Who is Satan

Satan, or more properly, HaSatan is an angel who resides in the heavenly realm. HaSatan means the accuser or the adversary. The term Satan or HaSatan is used in three different contexts within the Tanach.1

First, as an enemy in war as seen in I Kings 5:18: But now יהוה my God has given me peace on all sides, without opponents (שָׂטָן) or problems.2

Second, as an accuser before the seat of judgment as seen in Psalm 109:6: Set a wicked man over him, and let an accuser (וְשָׂטָן) stand at his right side.3

Third, as an adversary in the general sense of the term as seen in II Samuel 19:23: But David said, “Is this your business, sons of Tzeruyah, that you should oppose (לְשָׂטָן) me today? Should any Yisraelite be put to death? I certainly know that today I am [again] king over Yisrael!”2

As a proper character, Satan appears only once in the Tanach – in the Book of Job. He is depicted as an angel who mocks the piety of the righteous Job.4

Job 1:6: One day, the angels presented themselves before God, and Satan (הַשָּׂטָן) also came with them.3

From the dialogue in the opening chapter of the Book of Job we see that HaSatan is a member of the angelic hosts of the abode of God and has no independent power.

Job 1:7, 12: God said to Satan (הַשָּׂטָן), “Where are you coming from?” Satan (הַשָּׂטָן) answered God, “From going roaming the earth and traversing it.” … God said to Satan (הַשָּׂטָן), “Here, you have control over everything he owns; only do not extend your hand against him personally.” So Satan (הַשָּׂטָן) went out from the presence of God.3

From this exchange we see that HaSatan is an angel who watches over the activities of humanity, searching for mankind’s sins and then appearing as their accuser to God. HaSatan is not considered an opponent to God as Christianity teaches. Monotheistic teachings are no more disturbed by the existence of HaSatan than by the presence of other beings that go before God. This view is shown in Zechariah 3:1-2 where HaSatan is described as the adversary of the high priest Joshua.1

Christianity teaches that Satan was once an angel in the heavenly realm but through his rebellion, he became a fallen angel.

The authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church regarding Satan was set forth in the decrees of the Fourth Lateran Council which reads in part: “…the Devil and the other demons were created by God good in their nature but they by themselves have made themselves evil.”5

As a proof text from the Tanach, Christianity uses Isaiah 14:12 to prove their stand regarding Satan. Christianity argues “that Isaiah’s mention of the fallen ‘morning star’ refers to Satan’s ultimate demise at the end of time when Satan will finally be cast into a lake of fire as articulated in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Revelation.”6 However, if you read the fourteenth chapter (verse four) of Isaiah it will quickly become apparent that the “morning star” is referring to Nebuchadnezzar.

In Isaiah 14:12 “Nebuchadnezzar is compared to the planet Venus whose light is still visible in the morning yet vanishes with the rise of the sun. … Like the light of Venus, Nebuchadnezzar’s reign shone brilliantly for a short time, yet, as the prophets foretold, was eventually overshadowed by the nation of Israel whose light endured and outlived this arrogant nation who tormented and exiled her.”6

Judaism firmly believes that HaSatan is nothing more than an accusing angel that resides in the heavenly court. HaSatan is not a fallen angel and is not evil incarnate.

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1Joseph Jacobs & Ludwig Blau. Satan. Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906. [http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13219-satan]
2Aryeh Kaplan. The Living Nach: Early Prophets. Brooklyn: Moznaim Publishing Corporation, 1994.
3Aryeh Kaplan. The Living Nach: Sacred Writings. Brooklyn: Moznaim Publishing Corporation, 1998.
4ArielaPelaia. “Do Jews Believe In Satan?” about.com. Judaism, n.d. [http://judaism.about.com/od/judaismbasics/a/jewishbeliefsatan.htm]
5William Kent. “Devil.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04764a.htm]
6Tovia Singer. “Who is Satan?” outreachjudaism.org. Outreach Judaism, n.d.