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Relevant Verses: Gen. 3; Isa. 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:12-19; Rev. 12

Leading Question: “Why does the Old Testament tell us so little about the Great Adversary?”

Biblical Names for the Great Adversary. When we explore the teaching of the Bible on the Great Adversary, we are tantalized by the nature of the evidence. In the order in which they appear in Scripture, here are the key names with brief comments about each one:

Serpent. When the serpent is first introduced in Scripture in Genesis 3:1, the NRSV describes it simply as being “more crafty than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made.” One senses that the serpent is God’s adversary, but that is not explicit in Scripture.

But note that its adversarial role is somewhat veiled. It was simply a creature that the LORD had made. The name “satan” (= “adversary”) is not linked with the serpent until Revelation 12, and there the adversarial names explode: (great) dragon, (ancient) serpent, Devil, and Satan (Rev. 12:7-9).

The English word “devil” is most closely linked to the Greek word diabolos and is thus not found in the Hebrew Old Testament. The Hebrew word for “Satan” (adversary) is transliterated as satan in the Old Testament and is also often transliterated as Satan in the New Testament. In the OT, it can refer to any opponent, human or “super” human. But only in three Old Testament contexts does it clearly refer to a supernatural being opposed to God: Job 1-2, 1 Chron. 21, and Zechariah 3:1. All three passages were either written or canonized toward the end of the OT.

Lucifer. This title from Isaiah 14 is based on the Latin for “light bearer” (Isaiah 14:12.) The NRSV renders it as “Day Star, Son of Dawn.” All this us described in terms of the “King of Babylon.” The language is clearly mythological, and it explicitly describes Lucifer’s sin as arrogance or pride.

Anointed Cherub. Ezekiel 28 is a kind of companion passage to Isaiah 14. Here, under the heading of the “Prince of Tyre” (Ezek. 28:1) or “King of Tyre” (Ezek. 28:12) a glorious and arrogant creature was found in Eden, perfect until iniquity was found in him and then was cast out (Ezek. 28:12-19).

The question of the origin of evil is a tantalizing one and the tendency of devout conservatives to blend all passages and aspects together complicates the task of interpreting specific passages. The rare appearance of Satan in the Old Testament is no doubt linked to the danger in the OT that Satan would be worshiped as another deity.

On balance, what is clear from the passages (taken together) are these three ideas: war in heaven, the sin of pride and arrogance, and the desire of evil to take divine prerogative to itself.

Question: What are the major contributions of each of the following passages to our understanding the origin and dominance of evil?

Genesis 3

Job 1-2; 1 Chron. 21;1; Zech. 3

Isaiah 14

Ezekiel 28

Revelation 12

Note: One important insight from Revelation 12 is that the war in heaven is clearly delineated only in Revelation 12 and shows that it culminated at the cross. (Rev. 12:7-12). That correlates NT Cosmology with the cosmology of Job. In short, after the resurrection, Satan no longer had access to the courts of heaven.

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