Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Satan In The Old Testament (Part 4)

Parts 1, 2, and 3 of this topic can be seen by clicking here, here, and here.

AP: In this post we'll see how this figure known as Satan is, more or less, harmless, not wicked by nature. How he is viewed changes over time, to the point that he becomes viewed as truly evil. Unfortunately, in the Bible we find no texts that clearly spell out exactly how this mutation took place.

Only two passages in the Old Testament, both of which are quite late, 1 Chron. 21:1 (4th century B.C.) and Eccl. 21:27 (3rd century B.C.), "Satan" becomes synonymous with being the instigator or cause of sin or temptation. In other words, he is the real "Tempter." The first reads:
1 Chron. 21:1: "Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number the descendants of Israel."
From the subsequent verses, we learn that the census goes against the will of God and is, therefore, a sin. The other verse is in Sirach, and it reads:
Sirach 21:27: "When the wicked curses Satan, he curses his own soul."
These two passages clearly allude to an evil force, but it remains unclear whether this tempter executes the commands of God or whether he acts on his own accord as an adversary and antagonist. Most likely the first hypothesis is the correct one, but the reader is left with the idea that besides God there is an evil power in the universe.

As we can see from texts reflected in the ancient strata of the Old Testament, Satan looks little or nothing like the Devil as we imagine him today, nor with fallen angels, nor with demons, or anything like that. Satan is an angel, a spirit of the heavenly court, under the command of Yahweh, responsible for certain unpleasant tasks. He is not the Prince of Evil, nor the origin of evil. Like everything that is created, he also comes from Yahweh.

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Pinero, I've been enjoying your collaboration with my friend Thomas Hudgins on this blog.
    Regarding 1 Chronicles 21:1, could it be possible that this should be better translated as "an adversary" (meaning, for example, another nation) rather than "Satan"? Compare, for example, with other anarthrous uses in Numbers 22:22, 32, 1 Samuel 29:4, etc. which stands in contrast to the use of the article the word in Job, denoting a specific entity. (a brief discussion of this topic appears in Robert Chisholm's book From Exegesis to Exposition, and a longer discussion in Sarah Japhet's commentary on 2 Chronicles, though I've not read the latter)