Sunday, March 8, 2015

Satan In The Old Testament (Part 6)

You can see the previous installments to this series by clicking the following links:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 4, and Part 5.

TWH: We recently had a question about the absence of the definite article with שָׂטָן in 1 Chron. 21:1. I figured I would just show you a handful of comments different people have made about it. Is it a name, or isn't it? That's the question.

John Sailhamer says this: "In 1 Chronicles 21:1 the Hebrew word satan (without the definite article) means simply 'adversary.' It is a common word in the historical books to describe the enemies of Israel (1 Sam. 29:4; 2 Sam. 19:23; 1 Kings 5:4; 11:9-14, 23, 25). The text appears to be suggesting that a new uprising of Israel's enemies had precipitated David's move to number his army. That seems to be borne out by verse 12, which mentions the impending threat of Israel's enemies, and by the parallel passage in 2 Samuel 24:1-25 which connects David's numbering, his army with the anger of the Lord that burned against Israel. The association of an attack from external enemies and the anger of the Lord is not immediately clear until it is noted that, for the biblical historians, the Lord's anger against Israel commonly resulted in oppression from her enemies. . . . This passage, then should be read as a commentary on 2 Samuel 24 and on satan, the Hebrew word for adversary." (Sailhamer, First and Second Chronicles).

Andrew Hill and John Walton write: "While there is no reason to deny that the satan in the book of Job actually is the being we designate by the name 'Satan,' it must be recognized that the Israelites of the Old Testament period may not have known of the existence of a chief of demons, a satan par excellence. The only place where the noun occurs without a definite article ('the') is in 1 Chronicles 21:1, one of the last books of the Old Testament canon to be written. In this context it may be a personal name (Satan) or it may just be indefinite (a satan). Since the angel of the Lord is in view in Numbers 22, we cannot insist that the function is always performed by the same individual" (A Survey of the Old Testament, 410).

Frederick J. Mabie writes: "Despite the NIV's translation at v. 1, the Chronicler does not necessarily have the personal being 'Satan' in view. . . . Use of this term wherein the (supernatural) adversary/devil is clearly in view is reflected in the first two chapters of Job (14x) and Zechariah 3:1-2 (4x). Note that in these occurrences in Job and Zechariah, the term 'Satan' has the Hebrew definite article (underscoring the notion of 'the adversary'). However, the term in 1 Chronicles 21:1 does not have the Hebrew article. This has prompted some scholars to take the term as a proper name, but this is a significant distinction from the instances in Job and Zechariah that should not be minimized and may reflect the Chronicler's intent of signaling a human adversary. . . . All told, while the translation 'Satan' is certainly plausible, the translation 'adversary' seems preferable" ("1 and 2 Chronicles," in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, 125-126).

Stephen Hooks writes: "As in Zechariah 3:1-2 the term here [in Job] carries the definite article . . . and functions not as a personal name but as a common noun meaning simply 'the accuser' or 'the adversary.' The word is sometimes used in the Old Testament to refer to ordinary human adversaries. In fact, the only place in the Hebrew Bible where the term 'Satan' is unquestionably used as a proper name is 1 Chronicles 21:1. In that text he is portrayed as a troublemaker, inciting king David to take an ill-advised and punitive census. It is possible to identify the 'Satan' of the Chronicles account as the superhuman personification of evil spoken of in Judeo-Christian tradition" (Job, 63).

Lindsay Wilson writes: "Its use with the definite article in Job and in Zechariah 3 implies that it refers to someone who [is] in the role of an accuser or adversary, rather than a person's name. Most English versions obscure this feature by translating [the Hebrew] as 'Satan.' This may be reading later ideas of Satan or the devil back into Job 1–2. [Its] use without a definite article in 1 Chronicles 21 suggest that it functions there as a personal name or title, just as one would expect if the devil was being described" (Job, 341).

C. L. Seow calls 1 Chronicles 21:1 "the closest one comes" to seeing the Hebrew refer to a proper name (Job 1–21: Interpretation and Commentary, 273). Nevertheless, he points out that it can still simply refer to "an adversary" in the general sense.

Pancratius Cornelis Beentjes writes: "Until recently, it went without saying to consider it a proper name ('Satan'), a rendering that is found in almost every Bible edition and commentary. Lately, however, as a result of an increasing number of publications relating to this subject, that earliest massive view displays some cracks. Assuming that שטן in 1 Chr 21:1 should denote such a heavenly being, one would expect a definite noun here, which is not. Therefore, it has much to recommend it that שטן should be interpreted here neither as a position 'prosecutor'/'accuser' nor as a proper name ('Satan'). As an additional argument, one can point to the fact that in non-biblical Hebrew literature which is of considerable later date than the book of Chronicles, שטן is never used as a proper name, but always in the sense of 'adversary' (e.g., 1QH 4:6; 45:3; 1QSb 1:8). As a proper name it is only found in documents, such as Jubilees (23:29) and Ascensio Moysis (10:1), that were written during the persecutions by Antioch IV (ca. 165 BCE). In sum, one should at least reckon with the possibility that 1 Chr 21:1 refers to an unknown (military) adversary, who takes a stand against David" (Tradition and Transformation in the Book of Chronicles, 46-47).

Miguel A. De La Torre and Albert Hernández say this: "The final appearance of Satan occurs in 1 Chr 21:1, which retells the story found in 2 Sam 24–with one major difference. This is the only time that the word Satan appears without the definite article, making it clear that this satan represents the name of a personal being, Satan, not just the title of a role or office, that is, 'the Accuser' (The Quest for the Historical Satan, 62).

So, what do you think?

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