Torah Explanation of “Satan”
February 25th, 2009 by Elijah

Non Jewish scriptures often give reference to satan because they have not read rabbinical literature. The rabbis to whom they made reference have spent their entire lives immersed in the study of the Jewish scriptures as well as other sacred Jewish literature. Why weren’t the rabbis stunned by these Jewish teachings on Satan?

Because the Hebrew scriptures explicitly declare that the Almighty Himself places both the good and the evil that He created before mankind in order to provide His prime creation with free will. Deuteronomy 30:15 states, See, I [God] have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil.

In Isaiah 45:7, the prophet describes God’s creation plan when he reports that, “I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I the Lord do all these things.”

The Bible I used in the above quotations is the King James Version. These edifying verses underscore the fundamental biblical teaching that it is the perfect spiritual balance of good and evil in the world that confronts every searching soul. This is the Almighty’s divine sovereign plan for creation: It is through man’s personal decision to turn away from evil and choose good that virtue can be attained.

Isaiah 45:7 and Deuteronomy 30:15, however, pose a serious theological problem for non Jews who maintain that God did not create Satan, the angel of evil. According to non Jewish doctrine, Satan was the highest-ranking angel who, through his own act of spiritual defiance and outright disobedience, became the chief adversary and slanderer of God and the embodiment of evil in this world.

In Christian theology God never created evil; He is only the author of righteousness and perfection, as you maintained in your question. Therefore, God could never create something as sinister as the devil himself. Rather, Satan’s unyielding wickedness is the result of his own spiritual rebellion.

For the Jewish faith, Satan’s purpose in seducing man away from God poses no problem because Satan is only an agent of God. As a servant of the Almighty, Satan faithfully carries out the divine will of his Creator as he does in all his tasks. Satan is one of the many angels mentioned in the Bible. It is worth noting that the Hebrew word for angel is malach, meaning “messenger.” The same is true for the English word angel, derived from the Greek word angelos, which also means “messenger.”

Throughout the Bible, an angel is a messenger of God who carries out the divine will of the Almighty. There is not one example in the Jewish scriptures where any angel, Satan included, opposes God’s will.

In no part of the Bible is this more evident than in the Book of Job. In the first chapter of Job, Satan appears with other angels before God and suggests that Job’s steadfast faithfulness would not withstand personal pain and utter destitution. Satan then requests from God the chance to test Job’s virtue.

The Almighty grants this request, but He meticulously outlines for Satan what he may and may not do when putting Job to the test. Satan obediently follows his Creator’s instructions. Job is immediately put to the test and, by the third chapter, begins to struggle. He questions his Maker as to why he was created and, in a moment of despair, wishes aloud that he had perished in his mother’s womb. Still, by the end of this unparalleled biblical narrative, Job’s virtue prevails over Satan’s unyielding torment.

Job’s personal spiritual triumph in Jewish terms stands out as the embodiment of God’s salvation program for mankind. In Deuteronomy 30:15, the Torah attests to this principle and in Isaiah 45:7, the prophet echoes this message when he declares that the Almighty Himself creates evil.

I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.


Rabbi Tovia Singer HaCohen

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