chapter and the next one look at the references to the devil
and satan in Scripture.
We shall see that they are not the same thing, and that the
words are used differently
in the Old Testament from the way they are used in the New Testament.
1 Chronicles 21:1–8
This event took place near the end of the time David was
king. Satan prompted him to instruct Joab, the commander
of Israel’s army, to count the Israelite troops. God was
with David for doing this. Joab understood that counting the
army was wrong, and he did not complete the task.
1. What did David do wrong? [Hint: see Psalm 33:16.]
2. Read about the same event in 2 Samuel 24:1–10. What
new things do we learn in this passage?
3. What differences are there between the two passages?
Can you explain them?
4. Who was Satan?
The word satan is a Hebrew word which simply means opponent
or adversary. When it occurs in the Old Testament, it is
usually translated into the English word “adversary”.
Sometimes the adversary was an angel or a godly person. For
• an angel is described as a satan in Numbers 22:22;
• David is described as a satan in 1 Samuel 29:4.
In both cases, the word satan does not appear in our English
Bibles because it has been translated. In 1 Chronicles 21:1,
God is described as a satan because he was opposing David.
Here the translators chose to leave the word untranslated. In
this incident, God was acting as a satan or opponent because
he brought about a trial in David’s life.
In other passages, the adversary was not a godly person. For
• Hadad the Edomite and Rezon the king of Syria were
satans to Solomon (1 Kings 11:14,23) because they led
armies against Israel;
• David’s enemies are described as satans in Psalm
Again, in these cases the word satan has been translated.
In Job chapters 1 and 2, the word satan is left untranslated.
Satan (the opponent) comes before God and claims that Job is
only righteous because he has been blessed. He says that if
Job were made to suffer, he would not be so righteous. Then
Job suffers a series of disasters including the loss of all
possessions, the death of his ten children and a severe skin
disease. It was God who brought about the series of disasters.
see Job 2:3; 19:21;
30:21; 42:11; etc. So, although Satan wanted Job to suffer,
it was God who acted
on his suggestion. Satan himself did not have the power to do
it on his own—God gave him the power.
So who is Job’s opponent in this case? We do not know.
Satan was, he was suspicious that Job would not maintain
his faith under suffering. After Satan complained to God about
Job, God decided to test Job’s faith and righteousness.
In the KJV, the word devils only occurs four times in
the Old Testament. The four passages are given in the
box on the following page. For example, Leviticus 17:7
in the KJV says
And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto
devils. . .
Modern versions translate the word differently— Leviticus
17:7 in the NIV says
They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to
the goat idols. . .
These were hairy idols which looked like goats. The
RSV calls them satyrs. Whatever name is used, the“devils” in the Old Testament were simply idols
were worshipped by the nations around Israel. There is
no connection between these and what is called a devil
in the New Testament.
Where ‘satan’ is translated
|Numbers 22:22; 1 Samuel 29:4; 2 Samuel 19:22; 1 Kings 5:4; 11:14,23; Psalm 38:20.
Where ‘satan’ is not translated
|1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 1&2; Zechariah 3:1–2.
|Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:17; 2 Chronicles 11:15; Psalm 106:37.
Some people believe that when satan is untranslated, it refers to a wicked angel called Lucifer who sinned at the time of Adam. Since then, they say, he has been going around tempting people to sin. The name Lucifer comes from Isaiah 14:12 which says (in the KJV)
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning. . .
This is the only place in the Bible where the word Lucifer occurs and it does not occur at all in most modern versions. If you look back to verse 4 it is clear that this passage is about the king of Babylon! Also verses 16 and 17 call him a “man”—not a fallen angel!
Lucifer means the “morning star” or Venus, the brightest object in the sky just before dawn. In fact, modern versions translate the word as “morning star”. The king of Babylon was very proud and imagined himself to be a god. He said “I will make myself like the Most High” (v14) and apparently thought of himself as being “in heaven” like Venus. Instead, he fell to the earth
A similar passage is Ezekiel 28 which is about the king of Tyre.
1. Satan is a Hebrew word which means adversary or opponent.
Usually it is translated like that. Even when it is
not translated, it just means an opponent.
2. A devil in the Old Testament was an idol which was
worshipped by the nations around Israel.
1. Read Psalm 109. What is David concerned about?
2. The word satan occurs in verses 4, 6, 20 and 29. How is
it translated in each case? Who was the opponent in this
3. What does the Psalm tell us about these opponents?
4. The Psalm is a prayer of David asking God to punish his
opponents. Do you think David was right to pray like this?
1. Use a concordance to make a list of all the verses in the
Old Testament where the Hebrew word satan occurs. Who
is the opponent in each case?
2. How do we know Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are not talking
about a bad angel?
• BB Study 6
• The devil: the great deceiver by Peter Watkins (published
by The Christadelphian, 1976). 128 pages. A detailed and
careful study of all the major passages on the devil, satan,
• The Christadelphians: what they believe and preach by
Harry Tennant (published by The Christadelphian, 1986),
Chapter 16 “Jesus and the devil”. 20 pages. See
• The very devil by Harry Whittaker (published by Biblia,
1991). An interesting and comprehensive book on the use
of devil and Satan in Scripture (98 pages).
• Wrested scriptures by Ron Abel (published by The Christadelphians,
Pasadena). Pages 163–184 deal with passages
about the devil and Satan that are frequently misinterpreted.
23. Demons and ghosts
25. The Devil and Satan: New Testament