translated as “sweetened.” Cf. R. M. Cejtlin (ed.), Staroslovjanskij slovar’ po rukopisjam X-XI vekov (Moscow: Russkij jazyk, 1994), 477; I. I. Sresnevskij, Slovar’ drevnerusskogo jazyka (3 vols.; Moscow: Kniga, 1989), 3.1266.

[14] On Uriel as an angelus interpres, see C. A. Gieschen, Angelomorphic Christology: Antecedents and Early Evidence (AGJU, 42; Leiden: Brill, 1998), 60.

[15] For a complete discussion about angels as the heavenly counterparts of humans, see De Conick, Seek to See Him, 148-57.

[16] The reference to the angels of the Presence as the heavenly counterparts of humans is not confined solely to the Jewish pseudepigrapha.  April De Conick’s research refers to several important Christian passages in which angels of the Presence/the Face serve as heavenly counterparts of humans; see De Conick, Seek to See Him, 153-54. One of such traditions is reflected in Mt.18:10: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

[17] On Enoch’s role as the Prince of the Presence in 2 Enoch, see Orlov, “Titles of Enoch-Metatron in 2 Enoch,” 74-75.

[18] Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 139.

[19] A visionary, therefore, becomes a reflection or even a “representation” of the Face/Kavod, a sort of its vice-regent. Christopher Morray-Jones observes that “there is evidence, then, of the early existence of a tradition concerning the ascent to heaven of an exceptionally righteous man who beholds the vision of the divine Kabod upon Merkabah, is transformed into an angelic being and enthroned as celestial vice-regent, thereby becoming identified with the Name-bearing angel who either is or is closely associated with the Kabod itself and functions as a second, intermediary power in heaven” (C. R. A. Morray-Jones, “Transformation Mysticism in the Apocalyptic-Merkabah Tradition,”  JJS 43 [1992] 10-11).

[20] 3 En. 15:1. Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 267.

[21] Gen. 32:30 “ is because I saw God face to face (Mynp -l) Mynp).”

[22] The tradition about Jacob as the Prince of Presence seems to be also reflected in Targ. Onq. to Gen. 32:29: “Whereupon, he said, ‘No longer shall your name be called Jacob, but rather Israel; for your are a prince before the Lord and among men; therefore have you prevailed’” (The Targum Onqelos to Genesis, 116).

[23] Vermes notices that Targum Neofiti explains the etymology of Israel from rr# (“to rule, to act as a prince”); see Vermes, “The Impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls on Jewish Studies,” 13.

[24] Gieschen, Angelomorphic Christology, 141-42.

[25] The fact that Sariel/Uriel/Phanuel is known under several names might indicate that this angel also serves as a heavenly counterpart in the manner similar to other servants of the Face such as Jacob-Israel, Enoch/Metatron, and possibly Melchizedek/Michael. On the identification of Michael with Melchizedek, see J. R. Davila, “Melchizedek, Michael, and War in Heaven,” in SBLSP 35 (1996), 259-72; D. D. Hannah, Michael and Christ: Michael Traditions and Angel Christology in Early Christianity (WUNT, 2/109; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1999), 70-74.

[26] Olyan refers to Rashi’s passage which identifies “the ‘angel of his presence’ of Isa. 63:9 with Michael, the Prince of Presence” (Olyan, A Thousand Thousands Served Him, 108).

[27] The beginning of the second half of Joseph and Aseneth gives a description of Joseph and Aseneth visiting Jacob. Jos. and Asen. 22:7-8 says that when Aseneth saw Jacob, she “was amazed at his beauty... his eyes (were) flashing and darting (flashes of) lighting, and his sinews and his shoulders and his arms were like (those) of an angel, and his thighs and his calves and his feet like (those) of a giant. And Jacob was like a man who had wrestled with God. And Aseneth saw him and was amazed, and prostrated herself before him face down to the ground” (C. Burchard, “Joseph and Aseneth,” in OTP, 2.177-247 [238]).