August 16, 2017

What Do We Know about Our Enemy?

Thomas Strouse

Satan and the Serpent in Genesis 3 Moses records the first attack of our enemy upon mankind in Genesis 3:1. Following the bliss Adam and Eve shared on day six, our enemy tempted the first couple. The reader may infer several facts. First, since Gen. 1:31 indicates there was no sin in the universe through day six, Satan had not yet rebelled. Second, Satan’s rebellion followed shortly after day six for several reasons. Adam had just named the beasts of the field, of which the serpent was one (2:20). Then the Lord put Adam to sleep while He created woman, whom Adam named “Eve” immediately after the fall (cf. 2:20, 21, with 3:20). The New Testament commentary on Satan’s fall confirms this tenor of immediacy, stating that the bishop should not be “a novice (neophyte), lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6).

According to Moses, the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field. The serpent, apparently classified as a beast rather than a creeper (cf. 1:24), was not only subordinate to mankind, but also the tool of the malicious enemy (cf. 3:15). Moses connects the previous garden bliss with the diabolical temptation by the wordplay between “naked” (‘arummim, 2:25) and subtle (‘arum, 3:1). Man’s innocence was in contrast to and undermined by the serpent’s subtlety. Satan shrewdly utilized his original purpose as “one who covers” (Ezek. 28:14) to render him as “one who exploits and exposes.”

The New Testament clearly identifies Satan with the serpent in at least two passages. Paul alludes to the protevangelium (Gen. 3:15) as he repeats the promise of victory in Christ (Rom. 16:20). John identifies Satan with “the great dragon . . . that old serpent, called the Devil” (Rev. 12:9). From Gen. 3:1, the believer may learn at least two characteristics about our enemy.

He Is a Crafty Being

He Manipulates. Moses uses the comparative preposition mm (“more”) to express the idea that the serpent was more subtle in comparison to the other beasts (cf. 3:20). Satan manipulated the ideal tool, the subtle serpent, for his evil purposes. He used the same technique on other occasions, as with the king of Babylon (Isa. 14:4), the king of Tyre (Ezek. 28:12), and even Peter (Matt. 16:22, 23). Satan is the master of manipulation as he uses the appropriate tool for his devices. The Hebrew root behind the word “subtle” is translated “crafty” in a positive sense in Job 5:12, 15. Likewise, Solomon employs ‘arum to refer to the prudent man in Proverbs 12:16, 23. Satan used the craftiest animal in Eden as a tool to tempt Adam and Eve.

He Exposes. The Lord created Adam and Eve in the image of God (Gen. 1:26, 27). Moses emphasizes the unity/diversity principle of mankind in the imago Dei. Just as God is singular (cf. the singular verb “created,” bara’, in 1:27), and also plural (“let us,” na’aseb, in 1:26), so is man (cf. “him … them,” ‘otho . . . ‘otham, in 1:27). Satan exposed the nakedness (‘arummim) of Adam and Eve through his craftiness (‘arum) by showing them their individual distinctions (cf. 3:10, 11). As Moses writes from a post-lapsus perspective, he recognizes that Satan’s craftiness extends to the perversion of the good institution of marriage with all sorts of aberrations such as bigamy, sodomy, polygamy, rape, incest, and fornication—as the remainder of Genesis indicates.

He Is a Created Being

He Was Good. The Scripture states that the Lord Jesus Christ made the serpent as one of the “good” animals of the Garden (cf. 1:31, 2:20 with Col. 1:16). Furthermore, the Scripture reveals that God created Lucifer as a perfect cherub (Ezek. 28:14, 15). God gave His perfectly created being the responsibility to obey Him. Satan fell because of pride, however, taking a third of the angels with him (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 12:4). This perfect creation is the author of sin in the universe.

He Is Limited. As the chief rebel against the Lord, Satan nevertheless is limited to using dupes for his purposes. He used the serpent, he used King Saul (1 Sam. 19:9), and he used Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3ff.) to accomplish his sinful ends. Moses does not fail to stress, however, that just as the serpent was crafty (‘arum), he also was cursed (‘arur, 3:14). Likewise, those who identify with the evil personage behind the serpent will fall under the divine curse upon Satan.

Conclusion

Believers should recognize that the Devil, though originally good, is a crafty but created being with limitations who manipulates and exposes. May God help us to remember these characteristics about our enemy and avoid their negative influences in our lives.


At the time of original publication, Dr. Thomas M. Strouse was Dean of Tabernacle Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

(Originally published in FrontLine • September/October 1999. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


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