Where Is the Archangel Raphael in the Scriptures?

Where Is the Archangel Raphael in the Scriptures? September 29, 2014

On September 29, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the three Archangels who have been venerated throughout the history of the Church:

  • Michael (from the Hebrew Who Is Like God?), who defends the friends of God against Satan and all his evil angels;
  • Gabriel (the Power of God), chosen by the Creator to announce to Mary the mystery of the Incarnation; and
  • Raphael (the Medicine of God or God Heals), the archangel who, in the book of Tobit, takes care of Tobias on his journey.

These archangels, all of whom play cameo roles in the Scriptures, have been venerated since the early days of the Church–but it’s Raphael I want to talk about today. Raphael has been called the Patron of Healing. Raphael is also the patron of the blind, of happy meetings, of nurses, of physicians, and of travelers.


The Old Testament book of Tobit tells the story of how Tobit, a devout Jew in exile in Assyria, and his son Tobias (sometimes called Tobiah) were rewarded for their piety and good deeds.

Two fervent prayers for help
Against the orders of the evil king Sennaherib, Tobit—who respected the Jewish burial customs—buried the bodies of Jews who had been executed by Sennaherib in Nineveh.  Because of this, the king ordered Tobit to be captured and killed.  Tobit fled and hid among his kinsmen.  One day, Tobit was looking toward the sky when some bird droppings landed in his eyes and blinded him. No longer able to work because of his blindness, Tobit did not curse God, but instead prayed for God to end his life.

As Tobit was praying for release from this life, a young widow named Sarah also prayed to God to end her misery. Sarah had had seven husbands, but each of them had been killed by a demon on their wedding night. Sarah feared that she was cursed and could never have a husband and family of her own.

In answer to these prayers, God sent the Archangel Raphael to Earth to help them.

Tobias embarks on his mission
Tobit, unable to work because of his blindness, sent his son to the town of Media to request repayment on a loan. Tobit instructed Tobias to hire a guide to accompany him on the journey; so Tobias enlisted the assistance of Azariah, who was really the archangel Raphael in disguise.

But why is he portrayed with a fish?

When the two companions reached the Tigris River, Tobias stopped to wash.  As he knelt on the bank, a great fish leapt out of the water and frightened him.  Raphael instructed Tobias to seize the fish by the fins, kill it, and remove its heart, liver and gallbladder.  He revealed to Tobias that burning the heart and liver would drive away evil spirits, and that the gallbladder could cure blindness.  So Tobias salted the organs to preserve them, and wrapped them safely for their journey.

Azariah (Raphael) and Tobias then traveled together toward Media.  Along the way, Raphael told Tobias about Sarah and encouraged him to take her as his bride, since he was her only eligible kinsman.  Tobias was afraid to marry her, fearing that he would die like Sarah’s seven other husbands; but Raphael assured him that the fish’s heart and liver would protect him.

Tobias agreed, and he and Sarah were married.  After the ceremony Sarah’s father—saddened because he believed Tobias would suffer the same fate as Sarah’s seven other husbands—dug a new grave beside their house, beside the seven other graves.   But when Tobias and his new wife Sarah went to their bedroom that night, Tobias unwrapped the fish’s heart and liver and laid them upon the hot coals in the fireplace.   The evil spirit appeared, as he had seven times before; but Tobias fanned the bitter smoke toward him and the spirit ran shrieking from the room.

The next morning, the newly married couple emerged whole and smiling from their room.  Sarah’s parents, filled with joy, celebrated with them for fourteen days.  Sarah’s father gave the newlyweds half of his property, with a promise that they would inherit the other half upon his death.  Then the couple started home toward Nineveh.

A joyful homecoming
As they approached Tobit’s house, Tobias saw his blind old father stumbling toward them in the road.  Tobias ran forward and anointed his father’s eyes with the fish’s gall, and Tobit regained his sight.  He embraced his son and his new bride and welcomed them joyously into his home.

When Tobias told his father how Azariah (Raphael) had helped him on his journey and had cured Tobit’s blindness, Tobit sent for the guide to reward him.  But when Raphael stood before Tobit, Raphael revealed to them who he really was and then suddenly vanished from sight.

Prayer to St. Raphael, the Archangel

Blessed Saint Raphael, Archangel,
we beseech you to help us in all our needs and trials of this life,
as you, through the power of God, restored Tobit’s sight
and gave guidance to young Tobiah.

We humbly seek your aid and intercession,

that our souls may be healed,
our bodies protected from all ills,
and that through divine grace we may become fit to dwell
in the eternal Glory of God in Heaven.

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  • dougpruner

    I’m interested in your citing of three “archangels”. The word implies that there would be just one ‘head angel’, and other scriptures bear this out, and give his name as Micahel. Cf. Jude 9; Dan 10:21, 12:1.
    1 Thes 4:16 says also that the Lord [Jesus] will come “with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet”. Would this imply that Jesus is now in the position of an angel- a “messenger” of God?
    Can you amplify?

    • Logan

      Our Lord coming with an archangel’s voice doesn’t imply Jesus is in the position of an angel. It correlates to the Book of the Apocalypse.

      Revelation 19:11-18 NABRE

      Then I saw the heavens opened, and there was a white horse; its rider was [called] “Faithful and True.” He judges and wages war in righteousness. His eyes were [like] a fiery flame, and on his head were many diadems. He had a name inscribed that no one knows except himself. He wore a cloak that had been dipped in blood, and his name was called the Word of God. The armies of heaven followed him, mounted on white horses and wearing clean white linen. Out of his mouth came a sharp sword to strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he himself will tread out in the wine press the wine of the fury and wrath of God the almighty. He has a name written on his cloak and on his thigh, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” Then I saw an angel standing on the sun. He cried out [in] a loud voice to all the birds flying high overhead, “Come here. Gather for God’s great feast, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of military officers, and the flesh of warriors, the flesh of horses and of their riders, and the flesh of all, free and slave, small and great.”

      Anyhow, archangel doesn’t imply just one ‘head angel’ but one with authority or preeminent over others such as we have multiple archbishops.

      Archangel is a title given to Gabriel as well since he was the angel chosen to announce the birth of God in the world (quite the mission!)

      Also, it is given to Raphael because of this statement in Tobit:

      Tobit 12:15 NABRE

      I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand and serve before the Glory of the Lord.”

      • dougpruner

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Logan. But please note your interchangeable use of “angel” and “archangel”. Gabriel and Raphael are both called “angel” only in scripture. This is true whether or not one accepts Tobit as canonical. Michael is the only one called “archangel”.
        There are indeed many Archbishops, Cardinals and such in the RCC and its offshoots. In scripture only 1 Thes allows for more than one chief of Yahweh’s angels; the others state- not imply- that there is one head angel. (Why would the almighty God need more than one? They are all obedient, and even one can have great power. Cf. Isa 37:37.)

        • Logan Rieck

          I suppose in an answer to your last question I can rebuttal that why would God even need one? He Himself is Lord and in no need of any preeminent angel at all.

          Again, that Scripture names only one archangel isn’t quite the end of things. Tobit presents an exclusive hierarchy where Raphael is part of, this automatically presents him as a chief angel or archangel. That it isn’t spelled out bluntly is pointless with basic reading comprehension.

          Gabriel is up for debate but it shouldn’t be beyond the knowledge we do have of him as messenger of the Incarnation of God to regard him as a chief angel as a king sends only his most trusted and beloved servants to present the best news.

          And this is all besides the issue of the original question if our blessed Lord could be an angel since He descends with an archangel’s voice. Logically this would imply our Lord accompanied with someone or thing and not His actual Person since He is already God and Man. I don’t understand how He’d also be an angel, too.

          Consider, in Scripture when angels are commanded to praise God that St. Michael is excluded from this since there is no mention of archangels to praise Him? No, we understand angel could still refer to him as well.

          Again, when Gabriel is referred to as a man in Daniel that he is both a man and angel? I believe you’re being too literal to what’s only explicitly written.

          • dougpruner

            Why would God need even one messenger? (“Messenger” is the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words; not “saint” as stated elsewhere.) Why would he need Adam to ‘dress the Garden’? Out of love- wanting to share his creation with others. Also out of a certain sense of pride: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell me, since you are so well-informed! Who decided its dimensions, do you know? Or who stretched the measuring line across it? What supports its pillars at their bases? Who laid its cornerstone to the joyful concert of the morning stars and unanimous acclaim of the sons of God?” Job 38:4 ff., Catholic Online JB. Your studies have no doubt shown you that the “morning stars” and “sons of God” here are the angels; no humans in existence.
            “Tobit presents an exclusive hierarchy”. Not quite. The
            Catholic Encyclopedia, cited elsewhere, says your “exclusive hierarchy” is not named in “canonical scripture” [their words], only in Enoch, and “other [even more] apocryphal sources” give alternate names for the ‘other four’. Only in Tobit do we find ‘seven who stand before God’, and they are not called “archangels”, just “angels”. The words of your Raphael, should you choose to believe him. In any case, that does not “automatically” present him as an archangel.
            My response to Ms Schiffer was, “The word implies that there would be just one’head angel’, and other scriptures bear this out…” Since then we’ve been sorting through the difference between the words “archangel” and “angel”. [They are different, which is why some posters are having an unnecessary difficulty with the discussion.]
            “[Jesus] is already God and Man. I don’t understand how He’d also be an angel, too.” Your first statement is one I’m not obligated to believe, and is not part of this discussion. (Please read Rev 3:12.) Your second is true if angel = messenger [of God], since Jesus is often called “the word of God” (In Rev 19!) and delivered messages to Pilate, the disciples, the Sanhedrin, to Saul of Tarsus, and to any of us today who don’t avoid using “their eyes to see, their ears to hear”. Acts 28:25 ff.

          • Logan

            I’m not sure why you mention angel means messenger as this is fairly common knowledge. We refer to the angels as saints because they are in Heaven and therefore holy ones.

            St. Michael already enjoys an exclusivity as prince of the hosts of God as Catholic tradition holds (see the St. Michael prayer and chaplet) but he is not an exclusive archangel even if Scripture only outright names only him. The literal word with no extension of logic only reduces our understanding of Scripture and God.

            I say St. Raphael is automatically sorted out as an archangel or “chief-angel” is blatantly present on his nearly exclusive (shared with only 7 other angels) near presence to God.

            [Jesus] is already God and Man is certainly one is obligated to believe for orthodoxy. Rev. 3:12 does nothing to change this at all, I’m not sure why you brought this up as Jesus being fully Man would also mean God the Father is certainly His God as well. Remember our Lord’s words to Mary Magdalene? “I must ascend to My Father and your Father, My God and your God”? (Jn. 20: 17)

            Yes, Jesus is the Word of God but Him appearing to others after His death and Resurrection doesn’t make what we understand to be angels and their kind. A messenger? Sure, but He was already doing that of Himself while on Earth, too. He doesn’t become an incorporeal spirit after having already assumed human nature.

          • dougpruner

            Logan, thanks for your reasoned reply. I specified angel because of Ms Schiffer’s reply to me: “In the Catholic tradition, we also sometimes refer to them as ‘saints’ “. You in turn wrote this: “We refer to the angels as saints because they are in Heaven and therefore holy ones.” But there is or was at least one angel in Heaven who is not a “holy one”: “One day when the sons of God came to attend on Yahweh, among them came Satan… Another day, the sons of God came to attend on Yahweh and Satan came with them too” Job 1:6 ff., 2:1 ff. Note also Rev 7:1 ff.
            I don’t understand the relevance of your statement, “The literal word with no extension of logic”. The two- TWO- literal ‘angel’ words have different meanings. To say they do not is a failure of logic and language.
            The Tobit account of “near presence to God” is problematic even according to the scholars of the original Catholic Encylopedia, who also give alternate names for some of the seven, none of which are in any book whether of Catholic or Protestant canonicity.
            “[that Jesus] is already God and Man… certainly one is obligated to believe for orthodoxy”. I’m sorry, but I’m not Orthodox or orthodox, and I protest I’m not a Protestant. I’m a student of the Bible, history, and religious history. In one verse- Rev 3:12- the glorified, exalted Jesus states four times that he has a God. That gives us down here at least two to worship, if Jesus is also a “God”. The logical consequence of this is one that sent better men than we are to the stake many times.

            “Jesus being fully Man would also mean God the Father is certainly His God as well”. I’m sorry, that’s not supported by scripture. 1 Cor 15:44 says, “what is sown is a natural body, and what is raised is a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is a spiritual body.” The whole passage makes clear that Jesus does not now in Heaven have a human nature. That is Catholic dogma, yes, but contradicted by Paul. (In v.28 he confirms the subservience of Jesus to Yahweh: “When everything has been subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subjected to the One who has subjected everything to him, so that [Yahweh] may be all in all.”). BTW I use John 17:3, 20:17, and Rev 3:12 and 14:14, jointly or severally, as “go-to” scriptures on the Trinity. You’ve read them, the syntax can be followed by my third-graders, so please stay with the OP from now on.

            I apologize for the length of the post. My replies could be shorter if, in future, you show where a dogma is found in scripture- ‘the one you gave us…’ Then we can discuss it in scriptural terms, as Ms Schiffer began. Quotes are from the NJB at Catholic Online.

    • kathyschiffer

      Logan answered the question well, Doug. There is much we don’t understand about angels–but these three (Michael, Gabriel and Raphael) have a prominent role in Scripture. This article might help to explain: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/saint.php?n=609

      In the Catholic tradition, we also sometimes refer to them as “saints”–meaning that they are beings who are in the presence of God.

      • Guest_august

        St. Raphael the Archangel is one of the seven Archangels who stand
        before the throne of God. Over the centuries he has appeared to many
        Christians and made his presence felt. Prominent examples include St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds from the city of Naples, as well as numerous instances in the Cordoba region of Spain.

        see more: http://www.popeleo13.com/pope/2014/09/26/category-archive-message-boad-127-st-raphael-deuterocanonicals/

        • dougpruner

          Tobit says, ‘I am one of the seven ANGELS’, not archangels, as I noted to Logan, above.

      • dougpruner

        Thanks for the reply, Ms Schffer. You can see my reply to Logan also.
        I went to the site you suggested, but early on I found this: “Michael, whose forces cast down Lucifer and the evil spirits into Hell…” But Rev 12:7-9 concludes with this statement, “The great dragon, the primeval serpent, known as the devil or Satan, who had led all the world astray, was hurled down TO THE EARTH and his angels were hurled down with him.” (Catholic Online JB, emphasis added.) That is why v.12 says, “So let the heavens rejoice and all who live there; but for you, EARTH and sea, disaster is coming — because the devil has gone down to you in a rage, knowing that he has little time left.” I have to choose the scriptural account over the traditions of men. (Mr 7:8 ff.)
        Michael’s goal in casting out Satan was to cleanse Heaven, not to save mankind from Satan. That comes later.