We have been looking at the subject of the "divine council." I want to briefly review a little to make sure you're getting this. A key verse is:
God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: Psalms 82:1 ESV
God stands in the divine assembly; [Or "assembly of El"] he administers judgment in the midst of the gods. Psalms 82:1 Lexam English Bible
The "divine council" or "divine assembly" or the "assembly of El," in the Hebrew Bible, is a symbolic ruling body consisting of Yahweh as the Supreme Monarch and various supernatural attendants. When you first hear of the "divine council," it may sound foreign to you, but the concept and imagery of the divine council is woven throughout the pages of the Hebrew Bible. The more you dig into this subject the more you begin to see how deeply embedded this imagery and concept are in the various strata of the Hebrew Bible. We find this idea not only in the Bible; it is the consensus among ANE scholars that every society from the time of the ancient Sumerians (the time of Noah) to the time of the Babylonians and the Greeks believed in a pantheon of gods.
Something very important to our understanding is that the concept of a heavenly council did not threaten the position of Yahweh as "God of gods and Lord of lords" (Deut. 10:17). Yahweh is the Sovereign Creator of all things, including these lesser deities. It is Yahweh alone who has immortality. Speaking of Yeshua, Timothy says:
who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. 1 Timothy 6:16 ESV
These lesser deities, these watchers were judged by Yahweh:
I said, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince." Psalms 82:6-7 ESV
These watcher were to be judged for their disobedience to Yahweh.
Last week we looked at Genesis 1-11 and a Hebraic world view. We looked at:
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
Chapter 10 of Genesis, the table of nations, is the backdrop for Moses' statement here that Yahweh is responsible for the creation and placement of the nations. We saw that the separation of mankind into 70 nations at the Tower of Babel was by and for the angelic "sons of God." It is important to note that Israel is not listed in the index of the 70 nations found in Genesis 10. The nation of Israel did not yet exist at that time.
What happens at Babel is man's disobedience causes Yahweh to divide them up and give them to the lesser gods. They were to worship the lesser gods because Yahweh was done with them. Man continued to reject Yahweh and serve other gods so Yahweh gave them up. Then in chapter 12 He calls Abram/Israel as His people. Yahweh starts a new family.
We ended last time with the fact that as we come to the New Testament we see at Pentecost that Yahweh begins to reclaim all the nations for Himself. Yahweh, in other words, had not forever abandoned the nations to the watcher:
Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. Luke 10:1 NASB
What is the significance of "seventy"? Remember, the number of nations listed in the Table of Nations in Genesis 10 that Yahweh disinherited was seventy. Since Luke viewed the Gospel as God's plan for reclaiming the nations He disinherited at Babel, the number of disciples in Luke 10:1 was meant to match the number of nations to reinforce this symbolism.
The number "seventy" has great theological significance in the context of Canaanite religion. Ancient Ugarit texts provide evidence that the Canaanites believed there were 70 sons of God (El). We discussed this last week. For the Israelites, the number 70 was symbolic of Yahweh's choice of them as His chosen people over the other nations of the world.
Yeshua's inauguration of the Kingdom meant that these 70 disinherited nations were being reclaimed. Sending out 70 disciples expressed this theological message:
The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." And He said to them, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Luke 10:17-19 NASB
In conjunction with the successful mission of the "seventy," Yeshua declares the expulsion of Satan from God's presence. Satan is being defeated, and the nations are being made part of the Kingdom of God.
Now that we mentioned "Satan," let's talk about him. Most believers think of God and Satan and their respective angels, and that's it for spiritual beings. What I want to demonstrate is that there are many gods and many satans. Look at our text in:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 NASB
Notice that in verse 11 it says that they were to stand firm against the "schemes of the devil" (tas methodias tou diabolou). Who is this devil? Matthew Henry writes:
"The Asian Christians had to 'stand against the wiles [schemes, or methods] of the devil.' Unquestionably, the New Testament assumes the personality of Satan."
The Jewish New Testament Commentary says:
"We are not struggling against human beings but against the unseen agents (Eph. 1:20-23) of the Adversary, Satan (Matt. 4:1)."
"The idea here is, that Satan does not carry on an open warfare." Adam Clark writes, "A man's method of sinning is Satan's method of ruining his soul."
John MacArthur writes:
"The schemes of the devil; we don't need to take a lot of time to define Satan, this is not a course on Satanology, if you will."
What is their assumption? The devil and Satan are one and the same. Are they? Let's start in the Tanakh and see if we can come to an understanding of who this "Satan" is. Let me just say here that the term "devil" does not appear in the Tanakh. Let me also say that "Satan" is one of the few words that English has borrowed from Hebrew. So we use the Hebrew name for Satan, but not for Yeshua. That makes sense.
Where would you find the first use of Satan in the Scriptures? Most Christians would probably say in Genesis in the Garden of Eden. But if you look at that text, Satan isn't mentioned in that story at all. What we see is "the serpent." The last book of the Bible, Revelation, does connect the "the serpent" with "the devil and Satan" (Rev. 12:9), but you don't find that in the Tanakh. So let's be carful not to read New Testament theology back into the Tanakh. Let's see if we can develop a theology of Satan in the Tanakh itself. So where is the first use of Satan? It first occurs in Numbers 22:
So Balaam arose in the morning, and saddled his donkey and went with the leaders of Moab. But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. Numbers 22:21-22 NASB
The word "adversary" here is the Hebrew word Satan. Who is called Satan here? Yahweh and the angel of Yahweh. So the very first use of Satan in the Bible refers to Yahweh. Does that surprise you? The Hebrew word "Satan" is not a proper noun in the Tanakh. As such, the term was not used to refer to a cosmic archenemy of Yahweh. "Satan" isn't a proper name, but a function or office with the primary meaning of: "adversary or "challenger." Satan describes a particular action or role, often in the context of opposition or judgment:
The angel of the LORD said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me. Numbers 22:32 NASB
Again we see that it is the Angel of Yahweh, who is "Satan," because he opposes Balaam on his journey to curse Israel. From these two verses we see that the word "Satan" doesn't carry an exclusive evil meaning, because both Yahweh and the Angel of Yahweh are called a "Satan."
Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel. 1 Chronicles 21:1 NASB
You may be thinking, there he is, this is God's archenemy in this verse. Well the translators certainly thought so; instead of "adversary," they put "Satan." Let's look at the parallel passage to this event:
Now again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, "Go, number Israel and Judah." 2 Samuel 24:1 NASB
Here Yahweh Himself prompts David to take the census; and contextual clues in 1 Chronicles 21:1 indicate that Satan is again the Angel of Yahweh and should have been translated: "the adversary." So these two passages can be harmonized, because in the Tanakh we often see Yahweh and the angel of Yahweh co-identified.
There are 27 uses of "Satan" in the Tanakh. We have seen that three of them refer to Yahweh. Seven uses of "Satan" refer to human adversaries; I'll show you two, and you can look up the rest for yourself, such as in:
Then the LORD raised up an adversary to Solomon, Hadad the Edomite; he was of the royal line in Edom. 1 Kings 11:14 NASB
So here "Satan" is Hadad the Edomite, a human adversary, not a supernatural being. Speaking of Rezon, the Scripture says:
So he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, along with the evil that Hadad did; and he abhorred Israel and reigned over Aram. 1 Kings 11:25 NASB
Again, "adversary" here is "Satan", and again speaking of a human adversary. You may be thinking, why is the word "Satan" used to refer to humans and the Angel of Yahweh? The answer is, as I have already said, that the term "Satan" means: "accuser" or "challenger"; it describes a particular action or role, not a person.
The rest of the uses of "Satan" in the Tanakh are found in Job and Zechariah. Chapters 1 and 2 of the Book of Job show two instances of the divine council composed of the sons of God (the beney 'elohim) gathering in heaven for a meeting of the council:
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it." Job 1:6-7 NASB
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. Job 2:1 NASB
Satan is used in Job 14 times. Now this is where we find Yahweh's archenemy, right?
Hang on a minute. Michael S. Heiser writes:
The Hebrew word satan is not a proper noun in the Old Testament. As such, the term was not used to refer to a cosmic archenemy of God. A brief consideration of the Hebrew grammar helps explain why. Like English, Hebrew does not attach the definite article ("the") to proper personal nouns. For example, English speakers do not refer to themselves (or to another person) with phrases like "the Tom" or "the Janet." However, most of the 27 occurrences of satan in the Hebrew Bible include a definite article—essentially reading "the satan." For example, all occurrences in the Book of Job (Job 1:6-9, 12; 2:1-4, 6-7) include the definite article.
So all the mentions of satan in Job are "ha satan" (the satan), which means: "the adversary." Satan is not a name here; it is a particular action or role. Here we see that "ha satan" is used for one of the divine council members. Here we have the term: "sons of God"—which is one of the names for those on the divine council. We saw this in Deuteronomy 32:8 where it says, "He fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the SONS OF GOD," speaking of divine beings, council members. Last week we looked at the creation account in Job where Yahweh said:
When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:7 NASB
Some folks see "sons of God" as humans, but how were humans at creation? The "sons of God" (beney 'elohim) are divine beings. Notice that these sons of God, "present themselves before the LORD"—this is the divine council with the sons of God coming to report before the King, Yahweh. Satan also came to these meetings, but from the text we cannot tell if he is one of the members of the council, or if he simply appeared to bring a petition before the council.
The vast majority of Old Testament scholars who are experts in the field of ANE literature conclude that what we see here in Job is that Satan is "one of members of the divine council of Yahweh." What we see here is not Yahweh's archenemy, but a member of the divine council who had some sort of role as a heavenly court prosecutor.
In the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings, in the section on "Satan" says this:
"Though it is common for the satan's job to be portrayed as seeking out human failings (Page, 26), it is God's policies that are the true focus of the challenge (Day, 80-81). Job's character is only the test case. In that vein, the existence of disinterested righteousness and the effect of a reward system on a person's motives are both legitimate issues. God neither scoffs at the challenge nor discounts the legitimacy of the question. What the satan is in fact challenging is God's blueprint for divine-human relations. In other words, the satan is questioning the validity of a moral order in which the pious unfailingly prosper. The test of true righteousness would be worship without the promise of reward. (DDD2, 728) ÉIn this sense we might consider a loose analogy to someone designated as "parliamentarian" in a group organized by Roberts Rule of Order. His/her job is to identify procedures that are out of order. The role is intended to serve, not disrupt." The Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2008),
The question is, "Can human beings have a disinterested faith in God—that is, can they believe in God without looking for rewards and fearing punishments?" Even more specifically: Are human beings capable, in the midst of unjust suffering, of continuing to assert their faith in God and speak of God without expecting a return? This seems to be the issue in Job.
So in Job "the satan" does not appear to be the archenemy of Yahweh, but a heavenly court prosecutor. There is really nothing intrinsically evil in the author's portrayal of "the satan" in Job. There is no tempting, no possession, no evil intent. This doesn't fit most people's view of Satan.
What is interesting in the story of Job is that he never blamed "the satan." Notice what Job says:
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD." Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. Job 1:20-22 NASB
Job uses the covenant name Yahweh and says, "Yahweh has taken away. Blessed be the name of Yahweh." He attributes his losses to Yahweh, not the Sabeans, Chaldeans, and natural disasters. Job seems to understand the sovereignty of Yahweh, he sees that all things come from His hand no matter who brings them.
There are two more uses of "Satan" in the Tanakh, they are:
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?" Zechariah 3:1-2 NASB
In both Zechariah and Job, "Satan" includes the definite article (the), which grammatically rules out its use as a proper name. Instead, it should be understood to mean "the Accuser." In Zechariah Satan functions much like he does in Job—he stands before the Angel of Yahweh and accuses the high priest Joshua.
Bottom line, there are no passages in the Tanakh where the word "Satan" refers to Yahweh's divine archenemy, none! These verses that we have looked at in the Tanakh blow away the assumption that the technical term "Satan" always applies to the same supernatural being, a single Satan. As we have seen "Satan" is attached to several different beings. As we go through the Tanakh we come across several names of other spirit beings. Earlier I said there are many gods and many Satans and what we see is that some of the gods become Satans. Let's look at a few:
Then He brought me to the entrance of the gate of the LORD'S house which was toward the north; and behold, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz. Ezekiel 8:14 NASB
Ezekiel observes women performing the ritual of mourning for the deity Tammuz. These women are worshiping a Mesopotamian god at Yahweh's Temple in Jerusalem. They are breaking the first commandment.
There are at least 24 pagan deities seen in the Tanakh, some we are familiar with, and some not so much; Gods such as Baal, the Canaanite deity:
"The priests did not say, 'Where is the LORD?' And those who handle the law did not know Me; The rulers also transgressed against Me, And the prophets prophesied by Baal And walked after things that did not profit. Jeremiah 2:8 NASB
How about Molech, the god of Ammon:
'You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD. Leviticus 18:21 NASB
Worship of Molech often included child sacrifice. 2 Kings 23:10 indicates that children were sacrificed to Molech under King Manasseh. We may see another god in:
Therefore, hear the word of the LORD, O scoffers, Who rule this people who are in Jerusalem, Because you have said, "We have made a covenant with death, And with Sheol we have made a pact. The overwhelming scourge will not reach us when it passes by, For we have made falsehood our refuge and we have concealed ourselves with deception." Isaiah 28:14-15 NASB
"We have made a covenant with death"—the word "death" here is from the Hebrew word, "maveth," which is the ordinary Hebrew word for death, but it is also the proper name of a Canaanite underworld god (Mot), the enemy of Baal in a Ugaritic epic. The proper name, not the common noun, should probably be understood in this text. The Israelites thought their covenant with this satan/adversary of Yahweh would save them.
Let me give you one more extreme example, just for fun:
The leech has two daughters, "Give," "Give." There are three things that will not be satisfied, Four that will not say, "Enough": Proverbs 30:15 NASB
You see any demons in there? The Hebrew word for "leech" here is aluqah. This word only appears here in the Hebrew Bible. Strongs says of aluqah: "Feminine passive participle of an unused root meaning to suck." Brown-Driver-Briggs says of aluqa: "noun feminine leech (perhaps Aramaic loan-word; vampyre-like demon)." Aluqah may simply mean "leech," but since aluqah occurs in Arabic literature as a name of a vampire, this creature and her two daughters may be referring to a demon.
These are a few examples of the 24 gods/demons found in the Tanakh. In the Book of Daniel we get a glimpse of the battle that was going on between the gods and satans:
"But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. "Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet future." Daniel 10:13-14 NASB
Who is this prince of the kingdom of Persia? He is the deity given custody of Persia when the 70 nations were divided up among the watchers in Genesis 10. In the Book of Sirach, which is part of what is considered the Apocrypha and appears in the Catholic Bible, it says:
He appointed a ruler for every nation, but Israel is the Lord's own portion. Sirach 17:17
We see this prince of Persia battling with Michael. Who is Michael? We see him again in:
"Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Daniel 12:1 NASB
"Michael, the great prince"—who is this great prince, Michae,l who stands guard over Daniel's people? The name Michael is from the Hebrew Miykael, and means: "(one) who is like God." So Michael is one who is like God.
But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" Jude 1:9 NASB
Jude calls Michael "the archangel." Archangel means: "chief of the angels." There are two archangels mentioned in the Bible; who's the other one? It is Gabriel. Noncanonical Jewish texts mention others, like Raphael and Uriel. So who is this Michael, the archangel? In our study of Daniel 12, I said that I thought that this was the pre-incarnate Yeshua. Well, I changed my mind. I think this is possibly the patron angel of Israel. Michael is depicted as warring on behalf of Israel and is called "Israel's protector." This is one of Yahweh's council members. So in Daniel we see two of the gods battling over Israel.
So in the Tanakh we see that Satan is not Yahweh's archenemy, and as a matter of fact, not an enemy at all. We also see that there are other gods who are satans, they are adversaries to Yahweh. We also see these lesser gods fighting each other. There is spiritual warfare going on in the Tanakh, but not to the extent we see in the New Testament. For example:
"There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. Deuteronomy 18:10-11 NASB
The term "divination" refers to a variety of practices in which a diviner elicits information from a deity, or supernatural source, by reading or interpreting natural resources or events. "One who calls up the dead" is better rendered as "one who inquires of the human dead." Why would Yahweh forbid these practices if there was nothing to them? This is dealing with the spirit world, and Israel was not to do these things.
So the technical term "satan" does not always apply to the same supernatural being, a single Satan. As we have seen, "satan" is attached to several different beings in the Tanakh. Now let's look at some of the intertestamental literature, or "Second Temple Literature," which is the books written by Jews between Malachi and the time of Yeshua. In this literature Satan begins to take on an evil persona, and we also see that there are many Satans.
The Pseudepigrapha writings can give us insight into the Hebrew thinking and in some cases help us in understanding what we find within Scripture. One of these writings is the Book of Enoch. Ten fragments of The Book of Enoch have been found at Qumran in the "Dead Sea Scrolls," it is known to have existed in its present form since at least the 2nd Century BC. The Book of Enoch, chapter 69:4-12, lists five satans. This is a rather lengthy passage but worth the read:
And these are the chiefs of their angels and their names, and their chief ones over hundreds and over fifties and over tens]. The name of the first Jeqon: that is, the one who led astray [all] the sons of God, and brought them down to the earth, and led them astray through the daughters of men. And the second was named Asbeel: he imparted to the holy sons of God evil counsel, and led them astray so that they defiled their bodies with the daughters of men. And the third was named Gadreel: he it is who showed the children of men all the blows of death, and he led astray Eve, and showed [the weapons of death to the sons of men] the shield and the coat of mail, and the sword for battle, and all the weapons of death to the children of men. And from his hand they have proceeded against those who dwell on the earth from that day and for evermore. And the fourth was named Penemue: he taught the children of men the bitter and the sweet, and he taught them all the secrets of their wisdom. And he instructed mankind in writing with ink and paper, and thereby many sinned from eternity to eternity and until this day. For men were not created for such a purpose, to give confirmation to their good faith with pen and ink. For men were created exactly like the angels, to the intent that they should continue pure and righteous, and death, which destroys everything, could not have taken hold of them, but through this their knowledge they are perishing, and through this power it is consuming me. And the fifth was named Kasdeja: this is he who showed the children of men all the wicked smitings of spirits and demons, and the smitings of the embryo in the womb, that it may pass away, and [the smitings of the soul] the bites of the serpent, and the smitings. Enoch 69:4-12
So there was not just one archenemy of Yahweh who was named Satan, there were many enemies of Yahweh. There was a spiritual battle going on in the heavens between Yahweh and the gods.
Next week we'll move into the New Testament and see what it has to say about Satan and the gods and how Yahweh deals with them.
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