Unmasking the Serpent
“Now it came to be the day when the sons of the true God entered to take their station before Jehovah, and even Satan proceeded to enter right among them.”—JOB 1:6.
1. (a) What are the origin and the meaning of the name Satan? (b) How many times does “Satan” appear in the Scriptures, and what questions arise?
WHAT is the origin of the name Satan? What does it mean? In its Biblical setting, it is formed from the three Hebrew characters ש (Sin), ט (Tehth), and נ (Nun). With their vowel points, these letters form the word “Satan,” which, according to scholar Edward Langton, is “derived from a root which means ‘to oppose,’ or ‘to be or to act as an adversary.’” (Compare 1 Peter 5:8.) Although the name Satan appears more than 50 times in the Bible, it occurs only 18 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and then only in the books of 1 Chronicles, Job, and Zechariah. So the questions arise, When did man become conscious of Satan’s rebellion and activity? When is Satan first clearly revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures?
2. What question was not answered immediately after the rebellion of Adam and Eve?
2 The Bible explains in simple but profound terms how sin and rebellion came to exist on earth, in what was a paradise garden in the Middle East. (See Genesis, chapters 2 and 3.) Although the promoter of the disobedience of Adam and Eve is identified as a serpent, no immediate clue is given as to who was the real power and intelligence behind the voice emitted by the serpent. Nevertheless, Adam had a long time to reflect on the events in Eden that led to his expulsion from the paradise park.—Genesis 3:17, 18, 23; 5:5.
3. Although not deceived, how did Adam sin, and what was the result to humankind?
3 Obviously, Adam knew that animals do not speak with human intelligence. He also knew that God had not spoken to him through any animal prior to Eve’s temptation. So who had told his wife to disobey God? Paul says that even though the woman was thoroughly deceived, Adam was not deceived. (Genesis 3:11-13, 17; 1 Timothy 2:14) Perhaps Adam realized that some invisible creature was offering an alternative to obedience to God. Yet, although he himself was not approached by the serpent, he chose to go along with his wife in disobedience. Adam’s deliberate and willful act of disobedience broke the mold of perfection, introduced the defect of sin, and led to the foretold condemnation of death. And thus, using the agency of the serpent, Satan became the original manslayer.—John 8:44; Romans 5:12, 14.
4, 5. (a) What prophetic judgment was given against the serpent? (b) What enigmas were embraced by that prophecy?
4 The rebellion in Eden resulted in a prophetic judgment from God. That judgment involved a “sacred secret” that it would take thousands of years completely to unlock. God said to the serpent: “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.”—Ephesians 5:32; Genesis 3:15.
5 This vital prophecy embraces several enigmas. Who was really meant by “the woman”? Was it Eve, or was it a symbolic woman of greater significance than Eve? Also, what was meant by ‘the seed of the woman’ and the ‘seed of the serpent’? And who really was the serpent whose seed would be at enmity with the woman’s seed? As we will discuss shortly, Jehovah evidently determined that these questions would get a fuller answer in his due time.—Compare Daniel 12:4 and Colossians 1:25, 26.
Further Evidence of Rebellion in the Heavens
6. What indication of a rebellion in the heavens was seen just before the Flood?
6 As Bible history develops, another indication of a rebellion at a higher level of life than that of humans is revealed just before the Flood, some 1,500 years after man’s fall into sin. The Bible account tells us that “the sons of the true God began to notice the daughters of men, that they were good-looking; and they went taking wives for themselves, namely, all whom they chose.” The hybrid offspring of these unnatural unions were known as “Nephilim,” “mighty ones who were of old, the men of fame.” (Genesis 6:1-4; compare Job 1:6 for the identity of “the sons of the true God.”) Some 2,400 years later, Jude briefly commented on this event when he wrote: “And the angels that . . . forsook their own proper dwelling place he has reserved with eternal bonds under dense darkness for the judgment of the great day.”—Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4, 5.
7. In spite of man’s badness, what intriguing omission do we find in many of the historical books of the Bible?
7 At this point before the Flood “the badness of man was abundant in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.” Nevertheless, Satan was not specifically identified in the inspired book of Genesis as the powerful influence behind the angelic rebellion and man’s wickedness. (Genesis 6:5) Indeed, all through the history of the nations of Israel and Judah, with their constant relapses into idolatry and false worship, Satan is never named in the inspired Bible books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings as the invisible influence behind these events—this despite Satan’s own admission that he was “roving about in the earth.”—Job 1:7; 2:2.
8. Was Job initially aware of the part played by Satan in his suffering? How do we know?
8 Even when we consider the significant account of Job and his trials, we see that Job never attributes his tests to the adversary, Satan. Evidently, he was unaware at the time of the issue that hung on the outcome of his conduct. (Job 1:6-12) He did not realize that Satan had precipitated the crisis by challenging Job’s integrity before Jehovah. Thus, when Job’s wife reprimanded him with the words: “Are you yet holding fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” he simply answered: “Shall we accept merely what is good from the true God and not accept also what is bad?” Without knowing the true source of his trials, he apparently viewed them as coming from God and therefore something to be accepted. Thus, this became a very severe test of Job’s integrity.—Job 1:21; 2:9, 10.
9. What reasonable question can be raised regarding Moses?
9 Now a question arises. If, as we believe, Moses wrote the book of Job and therefore knew that Satan was roving about in the earth, why is it that he does not speak of Satan by name in any of the books of the Pentateuch, which he also wrote? Yes, why is Satan mentioned so seldom in the Hebrew Scriptures?a
Satan’s Limited Exposure
10. How was Satan given only limited exposure in the Hebrew Scriptures?
10 Even though denouncing demon-inspired activities, Jehovah in his wisdom evidently had good reasons for ensuring that his Adversary, Satan, should be given only limited exposure in the Hebrew Scriptures. (Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 18:10-13; 32:16, 17; 2 Chronicles 11:15) Thus, although the Hebrew writers must have had some knowledge of Satan and his rebellious role in the heavens, they were inspired only to define and expose the sins of God’s people and of the nations around them and to exhort against their wickedness. (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 18:9-13) Satan’s name was rarely mentioned.
11, 12. How do we know that the Hebrew Bible writers were not ignorant of Satan and his influence?
11 In view of the events in Eden, the degradation of “the sons of the true God,” and the record in the book of Job, the inspired Hebrew Bible writers were not ignorant of the evil, supernatural influence of Satan. The prophet Zechariah, who wrote in the late sixth century B.C.E., had a vision of the high priest Joshua with “Satan standing at his right hand in order to resist him. Then the angel of Jehovah said to Satan: ‘Jehovah rebuke you, O Satan, yes, Jehovah rebuke you.’” (Zechariah 3:1, 2) Also, the scribe Ezra, writing the history of Israel and Judah in the fifth century B.C.E., stated that “Satan proceeded to stand up against Israel and to incite David to number Israel.”—1 Chronicles 21:1.
12 Thus, by the time of Zechariah, holy spirit was letting Satan’s role become clearer in the Scriptures. But another five centuries would pass before this evil creature would be totally exposed in the Word of God. With Bible basis, what reason can we deduce for this timing in fully exposing Satan?
The Key to the Enigma
13-15. (a) What basic truths are the key to understanding why Satan was given limited exposure in the Hebrew Scriptures? (b) With the coming of Jesus, how was Satan brought out into the open?
13 For the Christian with faith in God’s Word, the basic key to these and previous questions we have raised is not to be found in higher criticism, as if the Bible were merely a literary masterpiece, solely the product of human genius. The key is revealed in two basic Bible truths. First, as King Solomon wrote: “The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.” (Proverbs 4:18; compare Daniel 12:4; 2 Peter 1:19-21.) Truth is revealed gradually in God’s Word at God’s time, in accordance with the need and his servants’ ability to absorb such truth.—John 16:12, 13; compare 6:48-69.
14 The second basic truth is contained in what the apostle Paul wrote to the Christian disciple Timothy: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, . . . that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) God’s Son, Jesus, would expose Satan, and this would be recorded in Scripture, thus equipping the Christian congregation to stand fast against Satan in support of Jehovah’s sovereignty.—John 12:28-31; 14:30.
15 On these grounds the enigmas of Genesis 3:15 have been slowly unveiled. Under the direction of God’s holy spirit, or active force, the Hebrew Scriptures supplied glimmers of light on the forthcoming Messiah, or Seed. (Isaiah 9:6, 7; 53:1-12) Parallel to this, they have contained brief flashes of light on the role of Satan as the Adversary of God and the enemy of humankind. But with the coming of Jesus, Satan was brought completely into the open as he took blatant and direct action against the promised Seed, Jesus Christ. As events developed in that first century of the Christian era, the roles of “the woman,” Jehovah’s heavenly spirit organization, and of the Seed, Jesus Christ, were clarified in the Christian Greek Scriptures. At the same time, the role of Satan, “the original serpent,” was brought more fully into the open.—Revelation 12:1-9; Matthew 4:1-11; Galatians 3:16; 4:26.
Sacred Secret Unveiled
16, 17. What did “the sacred secret of the Christ” involve?
16 The apostle Paul wrote extensively about “the sacred secret of the Christ.” (Ephesians 3:2-4; Romans 11:25; 16:25) This sacred secret had to do with the true “seed” that would eventually crush the original serpent, Satan the Devil. (Revelation 20:1-3, 10) The secret involved the fact that Jesus was the first and primary member of that “seed” but that he would be joined by others, “joint heirs,” first from the Jews and then from the Samaritans and the Gentiles, to complete the number of that “seed.”—Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:16, 19, 26-29; Revelation 7:4; 14:1.
17 Paul explains: “In other generations this secret was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by spirit.” And what was that secret? “Namely, that people of the nations should be joint heirs and fellow members of the body and partakers with us of the promise in union with Christ Jesus through the good news.”—Ephesians 3:5, 6; Colossians 1:25-27.
18. (a) How does Paul show that time was needed to reveal the meaning of “the sacred secret”? (b) How would this revealing affect the understanding about “the original serpent”?
18 Paul was impressed that he of all people should be used to declare “the good news about the unfathomable riches of the Christ and should make men see how the sacred secret is administered which has from the indefinite past been hidden in God, who created all things.” Or as he put it to the Colossians: “The sacred secret that was hidden from the past systems of things and from the past generations. But now it has been made manifest to his holy ones.” Logically, if the secret regarding the “seed” was finally revealed, it would also involve the complete unmasking of the great Adversary, “the original serpent.” Evidently, Jehovah did not choose to make the issue with Satan paramount until the coming of the Messiah. And who better to unmask Satan than the Seed, Christ Jesus himself?—Ephesians 3:8, 9; Colossians 1:26.
Jesus Exposes the Adversary
19. How did Jesus expose the Adversary?
19 Early in his ministry, Jesus roundly rejected the Tempter with the words: “Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” (Matthew 4:3, 10) On a different occasion, Jesus exposed his slanderous religious enemies who had murderous intent toward him by denouncing their promoter and exposing him as the power behind the serpent in Eden, saying: “You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father. That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie.”—John 8:44.
20. What basis did Jesus have for exposing Satan?
20 How could Jesus be so sure in his denunciation of Satan? How could he know him so well? Because he had coexisted with Satan in the heavens! Even before that one had proudly rebelled against the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, Jesus, as the Word, had known him. (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15, 16) He had observed his crafty actions through the serpent in Eden. He had seen his subtle influence upon the fratricidal Cain. (Genesis 4:3-8; 1 John 3:12) Later, Jesus was present in Jehovah’s heavenly court “when the sons of the true God entered . . . , and even Satan proceeded to enter right among them.” (Job 1:6; 2:1) Oh, yes, Jesus knew him to the core and was ready to expose him for what he was—a liar, a murderer, a slanderer, and an adversary of God!—Proverbs 8:22-31; John 8:58.
21. What questions remain to be answered?
21 With such a powerful enemy influencing mankind and its history, the questions now are: To what further extent is Satan exposed in the Christian Greek Scriptures? And how can we resist his crafty schemes and maintain our Christian integrity?—Ephesians 6:11, Kingdom Interlinear.
a Professor Russell states in his book The Devil—Perceptions of Evil From Antiquity to Primitive Christianity: “The fact that the Devil is not fully developed in the Old Testament is not a ground for rejecting his existence in modern Jewish and Christian theology. That would be the genetic fallacy: the notion that the truth of a word—or a concept—is to be found in its earliest form. Rather, historical truth is development through time.”—Page 174.
Do You Remember?
◻ What enigmas in relation to Genesis 3:15 needed to be explained?
◻ What evidence of rebellion in the heavens is there in the Hebrew Scriptures?
◻ What two truths help us to understand why Satan is seldom mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures?
◻ What does “the sacred secret of the Christ” have to do with the revealing of Satan and his role?
[Pictures on page 9]
Satan’s influence was clearly evident among mankind in the pre-Flood world
[Picture on page 10]
It was Satan—a real person—that challenged God as to Job’s integrity