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The Big Lie – A Biblical word study on the Devil

The OT satan is always an adversary,
but not always The Devil.


2 Samuel 19:1-23, Satan is always an adversary...
1 Kings 5:1-12
1 Kings 11:1-25
1 Samuel 29:1-11, ...but sometimes the satan adversary is not the bad guy.
Numbers 22:15-35

More of The Big Lie

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Throughout this study, I will give you the Hebrew or Greek word that we’re looking at (or sometimes both) in bold italics, right before the English word.


2 Samuel 19:1-23, Satan is always an adversary. (5/6/13)

What does your name mean? Maybe my family is just weird, but we tend to know the meanings of our names from childhood. This week we’re going to look at the meaning of “Satan.”

Now, as a rule of thumb, and with a fair number of exceptions, I usually start out by assuming that a Greek theological word in the New Testament means roughly the same thing as it did in the Greek Old Testament, and therefore roughly the same as the Hebrew word that the Greek translates. Last week we saw that Satan seems to be the personal name of the Devil, so naturally I looked for “Satan” in the Old Testament.

In most Old Testament books (we’ll looked at Job later), the Hebrew word satan means adversary, pure and simple. In most books, it isn’t used as a personal name at all, and it’s not translated by any Greek word that means “devil.” In our five scripture passages this week, I’ll give you the Hebrew (satan) and then the Greek, mostly so you can see that the Greek doesn’t have either satan or diabolos. Then whatever translation we’re reading will give you the English. In today’s reading, the satan adversary is Abishai, one of David’s military leaders and the brother of Joab.

From the NET Bible (used by permission of bible.org):
1 Kings 5:1-12, Satan is always an adversary. (5/7/13)

Yesterday the satan adversary was a specific man, an important soldier in David’s army. Today the satan appears to be an enemy nation, although it’s a little hard to tell, because Solomon doesn’t have any! Since a nation and its king were referred to interchangeably, Solomon could have had an individual military or political leader in mind.

Solomon fought the occasional military battle, but most of the hard work of subduing the Philistines and other hostile nations had been done by his father David. After God had forbidden him to build a temple, David stockpiled a great deal of money and materiel for its future construction. Solomon probably used some of that money to purchase the wheat and olive oil that he sent to Hiram.

From the NET Bible (used by permission of bible.org):
1 Kings 11:1-25, Satan is always an adversary. (5/8/13)

Solomon fell away from God in his later years, building shrines for the gods of his many wives and concubines and then worshipping in those shrines. God determined to take most of the kingdom away from him and give it to someone else; however, for the sake of Solomon’s father David, God said that he would not do this during Solomon’s lifetime.

That doesn’t mean that Solomon got off scot free. Remember we read the other day that Solomon had no satan adversary in the early parts of his reign? He did have adversaries later – among them Hadad the Edomite and Rezon the son of Eliada. Take note of two really interesting facts about these satans: they are both ordinary men, not the Devil, and they are raised up by God to be adversaries to Solomon!

Does you suppose that the word satan in the Old Testament doesn’t mean anything like what it does in the New Testament, or do you think that maybe we need to keep an open mind about what it really means in the New Testament? Stay tuned as we continue to see how satan is used in the Old Testament.

From the English Standard Version (courtesy of Good News Publishers):
1 Samuel 29:1-11, Sometimes the satan adversary is not even the bad guy. (5/9/13)

So far this week we’ve seen several cases in which the satan adversary was an ordinary human being who happened to be an enemy or opponent of David or Solomon. Today it is David who is the satan!

Now, on the one hand, I can certainly understand the point of view of the Philistine commanders. David had fought and killed plenty of Philistines before he had to run from Solomon, and they were concerned that if he went into a battle between Philistines and Hebrews, he might forget whose side he was supposed to be on.

On the other hand, there’s no way we can reconcile our modern idea that the satan is inherently evil with David, the man after God’s own heart. The Old Testament satan is the adversary, but not necessarily the bad guy.

By the way, I forgot to mention yesterday that our reading from 1 Kings 11 had satan in both the Hebrew and Greek. In today’s reading from 1 Samuel, we see our old friend epiboulos again in the Greek version of the Old Testament.

From the English Standard Version (courtesy of Good News Publishers):
Numbers 22:15-35, Sometimes the satan adversary is not even the bad guy. (5/10/13)

By this time, we understand that the Old Testament often uses the Hebrew word satan to refer to a human adversary, and the adversary can be the good guy or the bad guy, depending solely on the reader’s point of view. Today’s story takes us one step further.

Balaam is one of the very few heathen prophets in the Bible, and he’s been hired to put a curse on the people of Israel. To be fair, he told his client right up front (in the earlier part of this chapter) that he wouldn’t be able to do anything except what the Lord tells him to do. In today’s reading, he starts to go off with the client’s agents, but Balaam and his donkey meet someone unexpected on the road. Since the story is told more or less from Balaam’s point of view, the satan adversary is the angel of the Lord!

From the Bible in Basic English:
More of The Big Lie The Son of God and the Father of Lies
The OT satan is always an adversary, but not always the Devil.
The Hebrew satan is translated various ways.
In the New Testament, both satanas and diabolos normally refer to the Devil.
Sometimes satanas and diabolos are used figuratively to refer to someone acting like the Devil.
Poneros – Evil in the New Testament
Demons cause sickness, not sin.
Sometimes Satan and demons cooperate with each other.
Neither Baalzebub nor Lucifer is a Biblical name for the Devil.
Belial means "worthless," and once it's used as a nickname for the Devil.
Satan's job description: Temptation and Lies
Our job description: Resist him!

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Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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