How could angels oppose G-d’s creation of human beings?

The Talmud teaches that an exchange took place between G-d and three consecutive groups of angels before the creation of Adam, the first man.

This is related and explained on p. 42 of the book “True Existence”, which is an English translation and explanation of a Hassidic discourse by the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel (available from Kehot; see Quoting from the book (Footnote 115):

“[Tractate Sanhedrin 38b relates:]

When G-d sought to create man, He [first] created a group of ministering angels and asked them: ‘Is it your will that we create man in our image?’ [cf. Genesis 1:26]

They replied: ‘Master of the universe, what are his deeds?’

G-d said: ‘Such and such will be his deeds’ [i.e., both good and evil].

They said: ‘Master of the universe! What is man that You should remember him, the son of man that You should be mindful of him?’ [Psalms 8:5]

G-d then extended His little finger among them and consumed them [with fire; the same thing happened with a second group].

[The third group said to Him: Master of the universe, what did it avail the former angels that they spoke to You as they did? The whole world is Yours, and whatever that You alone wish to do therein, do it.]

Seraph Angel

The meaning of these allegories

The extending of G-d’s ‘little finger’ refers to a revelation of the tenth and lowest of the ten sefirot [the ten Divine attributes, the lowest of which is:] malchut [kingship, which is] the source for creation. When this source is revealed to the created entity, the entity loses its [sense of independent] being. By consuming the angels through revelation, G-d answered their question regarding the value of the creation of mankind: that mankind, through the fulfillment of G-d’s will on the physical plane, would [merit to] transcend the limitations inherent to creation [including even the angels] and would be able to receive revelation [in the Messianic Era] without losing [a sense of independent] existence.”

In other words, angels are created and exist in the spiritual levels within which G-d makes a purposeful concealment (at least somewhat) of His revelation, and the angels themselves are part of that process by which G-d conceals Himself. Therefore, they are not capable of understanding why G-d would create a physically limited being to whom He is planning to reveal Himself.

Thus, a conflict arises in the angels’ psyche whenever they learn that G-d is about to make a major revelation in the physical world, that will significantly advance the process of His eventual open revelation to mankind. Based on the limitations of their created intellect, the angels are destined to question G-d about His intention to bring about these events. They ask whether that is really something that He wants to do, and how it could be justified in a frame of reference that they – as spiritual holy beings – could understand.

Opposition from angels to critical events of G-dly revelation in the world

There are critical times in history when this took place. It happened at the creation of Adam, and the exodus from Egypt and the splitting of the Red Sea. It also happened at the giving of the first tablets of the Ten Commandments from Heaven to Moses on Mount Sinai. The Midrash recounts how Moses had to argue against the angels that the Torah’s commandments were intended for humans on earth, and not for the angels in Heaven.

The ultimate justification is that G-d desires a dwelling place (a place where He can be openly revealed) in the lowest created realm. Therefore the future eternal dwelling place for His revelation will be specifically with human beings in this physical world in the ultimate stage of the Messianic Era, which will be the World to Come. It is the observance of G-d’s Noahide commandments and Jewish commandments from His Torah (which literally means “instruction”) that provides the means for preparing ourselves and the world for this ultimate state in which we will merit to have eternal physical existence while experiencing the open revelation of G-d.