SPECIAL TOPIC: ANGELS AND DEMONS

A. Ancient peoples were animists. They attributed human personality traits to forces of nature, animals, and natural objects. Life was explained through the interaction of these spiritual entities with mankind.

 

B. This personification in time became polytheism (many gods). Usually the demonic (genii) were lesser gods or demigods (good or evil) that impacted individual human lives.

1. Mesopotamia, chaos and conflict

2. Egypt, order and function

3. Canaan, see W. F. Albright's Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, Fifth Edition, pp. 67-92

 

C. The OT does not dwell on or develop the subject of lesser gods, angels, or demons, probably because of its strict monotheism (see Special Topic Monotheism, cf. Exod. 8:10; 9:14; 15:11; Deut. 4:35,39; 6:4; 33:26; Ps. 35:10; 71:19; 86:8; Isa. 46:9; Jer. 10:6-7; Mic. 7:18). It does mention the false gods of the pagan nations (Shedim, BDB 993, cf. Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37) and it does name or personify some of them.

1. Se'im (satyrs or hairy demons, BDB 972 III, cf. Lev. 17:7; 2 Chr. 11:15; Isa. 13:21; 34:14)

2. Lilith (female, a seducing demon, BDB 539, cf. Isa. 34:14)

3. Mavet (Hebrew term for death used for Canaanite god of the underworld, Mot, BDB 560, cf. Isa. 28:15,18; Jer. 9:21; and possibly Deut. 28:22)

4. Resheph (plague, fire, or hailstones, BDB 958, cf. Deut. 32:24; Ps. 78:48; Hab. 3:5)

5. Dever (pestilence, BDB 184, cf. Ps. 91:5-6; Hab. 3:5)

6. Az'azel (name uncertain, but possibly a desert demon or place name, BDB 736, cf. Lev. 16:8,10,26)

(These examples are taken from Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 5, p. 1523.)

However, there is no dualism or angelic independence from YHWH in the OT. Satan is a servant of YHWH (cf. Job 1-2; Zechariah 3), not an independent, self-directing enemy (cf. A. B. Davidson, A Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 300-306).

 

D. Judaism developed during the Babylonian exile (586-538 b.c.). It was theologically influenced by the Persian personified dualism of Zoroastrianism, a good high god called Mazda or Ormazd and an evil opponent called Ahriman. This allowed within post-exilic Judaism the personified dualism between YHWH and His angels and Satan and his angels or demons.

Judaism's theology of personified evil is explained and well documented in Alfred Edersheim's The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol. 2, appendix XIII (pp. 749-863) and XVI (pp. 770-776). Judaism personified evil in three ways.

1. Satan or Sammael

2. the evil intent (yetzer hara) within mankind

3. the Death Angel

Edersheim characterizes these as

1. the Accuser

2.the Tempter

3.the Punisher (vol. 2, p. 756).

There is a marked theological difference between post-exilic Judaism and the NT presentation and explanation of evil.

E. The NT, especially the Gospels, asserts the existence and opposition of evil spiritual beings to humanity and to YHWH (in Judaism Satan was an enemy to mankind, but not to God). They oppose God's will, rule, and kingdom.

Jesus confronted and expelled these demonic beings, also called (1) unclean spirits (cf. Luke 4:36; 6:18) or (2) evil spirits (cf. Luke 7:21; 8:2), from human beings. Jesus clearly made a distinction between illness (physical and mental) and the demonic. He demonstrated His power and spiritual insight by recognizing and exorcising these evil spirits. They often recognized Him and attempted to address Him, but Jesus rejected their testimony, demanded their silence, and expelled them. Exorcisms are a sign of the defeat of Satan's kingdom.

There is a surprising lack of information in the NT Apostolic letters on this subject. Exorcism is never listed as a spiritual gift, nor is a methodology or procedure for it given for future generations of ministers or believers. 

F. Evil is real; evil is personal; evil is present. Neither its origin nor its purpose is revealed. The Bible asserts its reality and aggressively opposes its influence. There is no ultimate dualism in reality. God is in total control; evil is defeated and judged and will be removed from creation.

G. God's people must resist evil (cf. James 4:7). They cannot be controlled by it (cf. 1 John 5:18), but they can be tempted and their witness and influence damaged (cf. Eph. 6:10-18). Evil is a revealed part of the Christian's worldview. Modern Christians have no right to redefine evil (the demythologizing of Rudolf Baltmann); depersonalize evil (the social structures of Paul Tillich), nor attempt to explain it completely in psychological terms (Sigmund Freud). Its influence is pervasive, but defeated. Believers need to walk in the victory of Christ!

 

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