2.1.2 Ha satan
Now before we dig into the Scriptures to see what they have to say about the Devil and Satan, I'd like to explain how the article works in both the Hebrew and Greek languages of the Bible. In English, we use both indefinite articles and definite articles. Thus, we distinguish between " a chair" and " the chair" . When I speak of " a chair" , I'm speaking indefinitely, without a specific chair in mind. It may in fact be one chair of many. For example, I may ask, " Would someone please get me a chair?" On the other hand, if I speak of " the chair" , I have a definite chair in mind. I'm also assuming that you know " which" chair I'm talking about. This would be the case if I said something like, " Give me the chair."
Now Hebrew and Greek use the definite article only. Dr. A.T.Robertson writes: " The definite article is never meaningless in Greek...The article is associated with gesture and aids in pointing out like an index finger...Wherever the article occurs, the object is certainly definite."
This is important, because the presence or lack of the article indicates whether we are reading about a satan or the Satan, a devil or the devil.
You see, the Hebrew word 'satan' literally means " adversary" or " enemy" and the Greek word 'diabolos' literally means " slanderer" or " accuser" . When these words are used with the article, they always refer to a very specific Adversary, a specific Slanderer. On the other hand, these words may be used without the article to describe human enemies.
An example of the latter is found in 1 Kings 11:14. The New International Version reads:
Then the LORD raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite, from the royal line of Edom.
The word for " adversary" here is 'satan'. Hadad the Edomite is described as a satan, an enemy. There is no article in the Hebrew. The word 'satan' is used this way several times in the Old Testament, generally referring to human enemies.
Now let's look at the use of the word 'satan' with the article. Our passage is Job chapter one, beginning with verse 6. I'll be reading through verse 12.
One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, " Where have you come from?"
Satan answered the LORD, " From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."
Then the LORD said to Satan, " Have you considered my servant Job: There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."
" Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. " Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But spread out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."
The LORD said to Satan, " Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands but on the man himself do not lay a finger."
Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
The word 'satan' throughout this passage has the article: 'ha-satan'. Here we are not reading about an adversary or an enemy, but the Adversary, the Enemy. This enemy is presented as approaching God in heaven and challenging Job's integrity. Incidentally, that's why the Bible also calls him 'diabolos' or devil, meaning " slanderer" or " accuser" , and the Greek translation of Job here uses the word 'diabolos'. The Enemy or the Accuser approached God and accused Job of obeying God just because God had blessed him. To prove that Job's faith was sincere, God permitted Satan to take away Job's possessions.
Verses 13 through 19 describe Satan's attack on Job. Satan incited raiding parties to carry off Job's oxen and camels and to kill most of his servants. He sent fire from the sky to burn up Job's sheep and summoned a tornado to destroy Job's sons and daughters. But Job passed the test. After all his possessions were taken away, he still obeyed God.
Clearly Satan had lost this one, but he tried again. Let's read chapter 2, verses 1 through 8.
On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the LORD said to Satan, " Where have you come from?"
Satan answered the LORD, " From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."
Then the LORD said to Satan, " Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason."
" Skin for skin!" Satan replied. " A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face."
The LORD said to Satan, " Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life."
So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
Now " the Satan" here is clearly not a human adversary. No human adversary has the power to summon lightning and tornadoes and to strike people with sickness. Clearly this is a supernatural adversary.
Now let's look specifically at the source of Job's problems. Let me direct your attention back to chapter 1 verse 12. There the LORD says to Satan, " everything he has is in your hands." And in chapter 2, verses 6 and 7, the LORD tells Satan that a Job is in his hands, although Satan is not allowed to kill him. Satan then leaves the presence of the LORD and strikes Job with sickness. Clearly Job's problems were an attack of the devil.
But notice that these problems are also said to come from God. For example, in chapter 1 verse 21, Job said, " The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away." And in chapter 2 verse 3, God says, Job " still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason." Similarly, in verse 10, Job says that both good things and trouble come from God.
So what was the source of Job's problems? Did they come from Satan, or from God? The answer is: both. The devil was the immediate cause of Job's problems, but God was ultimately responsible. That is because God, in His sovereign wisdom, manipulates evil. The devil is an Adversary or Enemy to the core and intends to do evil, but to his frustration, he is ultimately subject to the permissive will of God, his superior. In his 'Summa Theologica" , Thomas Aquinas wrote, " The diabolical attack itself derives from the demons' ill will...However, the ordering of these attacks is due to God, who knows how to use evil designedly so that it is oriented to good." In his book " The Devil" , Corrado Balducci writes:
God could surely prevent the rebellious angels from doing any harm, butin his infinite wisdom and goodness he has permitted them to pursue their evil intentions. The later, much against their will, their evil intentions can be transformed by man into a stimulus and a means for moral perfection. In that way, says St. John Chrysostom, the devil, in spite of himself, becomes, as it were, an instrument and coefficient of holiness. This fits well into the divine economy which, in governing the world, is able to use everything--even the worst things--for a good end. Moreover, the dependence of the devil on the permissive will of God is part of God's universal government of the world...
From all this it is evident how wretched must be the condition of the demons. As Tirco says, " Having the power to attack very strongly and wanting very much to do so, they are not permitted to do so; they are in fact totally dependent on the will and permission of him they have hated most intensely." And to add to their vexation and confusion, the relatively little that they can do is always directed by God to some good end.
We are reminded of Romans 8: 28, which says that " in all things God works for the good of those who love him," and also of Joseph's comment to his brothers who had sold him into slavery: " You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good."
The devil is not in charge; God is. The devil can do nothing outside of certain limits which God has set. For example, 1 Corinthians 10: 13 says that " God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear."
Now let's move on to Zechariah chapter 3, verses 1 and 2. Zechariah writes:
“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!" The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?"
The angel of the LORD is called LORD in so far as he represents God; this phenomenon is not unknown in the Bible. So here we see Zechariah's vision, in which Satan accuses Joshua before the angel of the LORD, which is the same as accusing Joshua before God Himself. Again, the article is used here. This is not simply a satan, an adversary, or some discontent human person; this is 'ha-satan', the Adversary, the Accuser. As in the book of Job, Satan is accusing people before God. That is the primary role of Satan in the Old Testament: To oppose God's people and to slander them. This is also reflected in the well-known story of the temptation of Adam and Even, where the devil is depicted as a serpent trying to lead mankind astray.
I would also like to point out that everywhere in the Old Testament the word 'satan' always refers to an external, personal adversary; never does it mean simply " human nature" or " sin personified" . Whether the word is used without the article of a human adversary, or with the article to describe the supernatural devil, it always refers to a literal person. That point deserves to be underscored: In the Old Testament, the word satan always refers to a literal, external person.