Genesis 3:1

‘Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals God had made.’

Revelation 12:9  and 20:2 identify the serpent with Satan. ‘Crafty’ = cunning, subtle, crafty.

Genesis 3

The serpent, by his craftiness, succeeded in getting Adam and Eve to doubt and disobey God.

Adam and Eve were perfect, pure and innocent prior to this. There was no imperfection or sin in them that could have caused them to give ‘ground’ to Satan. This is a clear indication that it is not our sin or our sinfulness that cause us to give place to Satan. Rather it is when we give place to Satan that we sin. Their doubts and disobedience were suggested to them by Satan. They chose to listen to and believe his lies and disobey God’s command at his suggestion.

God put enmity between the serpent and the human

Although directly speaking of snakes and people, it is also legitimate to understand here an indication of the perennial antagonism between Satan and human beings. This antagonism is not always observable, as Satan has deceived many into alignment with him. From his perspective however, he seeks only our destruction.

God affirmed the eventual defeat of the serpent by the child of the woman.

Anticipating the victory of Christ over Satan.

Ex 7:11, 22; 8:7;

Ex 8:18,19

‘Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the make things by their secret arts’

‘But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not…. The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God”.‘

The ‘secret arts’ are enchantments and incantations. It is believed by some scholars that this involved contact with spirits/demons.

Note that only three of Moses’ miraculous signs were reproduced by the magicians [the rod becoming a snake, the plagues of blood and frogs]. After that the magicians admitted defeat and acknowledged that, distinct from their limited power, God was the source of Moses’ power.

Note that Paul compares false teachers with these Egyptian magicians [2 Timothy 3:1-9].

Lev 17:7

[compare 2 Chron 11:15]

‘they must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves’ [Hebrew = ‘the hairy ones’; KJV ‘devils’]

This may be simply a reference to ‘goat idols’. Some commentators see it as a reference to ‘satyrs’, and therefore to ‘devils’.

Deut 32:17

‘they sacrificed to demons, which are not God – gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your fathers did not fear’

This identification of the worship of other ‘gods’ as the worship of ‘demons’ [KJV – ‘devils’] is also affirmed in the New Testament. 1 Cor 10:20,21.

Lev 19:31

Lev 20:6,7

See also:

Deut 18:11;

1 Sam 28:3-9;

2 Kings 21:6; 23:24;

1 Chron 10:13

2 Chron 33:6

Is 8:19; 19:3;

‘Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God’

‘I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them …’

In the KJV all of these verses speak of ‘familiar spirits’: Hebrew = obe, derived from a term referring to the supernatural knowledge of the spirit, and of the person who has the spirit.

Note that the practice is clearly forbidden by God. To turn to these things is on a par with idolatry and spiritual prostitution, and incurs the judgment of God.

If we relate this to Acts 16, where a girl with powers of divination obtained those powers from an indwelling evil spirit, we will understand that mediums get their knowledge from evil spirits. We are not told how the evil spirits have this knowledge of the future, but we are warned by this not to assume that just because a person accurately predicts the future that they and their knowledge must be from God.

This caution is also given in Deut 13:1-5, where even though a prophecy or dream might come to pass the prophecy and the prophet is not to be trusted if the prophet tries to entice his hearers away from God.

1 Sam 16:14, 15, 16, 23

‘an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him’

The word translated ‘evil’ has a range of meanings: including ‘injurious’, ‘distressing’, ‘harmful’. The word translated ‘tormented’ also means ‘terrified’ and ‘troubled’.

This occurred after the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul.

Some commentators believe that it is a part of God’s judgment on Saul. Others suggest the ‘from the Lord’ means with God’s permission.

It does not seem to be the same as the demonic possession recorded in the Gospels, as the spirit is said to come ‘upon’ him and to ‘leave’ him. It came and went from time to tine.

1 Chronicles 21:1

[2 Sam 24:1

‘Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.’

‘Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah’]

In Exodus 30:11-16 God gave instructions for the payment of atonement money to accompany the counting of his people. The failure to do this may be what angered the Lord.

In any case, God was angry with Israel, and maybe with David as well. As in the case of Judas God in sovereign power uses the evil intentions and actions of Satan working in and through men, to bring about his sovereign purposes.

Ps 106:37

‘They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons’ [KJV: devils]

The context refers to offering sacrifice to idols. This is another identification of idolatry with demons.

Matthew 11:18

John 7:20; 8:48,49, 52; 10:20

‘He has a demon’

‘You are a Samaritan and demon-possessed …’

The Jews attributed the strange behaviour of John to the influence of a demon. This may reflect a contemporary readiness to ascribe anything irregular to the activity of demons.

Similarly, the Jews, not able to accept or understand the words of Jesus, accuse him of having a devil; they couldn’t accept that any rational man would dare to say what Jesus was saying.

Matt 12:24-27

‘… If Satan drives out Satan …’

Jesus had just driven out a demon; the Pharisees accuse him of doing it by the power of Beelzebub; Jesus reply quoted to the left indicates how closely he associated Satan and demons. They are not the same, but, as Jesus understands it, to drive out demons is to drive out Satan.

Matt 12:43-45

‘when an evil spirit comes out of a man ….it says “I will return to the house I left” … it finds the house unoccupied …’

What Jesus intended to teach by this passage is somewhat obscure. But this much is clear: this cannot be applied to a Christian to indicate that a Christian can be demon possessed, because when the evil spirit comes back it finds the house unoccupied. A Christian is not ‘unoccupied’ – he/she is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, and by the Father, and by the Son. [John 14:15-23; 1 Cor 6:19].

Matt 13:19

Mark 4;15

‘When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.’

‘As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.’

Satan prevents people from hearing/understanding the word of God.

Matt 13:28, 38,39

‘an enemy did this’ … ‘the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil’

Jesus refers to the devil as ‘the enemy’ – the enemy of the King and of the kingdom. He plants his ‘sons’ in amongst the ‘sons of the kingdom’. This parable indicates that Satan plants non-genuine believers among the true believers planted by Jesus the King. Their true identity as false believers is not immediately observable.

Matt 26:24

‘The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’

We know that Satan ‘entered’ Judas’ heart and stirred him to betray Jesus. This verse makes it clear that this involvement of Satan in no way absolves Judas of blame for his action. We cannot escape the judgment on our actions by saying ‘Satan made me do it’ or by blaming a demon.

Luke 11:18

‘… how can his kingdom stand?’

Satan has a ‘kingdom’ over which he is the ruler.

John 6:70

John 13:2

Luke 22:3

John 13:27

‘One of you is a devil’

‘The devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot … to betray Jesus.’

‘Satan entered into Judas …’

‘As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.’

Jesus knew Judas’ heart – that he was not a genuine believer; he also knew that this was going to happen. There is difference of opinion among scholars about what ‘Satan entered’ means: [1] Satan filled Judas’ heart with avarice or some other over-powering sin,

[2] that a demon entered Judas at this time; or

[3] Judas at this time gave himself fully over to Satan’s suggestions. Of these the second is the least likely.

Looking at the bigger picture: Judas’ betrayal was predicted [John 13:18,19; Psalm 41:9]; God knew what Satan would move Judas to do, and God wove it into his plan. That very ploy of Satan which was against him God used to overthrow Satan and his kingdom.

John 8:41-47

‘You are doing the things your own father does. … You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. …’

Jesus identifies the unbelieving Jews as children of the devil, and indicates that they take their nature from him: He is both a murderer and a liar. He is the father of lies. He does not hold to the truth. This passage polarizes all people into those who belong to God and hear his word and those who belong to the devil and cannot hear God’s word. Those who do not belong to God, even religious people, are unwittingly carrying out the devil’s desires.

Acts 5:3

‘how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit …’

This is not an instance of demon possession, but an indication that Satan dominates people so that they choose to do as he suggests. Note that this does not absolve them of guilt, for they should never have listened to him. It is their responsibility that Satan was able to fill their hearts.

It is commonly assumed that Ananias and Sapphira were Christians, and they may have been. However, nothing in the text actually says that they were. Verse 13 indicated that ‘no one else dared join them’ [the believers], while verse 14 goes on to say that many more were actually added to their number. These two statements seem to be contradictory unless we understand verse 13 to mean that no one dared to join them unless they were genuine believers. This could then indicate that A and S had been associated with the church but were not believers. The context is worth studying.

Acts 13:10

‘You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery.’

Spoken to Elymas the sorcerer, who was opposed to the faith, and tried to prevent people coming to faith in Christ.

Acts 16:16-19

‘… we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. … Paul … said to the spirit “in the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.’

This spirit enabled the girl to predict the future. After it had left her this ability stopped.

We are not told how the spirit could predict the future, but it obviously could. See note on Lev. 19:31 above.

1 Cor 5:5

1Tim 1:20

‘hand this man over to Satan, so that his sinful nature (flesh) may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord’

‘Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme’

Satan is used as an instrument of God’s discipline.

These are very puzzling statements.

Scholars dispute their meaning. Most likely suggested meanings:

[1] handed over to Satan, these people are exposed to his accusations;

[2] handed over to Satan, these people are removed from the church where Christ is, and put out into the world, where Satan is.

[3] handed over to Satan, they will be confronted with the reality of life without the Word and the Sacraments, without these constant reminders of the grace of God, and so be driven to genuine repentance and renewed faith.

[4] handed over to Satan, this man will suffer physically.

1 Co 10:19-21

‘the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too …’

This affirms that the worship of idols [which are actually nothing] is actually the worship of demons. This makes it totally inappropriate for the Christian to have anything to do with anything associated with idol worship, for it would arouse the Lord’s jealousy [verse 22]. See Deut 32:17 above.

2 Cor 4:4

‘The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’.

Satan is ‘the god of this world’.

Satan has blinded people so that they cannot see Christ or God. Only God can penetrate this blindness and make people see.

Eph 2:2

‘… transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of the world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient …’

Unbelievers are described as following the ways of ‘the ruler of the kingdom of the air’. This is the condition of all who do not know Christ.

Satan is called ‘the ruler of the kingdom of the air’ and ‘the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient’.  This means that everyone is being impacted and dictated to by Satan up to the point of their conversion.

Col 1:13

‘the dominion of darkness’

This is another name for Satan’s kingdom and rule, the kingdom in which everyone lives before being saved by Christ.

Heb 2:14

‘him that holds the power of death – that is the devil’

Satan holds the power of death

1 John 3:8-10

‘He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  …’

The person who keeps on sinning demonstrates that his is ‘of the devil’; he takes his nature from Satan to whom he belongs. The fact that he continues to sin makes it clear that he belongs to Satan. [That John is not teaching mandatory sinless perfection here is evident in 1 John 1:7-2:2; what he is saying is that a life of on-going unrepentant sinfulness is clear evidence that a person does not belong to God but to Satan.]

1 John 3:12

‘Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother’

The context of this statement is that those who belong to Satan hate those who belong to God.

Rev 2:9; 3:9

‘who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan’

‘those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars’

Jesus here describes Jews who had rejected him as being the ‘synagogue of Satan’. This ties in with what he said to the Pharisees in John 8:41-47. Those who do not recognize Jesus as God fall under this appellation, for they have been deceived by Satan into believing and propagating a lie.

Rev 9:20

‘The rest of mankind … still did not repent … they did not stop worshipping demons …’

This follows a description of severe judgments, including one that killed a third of mankind. 

Rev 12:9

‘The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.’

Satan’s activity is here described as leading the whole earth astray.

We also learn that Satan and his angels were hurled down to earth. Verse 8 states that they lost their place in heaven.

How we understand this to have happened and at what point of time we believe it occurred depends on our eschatological viewpoint.

Rev 16:13,14

‘I saw three evil spirits … They are the spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty’

Note again the activity of deception by miracles engaged in by these demons, and their impact on ‘the whole world’.

Note: in all Revelation texts we need to remember that we are dealing with highly symbolic writing, and exercise caution when tempted to be dogmatic about the meaning/interpretation of any one text.


From what the Bible teaches about the order of the fall in the world we can see we learn:

[1] Satan deceives man to reject God and his word.

[2] Satan pressures man to reject God and his word.

[3] Satan deceives man into twisted thinking about God, doubting God, and disobeying God.

[4] There is enmity between Satan and man.

[5] God is so great that he can use the evil intentions of Satan as a tool to bring about his own purpose. He can also use the actions/activity of evil spirits in bringing about his purposes. This does not affirm them or their actions; but it does affirm the great and sovereign power and authority of God – that he can take even that which is diametrically and rebelliously opposed to him and use it for his good purpose.

[6] Satan prevents people from hearing/understanding the word of God

[7] Satan plants fake believers among believers.

[8] Satan is ‘king’ of a ‘kingdom’; he is the ‘ruler of the kingdom of the air’. This was not his role in the order of creation; it is part of the order of the fall – a result of man’s fall into sin and corruption.

[9] Satan gets people to do evil things. [But we cannot escape responsibility by blaming Satan.]

[10] Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ are called children of the devil. Everyone who does not belong to Christ/know Christ is understood by Christ to belong to the devil.

[11] Satan’s nature is  that of murder and deception

[12] Satan’s sinful nature is exhibited in those people who belong to him

[13] Satan is sometimes an instrument of God’s judgment or discipline

[14] Satan leads the whole earth astray.

[15] Demons exist. They can affect humans in various ways. Not much is said about this before the incarnation of Christ.

[16] Unbelievers are described as walking according to the ways of Satan – ‘the ruler of the kingdom of the air’ and ‘the spirit now at work in those who are disobedient.’

[17] Satan, the god of this world, has blinded all who do not believe in God.

[18] Demons were understood to be a cause of unusual and/or irrational behaviour and speech.

[19] Belonging to Satan, [being a child of Satan], does not equate with being demonized/demon possessed.

[20] Apart from Acts [5:16; 8:7; 16:16ff; 19:12-16] and the synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke]  there are no biblical records of people being demon possessed, or of being released from demon possession. Nor are there any instructions in the Bible about how to deal with demon-possession, or passages trying to correct inappropriate dealing with them.