Demons and the Bible

The word demon has been translated into the Tanach in two places. The Hebrew word לשדים (lashedem) is translated as demon (or devil in the King James), in some Christian Old Testament and Jewish Tanach texts. It appears in Deu 32:17 and in Psalms 106:37

Deu 32:17 KJV They sacrificed unto devils (demons), not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.
Psa 106:37 KJV Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils (demons),

In both instances the references are to false deities, or better yet idol worship.

What is a demon?
Demon originally was a Greek word meaning a deity or genius. Over time it became a Latin word with some change to the meaning describing a lesser or evil spirit, and then later becoming part or the English language with the same definition.

According to Webster:

demon/daemon – noun
de•mon/ dae·mon

a : an evil spirit
angels and demons
b : a source or agent of evil, harm, distress, or ruin
the demons of drug and alcohol addiction
confronting the demons of his childhood

Today the word “daemon”, pronounced “day•mon” is also used in UNIX computer operating systems, that runs in the background. It has nothing to do with “evil spirits”.

The belief of demons was very wide spread in the Middle Eastern countries. The Persian religion of Zoroastrian, one of the oldest religions in the world, had a strong influence in the belief of demons. Zoroastrianism dates back over 3,000 years ago, believing in a creator god verses evil, battling over control. It is monotheistic yet practices dualism. Dualism is the belief of two opposing forces battling each other for control. Christianity has an eliminate of dualism with the belief of a battle between god and satin, for control.

Plato, who lived from about 427 BCE to around 347 BCE, wrote a play including demons, however they were not evil. The common belief at Plato’s time was that demons were not evil, but represented happiness.

The following is from Wikipedia:
“Daemon is the Latin word[1][2] for the Ancient Greek daimon (δαίμων: “god”, “godlike”, “power”, “fate”), which originally referred to a lesser deity or guiding spirit; the daemons of ancient Greek religion and mythology and of later Hellenistic religion and philosophy.[3]

The word is derived from Proto-Indo-European daimon “provider, divider (of fortunes or destinies)”, from the root da- “to divide”.[4] Daimons were possibly seen as the souls of men of the golden age acting as tutelary deities, according to entry δαίμων at Liddell & Scott.[5]”

Wikipedia states that evil spirits are mentioned in Judges and Kings. It goes on to mention “in the Greek translation of the Septuagint”. A side Note: How can you have a translation of something written in that language your translating to? The Septuagint is Greek – so how can you have a “Greek” translation of a work written in “Greek”.

The following are the Judges and 1Kings references:

Jdg 9:23 KJV. Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:

1Ki 22:23 KJV Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.

Please note that in both cases it is clearly stated that G-d instituted both situations, first in Judges with a evil wind, and then in 1 Kings with a deceptive wind. It makes no mention that these were independent deities (god like) spirits attacking or interfering with these situations.

1Sa 16:14 KJV But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.
1Sa 16:15 KJV And Saul’s servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee.
1Sa 16:16 KJV Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well.
1Sa 16:23 KJV And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.
1Sa 18:10 KJV And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul’s hand.
1Sa 19:9 KJV And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand.

Again please note that in each instance the “evil spirit” was sent by by G-d. We must keep in mind that when we read the Tanach (Bible) in a language other than Hebrew we are reading a translation of the Scripture, not the Scripture itself. With this in mind, lets look at what was translated as “evil spirit”.

The word translated as “evil” is: רעה
It is pronounced: “rah”
In this case rah is an adjective and is describing what follows. Rah as an adjective means “bad”, it could be evil, or miserable, distasteful, etc.

In 1Samuel 16:14 -16, 23, 18:10 and Judges 9:23, 1 Kings 22:23
The word translated as “spirit” is: רוח
It is pronounced: “rooch” rookah
The Hebrew word רוח can mean a wind, breath, or a spirit.

In 1Samuel 19:9
The word after רעה is: אל
It is pronounced: “El”
El is a form of the English word “god”.
רוח (spirit, wind, breath) does not appear in the verse.

We know that G-d sent something that either caused or tempted people to act in a bad way. None of these instances reflect being possessed by something evil and not able to be in control. In fact Saul became refreshed and the evil departed.

I think we can receive the wrong understanding, by not studying the Bible in its original language, Hebrew. A good example for my point is with the word “רוח”. We know from what I previously wrote that a translator can translate this word three different ways. It can be translated as breath, wind, or spirit. The reader will read this translation in the lite of their respective beliefs. If a persons belief (a Christian New Testament belief) is that all “evil spirits” come from the “devil – satin”, and are “fallen angels” that departed from god when Satin did. This person will see “spirit” as a type of “being”. However if the translation describes a wind of evil, like when you walk into a room and you can feel something in the air. You are not possessed by something, just aware. A choice is to be made, either to go along with the feeling, or to resist it. This is just an example, but the application can be seen in a variety of situations.

The Tanach teaches us two major factors:
1. G-d created good and He created evil.
a) Deuteronomy 30:15
Deu 30:15 KJV See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;
b) Isaiah 45:7
Isa 45:7 KJV I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
2. G-d has given us the ability to choose between good and evil, so we are not robot’s.
a) Deuteronomy 30:15
the beginning phrase, “I have set before you”, can be translated “I set before you”, or “choose you”.

In conclusion, is it fare to say, “the devil made me do it”, or to see everything negative related to an outside force that is opposing G-d? G-d has set before us good and evil, and He has given us the opportunity to choose to serve Him and choose good, or to not serve Him. However He also leaves the door open for repentance and forgiveness when we make bad choices. The bottom line is that any force is within us. We each have a good inclination, and a bad (evil) inclination, that G-d created and placed there, for us to have the ability to choose to follow Him and the Torah or not.

by, Jim Behnke

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