The Absence of Satan in the Old Testament

Although English Bibles continue the practice of capitalizing the word “satan” in passages like Job 1 and 2, those passage do not have a specific individual in mind. “Satan” in these passages should not be understood as a proper personal name.

The reason for this is straightforward. In biblical Hebrew, the definite article (the word “the) is a single letter (heh). Hebrew prefixes (attaches) the definite article to a noun (or participle to make it a substantive) so that, like all languages that have definite articles, the noun is made specific. Biblical Hebrew does not, however, put the definite article (the word “the”) on proper personal nouns (personal names). In this respect, Hebrew is like English. I don’t call myself “the Mike”. No one (except maybe Donald Trump ) puts the word “the” in front of their first name. Hebrew simply does not do this at all. As the well known biblical Hebrew reference grammar by Jouon-Muraoka notes: “No proper noun of person takes the article, not even when it has the form of an adjective or a participle.”¹

Without exception, the word “satan” in Job occurs with the [definite] article. This indicates quite clearly that “satan” is not a personal name. It is generic, and means “the adversary”. The word can be used of human beings (1 Samuel 29:4; 2 Samuel 19:23; 1 Kings 5:18; 11:14). All of these examples have “satan” without the article, but the referent is a human being, not a divine being, so we don’t have “Satan” here either.

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Author: Mike Heiser

Keywords: Adversary, Angel of darkness, Body of death, Christ tempted, Christ's temptation, Christ's temptation in the wilderness, Deliver us from evil, Devil, Devil and Jesus, Devil tempts Jesus, diabolos, Evil angel, Evil Inclination, Evil nature, Evil one, Good angel, Good nature, Hara Yetser, Ha-ra Yetser, Hara Yetzer, Ha-ra Yetzer, Hara Yezer, Ha-ra Yezer, Intentional misspelling, Intentionally misspelled, Jesus' temptation, Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, Jesus tempted, Jesus tempted by Satan, Jesus tempted by the devil, Jesus tempted in the wilderness, Jesus's temptation, Jot, Jot and tittle, Jots, Man's sinful nature, Mispelled word, Mispelling, Misspelling, Misspelled word, Personification of evil, Satan, Satan and Jesus, Satan tempts Christ, Satan tempts Jesus, Seducer, Sexual temptation, Sin in the flesh, Sin within, Sinful nature, Snatcher, Temptation, Temptation from within, Temptation in the wilderness, Tempted in the wilderness, Tempted of Satan, Tempted of the devil, Tempted sexually, Tempted to do evil, Tempts Christ, Tempts Jesus, The devil tempts Christ, The devil tempts Jesus, The Evil Inclination, The Evil One, Tittle, Two jots, Two yodhs, Two yods, Wicked one, Wilderness temptation, Wretched man, Yatsar, Yetsarim, Yetser ha ra, Yetser ha tov, Yetser ra, Yetser tov, Yetzer, Yetzer ha ra, Yetzer ha tov, Yetzer Hara, Yetzer ra, Yetzer tov, Yezer ha ra, Yezer ha tov, Yezer Hara, Yezer tov, Yod, Yodh, Death angel, Satan in the Old Testament, Nephilim, Fallen angels, Dualism

Bible reference(s): Num. 22:22, Num. 22:32, 1 Sam. 29:4, 2 Sam. 19:22, 1 Ki. 5:4, 1 Ki. 11:14, 1 Ki. 11:23, 1 Ki. 11:25, 1 Chr. 21:1, Job 1:6, Job 1:7, Job 1:8, Job 1:9, Job 1:12, Job 2:1, Job 2:2, Job 2:3, Job 2:4, Job 2:6, Job 2:7, Ps. 109:6, Zech. 3:1, Zech. 3:2, Matt. 4:10, Matt. 12:26, Matt. 16:23, Mk. 1:13, Mk. 3:23, Mk. 3:26, Mk. 4:15, Mk. 8:33, Lk. 4:8, Lk. 10:18, Lk. 11:18, Lk. 13:16, Lk. 22:3, Lk. 22:31, Jn. 13:27, Acts 5:3, Acts 26:18, Rom. 16:20, 1 Co. 5:5, 1 Co. 7:5, 2 Co. 2:11, 2 Co. 11:14, 1 Thess. 2:18, 2 Thess. 2:9, 1 Tim. 1:20, 1 Tim. 5:15, Rev. 2:9, Rev. 2:13, Rev. 2:24, Rev. 3:9, Rev. 12:9, Rev. 20:2, Rev. 20:7

Source: “The Absence of Satan in the Old Testament,” The Naked Bible.

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