Who is Satan to Us?

Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William Jackson

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After leaving the church and beginning to only read my Tanakh, I started to realize Christianity’s obsession with Satan.  You see, my new mission in life is to unlearn those teachings found in the Christian testament (NT) and try to refine my walk using Tanakh only.  Sometimes it’s hard; thoughts come into my head and I have to ask myself, “Is that really in God’s scriptures or is that in the NT?” When it comes to the topic of Satan in the NT, it can be overwhelming.  For instance, the NT mentions demons over 60 times, and almost half of its books talk about Satan.  Conversely, the Tanakh never talks about people being possessed by demons, and only three books even mention Satan.  Furthermore, even Satan’s appearances in these books are limited.  We will discuss here the three times Satan is mentioned in the Tanakh to better understand who or what he is to us.

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For starters, it appears that Satan’s roll is to challenge people.  The first time the Tanakh mentions him is in the Book of Job, where God allows him to impose hardships on Job (Job 1:6-2:7).  Many people see this exchange in terms of a competition between God and Satan, but God is clearly in charge and establishes certain restraints on Satan (Job 2:7).  After this verse, we do not hear about Satan again.  The majority of the Book of Job is dialogue between Job and his friends as they contemplate the purpose behind Job’s misfortunes.  The point of the Book of Job is not to introduce Satan but to inspire readers to ponder the age old question “Why do the righteous suffer?”1 God enters the conversation starting in Chapter 38 by challenging Job’s weakness with His divine wisdom and omnipotence2.  Satan, merely a facilitator, did his job and moved on.

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Satan resurfaces in the Tanakh over a millennium later where we see him swaying King David. 1 Chronicles states that Satan prompted King David to take a census (1 Chronicles 21:1).  Apparently, this was wrong and angered God, and He ended up punishing Israel for this infraction (1 Chronicles 21:7).  Over 1,400 years earlier, God did have Israel take a census in Exodus in order to receive contributions for His Tabernacle (Exodus 30:13).  So, what was the difference?  One of the possibilities is that if a count took place without God’s command, then the census could have communicated the idea that a king or a human leader owned Israel, when God alone owned the land. Regardless of the reason, we know that David should not have done this, and his action angered God.  At this point we need to say to ourselves, “If Satan truly possessed David, David wouldn’t have been able to control his own actions and God probably would not have punished him”.  However, the truth is that David more than likely gave into his own evil inclination (Yetzer Hara). Instead of resisting temptation, David disobeyed God, and thus he was punished. God counseled Cain in Genesis 4:7, and David and the rest of us need to adhere to this same advice: “…rule over our own sin”.

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The third and last time Satan is mentioned is in the Book of Zechariah.  Here Satan is making an accusation against Israel’s High Priest, Jeshua. God rebukes Satan for his accusations.  But these are prophecies much like Daniel’s visions in Daniel 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 1 and 12. In Zechariah chapters 1-6, the scriptures portray Zechariah’s visions as rich in symbolism.  For example, shortly after these verses in which God rebukes Satan, Jeshua is said to be wearing a dingy garment.  An angel then changes them for clean ones.  After this the angel exclaims, “…I have taken away your sins…” (Zechariah 3:3-4).  Later in chapter 6 Jeshua is crowned High Priest.  Again these are all visions because Jeshua was already the High Priest before Zechariah was ever written.  The Book of Zechariah recalls the nation’s past history for the purpose of relating a solemn warning to the present generation3.  Satan is used in this story to symbolically accentuate the sin of Israel.  The representation now becomes God rebuking Satan, which means that Israel was forgiven (Zechariah 3:2).

Satan and JC

In conclusion, the Satan talked about in the Tanakh is not the same one the Christians portray in their books.  The Christians give Satan something of a godly status (2 Corinthians 4:4, 1 John 5:19, Ephesians 2:2).  As we reviewed in Tanakh, the first two times Satan was mentioned, he was a mere underling to God.  The third and last time Satan makes an appearance in Tanakh, he is simply a vision that is used to spur on a story about Israel’s past sins.

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Reference:

  1. Lawson, Steven J. Job. B&H Publishing Group., 2005

 

  1. Sawyer, John F.A. “Job”. In Lieb, Michael; Mason, Emma; Roberts, Jonathan. The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible. Oxford University Press. 2013

 

  1. Carol L. Meyers Haggai, Zechariah 1-8 Vol.25B The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries 1987
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Was Satan Cast out of Heaven?

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William Jackson

Most of us have heard the story about Lucifer (or Satan), being cast out of heaven.  As the story goes, he was cast down to earth from heaven and took a third of the angels with him.  For those of us who left the church to live a more Tanakh centric life, this story still resonates with us, and many of us ask, “How much of it is true?”. As I remember, there were verses in both the Christian New and Old Testament that back up the story of Lucifer and his troupe being thrown out of heaven.  Let us find out which parts of this story are true and which are false in the Tanakh, God’s word.

This story is actually in the Tanakh, in Isaiah:

“O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12).

Christian commentary says that the “morning star” is Satan.

Actually, “morning star” is called “O Lucifer” in less than half of the Christian Bibles:

Isaiah 14:12 How art thou fallen from heaven, *O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! (KJV)

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*The word for Lucifer is actually “Helel” (1966), which is “morning” or “star of the morning” in Hebrew.

This verse on its own doesn’t imply Satan.  Yet, when you add it to the Christian Testament (NT), it gives the verse new possibilities.  If we look into the NT it defines what a falling star is – the Christian messiah says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18), and in the book of the Revelation, Satan is seen as “a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth” (Revelation 9:1).  Attaching these Christian verses, it really feels like Isaiah is talking about Satan.

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Yet, what is confounding is that when we read further in Revelations, we see the Christian messiah is being referred to as a “morning star” in Revelation 22:16.

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Actually in Revelation 22:16 Christians connect their messiah with King David because David was considered a shooting star.  This idea is found in Numbers 24:17 were it implies the foreshadowing of David as a future warrior:

“I see it, but not now; I behold it, but not soon. A star has gone forth from Jacob, and a staff will arise from Israel which will crush the princes of *Moab and uproot all the sons of Seth” 

*King David would be the one to crush (defeat) the Moabites in II Samuel 8:2 about 1,400 years later.

“So who is “the Star” in Isaiah 14:12?”

The Jewish say that the “morning star” is Venus, which gives light as the morning star.  Venus starts out brightly but then fades away.  The analogy here can be applied to the Babylonian ruler1.

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If we read before this verse in Isaiah 14:1-4 we see that it is talking about how Adonai will allow the Jewish people to defeat Babylon.  The demise referred to in Isaiah 14:12-15 is not Satan being thrown from heaven but Nebuchadnezzar being thrown out of power.

Actually, Isaiah chapters 13 through 22 are Isaiah’s Prophesies against the Nations and have nothing to do with the Christian prince of darkness.  There is ample evidence that much of Isaiah was composed during the Babylonian captivity2.  Therefore, it makes sense that this passage is really about King Nebuchadnezzar being dethroned.

As many of us know, due to Israel’s rebellion, God allowed Babylon to capture them.  In Jeremiah 28:14 God states “‘I have put a yoke of iron on the necks of all these nations, so that they can serve N’vukhadnetzar (Nebuchadnezzar) king of Bavel (Babylon)’”.  Isaiah’s prophecies about Babylon dying out “like a morning star” came to fruition when the Babylonian captivity ended as stated in Ezra 2:1.

As such, the Tanakh really never states that Satan was thrown out of heaven.  It is talking about the fall of Babylon’s ruler King Nebuchadnezzar.  So what about the part where a third of the angels leave heaven?

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This can be found in Revelation 12:4:

“Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born.”

As we know much of Revelations was plagiarized from the Book of Daniel.  This segment is no different, and it was taken from Daniel 8:10.  Daniel is rich in symbolism but the stars here do not resemble anything demonic.  In fact, quite the opposite – they are symbolic of Israel (Genesis 15:5, 22:17, 26:4).

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The only other place where it talks about angels being cast of heaven is the Book of Jubilee.  The Book of Jubilee never made it into the canonization of the Tanakh because of doubt with regards to its authorship and authenticity3.  It can, however, be found in the Apocrypha.

As we see, when we are willing to cross reference verses in the Tanakh the truth becomes evident.  There have been sermons, books, and doctrines based off an interpretation that could have been disproven if whoever made these assumptions was willing to read before and after this single passage – amazing!

This leaves us with the question “Who is Satan to us,”  we will answer that in next week’s article.

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Reference

(1)        Tovia Singer, Who Is Satan? Outreach Judaism

 

(2)        Sweeney, Marvin A.  “The Latter Prophets”. In McKenzie, Steven L.; Graham, Matt Patrick. The Hebrew Bible Today: An Introduction to Critical Issues. Westminster John Knox Press., 1998

 

(3)        The Book of Jubilees – What is it? Should the Book of Jubilees be in the Bible? Compelling Truth, n.d.