Encyclopedia Judaica Excerpt

SATAN In the Bible, except perhaps for I Chronicles 21:1 (see below), Satan is not a proper name referring to a particular being and a demoniac one who is the antagonist or rival of God. In its original application, in fact, it is a common noun meaning an adversary who opposes and obstructs. It is applied to human adversaries in I Samuel 29:4; II Samuel 19:23; I Kings 5:18; 11:14, 23, 25, and its related verb is used of prosecution in a law court (Ps. 109:6) and the role of an antagonist in general (Ps. 38:20 [21]; 109:4, 20, 29). The angel who was sent to obstruct Balaam (Num. 22:32) was evidently chosen ad hoc, as a satan (le-satan), and perhaps the consonants lstn are rather to be read as the infinitive liston, "to oppose or obstruct." There is nothing here to indicate that (sitnah) was the permanent function of a particular angel. "The Satan" as the standing appelation of a particular angel first appears around 520 B.C.E. in Zechariah 3 and then in Job 12. In I Chronicles 21:1, which has already been referred to, the article is disposed with, and "Satan" seems to be a real proper name. In Zechariah 3, the Satan acts as prosecutor in the celestial court; in Job 12, he questions Job's integrity in the latter's absence and suggests to the Lord that it be tested. He is clearly subordinate to God, a member of His suite (Heb. bene ha-e$lohim), who is unable to act without His permission. Nowhere is he in any sense a rival of God. In I Chronicles 21:1, in which Satan is said to have incited David to take a census of Israel which resulted in the death of 70,000 Israelites (21:14), he has obviously been secondarily substituted because of doctrinal consideration for "the Lord," who plays this part.