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Rocks and Blocks

1 Samuel 29:4

The Philistine commanders were angry with Achish and said, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place you assigned him. He must not go with us into battle, or he will turn against us during the fighting. How better could he regain his master’s favor than by taking the heads of our own men?

The true first mention of Satan in the Old Testament is in a description of King David.

The Hebrew word “ha Satan” is a word that means “adversary.”  It’s a descriptive word of a person or thing that “thwarts” or “gets in the way.” This is the Hebrew understanding of Satan’s role – He is the stumbling block, a speed bump, and the one who thwarts.

In 1 Sam 29:4 The enemy Philistine camps says that they would like to remove King David from the battle, lest he become a stumbling block (a satan) for them later.

Is King David the Devil? Of course not.

Is he a symbol for the devil? Of course not.

So right away we need to realize that the Old Testament Jews had the word “Satan” in their biblical text, but it didn’t always apply to the “devil.” In fact, do a word search for the word “adversary” in the Old Testament and most of those words will be the Hebrew word “ha Satan.” The advisory.

Next in Numbers 22, a man named Balaam is trying to ride his donkey through a narrow canyon and eventually the donkey stops and will go no further. The bible reveals that the donkey could see an angel blocking the path, but Balaam could not see the angel, so he beat his donkey hoping to encourage the stubborn animal to move forward. Later in the story when Balaam can see the angel – the angel says to him:

Numbers 22:32-33 “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I’ve come out here as an adversary (the Hebrew word “Ha Satan”), because you took the road recklessly in front of me.”

Is the angel the devil? No.

Are angels a symbol for the devil? Of course not.

But we can also see that in the Hebrew bible, even messengers from God are given the description of being a “Satan.”

So to be fair to the Bible, it’s more accurate to say that when the word “Satan” appears in the Hebrew bible, it more often describes a “function” (it acts as an adjective) than it does refer to a specific entity or a proper name.

Think about it, later in Jesus’ own ministry, Peter tries to plead with Jesus not to go to the cross – he tries to block his path – stop his mission – and Jesus shouts out in Matthew 16:23 “Get behind me, Satan. You are a stone that could make me stumble, for you are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”

I don’t believe for a second Jesus is comparing Peter (his disciple) with the Devil. Merely Jesus is calling Peter a rock in the road (remember Peter’s name means rock). Jesus is calling Peter an obstacle that threatens to trip him up and keep him from his mission.


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