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Peter speaks of a "roaring lion" on the prowl. I don't think anyone thinks that an actual lion is the problem. Nor does the Satan eat humans that I'm aware of.

[1Pe 5:8-11 CSB] (8) Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. (9) Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world. (10) The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while. (11) To him be dominion forever. Amen.

Given the then current persecution is it possible that the "roaring lion" is his unregenerate people in cahoots with Rome? Notice the references to the People roaring over the Messiah like a lion and the "many rulers" that trample God's vineyard (his People):

[Jer 12:7-10 NLT] (7) "I have abandoned my people, my special possession. I have surrendered my dearest ones to their enemies. (8) My chosen people have roared at me like a lion of the forest, so I have treated them with contempt. (9) My chosen people act like speckled vultures, but they themselves are surrounded by vultures. Bring on the wild animals to pick their corpses clean! (10) "Many rulers have ravaged my vineyard, trampling down the vines and turning all its beauty into a barren wilderness.

The association of a "roaring lion" with a "powerful ruler" runs deep:

[Pro 28:15 CSB] (15) A wicked ruler over a helpless people is like a roaring lion or a charging bear.

[Eze 22:25 CSB] (25) "The conspiracy of her prophets within her is like a roaring lion tearing its prey: they devour people, seize wealth and valuables, and multiply the widows within her.

[Pro 19:12 CSB] (12) A king's rage is like the roaring of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.

[Pro 20:2 CSB] (2) A king's terrible wrath is like the roaring of a lion; anyone who provokes him endangers himself.

The persecution of the time I'm referring to is the practice of Jews accusing Christians of practicing an illegal religion. If the Christian did not recant they would be charged with a capital offense.

Might the "adversary, the devil" actually be the Jews in cahoots with Rome?

Update

The question was raised as to whether Jews would "devour" a corpse either. I think perhaps the devouring is more in extracting economic benefit from the dead. The practice of denouncing a Christian as practicing an illegal religion was often prompted by financial incentive. For example, one might owe a Christian a large sum of money and opt rather to accuse them so they would die and you would keep the money.

Related:

[Eze 22:25 CSB] (25) "The conspiracy of her prophets within her is like a roaring lion tearing its prey: they devour people, seize wealth and valuables, and multiply the widows within her.

[Eze 22:27 NKJV] (27) "Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain.

[Mar 12:40 CSB] (40) "They devour widows' houses and say long prayers just for show. These will receive harsher judgment."

  • Are you saying that the Jews are lions and/or cannibals? If not, then if you can read it as a metaphor when applying to the Jews then why not for a demon?? – curiousdannii Nov 3 '19 at 1:47
  • @curiousdannii I added an update at the end to address your concern (as I understand it). If that doesn't answer your concern please let me know. – Ruminator Nov 3 '19 at 2:27
  • Is this a question dealing with biblical hermeneutics or opinion? – Seeker Nov 3 '19 at 5:31
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Yes, the immediate contemporary meaning was about the people who were persecuting the newly born, and young Christians or followers of The Way. The use of the KJV "devil" causes confusion. Even Young's Literal Translation uses it.

"Be sober, vigilant, because your opponent the devil, as a roaring lion, doth walk about, seeking whom he may swallow up, 9 whom resist, stedfast in the faith, having known the same sufferings to your brotherhood in the world to be accomplished." (1 Pet. 5:8=9, YLT)

But, it is translated more correctly in the Complete Jewish Bible.

"Stay sober, stay alert! Your enemy, the Adversary, stalks about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Stand against him, firm in your trust, ..."

The use of "ha satan" from the Hebrew indicates a position against God, a stand against God, and was not a name of one adversary or of one entity. It should never have been read as such. We do not say "the David", or "the Joe", or "the Mark". The definite article is used however when we say "the doctor", or "the nurse", or "the district attorney". It is a role function, and there have been many adversaries standing against God in every generation throughout time.

The context of the chapter is an admonition for the leaders of the assemblies to be good shepherds, to feed the flock with the true words of the Messiah, the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4). The capitalization was purposely naming Christ as the Chief Shepherd, their role model.

The role or job function of the shepherd to the flock was used over and over throughout the OT as the job function of the priests, prophets, and of the kings to lead the people in understanding God's Law and purpose for them, to keep them from evil ways (Jer. 23:22).

"15 And Moses speaketh unto Jehovah, saying, 16 `Jehovah -- God of the spirits of all flesh -- appoint a man over the company,

17 who goeth out before them, and who cometh in before them, and who taketh them out, and who bringeth them in, and the company of Jehovah is not as sheep which have no shepherd.'" (Num. 27:15-17, YLT)

The word "as" indicated the comparison of the people of God to sheep, and as sheep can be very simple dumb animals who will stand in a puddle of water bleeping until someone will come help them out of it, the comparison is not very complimentary, but rather apt for the nature of man.

The use of animal comparisons and similes indicated the different natures of people. The sheep who were trying to follow God, the Shepherd (Psa. 23:1) were always the exploited of the wicked, greedy, tyrannical people who succumbed to selfish temptations and were repeatedly described as and compared to wild beasts - wolves, bears, lions, leopards, etc. - whose animal nature are to hunt and feed off the domesticated animals.

"And David saith unto Saul, `A shepherd hath thy servant been to his father among the sheep, and the lion hath come -- and the bear -- and hath taken away a sheep out of the drove," (1 Sam. 17:34, YLT)

Jer. 23 follows the discussion of the condemnation of the actions of the king of Judah in Jer. 22.

"1 Wo to shepherds destroying, And scattering the flock of My pasture, An affirmation of Jehovah.

2 Therefore, thus said Jehovah, God of Israel, Against the shepherds who feed My people, Ye have scattered My flock, and drive them away, And have not inspected them, Lo, I am charging on you the evil of your doings, An affirmation of Jehovah." (Jer. 23:1-2, YLT)

Jer. 50:6-7:

"6 A perishing flock hath My people been, Their shepherds have caused them to err, [To] the mountains causing them to go back, From mountain unto hill they have gone, They have forgotten their crouching-place.

7 All finding them have devoured them, And their adversaries have said: We are not guilty, Because that they sinned against Jehovah, The habitation of righteousness, And the hope of their fathers -- Jehovah." (YLT)

And, their persecutors were the lions.

"17 A scattered sheep is Israel, lions have driven away, At first, devour him did the king of Asshur, And now, at last, broken his bone Hath Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon." (Jer. 50:17, YLT)

This comparison of the evil and wicked priests and kings to wolves and lions that fed off the sheep of the flock of God was used again in Ezek. 34; condemning the "shepherds of Israel" who enriched themselves at the expense of the flock is very clear.

"And they are scattered from want of a shepherd, And are for food to every beast of the field, Yea, they are scattered." (Ezek. 34:5, YLT)

"...Lo, I [am] against the shepherds, And have required My flock from their hand, And caused them to cease from feeding the flock, And no more do the shepherds feed themselves, And I have delivered My flock from their mouth, And they are not to them for food." (Ezek. 34:10, YLT)

"And I have made for them a covenant of peace, And caused evil beasts to cease out of the land, And they have dwelt in a wilderness confidently, And they have slept in forests." (Ezek. 34:25, YLT)

"And they are no more a prey to nations, And the beast of the earth devoureth them not, And they have dwelt confidently, And there is none troubling." (Ezek. 34:28, YLT)

The wicked leaders of the people were always compared to the wolves and lions and bears that fed off the righteous.

"...As the shepherd delivereth from the lion's mouth Two legs, or a piece of an ear, So delivered are the sons of Israel, ... " (Amos 3:12, YLT)

The pattern is clearly supported for the same comparison in the NT, and is the same meaning in 1 Pet. 5:8 of the wicked people who were enriching themselves off of the flock of God. Peter's admonition to the leaders of the assemblies were to be aware of and avoid the wicked adversaries of that century, and as those wicked, roaming "lions" of old, the comparison was again to the priests who were feeding off the flock of God... the Sanhedrin and all their agents.

The application can be made to every generation to all those wicked, selfish people who kill, and extort the righteous for their own enrichment. God considers them to be as lions feeding off the people.

Proper exegesis is not opinion. Scripture interprets scripture, and keeping scripture in context is very enlightening.

(All bold emphasis is mine.)

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  • Awesome answer, thanks Gina. – Ruminator Nov 4 '19 at 15:13
  • 1 Peter 2:11Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. – Seeker Nov 4 '19 at 19:51
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The question, like most of the questions in Biblical Hermeneutics SE is more about opinions, than the correct, or more detailed, translation choice of the text, seen or not seen in different Bibles.

The view of Jews, who also have teachings about the devil, is that the term is a personification of the selfish drives of the human nature.

Human Nature

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The yetzer ra is generally seen as something internal to a person, not as an external force acting on a person. The idea that "the devil made me do it" is not in line with the majority of thought in Judaism. Although it has been said that Satan and the yetzer ra are one and the same, this is more often understood as meaning that Satan is merely a personification of our own selfish desires, rather than that our selfish desires are caused by some external force.

People have the ability to choose which impulse to follow: the yetzer tov or the yetzer ra. That is the heart of the Jewish understanding of free will. The Talmud notes that all people are descended from Adam, so no one can blame his own wickedness on his ancestry. On the contrary, we all have the ability to make our own choices, and we will all be held responsible for the choices we make.

Personifying aspects of God and humanity is not rare:

Jesus, God's Wisdom, and the Trinity

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The background with Wisdom Christology is found in the concept of hypostasis. What is a hypostasis? Broadly defined, it is a quasi-personification of attributes proper to a deity, occupying an intermediate position between personalities and abstract beings.

In the Ancient Near East here are some examples:

Hu and Sia, in Egyptian tradition the creative word and understanding of Re-Atum

Ma'at, also Egyptian, a personification of right order in nature and society, a creation of Re

Mesaru and Kettu, or Righteousness and Right, Akkadian hypostases conceived of as qualities of the sun-god, or as gifts granted by him, or sometimes as personal beings or independent deities

the divine word, which proceeds via the character of breath and wind, in Sumerian and Akkadian literature

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