Do Jews Believe in the Devil?

Image: An image of a devil. (by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

The very short answer is: No, Jews do not believe in the Devil of Christian theology.

A longer, more complete answer:

Jewish scripture has a character known as HaSatan, the Adversary. HaSatan appears in the beginning of the Book of Job:

One day the divine beings presented themselves before the LORD, and the Adversary came along with them.

The LORD said to the Adversary, “Where have you been?” The Adversary answered the LORD, “I have been roaming all over the earth.”

The LORD said to the Adversary, “Have you noticed My servant Job? There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil!”

Job 1:6-8

In this and in chapter 3 of the book of Zachariah, “HaSatan” is not a personality. HaSatan is the title of a role, a job description. “Ha” means “the.” “Satan” means “adversary.” In Job, HaSatan plays the persecutor, taunting God that Job only loves God because God has been good to him. God allows HaSatan to inflict suffering on Job so that Job can demonstrate his faith in God. In Zachariah, he is the Accuser, and an angel (malach) is God’s mouthpiece, rejecting the accusations of HaSatan.

The figure in the adversary role has little or no volition: it cannot do anything without the permission of God. It plays a role equivalent to that in English of a “devil’s adversary:” it is an expression of opposition. Angels have a similar role in the Jewish Bible: they function as messengers or as extensions of God, but they do not have agency of their own.

Sometimes in other texts HaSatan is an expression of the yetzer harah, the evil or selfish inclination. It never acquires the independence, to say nothing of the raw power, of the Satan figure in Christian tradition.

There are a number of Talmudic texts about HaSatan, for instance:

Reish Lakish says: Satan, the evil inclination, and the Angel of Death are one, that is, they are three aspects of the same essence. He is the Satan who seduces people and then accuses them, as it is written: “So the Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with vile sores” (Job 2:7). He is also the evil inclination, as it is written there: “The impulse of the thoughts of [the human] heart was only evil continuously” (Genesis 6:5); and it is written here: “Only upon [Job] do not put forth your hand” (Job 1:12). The verbal analogy between the various uses of the word “only” teaches that the evil inclination is to be identified with the Satan. He is also the Angel of Death, as it is written: “Only spare his life” (Job 2:6); apparently Job’s life depends upon him, the Satan, and accordingly the Satan must also be the Angel of Death.

Bava Batra 16a

HaSatan has these roles (a named figure in Job, the evil inclination in humans, and the Angel of Death) as it is picked up as a theme in Jewish mystical writing and in folklore, but it is in those sources that it takes on a role more like that of the Christian Satan. That may be from cross-pollination of Jewish and Christian ideas in golden-age Spain and in northern Europe. It may also have arisen from the need of a suffering people to separate the suffering in life from the all-good person of their God.

At any rate, most modern Jews do not believe in “Hell” and do not believe in “Satan” as an independent figure busy in the world. We are much more inclined to attribute the evils that come from human misbehavior to human beings, and to attribute “evils” from the natural world (earthquakes and other natural disasters) to the balance of nature established by God.

Jews have been and continue to be ferociously monotheistic, so that an independent and equal opponent to God is a logical impossibility.

What do you believe, and why?

Published by

rabbiadar

Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at https://coffeeshoprabbi.com/ and teaches at Hamaqom | The Place in Berkeley, CA.

3 thoughts on “Do Jews Believe in the Devil?”

  1. Thank you, I enjoyed reading the explanation of Jewish beliefs,of monotheism.
    I am a Hindu, also a most misunderstood religion.
    Hindus believe ,in a Divine Trinity.
    Of The Creator ,The Preserver and the Destroyer.
    Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara.
    However in many old scriptural texts ,and in the Bhagavad Puran , these”Gods” are interchangeable,and thus can function as ONE.
    The “Adverserial ” or Darker forms of Divine Energy are the Darker forms of The same Divine Energy,not a “Separate Evil”.
    But these Dark forms can be propiciated, through penance, blood sacrifice etc.
    This kind of dark energy,can be used for good or for evil.
    Hindus believe in Karma ,what you sow you reap. One of the many Spiritual Laws of Cause and Effects.
    Therefore even benefits of Divine Energy used for evil purposes ,will not come to a good end.
    As according to Hinduism which is NOT a doctrine,but a WAY of Life.
    And there is no single correct way.
    Most Hindus are vegetarian and dont believe in killing life for sustenance.
    However,simple living, humility, pious acts , remembering the Divine in ANY form ,”Devi ” the Divine Feminine,or Deva the Divine Masculine,are both accepted .
    Also considered as Twin Souls ,Radha Krishna,Shiv Paravathib, Brahma Saraswati etc.
    Again they are the same manifestation of ONE being and not considered separate.
    Therefore according to Hinduism the Divine God ,has thousands of manifestation s,and they are unlimited.
    God also has Adverserial forms of Darkness,that set upon humans drawn to evil.
    With consequences of lower birth forms in Future for the evil they have done.
    This continuous suffering in lower births ,ceases when the Soul learns to seek higher truth , goodness, humility.
    And Absolute surrender to the Divine.
    For this Hindus have a very definite and scientific path.
    Through rigorous penance,vis a vie fasting, meditation,Yoga,Pranic breathing exercises.
    And Sattvic food.
    Food free from sin of killing,and therefore lowers our Etheric vibrations.
    When we raise our Etheric vibrations,we raise the dormant Divine Energy in sleeping in our Spine. The Kundalini or Serpent Energy.
    Which libetates the Soul ,from Cycle of Rebirth.
    And the individual Ascends to Heaven or Swarglok.
    This is how Jesus ,Mary and others Ascended into Heaven.
    These are realized Souls.
    Jesus also fasted and purified himself,as many Jews do from time to time.
    But unlike Jews , Hindus believe in evil Spirit’s and Dark Entities.
    However we believe,prayer And devout faith frees us from any harm.
    We have to light fire in our home Altars everyday,burn incense everyday use camphor to purify our homes.

    Like

  2. Thank you Rabbi , I too believe in monotheistic God.
    There is only One God.
    Which has many manifestions ,names.
    But Only one God who looks out for all of us.
    Shalom Shalom.
    Tov Toda.
    I speak some Hebrew.
    I love the Language.
    Blessings be upon you.

    Like

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