Pastor David B. Curtis

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Satan - Just One of Many Princely Rulers?

by Jeffrey T. McCormack

Delivered 08/10/2014

Okay, I am going to tell you right from the start, we are going to be entering territory today that is most likely something a good majority of you are unfamiliar with. We will be looking at information that is not the run of the mill material that we are used to, and while I wish I had time to more fully cover it, I hope my skimming the surface on it today will give you enough to begin grasping the ideas we cover.

Now, as alien as some of this may sound, just so you know, this is not something I have come up with out of thin air - nor it this some new doctrines or twist on Scriptures at all, but just the contrary. This will be a look into ancient Hebrew understandings, and much of this content I have gleaned from various scholarly and Reformed sources.

We’re going to be discussing an issue of national governments basically. The thing that makes this tough is that the national government we will be discussing is typically alien to the modern church's normal mindset. Because of that, we tend to desire an immediately dismissal of it as being too foreign to be true.

I am speaking about the heavenly governing entities that we find mentioned throughout Scripture and their roles in the affairs of mankind. In brief, Scripture and other Hebrew sources teach that Yahweh has established a government in the spiritual realm that assists Him in the affairs of mankind. That is what we seek to examine this morning.

Unless your are a scholar and this is your realm of study, the average church goer  tends to be at a disadvantage due to being removed so many thousands of years later and outside of the Hebrew culture, so such a topic is more difficult to quickly see or understand from Scripture.

While the discussion today is based on a limit amount of information in Scripture canon, hopefully it, along with a few extra-biblical Hebrew texts, will be enough to at least help you begin to see the basic idea as understood in the ancient culture.

That being said, I am actually going to start this from outside the canon of Scripture, mainly because other ancient Hebrew and Christian writings attest to this understanding a bit more clearly at times, and can help set the foundation for seeing it more clearly in Scripture.

So first I would like to make a few references from the pseudepigraphal work known as the book of Enoch. HUH? Do what? You say.

Okay, our first brief diversion, since I am sure what I just said in itself is probably alien to many, and I wish I had time to delve into it more deeply, but let me offer this simple explanation of terms. There are volumes and volumes out there of extra-biblical Hebrew writings referred to as being pseudepigraphal – which is to say they are falsely named.

What that means is that the book is attributed as being written by someone – usually someone more ancient than the writing itself – when in fact it is authored by someone else entirely. So the author is falsely named. For one reason or another, these writings were rejected from the canon of Scripture, yet many if not most of them were well known in Hebrew culture, and pieces of them have appeared in Scripture.

These books differ from what most of you know as the Apocrypha, which are totally different. And while on the subject there are also New Testament era pseudepigraphal writings out there, as well as Gnostic writings from the same era, but all of these sets of writings are different.

There are some off-the-wall sounding doctrines in some of the pseudepigraphal writings, but the point is, these were coming from teachings within the Hebrew culture at the time of their writings, and some of these writings can illuminate or broaden some understandings we find within Scripture.

The book of Enoch is actually made up of three different books and is one of these Hebrew pseudepigraphal writings. The Scriptures tell us Enoch was taken, and that is all – this book is a supposedly the story of what happened after he was taken.

Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:23-24 ESV)

While most do not consider this writing to be part of the Scripture canon, a historical study shows that in the early church some groups did initially, or if not they still considered it important and it was commonly read. Plus it is interesting to note that a couple biblical books actually quote and reference the book of Enoch, which leads most to believe that it was widely read even in the days of Yeshua and the Apostles.

The Book of Enoch falls into the category of writings known as apocalyptic literature - similar to books like Daniel and Revelation. Reading the language and terms within Enoch can do wonders in opening up better understandings of the apocalyptic language we find in those Scripture books.

I do wish I could go further into discussing these ancient texts, but that is not the topic today. However, knowing its popularity during biblical times, let us look at a couple of quotes from the book that will add to our biblical discussion this morning.

In speaking of the council of Yahweh and the divine princes he has established, the third book of Enoch tells us:

Above them are seventy-two princes of kingdoms in height, corresponding to the seventy-two nations of the world. (3 Enoch 17:8)
How many princes are there? There are seventy-two princes of kingdoms in the world, not counting the Prince of the World. (3 Enoch 30:2)

In Enoch book one, we also find is a vague reference to a group of “seventy shepherds” which is understood to be the traditional numbering of the nations from Genesis 10 – which is to say all of the names listed there, minus Noah and his three sons. In 3 Enoch we see mentioned this “Prince of the World.” Who is that?

This is again outside of the canonized Scripture, but gives us a Hebrew background concept. In agent Jewish thought, it is said that this Prince of the World is an archangel by the name of Metatron, and some suggest that is the spiritual ruler that led Israel through the wilderness:

Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. (Exodus 23:20-21 ESV)

And we are told in the Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period that:

Metatron is, consequently, called the Prince of the World and he presides over the heavenly law court made up of the princes of kingdoms, the angelic representatives of the nations on the earth. (Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period, p. 427)

The point in my bringing him up has nothing to do with him at all, but I simply use this to show that in Hebrew history, they understood that there were these angelic representatives over the nations on earth.

Author Christopher Rowland tells us, in speaking of Michael the archangel being the heavenly representative for Israel:

This notion of the guardian-angel of Israel has its parallels in apocalyptic literature, where we find the notion that all the nations of the world have their guardian angels in the heavenly world. (Christopher Rowland, The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity, pg. 88)

Looking elsewhere, we find in the rabbinic work Pirke de-Rabbi Efiezer:

The Holy One, Blessed be He, descended with the seventy angels that surround the Throne of Glory, and they confounded their speech into seventy nations and seventy languages. (Pirke de-Rabbi Efiezer, Pre 24)

While we often label such uses of the pronoun “us” to be referring to the Triune Godhead, in ancient Hebrew thought this was not the norm. Of course this rabbi is speaking of what we are told in genesis 11 about the tower of Babel:

Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech." (Genesis 11:7 ESV)

The idea of Yahweh having a governing body around him may sound strange to us today, but as we go, hopefully you’ll start to see it in the Scriptures more clearly. While many of the other non-canonical Hebrew writings mention it, it is also evident in canonical Scripture if you know to be looking for it.

What we’re dealing with here is two-fold. First is the understanding that Yahweh has a divine council around His throne that rule and reign over various aspects of creation. And secondly, that Yahweh has appointed governing princes over each nation to guide and aid mankind. Over time, many of these princes of Yahweh failed at their tasks and became enemies.

Now, at this point I will state this, knowing that it is a whole other can of worms that I cannot expound or set out to prove today: that these princes are a form of angelic being and at times in Scripture are referred to as Sons of God. I will quickly give a couple of Scriptural examples before moving on though wishing I could expound this issue more. Starting with the most controversial verse first:

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. (Genesis 6:1-2 ESV)
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. (Job 1:6 & 2:1 ESV)

And I briefly mention the Book of Enoch again at this point, not to say that it defines the meaning of Scripture, but to show that this widely accepted Hebrew writing does offer some clue that helps clarify what they believed on the Genesis verse during a time in their history:

It happened that when in those days the sons of men increased, pretty and attractive daughters were born to them. The Watchers (angels), sons of the sky, saw them and lusted for them and said to each other: Let's go and pick out women from among the daughters of men and sire for ourselves sons. (1 Enoch 7:1-2)

Note that angels are often referred to as watchers in some literature. We do find the term in biblical text too, though it is often missed because of how infrequently it is used and how alien it may be to our understanding.

Daniel tells us:

The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men. (Daniel 4:17 ESV)

So in this verse, the sentence given came from the watchers and holy ones, these make up the council of Yahweh we are speaking of this morning. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery refers to it as a divine assembly, stating:

The divine assembly is...a board of advisors or counselors with whom the supreme deity consults, an “assembly of the holy ones” (Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones! Psalms 89:5) (The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery)

Now, with that in mind, let us look to the Scriptures to see what we find about Yahweh and these princely leader angelic beings. We find where some of them go astray and Yahweh condemns them in Psalm 58:

Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods? Do you judge the children of man uprightly? No, in your hearts you devise wrongs; your hands deal out violence on earth. (Psalms 58:1-2 ESV)

In this verse, the word interpreted here as “gods” is one that only appears in this verse and commentators have struggled with its proper interpretation. It is often interpreted to simply mean congregation or the rulers at the time of Saul. There are others still that interpret this as directed at the heavenly council, and thus see it as directed at the gods as translated here.

These princely rulers are often referred to as gods – lower G – because over time men began to worship them as gods. But they are never to be considered as peers of Yahweh or on his level. For we are clearly told:

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. (Psalms 86:8 ESV)

Following on what we have seen so far, we find Asaph continuing a similar thought in Psalm 82 - also referring to this divine council:

God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: "How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?” Selah. (Psalms 82:1-2 ESV)

So hopefully you can begin to see this divine council that God has – and I know this idea may be hard to grasp because most of us have been brought up believing God is basically alone, issuing out directives, decrees, etc. and that he does everything by his own hand.

This idea of a council meeting with Yahweh and having power and authority in themselves seems so out of place, but let us keep going. We get a look into one of the divine assembly sessions in 2 Kings:

And Micaiah said, "Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, 'I will entice him.' And the LORD said to him, 'By what means?' And he said, 'I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And he said, 'You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.' (1 Kings 22:19-22 ESV)

So here the divine assembly has met to discuss a task, and the task was decided upon by Yahweh as he sent out one of the council spirits to do the job.

So, we see in this here and in the previous Psalm that Yahweh meeting with a divine council of “gods” – or as we saw in Job, they are referred to as sons of God that came before Yahweh. In time, we saw they were assigned tasks as rulers over each nation and they were to act as a guide for mankind, yet many instead fell into rebellion and led men into wickedness and violence and were chastened by Yahweh as we have read.

Instead of pointing mankind to the Creator, they began to accept the worship of man. And nations battled to secure the right of their god to rule the nations. Earlier we saw in 3 Enoch about the seventy two princes established each ruling a nation, and we see this also mentioned in Deuteronomy:

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. (Deuteronomy 32:8 ESV)

So, we see that the borders of the peoples, the number of the nations created, were based upon the number of sons of God that there were. While this coincides nicely with the passages mentioned in Enoch, we also find it in the Apocraphal book Ecclesiatus:

For in the division of the nations of the whole earth he set a ruler over every people; but Israel is the Lord's portion: (Ecclus. 17:17)

Now, many may be quick to think that when we read in Scripture of the worship and idolatry of the nations, that it was just describing the empty ritual of a man-made deity with no substance. And there is no doubt that some of that may have also been happening at times – but it is doubtful that in every case people would give their lives battling for something they know is made up.

We are given the names of some of these gods that were worshipped, as Yahweh brought judgment upon them. Like Hadad-rimmon:

On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. (Zechariah 12:11 ESV)

Or Tammuz:

Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the LORD, and behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. (Ezekiel 8:14 ESV)

Or Bel-Marduk:

And I will punish Bel in Babylon, and take out of his mouth what he has swallowed. The nations shall no longer flow to him; the wall of Babylon has fallen. (Jeremiah 51:44 ESV)

These are just a few examples, but hopefully give you an idea that these nations thought of these idols as more than just a poetic symbol without any real presence. Our overly-material mind-set will tend to draw us to conclude there was no true spiritual entity or spiritual battles happening in such cases, but this was not necessarily the Hebrew understanding.

Now, of course man has been known to have made up false idols, and the Scripture shows us such and condemns it, as in Isaiah:

{The kings of Assyria} have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. (Isaiah 37:19 ESV)

But then we find that there are rulers/princes/gods (little g) set up by Yahweh:

Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. (Jude 1:8 ESV)

Glorious ones is understood by most scholars to be referring to these divine princes - part of the divine council discussed. This same authority and glorious ones are spoken of also by Peter – also referencing similar language of flesh/lust and angels:

…those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.  (2 Peter 2:10-11 ESV)

Now, some commentators will say the word used for glorious ones is simply to imply those in authority – but is that really what we are being told, or is that just convenient for their view?

It seems at least possible that this discussing of “glorious ones” immediately followed by bringing up reference to angels as being more powerful than them, could easily be speaking about those in spiritual authority over nations.

Most all of us are familiar with the worship of Baal, but unfortunately most believe that this is a single specific god that was worshipped. But the term Baal is fairly generic and simply means someone along the lines of a lord or master.

It is used frequently throughout the Hebrew Scriptures in different manners such as lords of cities, monuments, tribes of Israel, and certain abilities. However, over time it did become used more to refer to the fertility god of the Canaanites. The term was not used necessarily to reference evil either, but in time that even became the normal understanding.

We find often that this body of beings is used in a plural sense:

As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals and made Baal-berith their god. (Judges 8:33 ESV)

In this case, of the Baals, they made one of them, Baal-berith, their leader. The technical name used for this group of Baals, is the term Baalim.

Even Yahweh has been referred to as one of these Baal:

And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me 'My Husband,' and no longer will you call me 'My Baal.' For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. (Hosea 2:16-17 ESV)

So Baal does become more of a term that is applied to worshipped beings, and throughout the Hebrew Scriptures you can find many different named Baals that were worshipped. But are we just to assume that in every instance, all of these people simply worshipped some imaginary entity? Hopefully a case is being made to show that there was some substance to this idolatry.

I think one telling thing in this discussion is how common we find Yahweh contrasted with these types of beings when he is referred to as the one true God, the true Lord of lords and the God of gods. As noted before, these princes were referred to as gods - little g - but that Yahweh is the supreme Lord of them all.

Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever; (Psalms 136:2-3 ESV)

It appears to imply that there are other lords and supposed gods in the spiritual realm that man has worship, but that Yahweh is in fact the highest, the one above and beyond all of the others.

In contrast to the people’s history of the rule and worship of the Baalim, Yahweh is showing that he is the one to truly worship and fear. Sadly, while little space is spent going into much depth on these Baalim in Hebrew Scripture canon, there is much in extra-biblical writings that reveal the Hebrew mindset more clearly on this topic.

There appears to be an understanding that there were many that simply ruled little things in the world. However, the ones that we’re mainly talking about today were more powerful. They are the sky-baals, or of the rank of those sons of God on the council we noticed.

We find hints of their actions and worship throughout Scripture, but not a whole lot of details. There is one Baal that we are given a bit more information on, who becomes a key factor in the story, and that is Baal-zebub, also known as the adversary and usually called by the name Satan. He was in times past the god of Ekron as we see in 2 Kings:

Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay sick; so he sent messengers, telling them, "Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness." But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, "Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, 'Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? (2 Kings 1:2-3 ESV)

Since many scholars make the case that Baal-zebub is in fact the one known as Satan, and we find reference to Satan at the council of Yahweh in the book of Job, we can hopefully see that this Baal is not merely the name of a man-made idol that was worshipped.

The word we use, Satan, is not actually a name, but a title. It simply means adversary. So his position in life is to be the adversary or accuser. What his actual name is we are not told - and no, it is not Lucifer, but that is a whole other sermon in itself. For today, I will continue referring to him as Satan just because most know who I speak of.

Now Ekron was a part of Philistia, so it may be that Baal-zebub was the ruler over the whole of Philistia. That being most likely the case as some say, it may shed more light on what we are told in 1 Chronicles in the discussion of David’s long time war with Philitia:

Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. (1 Chronicles 21:1 ESV)

So we find Satan – or Baal-zebub – appearing here again in relation to an association of Ekron. He is Satan - the adversary - and here he is doing his job. 

Some have connected him as being a ruler over Rome, which may surely have been his role later in history, and this would of course put him in a direct adversarial role over the people of Yahweh as we find in the NT scriptures.

In some Pseudepigrapha writings, the Prince of Rome is called by the name Samma’el. But in the Third Enoch 26:12 Samma’el is mentioned as working hand in hand with Satan in accusing the saints, as is actually listed as Prince of the Accusers in 14:2:

Even Sammael, the Prince of the Accusers, who is greater than all the princes of Nations on high, feared me and shook before me. (Speaking of Metatron, 3 Enoch 14:2)

Other texts, like the Martydom and Ascension of Isaiah 2:2-6 just make the name Samma’el another term for Satan, and even link it to the name Belial. Belial is mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:15:

What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:15 ESV)

Commentator Albert Barnes states on this passage:

Belial or Beliar, as as it is found in some of the late editions. The form Beliar is Syriac. The Hebrew word beliya‛al means literally without profit; worthlessness; wickedness. It is here evidently applied to Satan. The Syriac translates it “Satan.” The idea is, that the persons to whom Paul referred, the pagan, wicked, unbelieving world, were governed by the principles of Satan, and were “taken captive by him at his will” and that Christians should be separate from the wicked world, as Christ was separate from all the feelings, purposes, and plans of Satan. He had no participation in them; he formed no union with them; and so it should be with the followers of the one in relation to the followers of the other.

So Barnes connects the rule and authority of Satan over the people as being referenced in this verse, and the call for believers to come out from under that mindset. He goes on to connect it with verses like this from Timothy:

God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:25-26 ESV)

So if Satan is in some sense a ruler over Rome, and Rome is dominating Israel at the time, then it makes sense that the people are being called out from the spiritual kingdom of Rome into the spiritual kingdom of Christ.

Commentator John Gill, after going through a lengthy explanation of some Hebrew Scripture understandings of the word Belial, goes on to state that it:

…is also a name of the devil; by Hesychius, "Beliar" is interpreted "a dragon", by which name the devil is sometimes called; and here the Syriac version is, "what concord hath Christ with Satan?" most interpreters by Belial understand the devil, who has cast off the yoke of obedience to God, and is unprofitable, yea, noxious and hurtful to men; between whom and Christ there is no concord, but a perpetual enmity; and as there is no concord between Christ personal, and Belial the devil, so what can there be between Christ mystical the church, which goes by the name of Christ…

There are other of these leader princes mentioned throughout Scripture, but we find throughout Christian history that oftentimes they are confused with Satan. Mainly because the church has lost touch with the Hebrew understanding of cosmology and stick to a dualistic view that makes the biblical narrative about two arch enemies – Yahweh and Satan.

If we get out from under that presupposition, and see that there are many various princely wicked rulers that are being spoken of in Scripture, much more clarity can be seen in the story. Author Evan Wilson sums it up nicely in saying:

The idea given in Scripture is that Satan is merely one of the rebellious princes and sons of God and has more than likely completed his “allotted period” and fallen centuries ago to the judgments of God. (Evan Wilson, The Forgotten Heavens, pg. 65)

He continues on to point out that Satan actually gets very little coverage in the Hebrew Scriptures, and appears more in the New Testament because his allotted time was focused mainly on the time of the coming of the Messiah.

But moving on past Satan for now, let us look at some of the other princely rulers mentioned in Scripture that often get gleaned over but are quite relevant to this discussion of spiritual princely rulers. Daniel 10 tells us of the battle between the angel Michael and the prince of Persia.

It starts with Daniel being approached by a heavenly being who tells Daniel that:

The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come." (Daniel 10:13-14 ESV)

So, we find that this angelic messenger was sent out to Daniel to bring him a message, but along the way he ran into and was held up for three weeks by this prince of Persia. Interesting to note that in verse two of this chapter, we are told that Daniel had been fasting and mourning for three weeks – or twenty one days - or three weeks.

Then Michael – one of the chief princes - came to the messenger’s aid, taking over the fight and allowing the messenger to proceed on to Daniel. So, was the messenger and Michael the angel simply fighting an earthly human prince here? John Gill sums it up well stating:

By "the prince of the kingdom of Persia" is not to be understood the then reigning king of Persia, Cyrus, or his son Cambyses; who either of them would have been called rather king of Persia; nor were they able to withstand an angel, and such an one as Gabriel;

I think Gill is correct, and this should be fairly simple to grasp – but not so much if you have blinder on to this type of princely spiritual rule over the nations. Gill has no such closed mind it appears, as he continues:

…nor is a good angel meant, the tutelar one of this kingdom;

So he says it is not a human ruler, nor is it a good angel – what he calls a tutelary of this kingdom. The word tutelary, for those not familiar with it, means a guardian or protector. It is used of such positions as a guardian saint or a deity. It is no coincidence that we still today refer to the station of a “guardian angel.”

So Gill appears to be espousing this idea of the kingdom of Persia having a spiritual guardian as we have been discussing. Though he doesn’t necessarily believe it to be the actual guardian prince of Persia being battled, but instead assumes it to be Satan causing disruptions in the court of the guardian Prince of Persia, in order to come against the Jews.

Maybe John Gill takes this route because he is influenced by the dualists Yahweh vs. Satan mentality mentioned. Whatever the cause, the fact that Gill acknowledges that such a spiritual leader over Persia does exist is the key reason for my mentioning this point.

It is this dualist view that causes many of us to lump all mentions of spiritual entities into one of a few classes. People are quick to assume that the mention of Lucifer in Isaiah must equate to Satan:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isaiah 14:12-14 KJV)

As I said, this topic could be a whole other sermon, for now I must let it suffice to just point out that from this verse it is not to be implied that it is Satan and not just some other heavenly prince - or no prince or heavenly being at all.

The point is, people see this, and jump to assume that since there are only two beings in their mind – Yahweh and Satan – then this must be a reference to the latter. And much of these spiritual battles in Scripture are interpreted likewise.

Another of these ruling princes we find is the ever popular Gog:

Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. (Ezekiel 38:2-3 ESV)

So, Gog is from or over Magog and is also the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. Magog, Meshech and Tubal are three of the seventy or seventy-two nations mentioned in Genesis 10 – again harking back to the idea that these initial nations had ruling spiritual princes we mentioned earlier.

Ezekiel prophesies against them, saying:

After many days you will be mustered. In the latter years you will go against the land that is restored from war, the land whose people were gathered from many peoples upon the mountains of Israel…  (Ezekiel 38:8 ESV)

And of course we know that Revelation tells us he was called out to war after being deceived by Satan:

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. (Revelation 20:7-8 ESV)

Are we simply to assume Gog is a human leader that hundreds of years later is brought back to life? Or is this yet another example of the spiritual entities that battle, as we see in Revelation elsewhere?

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. (Revelation 12:7-8 ESV)

The dragon and his angels – in heaven? Does that harken back to Satan appearing in the council of God with the other sons of God?

That brings up another aspect of this topic - though sort of a quick rabbit trail to go down. Few of us really understand all of the various types of beings that exist in the cosmology around us. We think of God, the devil and the angels. Yet, the Scriptures speak of cherubim, seraphim, satyrs, fire-breathing dragons and other types of creatures, some that we tend to toss into the class of “visionary” or “symbolic” entities.

This whole other world of spiritual beings is typically lost on us, or chalked up as Greek mythology. Dragons? Flying serpents? We cannot grasp such things, and when brought up in Scripture, we find ways to make them out to be something we can grasp. Isaiah tells us about a dragon named Rahab that God destroyed:

Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon? (Isaiah 51:9 ESV)

Earlier in the book we are told who this Rahab was:

Egypt's help is worthless and empty; therefore I have called her "Rahab who sits still." (Isaiah 30:7 ESV)

So we know this is referring to a judgment against Egypt. But is it simply a symbol of Egypt, or could it be related to the heavenly prince that ruled the nation and was worshipped by the Egyptians? 

Ezekiel gives a slight impression that it may have been more than just a symbol, when he states that God says to them:

Thus said the Lord Jehovah: Lo, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt! The great dragon that is crouching in the midst of his floods, Who hath said, My flood is my own, And I--I have made it for myself. And I have put hooks in thy jaws… (Ezekiel 29:3-4 YLT)

While many commentators claim this is just symbolic of the Egyptian crocodile symbol, it could be more, and a case has been made by some that this dragon - the elongated sea monster could be representative of the spiritual master/prince of Egypt. It is somewhat interesting in this case to note that Psalm 89 tells us of this destruction of the dragon Rahab too:

You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm. (Psalms 89:10 ESV)

This verse appears just fives verses after a discussion of Yahweh being feared among the heavenly council:

Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones! For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him? (Psalms 89:5-7 ESV)

So after that declaration about the heavenly council and other beings, this discussion of Rahab the dragon appears. Is it not easy to see this as most likely a reference to one of the spiritual rulers of Egypt?

An interesting case can be make when it comes to the reptilian make up of some of these leader/princes. If you examine a lot of the old art work of other nations and their religion, the idea of a reptilian tailed deity pops up quite often. But alas, that would also be a whole other discussion, so we move on.

Even in Scripture we are told of another great reptile/dragon - under the term of Leviathan. Though we do not necessarily know if it was ever a prince over a country, like the dragon Rahab, these appear to have also been dragons of the sea and may indeed represent a similar type of leader that God destroyed.

In that day the LORD with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea. (Isaiah 27:1 ESV)

Now notice, it appears here that we have three different entities discussed. We have Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and the dragon of the sea. Commentators Keil and Delitzsch makes a connection of these three with three separate kingdoms:

Now the tannin (the stretched-out aquatic animal) is the standing emblem of Egypt. And as the Euphrates-land and Asshur are mentioned in verses 12 and 13 in connection with Egypt, it is immediately probable that the other two animals signify the kingdom of the Tigris, i.e., Assyria, with its capital Nineveh which stood on the Tigris, and the kingdom of the Euphrates, i.e., Chaldea, with its capital Babylon which stood upon the Euphrates. Moreover, the application of the same epithet Leviathan to both the kingdoms, with simply a difference in the attributes, is suggestive of two kingdoms that were related to each other.

So, it is probable that these beings are references the ruler princes over these nations that Yahweh would one day remove.

Nowadays, when most of us see the term dragon in the Bible we know it means something else, and is not to be considered a winged serpent type that we see in movies. Those are just myth and folk-lore, nothing like that was ever real, right?

Well let’s take another ever-so-brief rabbit-trail -or in this case, a trail within the current trail we’re on - to examine how elsewhere in Scripture we are told of other serpents, that of the flying fiery serpents:

An oracle on the beasts of the Negeb. Through a land of trouble and anguish, from where come the lioness and the lion, the adder and the flying fiery serpent… (Isaiah 30:6 ESV)

Of course some commentators will say that this is simply referring to their fiery quality, and that the word used here, which is saraph, is simply being described as darting around, not actually flying. However, the credible historian Herodotus of the fifth century notes that indeed such a creature existed in that same region:

There is a region moreover in Arabia, situated nearly over against the city of Buto, to which place I came to inquire about the winged serpents...  

...at the beginning of spring winged serpents from Arabia fly towards Egypt and the birds called ibises meet them at the entrance of this country and do not suffer the serpents to go by but kill them.

As for the serpent its form is like that of the watersnake; and it has wings not feathered but most nearly resembling the wings of the bat. Let so much suffice as has been said now concerning sacred animals. (Herodotus 2.75, 76)

And if that is not enough for you, how about another historian who most of us view as quite credible - Josephus? In speaking of Moses leading an army to battle, he states they did not go by land because:

the ground was difficult to be passed over, because of the multitude of serpents, which it produces in vast numbers, and, indeed, is singular in some of those productions, which other countries do not breed, and yet such as are worse than others in power and mischief, and an unusual fierceness of sight, some of which ascend out of the ground unseen, and also fly in the air, and so come upon men at unawares, and do them a mischief. Moses invented a wonderful stratagem to preserve the army safe, and without hurt; for he made baskets, like unto arks, of sedge, and filled them with ibes, and carried them along with them; which animal is the greatest enemy to serpents imaginable, for they fly from them when they come near them; and as they fly they are caught and devoured by them, as if it were done by the harts; but the ibes are tame creatures, and only enemies to the serpentine kind: but about these ibes I say no more at present, since the Greeks themselves are not unacquainted with this sort of bird.

So, in both cases, flying serpents, and in both cases the ibes bird is used to combat them. So, just because we today may think some creature in Scripture sounds symbolic, does not mean it did not truly exist at the time.

Let us turn now return to the main trail, and look at another Prince. This one is of the cherubim class, and though we do not have a name for him, we are told a bit about him. His first appearance is in Genesis:

He [Yahweh] drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24 ESV)

Well, according to Ezekiel, this cherubim became prideful and fell to the realms of men, and was allowed to become a princely ruler of the Phoenician city/state of Tyre:

Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD:
"You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared.
You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.
In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you.
All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever." (Ezekiel 28:11-19 ESV)

Of course, because of that dualistic mind-set mentioned earlier, many people equate this as being about Satan. But the text does not necessitate that and instead can easily be seen as yet another story of just one of the sons of God,  a guardian of the garden, later a princely ruler, falling and being destroyed by Yahweh.

Let us move to another more commonly known prince to see if he fits into the ruler prince pattern. We mentioned him in passing earlier, and that is Michael. We commonly simply refer to him as an archangel, because that is a title Jude used in referring to him. However, looking back to Daniel which we saw earlier, it refers to him as one of the chief princes:

The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me… (Daniel 10:13 ESV)

One thing to note initially, Michael is just “one” of these chief princes. Many people get the impression that the angelic world is mainly Michael and then a bunch of his warriors, but he is simply one of who-knows how many chief princes.

Looking at what commentator Albert Barnes says here, we again see the idea of a heavenly princely leader. In looking at the understanding of the word “prince” here he states:

So far as the word is concerned in the phrase “prince of the kingdom of Persia,” it might refer to a prince ruling over that kingdom, or to a prime minister of the state; but the language also is such that it is applicable to an angelic being supposed to preside over a state, or to influence its counsels.

If this idea is admitted; if it is believed that angels do thus preside over particular states, this language would properly express that fact. Gesenius (Lexicon) explains it in this passage as denoting the “chiefs, princes, and angels; i. e., the archangels acting as patrons and advocates of particular nations before God.

Undoubtedly, one who takes into view all the circumstances referred to in this passage would most naturally understand this of an angelic being, having some kind of jurisdiction over the kingdom of Persia.

So, Michael is one prince, and as discussed earlier, he was fighting against another national prince so that the messenger could get to Daniel. But whose prince is Michael? Well just a few verses later in this chapter of Daniel we are told by the messenger angel:

But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince. (Daniel 10:21 ESV)

Is that to say he was Daniel’s guardian angel? Not at all. We get a better clarification later in chapter 12 when Daniel is told:

At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people... (Daniel 12:1 ESV)

So, Michael was actually in charge of - or a ruler of - Daniel’s people. So it is no wonder we hear more about this Michael angel than others, because the thrust of the whole of Scripture is dealing with Yahweh’s chosen nation Israel, of which Michael is the prince.

So it is no wonder that when we get to the end of the story of Israel, the book of Revelation, that we find Israel’s prince and Israel’s accuser and deceiver in a final battle:

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world--he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:7-9 ESV)

Let us note a few things here. First off, when it says Satan is the deceiver of the whole world, this confuses many. As it is used in other places of Scripture, this word is oikoumenē and while it indeed can mean entire inhabited earth, it is rarely used as such, and usually means inhabited land, and is commonly used to manly refer to the inhabited Roman Empire. Thayer’s dictionary defines it as:

the inhabited earth

1a) the portion of the earth inhabited by the Greeks, in distinction from the lands of the barbarians

1b) the Roman empire, all the subjects of the empire

1c) the whole inhabited earth, the world

1d) the inhabitants of the earth, men

A couple quick verses to show you the typical use include:

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. (Luke 2:1 ESV)

It was the Roman Empire that was registered, not every living individual across the entire globe.

And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also… (Acts 17:6 ESV)

These men, Disciples of Christ, had not turned the entire inhabited earth upside down, but indeed were doing so within the Roman Empire where they were preaching.

And the last one I will mention is a key one in today’s discussion. When the devil took Christ up on the mountain, what did he show him? Luke 4 tells us:

And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, "To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." (Luke 4:5-7 ESV)

So, in Luke 2 we are told a decree went out from Ceasar that the whole world should be registered, and then a couple short chapters later we are told Christ is taken up and shown the whole world. Why would the language of “world” suddenly change from being in reference to the Roman Empire to all of a sudden be about the entire Earth as many suppose?

Again, I believe it may be because of losing sight of the biblical understanding of the princely offices over the nations, and thus viewing things as strictly in the dualistic manner of there being just two beings, Yahweh and Satan battling for the entire world.

Plus we’ve already noted Satan’s possible connection with being a ruler of Rome at this time period, and he states here that the kingdoms had been delivered to him to give to whom he desires - appearing to mean he might have only recently acquired them during this Messianic period.

Since Yahweh is the one who establishes these princely rulers, would he put someone like Satan in charge and authority like that? If He didn’t then who did, for we know from Romans that:

For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1 ESV)

While that may not be the immediate intent of what Paul is speaking of here, that and other Hebrew Scriptures make it clear that Yahweh is the one who sets up leaders and kings, etc. But honestly, who is to say that Paul did not have this spiritual realm also in mind, considering he was obviously more than familiar with the concept, since he tells us:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12 ESV)

So he plainly tells us the battle is with these spiritual rulers that God has set in place. And he must have had Satan in mind as one of those rulers also, as he tells us in Corinthians:

In their case the god of this world (age) has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV)

And again he tells us that this authority is set up from the hand of Yahweh:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16 ESV)

The word used here for “rulers” is a term we see often in Scripture and is connected to the idea of these heavenly prince rulers. In translations like the KJV it is translated as principalities. In defining this term “principalities and powers” the Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period says it refers to:

A class of heavenly beings possessing unspecified power. The word pair occurs in early Jewish literature only in 1 Enoch 61:10. Perhaps they are the angels whom YHWH has put in charge of the nations. (Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period, p. 502)

So this resource also assumes the belief in the nations having heavenly prices, and suggests that this term Paul uses is likely relating to them. We do of course find this term used also by Paul in reference to these heavenly powers:

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 KJV)
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12 KJV)
And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:15 KJV)
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world--he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:7-9 ESV)

Now looking back to the verse in Revelation, another thing we notice from the verse, is that Satan is cast out of heaven late in the game, only after the birth of the Messiah. But again because of this dualist mindset that there are only two main powers in the universe, every reference in Hebrew Scriptures to the casting down of a spiritual power tends to get connected with Satan.

Again, author Evan Wilson sums it up well:

Satan, the dragon, is merely another in a long line of powers that Michael and others have spent their obedient career restraining, subduing and defeating. It is also amazing that in the interests of inflating the archfiend they take his fall and place it before the world’s beginning, while in prophecy it happens just prior to the birth of Messiah. (Evan Wilson, The Forgotten Heavens, pg. 72)

After he is cast out, he is given an allotted time to do his work, and so we find him more active in the ministry of Christ than elsewhere in Scripture:

Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!" (Revelation 12:12 ESV)

Prior to his casting down to the earth after the birth of Messiah, he was a heavenly being who was an accuser and deceiver of nation.

Now, his allotted time is short, and the Apostles know this, and they go about destroying his strongholds among the nations. Yeshua had already made mention of Satan’s fall at the time when he sent out his seventy-two disciples, and they returned exclaiming how even the demons were subject to them in His name:

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. (Luke 10:17-19 ESV)

So Satan had fallen and now his demons were being overpowered through Christ and his disciples. Then Paul, during his ministry, takes it further, stating that:

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. (Romans 16:20a ESV)

Once he is kicked from heaven he begins working as a deceiver of the nations within the Roman Empire. He is let loose to go and seek whom he may devour, while Yeshua and the Apostles go about shutting him down everywhere they go. Now Paul says the prince of the demons himself will soon be crushed.

So, where does that leave poor Satan today? Many people have a hard time when you tell them that Satan was done away with by AD 70. Everything bad in the world is said to be from Satan, and without him still active, who can we blame?

A struggle is had over this issue again, I think, because this prevalent view that Scripture presents us with a long story of two great powers - a battle of good and evil between Yahweh and just Beelzebub alone, and that drives the mind to believe that evil existing today must still be the work of this prince of demons.

But his destruction is said to be close to the time of the first century writers. In Matthew 24 we are told of the events that would to take place before the end of that first century generation according to verse 34 - and among those events, verse 29 tells us the “powers of the heave will be shaken.”

Yeshua plainly tells us again, right before he goes to the cross, states:

Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (John 12:31-32 ESV)

And as mentioned a moment ago, Paul stated that at the cross, these principalities were disarmed:

He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:15 ESV)

So what are we left with today? Prior to Christ’s victory we had a world of nations under the authority and power of these various princes that Yahweh had established. We see that some have been removed and/or destroyed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, while others still remained.

Christ comes onto the scene, and one of them - Satan - offers him the rulership of the entire Roman Empire. Instead, Yeshua knocks him down, crushes his head, and takes it from him.

Whereas the various nations each used to have several different rulers, now they have ALL becomes the kingdoms of Yahweh through Yeshua. All nations, not just the one of Israel, are now inherited and owed by Yahweh, and their rulers have been put down.

He has annexed the entire world to His kingdom. He no longer has merely the land of Israel, leaving the rest to the princes. The princes (excepting the ones destroyed) may be wandering the heavens with their metaphysical forces, but Christ rules. (Evan Wilson, The Forgotten Heavens, pg 76)

As Paul stated:

For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth--as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"--yet for us there is one God, the Father… and one Lord, Jesus Christ... (1 Corinthians 8:5-6 ESV)

Now Christ has all authority as he plainly stated:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

So in essence, what we see in the New Testament period is Christ inheriting all nations of the earth, and then sending his servants out to clean out the infestation and residue of the principalities and powers that it formerly contained. They were going from town to town declaring that a new Prince and King was in power and casting out demons. Little by little they went about destroying the enemies of the new King, until all of the enemies were placed under his feet. At that time - declaring:

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 11:15 ESV)

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