Where is Satan?

July 23, 2020 - 2 Av 5780

Introduction

Did Satan rebel against God and was he expelled from Heaven? If so, where is he now and what is he doing? Some people think that he went down to Georgia and pursued a career in music.

Simply put, the Torah’s view of Satan is as an angel. And as all angels are created without free will, Satan as well has no free will and can literally not rebel against God.

Now I know that if you are a Christian reading this what I just said goes directly against what Christianity teaches, and there is a good possibility that you want to consider me a Godless heretic and leave this blog for good.

If so, please hear me out briefly before doing that, and if you still want to high-track it out of here after that you are certainly free to.

Let me start by saying that I am a Jew (Orthodox) who believes in God, His Goodness, and Omnipotence, and believe in the infallibility of the Bible. Of course I believe that the Bible to be just the Old Testament, but let’s set that aside for a moment because if you are Christian then you and I have this book in common.

What Are Angels According to Judaism?

Let me as well start with a very basic and simple concept that according to Judaism, angels are a type of being with no free will. In modern terms we can think of them as computer programs each designed to do a very specific function or set of functions. It is imperative that they function according to the task assigned to them, which is why it is also imperative that they have no free will. Contrast this to human beings, who bring out unspeakable damage through the free will that God has granted us.


In other words, let use an example of the angel responsible for, say, rain. Rain is a program necessary for the flourishing of living things on earth. If the angel of rain had the potential to refuse its programming, there would be no rain, or the rain would not fall in its time or according to the rules that God has designed it with.

Technically speaking, the angel known as “Satan,” in Jewish thought, is no different. The only difference between Satan and all other angels is perhaps the scope of his job. His task is the ever-important task of tempting human beings with sin. This task is of utmost importance because the existence of free will rests upon it. Free will is of utmost importance because it is the very method by which human beings move themselves closer or further away from God. Such movement has to be left completely up to the human being doing the moving so that his destiny fully belongs to him, for the better or the worst. Therefore, just as the angel of rain cannot be given the ability to refuse its post, the same must be true of Satan.

Before proceeding let us use a known Jewish parable to explain the role of Satan in God’s Dominion. A king wanted to test the loyalty that his son had to him. He sent a prostitute to seduce his son and told her to do the very best that she could to succeed. If she succeeded, he assured her that no harm would come to her because he wanted to test his son’s morality. This is, simply put, the role of Satan.

Biblical Evidence for Satan's Rebellion

Now that we have explained the role of angels and Satan in logical or theological terms, let us look to the Bible for actual evidence regarding this topic.

In the beginning of Genesis we see three main characters (aside from God). We have Adam, Eve, and the Snake (which is an embodiment of Satan). In Chapter 3 of Genesis Adam, Eve, and the Snake each receive a punishment for a particular sin that they committed. The Snake tempted Eve, Eve ate the fruit and gave it to her husband, and her husband ate from it as well. The Snake’s punishment was to crawl on its belly and enmity between itself and human beings. Eve’s punishment was painful childbirth, and Adam’s punishment was needing to toil for a living.

The very next thing that occurs was the expulsion from Eden, which is Heaven, and we should note that only Adam and Eve are driven from Heaven, as it says, “Now the Lord God said, ‘Behold man has become like one of us, having the ability of knowing good and evil, and now, lest he stretch forth his hand and take also from the Tree of Life and eat and live forever.’ And the Lord God sent him out of the Garden of Eden, to till the soil, whence he had been taken.” (Genesis 3:22-23)

If we read the verses above carefully we will note that the expulsion of Man (Adam and Eve) from the Garden applied only to Adam and Eve – the Snake is not mentioned anywhere as having been expelled. The reason for the expulsion is provided as well, “lest he stretch forth his hand and take also from the Tree of Life and eat and live forever.” This indicates two things about the Snake. The first is that God was apparently not concerned that he would eat from the Tree of Life, indicating that he lacked the free will to do so (unlike Adam and Eve). The second reason is that the Tree of Life would have made Adam and Eve immortal, and our assumption about Satan is that he was immortal and therefore had no reason to eat from that tree. In other words, three characters committed a sin, three characters are punished, but only two are expelled from the Garden.

So if we are to assume that Satan was expelled from Heaven, and our only common book as Jews and Christians is the Old Testament, we would need to find a source from that book telling us that God expelled Satan from Heaven. The only other book in the Old Testament dealing extensively with Satan is the Book of Job.

Near the beginning of the Book of Job we see the following:

Now the day came about, and the angels of God came to stand beside the Lord, and the Adversary (Satan), too, came among them. (Job 1:6)

Job is already telling us that Satan is in Heaven at this point. The story continues:

The Lord said to the Adversary, "Where are you coming from?" And the Adversary answered the Lord and said, "From going to and fro on the earth and from walking in it." (Job 1:7)

It seems from this verse that Satan could come and leave as he wished. This seems to indicate that this is so because he was coming and going in order to fulfill his responsibilities. The story continues with Satan saying to God:

“'But now, stretch forth Your hand and touch all that he has, will he not blaspheme You to Your face?’” Now the Lord said to the Adversary, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your hands; only upon him do not stretch forth your hand.’ Now the Adversary left the presence of the Lord.” (Job 1:11)

The verse above is very important for two reasons. The first reason is that it indicates Satan’s powerlessness. When he asks God to test Job, he makes it clear that only God has the power to bring anything into fruition, and that he (Satan) has none – “stretch forth Your hand…”

The second reason is that Satan has to receive permission from God before he can do anything. Both of these verses indicate the Torah view, the Jewish view, which is that Satan has no power of his own and is under the dominion of God.

Now we can ask ourselves, “When did the Book of Job occur?” If we are trying to pinpoint the exact point in time when God expelled Satan from Heaven, it would have to have occurred sometime after the Book of Job. According to Chabad.org:

Although there is no clear consensus as to who he was or when he lived, the dominant view places Job’s birth at the time of the Jewish descent into Egypt and his passing at the time of the Exodus, making for an extraordinarily long lifespan—210 years.2 This opinion seems to be in harmony with the Talmudic teaching that Job was, in fact, one of three royal advisors to the Egyptian Pharaoh who deliberated over the plot to murder all the male Jewish newborns. Upon learning of the proposal, Job was indifferent and did not protest the decree, and it was because of his inaction that G‑d later brought immense suffering upon him.3


Footnote 2: Seder Olam Raba (ch. 3). See Chaim Milikowsky, Seder Olam, Critical Edition, vol. II p. 60.

Footnote 3: Sotah 11a. According to the Zohar (vol. II, p. 33a) Job advised Pharaoh to confiscate the Jewish wealth and then enslave them. In response, G‑d visited the very same predicament upon Job himself.


The view among Christian sources seems as well to be that Job lived in the Patriarchal period (see TruthWatchers and ApologeticsPress).

If so, and if Satan was really expelled from Heaven, it would have happened sometime after the Exodus from Egypt.

According to BibleSprout, Ezekiel 28:12-19 describes the “first passage relating to Satan’s fall is found in Ezekiel 28:12-19 where Ezekiel describes the creation and judgment of a vile and vicious non-human creature whose name we find out later to be Lucifer”:

"Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre and say to him, So said the Lord God: You are the one who engraves images, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. In Eden, the garden of God you were; every precious stone was [set in] your covering; ruby, topaz, diamond, chrysolite, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, carbuncle, and crystal and gold; the work of your drums and your orifices is in you; on the day of your creation they were established. You were a cherub of great measure, that covers, and I gave that to you; you were on the mount of the sanctuary of God: you walked among stones of fire. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created until wrongdoing was found in you. Because of the multitude of your commerce, they filled you with violence and you sinned, and I shall cast you as profane from the mountain of God, and I shall destroy you, O covering cherub, from among the stones of fire. Your heart became haughty because of your beauty; you destroyed your wisdom with your brightness; I have cast you upon the ground; I have set you before kings to gaze upon you. Because of the multitude of your iniquities, with the wrongdoing of your commerce, you profaned your sanctity, and I shall bring forth fire out of your midst-it will consume you, and I shall make you ashes on the ground before the eyes of all who see you. All who know you among the peoples will wonder over you; you shall be a terror, and you shall be no more, ever."

However, it is hard to imagine God referring to Satan as “Son of Man,” but is clear from the context that He is referring to Ezekiel himself in this manner.

As well according to BibleSprout, “The second passage relating to Satan’s fall is found in Isaiah 14:12-14 where the prophet Isaiah presents the origin and fall of Satan:”

How have you fallen from heaven, the morning star? You have been cut down to earth, You who cast lots on nations. And you said to yourself, 'To the heavens will I ascend, above God's stars will I raise my throne, and I will sit on the mount of the assembly, in the farthest end of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will liken myself to the Most High.' (Isaiah 14:12-14)

According to the Jewish understanding this is a reference to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.

It is important to note that the Christian Bible speaks about the fall of Satan in several places (Luke 10:18; II Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Revelation 12:4), but it is important to understand that just because the Christian Bible follows the Jewish Bible does not mean that Christians believe Satan fell at the time that those books were being written. Instead, the Christian belief is that Satan rebelled against God at some very early point in history, such as in Genesis, but was recorded in the Christian Bible. For more information about a Christian attempt to identify when Satan was expelled from Heaven, see When Were Satan and His Angels Cast out of Heaven?

Conclusion

Perhaps the best question to close this with is whether or not an angel that has been expelled from Heaven has the ability to perform its duties away from the dominion of God? We know for a fact that Satan tempts humanity to this day, which indicates that he is still doing his task. However, Christianity’s stance that Satan tempts humanity is done against God’s wishes, while according to Judaism he does so at God’s behest. This difference amounts to a significant theological difference. In the Jewish view everything that exists is under God’s dominion, even evil, while in the Christian view the source of evil is considered to be an aberration of God’s Will that has to be defeated. This calls into question God’s abilities and is at the very center of two very different world views.

"Dominion and fear are with Him; He makes peace in His heights." (Job 25:2)

 (איוב כה:ב) הַמְשֵׁ֣ל וָפַ֣חַד עִמּ֑וֹ עֹשֶׂ֥ה שָׁ֜ל֗וֹם בִּמְרוֹמָֽיו

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