What the Bible teaches about Satan may surprise you

In the Bible, satan is used as an Adversary and in the first usage it is God who sends his angel to be the satan (adversary). The truth is that in Hebrew the word “satan” is not a proper noun, any more than the usage of the word “lucifer” is a proper noun. There is no mystical Lucifer who rebelled against God and any one who has truly studied the etymology of the word would know this…

In Num. 22:22 which tells how an Angel (described as ‘the satan’ or adversary) is dispatched to deal with Balaam the rebellious prophet. It describes how an Angel of God stood in a narrow, walled path before Balaam, so that his donkey fell down beneath him. In consider how Job comments that his sufferings which ‘the satan’ brought upon him was God ‘walling up my way that I cannot pass’ (Job 19:8). The connection is clear – and surely indicates that Job’s satan was an Angel. This satan-Angel was acting as an adversary to Job just as such an Angel did to Balaam. Job and Balaam have many such similarities – both were prophets, both had genuine difficulty in understanding God’s ways, but they to varying degrees consciously rebelled against what they failed to understand; both thus became angry with God (in the Angel), and were reproved by God.

In that oldest of Hebrew poetry ‘the LORD’ asks ‘the Satan’ where he came from. Here is the Young’s Literal Translation: “And Jehovah saith unto the Adversary, ‘Whence camest thou?’ And the Adversary answereth Jehovah and saith, ‘From going to and fro in the land, and from walking up and down in it.’”

Yhovah (yeh-ho-vaw’) = (the) self-Existent or Eternal; Jehovah, Jewish national name of God — Jehovah, the LORD. To learn more, read this and this.

Satan (saw-tawn’) = an opponent; especially (with the article prefixed) Satan, the arch-enemy of good — adversary. To learn more, read this.

Harry Torczyner (author of ‘The Book Of Job’ Kiryat-Sefer, 1981) interprets ‘the Satan’ as being in God’s service, and not in opposition to Him: “The figure and role of the Satan derives from the Persian secret service… We now understand that there are in God’s service, as in that of any earthly king, secret roving officials, who go and come and report to him on the doings of his subjects.”

The references to ‘wandering about on the face of the earth’ have great similarities with the language used to describe the Persian empire’s spies, called “The King’s Eye”- a kind of agent of the King who wandered around picking up information and reporting back to him. But of course, “The King’s Eye” was on the King’s side and not working against him! Satan’s walking / running “to and fro in the earth / land” and reporting back to God about an individual is thus very much taken from the Persian idea of the King’s “evil eye”, “the eye of the King”, a kind of agent provocateur, a secret police-type agent, travelling around the Kingdom and reporting back to the King about suspect individuals.

It also has an evident connection with the Zechariah passages which speaks of the Angels in the time of the exile and restoration from Persia “running to and fro in the earth” on God’s behalf (Zech. 1:10,11; 4:10). The implication of course was that God and His Angels, and not the Persian King and his agents, were the ones really in control of the land. It’s maybe significant that the Septuagint translates “going to and fro” in Job 1:7 with the word -peripatei- and we find the same word in 1 Pet. 5:8 about the adversary of the early Christians ‘going about’ seeking them – a reference to the agents of the Roman and Jewish systems.

Much of the Hebrew Bible was rewritten in Babylon, to bring out relevant issues for the Jewish exiles. This includes the book of Job. It can be understood as an allegory – Job, the suffering servant of the Lord, thus becomes a type of Israel.

In Job 2:5 the satan asks God: “Put forth Thine hand” . The hand of God is a phrase often used concerning what God did through the Angels. God agrees- ” he is in thine hand” (v.6). Thus satan’s hand is God’s hand, which is an Angel. This is proof enough that satan is not in any way against God- they work together.

If the satan refers to a righteous Angel, it is likewise easier to understand why all the problems which the satan brought are described as God bringing them (especially as Job may have conceived of God in terms of an Angel). It is also understandable why there is no rebuke of the satan at the end.

Is there a powerful person in the Universe called Satan who is the arch-enemy of God? While most Christians accept this without question, based on this passage in Job there is much room for doubt. It has been said, “If God did not chain up the roaring lion, how soon would he devour us!” Well, on second thought, maybe not. It seem more correct to say, God does both good and evil in the world and he often uses agents, somethimes those agents are men, and sometimes those agents are his angles.

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