4

There are certainly other passages that refer to this malevolent being (Job 1:6, 2:1, Revelation 12:7-9).

But what do we really know of him? Since he cannot be eternal, when might he have been created, and for what purpose? Is there anything we can know regarding the "Slanderer's" or "Accuser's" origin and mission that does not rely on passages from Isaiah 14:12 and Ezekiel 28?

It seems very curious that, at the very least, he is fulfilling God's Plan (Gen. 3:1-5, Job 1:6, 2:1).

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    Actually, "Satan" is not mentioned in Gen 3. The first we find such a character is in Job 1 & 2.
    – Dottard
    May 31 at 23:24
  • @Dottard This is true. I was tempted to use the word "serpent" but felt that might be confusing to some. Thanks for the comment.
    – Xeno
    May 31 at 23:35
  • @Dottard (Satan) Yes he is - but not by name. And if you really want to get fussy, he isn’t mentioned (by name) in Job either!
    – Dave
    Jun 1 at 3:57
  • What do you mean by “Since he cannot be eternal”?
    – Dave
    Jun 1 at 3:58
  • @Dave - I agree that Satan appears in Gen 3 but not by that name as my quotes makes clear.
    – Dottard
    Jun 1 at 5:00
1

If, as many believe, the Book of Job is the earliest book of the Bible ever written, then "Satan" appears in the first chapter. Here is a list of cases where "Satan" appears as a person with super-human capabilities and as adversary:

  • Job 1:6, 7 - One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. “Where have you come from?” said the LORD to Satan. “From roaming through the earth,” he replied, “and walking back and forth in it.” See also Job 1:8, 9, 12, 2:1, 3, 4, 6, 7.
  • Zech 3:1 - Then the angel showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, with Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
  • 1 Chron 21:1 - Then Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. [Compare 2 Sam 24:1.]

In the NT, "Satan", Σατανᾶς is a transliteration of the Hebrew, שָׂטָן and occurs 36 times in the NT from Matthew to Revelation. Significantly, as BDAG describes this word thus:

in our literature, only as a title or name: (the) Satan , in a very special sense, the enemy of God and all those who belong to God, simply, Satan, the enemy ... almost always with the article. [For more details in the extensive entry, see BDAG.]

Note that not only does Σατανᾶς almost always appear with the article, but it also occurs in the vocative case, eg, Matt 4:10, 16:23, Mark 8:33, where Jesus directly addresses Satan.

Other Names

In two places in Revelation Satan is given alternate titles:

  • Rev 12:9 - The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
  • Rev 20:2 - He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. This confirms what is already revealed in other places that when διάβολος has the article, “The Devil”, it is referring to "Satan", eg,
  • Compare Matt 4:1, 5, 8, 11 with V10
  • Luke 4:2, 3, 5, 6, 13 tells the same story of Jesus' temptations.

In Matt 10:25, 12:24, 27, Mark 3:22, Luke 11:15, 18, 19, Satan is given the name Βεελζεβούλ, (Beelzeboul), "lord of flies", a false god of the Ekronites (2 Kings 1:2) - a Jewish name of extreme contempt.

In the rest of the New Testament Satan is either given the proper name “Satan” (Acts 5:3, 2 Cor 2:10, 11, 11:14, 2 Thess 2:9, 10, 1 Tim 5:14, 15, Rev 3:9), or “devil” (Matt 4:10, 11, 2 Tim 2:26, Eph 6:11, Rev 12:9, 1 John 3:8), “the serpent” (Rev 12:9, 15, 20:2), “the dragon” (Rev 12:9, 20:3), “Beelzebub” (Matt 12:24), “Belial” (2 Cor 6:15), “the temper” (Matt 4:3), “the enemy” (Matt 13:39), “the evil one” (Matt 5:37, 13:35, John 17:15, 2 Thess 3:3, 1 John 2:13, 14, 5:18), “the adversary” (1 Peter 5:8), “the thief” (John 10:10), “father of lies” (John 8:44), “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2), “ruler of this world” (John 12:31), and “the deceiver” (Rev 12:9).

Thus, both the OT and the NT treat Satan as personal being just as much as any other person whether human or otherwise, including vocative address. The theology of Satan is far more highly developed in the NT than the OT.

Satan is popularly and incorrectly called “Lucifer” - this word/title does not appear in the Hebrew.

Origin

Several passages in the NT describe Satan and his minions as falling from heaven to earth such as Luke 10:18, Rev 8"10, 9:1, 12:8, 9, 13. These all appear to allude to the poetic/symbolic references in Isa 114:12-15 and Eze 28:12-17.

Lastly, the naming of Satan as the "serpent" in Rev 12:9, 20:2 appears to allude to the very thinly veiled description of the serpent in Gen 3 where the name "Satan" does NOT appear.

APPENDIX "Lucifer"

It will come as a shock to some that the name “Lucifer” does not occur in the Hebrew Bible; it is in neither the Hebrew text nor the Greek text. It is an unfortunate translation of the KJV (and of John Wycliffe) in Isa 14:12 which most modern versions do not have. What are the facts?

  • The Hebrew word in Isa 14:12 is “helel”, meaning, “shining one”, from the root word, “halal” meaning, “to shine”. The word was used to describe Venus, the morning (or evening) star (actually a planet!), but which easily outshines Sirius. The complete phrase in the Hebrew is “helel ben-shachar” meaning “Venus, son of the morning”, or, “Morning star, son of the morning”.
  • The Septuagint (in Greek) translated the word, “heosphoros” which means, “Morning star”. This translation is correct.
  • The Latin Vulgate (Jerome 400 AD) translated the word, “lucifer” meaning “light bearer”. This translation is correct – for Latin.

It is apparent that the KJV translators struggled with the Hebrew and transliterated the Latin word instead of translating it. John Wycliffe (who translated from the Latin and knew no Greek or Hebrew) also appears to have been flummoxed as he left the word untranslated. They appear to ignore the fact that the same word appears elsewhere in the Latin Bible describing other things. (2 Peter 1:19, Job 11:17, 38:32, Ps 110:3)

It is only in the later English Christian tradition that “Lucifer” became a proper noun referring to the Devil before his fall, which the Hebrew does not do.

1
  • For the KJV, it was common practice that when there is a word considered a proper name, a transliteration from the Vulgate is used, given that the Vulgate was the common bible at the time and they wanted the same names to be used that people were used to. This is how we get "Saul", "Abraham", "Lucifer", "Jacob", "Leviathan", "Eve", none of which are translated, either. I don't think this represents any sort of confusion - if you think it does, is there also confusion in the other proper names?
    – Robert
    Jul 2 at 3:31
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What can we know about Satan based on Genesis 3?

It is indeed interesting that a creature like Satan could exist at all, and was even allowed to tempt the first couple in the Garden. That is because nothing — nothing — can occur against the will of a Being with absolute power. We must presume that Satan was part of God's Plan from the beginning:

1 Peter 1:20-21: "For [Christ] was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God..."

Since Christ was foreknown before the world existed, His Act of Redemption was, therefore, part of the Plan before the beginning as well. It thus, follows that everything that occurred on earth was designed to transpire as it did. As I have mentioned elsewhere, the Fall in the Garden was no "unforeseen accident." The circumstances were preordained to occur as they did. God never labored under any illusions that Man and Woman would not immediately be deceived by the cunning of the serpent.

Indeed, God paved the way to hasten the Fall. This was necessary in order to offer each human being a choice: a conscious decision to 1) choose the life that God offered or 2) choose "the world" offered by the Devil. Here is one possibility we might wish to contemplate:

God created a world in which Satan would unquestionably fall.

And, the Devil would bring much of the rest of the world down with him. We are often told Satan, "the Serpent," is "the prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2), "the god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4), "the Adversary" (1 Pet. 5:8),"the Tempter" (Mt. 4:3), and so on.

Perhaps one way to view him might be as a created, personal, super-human being endowed with authority over the death of the faithless. While he is often seen as evil (and he surely is that), Satan cannot do anything without God's permission:

Job 1:9-12: "[Satan] answered the LORD, 'Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.' Then the LORD said to Satan, 'Behold, all that [Job] has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.'”

Note that God allowed all that happened to Job. (Of course, Job is the model we should look to in times of great distress.) Note also, the haughtiness of Satan's words. He exhibits genuine contempt for God in these passages. There seems little doubt that Satan would instantly destroy everything God has ever created, and in fact, that is precisely what he is doing. It is just taking him a little longer than he expected!

Something that we probably do not often contemplate is that Satan appears to be fulfilling God's wishes. He is not allowed to overstep certain boundaries (Job 1:12, 2:6), or there would no longer be anything "made in God's image." It is for this reason that passages such as Matthew 2:16 seem paradoxical. This is where the Devil, using King Herod as an instrument of evil, manipulated this deviant to murder every baby boy 2-years-old and under in Bethlehem (and its vicinity).

God's Plan was to create a civilization of human beings, each of us instilled with an immortal spirit — a spirit of life, which would animate our physical bodies. For reasons we may never appreciate, each of us has to be tested, and through that testing we might then become "justified" — if we choose to be so through faithful obedience according to God's instructions.

Since God is not the author of evil, how might He accomplish this? Well, he would raise a being that He knew would soon entice human beings. This tempter might initially have been viewed merely as a custodian on the earth — or, at least, that may have been his initial role, one who oversaw the many duties required to sustain life on earth. Here, we might understand that God never forced Satan to commit "spiritual suicide"; he chose to do this of his own volition. God always knew what would happen after his creation: the long history of poverty, war, slavery, disease, sin, and death were inevitable.

These two factors, 1) creating a tempter that would act according to God's expectations, and 2) creating humans in need of justification, were both required: one intertwined with the other. Prior to his fall (in the Garden?), we must assume that Satan was created pure just as Adam and Eve (as unlikely as this may sound). However, due to his elevated, spiritual stature, Satan may have developed a profound contempt, just as he demonstrated during his encounter with Eve.

Human beings were inferior to Satan, yet God treated them well in the Garden. If correct, Satan may have been left to maintain their environment, perhaps little more than a glorified janitor. It seems plausible, under such circumstances, that resentment might easily boil underneath the surface. His crimes began with lies that would, at the very least, subject Eve, then Adam, to spiritual death. In John's Gospel we read:

John 8:44b-c: "[The Devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

Christ condemns Satan for being: 1) a murderer from the beginning; 2) not just a murderer, but a mass murderer, and 3) a liar, and the father of lies. Here, we might be reminded of Pharaoh in Egypt. Throughout the first chapters of the Book of Exodus we repeatedly read:

Exodus 7:3: “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt." (cf. Ex. 7:13, 8:19, 9:12, 10:20, 27, 11:10).

God never forced Pharaoh to disobey His commands. But He did set the stage for all the maladies that would be poured out against Pharaoh and his kingdom. As an omniscient Being, God knows everything that can ever be known. Just as with Pharaoh, God knew exactly what would happen after He created the Devil.

God provided the means, motive, and opportunity, but Satan made his own decision to "commit the crime." Satan knew the full dimensions of his actions. As a spiritual being, he was certain to be held to a much higher standard. Note that in Genesis 3:5, Satan accurately describes the effects of eating the forbidden fruit.

In this discussion, the idea that Satan fell from heaven due to pride has been discounted. Naturally, that position maintains that a war occurred in the Presence of Almighty God (Rev. 12:7-9, etc.), along with its many complexities. While it is certainly true that Christ envisions Satan "falling like lightning from heaven" (and Satan only), He also envisions Satan (only) being "cast out" in John 12:31. This would occur at the Crucifixion.

These are symbolic descriptions of Satan being deprived of his authority over the death of humanity. And, yes, he would be cast to the earth (Job 1:7, 2:2), where we see that the Devil is confined to "roaming about on the earth and walking around on it" — at least for now. We might understand these are timeless statements regarding the eternal, spiritual realm, something with which we often (understandably) have great difficulty.

As previously stated, nothing can ever occur contrary to the will of a Being with absolute power. It is not merely unlikely to occur, nor even implausible. Rather, it is impossible, pure and simple. If this were not the case, if God could not maintain control over his ministering spirits (Heb. 1:14), then He is hardly an omnipotent Being. However, He certainly is: Everything in heaven and on earth is subservient to God; absolutely nothing can transpire against His wishes.

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