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A Jewish view of "satan"
by Gretchen S.

Here is a bit about the Jewish view of Satan, as opposed to the ****ian devil. Again, Judaism has no devil, there is no embodiment of evil who tempts us, as in ****ianity. The Jewish view is very different than that portrayed by ****ains. I hope this will be clear by the end of this post.

First of all, the Hebrew word satan (sin-tet-nun sofit) means an adversary or accuser. It is used this way in Numbers 22:22. "And G-d's anger was kindled because he went; and the angel of the L-rd stood in the way as an *adversary* against him...." The word marked with *'s and translated as adversary is satan (actually l'satan, l' being a prefix that in the context gives the meaning "as"). Likewise in Numbers 22:32, part of the same story about Bilaam.

satan' -- Adversary

Numbers Chapter 22
21 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.
22 And God's anger was kindled because he went; and the angel of YHWH placed himself in the way for an adversary against him. -- Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him. --
23 And the ass saw the angel of YHWH standing in the way, with his sword drawn in his hand; and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field; and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.

Numbers Chapter 22
31 Then YHWH opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of YHWH standing in the way, with his sword drawn in his hand; and he bowed his head, and fell on his face.
32 And the angel of YHWH said unto him: 'Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I am come forth for an adversary, because thy way is contrary unto me;
33 and the ass saw me, and turned aside before me these three times; unless she had turned aside from me, surely now I had even slain thee, and saved her alive.'

In I Samuel 29:4. "And the princes of the Philistines were angry with him; and the princes of the Philistines said to him, Make this fellow return, that he may go back to his place which you have appointed him, and let him not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he be an *adversary* to us; for how should he reconcile himself to his master? should it not be with the heads of these men?" Again, the word translated as an adversary is satan. Later, in II Samuel 19:23. "And David said, What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be *adversaries* to me?..." Again the word is satan and is translated as adversary. I could contiue through the Tanach with this. In each case, the word satan is translated as adversary.

First Samuel Chapter 29
3 Then said the princes of the Philistines: 'What do these Hebrews here?' And Achish said unto the princes of the Philistines: 'Is not this David, the servant of Saul the king of Israel, who hath been with me these days or these years, and I have found no fault in him since he fell away unto me unto this day?'
4 But the princes of the Philistines were wroth with him; and the princes of the Philistines said unto him: 'Make the man return, that he may go back to his place where thou hast appointed him, and let him not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us; for wherewith should this fellow reconcile himself unto his lord? should it not be with the heads of these men?
5 Is not this David, of whom they sang one to another in dances, saying: Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?'

Second Samuel Chapter 19
21 For thy servant doth know that I have sinned; therefore, behold, I am come this day the first of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king.'
22 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered and said: 'Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed YHWH'S anointed?'
23 And David said: 'What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah, that ye should this day be adversaries unto me? shall there any man be put to death this day in Israel? for do not I know that I am this day king over Israel?'
24 And the king said unto Shimei: 'Thou shalt not die.' And the king swore unto him.

Now, there is the term ha'satan, meaning the adversary. It is used to indicate a definite adversary. It is used in this way in the book of Zecharaih. Zecharia 3:1-2, for example, is sometimes translated as "And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the L-RD, and *Satan* standing at his right hand to thwart him. And the L-RD said to Satan, The L-RD rebukes you, O *Satan;* the L-RD that has chosen Jerusalem rebukes you. Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" The word translated here as Satan is ha'satan. In other translations, this is translated as the adversary. In the historical context of the prophet, it is used to avoid using the name of the true adversary who was trying to keep the Jews from rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. The adversary was the Samaritans and a highly placed official in the Persian government. In order to avoid reprisals, Zechariah uses the term "the adversary" or "the accusor" (as the Jews were accused of building the Temple in order to rebell). Now, later in Jewish history, this was interpreted in another, somewhat metaphorical level, as if a prosecuting angel of the heavenly court were accusing Joshua ha-Kohen (the priest), and not the Samaritains that the highly placed Persian official.

Zechariah Chapter 3
1 And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of YHWH, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
2 And YHWH said unto Satan: 'YHWH rebuke thee, O Satan, yea, YHWH that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee; is not this man a brand plucked out of the fire?'

The only other occurrence of ha'satan is in the book of Job. The book, first of all, is one of the Writings. It is one inspired Jews attempt to understand why bad things happen to good people. He writes a story about Job's suffering in order to explore the suffering of righteous people in general. The conclusion of his book, the moral of the story, is that only G-d knows why good people sometimes suffer. Satan in this book is a literary tool. That being said, out of this book arose the aggadic (kind of like legendary--there are many legends written in the Talmud to teach a lesson of one kind or another, but are not literally true) idea of Satan as the prosecuting attorney of G-d. Satan here is completely obedient to G-d and he NEVER rebels against G-d. He has a roll just as does the angel of death, in G-d's plan. His job is to act in the heavenly court as the prosecutor of those who recently died. He is in no way evil, he just has a job that some might find distasteful. That is the aggadic idea of Satan, which no Jew is obligated to take literally, but we are supposed to learn the lesson that all of our actions will be known to G-d and that we will be judged.

The adversary in Zechariah was a very real, very human one, the adversary in Job is a teaching tool, as is the Satan of the aggadah. Humans have within them a yetzer hara and a yetzer hatov, a bad impulse and a good impulse. We need no outside, powerful, ultimate evil force to tempt us, the impulse lies within ourselves. By following G-d's will, we can overcome this temptation. There is no power to rival G-d. All angels in Judaism are obedient servants of G-d.

This is in contrast to the ****ian idea of the "devil" and their "satan". In ****ianity, "satan, aka the devil" is viewed as the "god of this world". He has enormous power and he opposes G-d. He is seen as a "fallen angel".

This brings me to the explanation of "Lucifer". Some say that Isaiah 14:12. "How are you fallen from heaven, O bright star [or shining one], son of the morning [or son of dawn]! how are you cut down to the ground, you who ruled the nations!" is about the "devil". Part of this is due to the fact that the term bright star or shining one is translated in Latin to lucifer, which means shining one. Now, the context of the verse and a bit of knowledge of history reviels that this is about the Babylonian empire.

Isaiah Chapter 14
11 Thy pomp is brought down to the nether-world, and the noise of thy psalteries; the maggot is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.'
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, that didst cast lots over the nations!
13 And thou saidst in thy heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, above the stars of God will I exalt my throne, and I will sit upon the mount of meeting, in the uttermost parts of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.'

One of the main dieties of Babylon was "Ishtar", who was the "god" who was the morning star. Shining one, son of dawn is the morning star. The prophet was avoiding the use of the name of the not-god Ishtar. Reading verse 4, "That you shall take up this proverb against the **king of Babylon,** and say, How has the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!", it becomes clear that this is the king of Babylon and his nation that is being spoken of here. There is no Lucifer, no devil in the Tanach, but there are many, many adversaries and accusers of the Jewish people.

An important point, which the author seems to believe is commonly understood, includes why the prophet would avoid using the non-god name...

Exodus Chapter 23
13 And in all things that I have said unto you take ye heed; and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.

Deuteronomy Chapter 18
20 But the prophet, that shall speak a word presumptuously in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.'