The Origin of Satan

By James M. Rochford

While the Bible is a book about God, it is also a book about Satan. God is certainly emphasized as the Ruler, Creator, and Sovereign over the universe and Satan. Yet it is important for us to understand the most formidable foe in the universe, if we are to make sense of salvation history and our role in it. From the very beginning of the Bible, we find Satan to be a central character in the story of salvation history.

Genesis 3

(Gen. 3:1) Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”

The serpent is not merely a talking snake. Note the definite article (“the serpent”). John tells us that the Serpent is Satan (Rev. 12:9; 20:2). The angels witnessed the creation of the world (Job 38:4-7), so Satan had been around for a long time.

Satan is a created being. Up until this point, Satan had been God’s greatest creation—an anointed cherub (Ezek. 28:14), and yet, he is still a created being (“the LORD God had made”). Apparently, Satan grew tired of being underneath God (2 Sam. 22:1; Ps. 18:10).

Satan attacks God’s word. It’s interesting that Satan doesn’t emphasize the fruit itself. Instead, he goes after God’s word. He spins God’s word to seem more restrictive than it actually is (“any tree”). Actually, God allowed the first humans to eat anything except one fruit. However, Satan makes it seem like he’s cruel and restrictive. He’s spinning half-truths.

(Gen. 3:2-3) The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”

Eve misunderstands God’s word. Instead of quoting what God said, she adds restrictions that God never made (“You shall not… touch it”). Satan’s ploy is working! She believes that God’s word is more restrictive than it actually is. If we don’t represent the Word of God accurately, we might be losing ground. Note how Jesus responds to Satan in his temptation, citing from Scripture with precision (Mt. 4; Lk. 4).

(Gen. 3:4) The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!

Earlier, Satan used an indirect attack. He spun half-truths. Here is the direct assault: denying what God said.

(Gen. 3:5-6) For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

Adam was present during this entire event. Verse 6 tells us that he was “with her” the entire time. Moreover, the Hebrew for “you” is plural. It should be rendered “you guys.” Instead of interceding during this event, Adam sat in silence.

The standard for morality is within God’s nature. After the Fall, the standard for morality is within us. Thus, Satan’s statement is a half-truth.

(Gen. 3:7) Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

The choice of fig leaves is pathetic. Fig leaves are about as big as your thumbnail. Likewise, when we try to cover our own shame, it is pitiful.

(Gen. 3:8-9) They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

Even though God is omniscient, he sometimes asks rhetorical questions for our benefit—even though he knows the answers already (cf. Gen. 4:9). How foolish do you have to be to hide from the omniscient God? However, most people in sin do the same thing, thinking they can keep their sin in the dark. Not much has changed.

(Gen. 3:10-11) He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

God gives them an opportunity to repent, but they don’t take it. Instead, they blame shift.

(Gen. 3:12-15) The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat All the days of your life; 15 and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”

Here, the Serpent slithers away, but this prediction of his destruction through Christ must continue to haunt him. The NT teaches that Jesus crushed the work of Satan (Heb. 2:14-15; Jn. 12:31). While Revelation 20:10 is the Serpent’s final destruction, his demise began at the Cross (Col. 2:13-15). Paul believed that part of this prophecy was fulfilled in the Body of Christ (Rom. 16:20). However, “the heel” is masculine singular, so it is ultimately fulfilled in Christ himself.[1]

Job 1-2 (Cosmic Debate)

We flash forward in history to the time of Job. Commentators are not certain when to date this book, because the content appears to be before the time of Abraham.

(Job 1:1-3) There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. 2 Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. 3 His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east.

Job lived in Uz (v.1) with his large family, servants, and estate (vv.2-3). He had it all. He was also a God-fearer (v.5), making sacrifices just in case his children sinned.

In this peaceful setting, we flash from this earthly story to a heavenly one. Satan enters God’s throne room to level an accusation against God’s character. In verses 8-11, we need to see the subtext of Satan’s accusation against God.

(Job 1:6-7) Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”

Unlike fictional accounts (e.g. South Park), Satan lives on Earth—not in hell (1 Jn. 5:19).

(Job 1:8-11) The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” 9 Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.”

What is Satan saying? He is saying that Job is a prostitute. Job doesn’t really love God, but rather, he is just loving God’s stuff. Satan is saying, “Would a prostitute spend the night with someone, if he wasn’t paying? Take that money away from Job, and we’ll see what he does then!”

Why would Satan feel this way? Satan is in it for himself, and so he thinks everyone else is this way too—even God himself. He is cynical of altruism and sacrificial love.

Why doesn’t God just blow Satan away?! This occurs in the presence of the angels (“myriads and myriads” according to Rev. 5:11). A myriad is 10,000. Thus this is 100 million angels at least. God could destroy Satan, but he chose to defeat him instead. At the Cross, Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him” (Col. 2:15). Forster and Marston,

We may indeed accept that he had the sheer power to stop or even destroy Satan. The problem is that in this case, even as Satan sank under God’s wrath and destruction, he would have gone with a sneer on his lips as though to say, ‘I told you so.’ Such a ‘solution’ would have left forever unanswered Satan’s accusation that God’s kingdom was based (like his own) on force and expediency. It was not lack of power that prevented God from crushing Satan—it was a matter of principle. It is, perhaps, comparable to the moral restraint that makes it impossible for God to lie. Satan’s accusations must be answered, and they cannot be truly answered by a force that simply crushes the accuser.[2]

God allows Satan to make his charge, and he moves history into motion to allow it (v.12). Of course, God put limitations on what Satan could and couldn’t do. Here, we see the permissive will of God.

(Job 1:12) Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD.

Here, we see the permissive will of God. He allows Satan to act against Job. Yet Satan is still under God’s control. There are boundaries which he isn’t allowed to cross apparently (“do not put forth your hand on him”). In chapter two, Satan returns to make another accusation. He tells God, “Put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face” (Job 2:5). God permitted Satan to torture Job with sores, but again, he set up parameters. He said, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life” (Job 2:6). Satan must know that there are certain lines that he is not allowed to cross.

Apparently, Satan makes requests to destroy believers regularly. For instance, Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Lk. 22:31-32). Here Jesus allowed Satan to come after Peter, but Jesus got the last word. The suffering Peter endured had a positive effect on his pride and self-will, turning him into one of the most influential leaders of the early church.

(Job 1:13-15) Now on the day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

Satan can influence human killers (i.e. “the Sabeans”). Later in verse 17, he uses the Chaldeans as a raiding party to kill Job’s servants.

(Job 1:16, 18-19) While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you… 18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

From these two passages, it appears that Satan can utilize supernatural fire (“The fire of God fell from heaven…”, as well as manipulate the natural order (“a great wind came from across the wilderness”).

(Job 1:20-22) Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” 22 Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.

God allows these terrible atrocities to fall on Job, and he allows this so that he can defend his character in front of the angels. Why didn’t God just laugh off Satan’s claims? Why is he prepared to make this kind of price to defend his own character?

At the very least, this account demonstrates that truth-claims are very serious to God! He is willing to sacrifice quite a bit, in order to hold up the truth.

Return to “Satanology”

Disputed Passages on Satan

(Gen. 6:4) Who or what were the Nephilim?

(Isa. 14:12-14) Does this passage describe Satan or someone else?

(Ezek. 28:1) Does this passage describe Satan or the prince of Tyre?

[1] Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. The Messiah in the Old Testament (p.39) 1995.

[2] Forster, Roger T., and V. Paul Marston. God’s Strategy in Human History. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1974. 8.