Truth, Understanding, Insight

Devil and Satan

1st March 2008, mgh


2) Satan

In the O.T the Hebrew word for adversary or opponent is 'satan' and this is where we obtain our word satan from. It is directly taken untranslated from the Hebrew. It is an ordinary word that has the meaning of an 'enemy' or an 'adversary'. It is only used 19 times and it may be used in the sense that a person is an evil adversary, or in some cases, the person is not evil in intent, but opposes the will of God.

The case of Balaam is an interesting example of the use of the word 'satan' in the Old Testament. Balaam lived at the time when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness after fleeing from slavery in Egypt. God had told the prophet Balaam not to go on a hired mission for Balak, who wanted Balaam to curse the Israelites. Balaam disobeyed the Lord's instruction and set out to curse the nation. Riding on an ass he found his way blocked by an angel. “The angel of the Lord stood in his way as his adversary (or enemy)”. (Numbers 22: 22)

The angel told Balaam, “Behold. I am come forth to withstand you.” (Numbers 22: 32) This literally means that the angel was standing in his way “to be an adversary to you.” This is the first time that the word 'satan' appears in the Biblical records. This 'satan' is a good angel, “the angel of the Lord”, who is doing what God wants. The angel stood before Balaam as an adversary and this demonstrates the meaning of the word 'satan' as was intended: an 'enemy' or 'adversary' to the Lord's will.

David accused Joab and his brothers of being his adversaries (i.e. satans). “Why should you (Joab and his brothers) be adversaries (satans) unto me?” (2 Samuel 19: 22) There are other similar instances where men are described as 'satan' in the O.T. Another interesting example of the use of the word satan occurs in the parallel records of David's numbering of Israel.

“And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go number Israel and Judah.” (2 Samuel 24: 1)

Now consider the parallel record.

“And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.” (1 Chronicles 21: 1)

The 'Satan', or 'adversary', of Israel was the LORD, who 'provoked' or 'moved' David to number Israel and who was to bring about punishment on Israel. This becomes obvious from a comparison of these two accounts.

Job is described in Job chapter one as a God-fearing man. Job 1: 6 states that “there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.” The term “sons of God” is frequently used in the Bible to refer to men and women who worship God in sincerity. Isaiah records that God said, “Bring my sons from far and my daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by my name.” (Isaiah 43: 6-7) The apostle John wrote of the faithful that “we are God's children now.” (1 John 3: 2).(for more detail seeSons of God.)

So that in Job 1, those who present themselves to worship God included in their midst an adversary, one who opposed God's will. In this instance the translators of the well known versions have not been fair to the text. They have used a capitol S for satan. They could have rendered it simply as “an adversary came among them.” The A.V and R.S.V give 'Adversary' for Satan in their margin references, again with no justification for the capital but at least it clarifies the meaning of the word. This example shows a person with evil intent.

The New Testament presents another illustration of the use of the term 'satan'. Jesus refers to Peter as 'satan'. One must immediately ask how Peter, a very faithful apostle, could ever be classed as 'satan'. The context clearly explains the reason. Peter fully believed that Jesus was Israel's long expected Messiah. However, there were aspects of God's purpose that as yet he did not fully comprehend. Peter had declared that he knew that Jesus was “the Christ (or anointed), the Son of the living God.” However, when Jesus explained that he had to go to Jerusalem where he would be killed by the Jews, and then rise again from the dead, Peter vehemently opposed this and he expressed his view that this would never happen to Jesus. Jesus replied to Peter, “Get thee behind me 'satan' thou savourest not the things that be of God.”

Peter was advocating things that were against the plan and purpose that God had for the salvation of mankind, through the sacrifice of His son. Peter was thinking from his own point of view, and not as the prophetic word required and as revealed by the ancient prophets of Israel. He had to learn that the establishment of God's kingdom on earth and the Messiah's rule in Jerusalem was for a long time in the future and the hope of redemption had yet to be extended to the Gentiles, who are those who are not Jews. Peter was to become one of the apostles to extend the hope of the Kingdom to the Gentiles. This incident shows that this 'satan' was a man, a faithful man, but he was advocating something that was contrary to the will and purpose of God.

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