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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Satan

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SATAN

1. In the OT . The term Satan is Hebrew and means ‘adversary.’ In the earlier usage of the language it is employed in the general sense of ‘adversary,’ personal or national: (cf. e.g. Numbers 22:22 , 2 Samuel 19:22 , 1 Kings 5:4 ; 1 Kings 11:25 etc.). In such passages no trace of a distinct being designated ‘Satan’ is to be seen. Such a being meets us for the first time in the OT in the prologue (chs. 1 and 2) of the Bk. of Job, in the person of one of ‘the sons of God’ who bears the title of ‘the Satan.’ Here Satan appears as a member of the celestial council of angelic beings who have access to the presence of God. His special function is to watch over human affairs and beings with the object of searching out men’s sins and accusing them in the celestial court. He is thus invested with a certain malevolent and malignant character; but it is to be observed that he has no power to act without the Divine permission being first obtained, and cannot, therefore, be regarded as the embodiment of the power that opposes the Deity. In Zechariah 3:2 essentially the same view of ‘the Satan’ is presented. But in 1 Chronicles 21:1 (‘And Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel’) the personality of this being is more distinct: he appears now as ‘Satan’ (a proper name without the article), the tempter who is able to provoke David to number Israel. This is the Chronicler’s (4th or 3rd cent. b.c.) reading of the incident which in the earlier narrative ( 2 Samuel 24:1 ) is ascribed to the direct action of God Himself. Here (in Chron.) the work of Satan is apparently conceived of as more or less independent of, and opposed to, the Divine action.

2. In the extra-canonical literature of the OT . In the later (apocryphal) literature of pre-Christian Judaism the dualistic tendency becomes more pronounced a tendency powerfully affected by Persian influence, it would seem, which is also apparent in the development of an elaborate Jewish angelology and demonology. This is most clearly visible in the apocalyptic literature . In the oldest part of the Bk. of Enoch (chs. 1 36), dating, perhaps, from about b.c. 180, the origin of the demons is traced to the fall of the angelic watchers, the ‘sons of God’ who corrupted themselves with the ‘daughters of men’ ( Genesis 6:1 f.). It was from the offspring of these sinful unions the ‘giants’ or nephîlîm that the demons were sprung. Of these demons the Asmodæus of the Bk. of Tobit ( Tob 3:8 ; Tob 3:17 ) seems to have been regarded as the king (Bab. [Note: Babylonian.] Pes . 110 a ). The name Asmodœus (or in Heb. Ashmedai ) has plausibly been connected with the ancient Persian Aeshma daeva, i.e. ‘the covetous or lustful demon’; in its Hebrew form it suggests the meaning ‘destroyer’ or ‘bringer of destruction,’ and this demon may be intended by ‘the destroyer’ of Wis 18:25 and by the Apollyon (= ‘Destroyer’) of Revelation 9:11 . In the latest part of the Bk. of Enoch, however, the so-called ‘Similitudes’ (chs. xxxvii lxxi), which perhaps dates from about b.c. 64, ‘the fallen watchers’ (and their descendants) are carefully distinguished from the Satans, who apparently belong to ‘a counter kingdom of evil’ which existed before the fall of the watchers recorded in Genesis 6:1 , the latter, in consequence of their fall, becoming subject to the former. Apparently these ‘Satans’ are ruled by a single chief, who is styled ‘Satan’ in one passage (Enoch 54.6). ‘Their functions were threefold: they tempted to evil (69.4, 6); they accused the dwellers upon earth (40.7); they punished the condemned. In this last character they are technically called “angels of punishment” (53.3, 56.1, 62.11, 63.1)’ (Charles).

In the Bk. of Wisdom ( Wis 2:24 : ‘by the envy of the devil death entered into the world’) we already meet with the identification of the Serpent of Genesis 3:1-24 with Satan, which afterwards became a fixed element in belief, and an allusion to the same idea may be detected in the Psalms of Song of Solomon 4:11 , where the prosperous wicked man is said to be ‘like a serpent, to pervert wisdom, speaking with the words of transgressors.’ The same identification also meets us in the Book of the Secrets of Enoch (? 1st cent. a.d.), where, moreover, satanology shows a rich development (the pride, revolt, and fall of Satan are dwelt upon). Cf. art. Fall.

The secondary Jewish (Rabbinical) Literature which is connected with the text of the OT (esp. the Targums and the Midrashim) naturally reflects beliefs that were current at a later time. But they are obviously connected closely with those that have already been mentioned. The Serpent of Genesis 3:1-24 becomes ‘the old serpent’ who seduced Adam and Eve. The chief of the Satans is Sammael, who is often referred to as ‘the angel of death’: and in the Secrets of Enoch he is prince of the demons and a magician. It is interesting to note that in the later Midrash one of the works of Messiah ben-Joseph is the slaying of Sammael, who is ‘the Satan, the prime mover of all evil.’ In the earlier literature his great opponent is the archangel Michael. The Rabbinic doctrine of the ‘evil impulse’ ( yetser ra ’), which works within man like a leaven ( Berak . 17a), looks like a theological refinement, which has sometimes been combined with the popular view of Satan (Satan works his evil purpose by the instrumentality of the ‘evil impulse’).

3. In the NT . In the NT, Satan and his kingdom are frequently referred to. Sometimes the Hebrew name ‘Satan’ is used ( e.g. Mark 3:26 ; Mark 4:15 etc.), sometimes its Greek equivalent ( diabolos: cf. our word ‘diabolical’), which is translated ‘devil,’ and which means ‘accuser’ or ‘calumniator.’ In Matthew 12:26-27 (cf. Matthew 10:25 ) Satan is apparently identified with Beelzebub (or Beelzebul), and is occasionally designated ‘the evil one’ ( Matthew 13:19 ; Matthew 13:38 etc.; so, perhaps, also in the Lord’s Prayer: ‘deliver us from the evil one ’). Some scholars are of opinion that the name Beelzebub means not ‘fly-god’ but ‘enemy’ ( i.e. the enemy of God). He is called the ‘prince of the devils (or demons)’ in Matthew 12:24 , just as Sammael, ‘the great prince in heaven,’ is designated the ‘chief of Satans’ in the Midrash.

The demonology that confronts us in the NT has striking points of contact with that which is developed in the Enochic literature. The main features of the latter, in fact, reappear. The ‘angels which kept not their first estate’ (Judges 1:6 , 2 Peter 2:4 ) are the angelic watchers whose fall through lust is described in Enoch 6 16. Their punishment is to be kept imprisoned in perpetual darkness. In Enoch the demons, who are represented as the evil spirits which went forth from the souls of the giant offspring of the fallen watchers, exercise an evil activity, working moral ruin on the earth till the final judgment. In exactly the same way the demons are described in the NT as disembodied spirits ( Matthew 12:43-45 , Luke 11:24-26 ). The time of their punishment is to be the final judgment (cf. Matthew 8:29 : ‘Art thou come hither to torment us before the time ?’). They belong to and are subject to Satan. As in the Book of Enoch, Satan is represented in the NT as the ruler of a counter-kingdom of evil (cf. Matthew 12:26 , Luke 11:13 ‘if Satan cast out Satan, how shall his kingdom stand?’); he led astray angels ( Revelation 12:4 ) and men ( 2 Corinthians 11:3 ); his functions are to tempt ( Matthew 4:1-12 , Luke 22:31 ), to accuse ( Revelation 12:10 ), and to punish ( 1 Corinthians 5:5 : impenitent sinners delivered over to Satan for destruction of the flesh). It should be added that in the Fourth Gospel and Johannine Epp. the lesser demonic agencies disappear. Opposition is concentrated in the persons of Christ and the devil. The latter is the ruler of this world ( John 16:11 ), and enslaves men to himself through sin. The Son of God is manifested for the express purpose of destroying the devil’s works ( 1 John 3:8 ).

Both in St. Paul (cf. Romans 16:20 , 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 ) and in the Apocalypse Satan is identified with the Serpent of Genesis 3:1-24 . It is also noteworthy that St. Paul shared the contemporary belief that angelic beings inhabited the higher (heavenly) regions, and that Satan also with his retinue dwelt not beneath the earth, but in the lower atmospheric region; cf. Ephesians 2:2 , where ‘the prince of the power of the air’ = Satan (cf. also Ephesians 6:12 and Luke 10:13 ‘I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven ’). For Satan’s rôle in the Apocalypse see art. Eschatology. Cf. also art. Devil.

4. The attitude of our Lord towards the Satan-belief . Our Lord, as is clearly apparent in the Synoptic tradition, recognized the existence and power of a kingdom of evil, with organized demonic agencies under the control of a supreme personality, Satan or Beelzebub. These demonic agencies are the source of every variety of physical and moral evil. One principal function of the Messiah is to destroy the works of Satan and his subordinates ( Mark 1:24 ; Mark 1:34 ; Mark 3:11-12 ; Mark 3:15 etc.). Maladies traced to demonic possession play a large part in the Synoptic narratives (see Devil, Possession). In the expulsion of demons by His disciples, Jesus sees the overthrow of Satan’s power ( Luke 10:13 ). The evil effected by Satanic agency is intellectual and moral as well as physical ( Mark 4:15 , Matthew 13:19 ; Matthew 13:33 ; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4 ). That our Lord accepted the reality of such personal agencies of evil cannot seriously be questioned; nor is it necessary to endeavour to explain this fact away. The problem is to some extent a psychological one. Under certain conditions and in certain localities the sense of the presence and potency of evil personalities has been painfully and oppressively felt by more than one modern European, who was not prone to superstition. It is also literally true that the light of the gospel and the power of Christ operate still in such cases to ‘destroy the works of darkness’ and expel the demons.

G. H. Box.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Satan'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/s/satan.html. 1909.

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