The First Appearance of Satan in the Bible

This lesson explains the first glimpse of Satan in the physical world and examines information about this spiritual being from various Bible writers.
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At the close of chapter 2 in Genesis, we see a picture of the world where everything is "very good." No pain, no suffering, no disharmony, no struggle for survival, no sin, and no death. However, if we look at the world today we see that this is not the situation. Things wear down and out (even stars); animals and people age and die; civilizations rise and fall; people are more easily drawn to evil than to good.

This situation in the present world is vastly different than it was in Genesis 2. The problem of evil and death has been the subject of endless speculation by philosophers and theologians who have asked the question, "If God is omnipotent and holy, why does He permit such things? How could evil have entered a perfect world?"

There have been many theories given to try to answer this question throughout the years. Here are a few:

  1. Atheism is not simply a belief that there is no higher being. Atheism says that if there is a God, He is either evil or unable to stop evil, therefore He is not an almighty God.
  2. Dualism is a philosophy that is contained in many eastern religions. It says that good and evil are dual forces that have always existed and that battle for dominance. Star Wars movies used this idea where the "force" of good through Luke Skywalker battled the "dark side" represented by Darth Vader. Their story was just an episode in the continuing battle.
  3. Materialism, secularism, humanism, existentialism are more modern ideas that say that life is what you make it, good or evil. They teach that there is no such thing as good or evil. They propose the idea that you are the one who makes something good for yourself or bad for yourself. In other words, if something is good for you, then it is good and if it is bad for you, then it is bad.

We could go on and on because each culture and generation comes up with different ideas to try and explain the origin and existence of evil.

Thanks be to God that He provided us with the true and original source for evil and the manner in which it affected the creation.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned
- Romans 5:12

Death came through evil, evil through sin, and sin through man. However, before man could sin he had to be persuaded by an outside agent since there was nothing in him to lead him to sin. This is why in Genesis 3:1 we have a description of Satan in the disguise of a serpent.


Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.
- Genesis 3:1a

Johnny Carson, host of the Tonight Show, used to argue with Ed McMahon about who was smarter, a chicken or a pig. The point was that some animals seemed to be smarter than others.

The Bible says that in the pre-sin world, the serpent was the most intelligent. The word subtle means cunning or crafty. This is the first appearance of Satan in the scripture. We do not know this right away but in Revelation 12:9, the Bible says that the serpent was the devil himself.

Not very much is written directly about Satan, there is no narrative in the Bible that describes step by step (like the creation in Genesis 1:1-ff) when he was created and what he did. We learn about him through references from the prophets who compared human situations to things that Satan did or things that happened to Satan in the spiritual world.

For example:

1. Isaiah 14:12-15

12How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!
13"But you said in your heart,
'I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
14'I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.'
15"Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol,
To the recesses of the pit.
- Isaiah 14:12-15

Here the prophet is talking in a literal sense about the king of Babylon who had become proud thinking that he had conquered the world by his own strength. Isaiah warns that God will bring him down (and historically He did, the king went mad and ran around thinking he was an animal for several years) until he repented and God restored him.

In a spiritual sense Isaiah is comparing what happened to this earthly prince to what happened to a prince of the heavens, LUCIFER (day star).

Apparently Lucifer had become proud as the chief of angels and desired to rise above God. Some say his sin was to disbelieve that God had created him and assume that he had evolved to this height and now he could go higher in the evolutionary chain to be first.

Isaiah says that this sin of pride caused his downfall from his lead position and ultimately brought him to the pit of hell, created specifically for him and those who follow him (Revelation 20:10). (NB. Hell was created after earth since there was no need before since all was good).

2. Ezekiel 28:12-19

12Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre and say to him, 'Thus says the Lord God,
"You had the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13"You were in Eden, the garden of God;
Every precious stone was your covering:
The ruby, the topaz and the diamond;
The beryl, the onyx and the jasper;
The lapis lazuli, the turquoise and the emerald;
And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets,
Was in you.
On the day that you were created
They were prepared.
14"You were the anointed cherub who covers,
And I placed you there.
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked in the midst of the stones of fire.
15"You were blameless in your ways
From the day you were created
Until unrighteousness was found in you.
16"By the abundance of your trade
You were internally filled with violence,
And you sinned;
Therefore I have cast you as profane
From the mountain of God.
And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub,
From the midst of the stones of fire.
17"Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;
I put you before kings,
That they may see you.
18"By the multitude of your iniquities,
In the unrighteousness of your trade
You profaned your sanctuaries.
Therefore I have brought fire from the midst of you;
It has consumed you,
And I have turned you to ashes on the earth
In the eyes of all who see you.
19"All who know you among the peoples
Are appalled at you;
You have become terrified
And you will cease to be forever."'
- Ezekiel 28:12-19

Ezekiel prophecies against the many kingdoms around Israel and warns them about what is to befall them because of their sins. One of these kings and kingdoms was Tyre. It was a wealthy nation based on its trade and shipping ability. (Today - Lebanon). Its king thought that his island city capital was impenetrable and scoffed at the idea that his nation that was at its height and power for almost 600 years (12th to 6th century B.C.) could be defeated. However, Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king that destroyed Jerusalem, laid siege to Tyre as well and after 13 years of warfare, conquered the city, thus ending its dominance. Ezekiel said it would be reduced to a bare rock and that has been so because it never regained its prominence throughout history.

In a spiritual sense Ezekiel is also referring to another fall that he compares the king of Tyre to, and that seems to be the fall of Satan. The words he uses not only describe a human king, there is also another parallel.

Some insights we gain from this passage:

  1. He was created – vs. 13b
  2. He was wise and beautiful – vs. 12-13
  3. He was in Eden and was part of that pre-sin world – vs. 12-13
  4. He served as guardian (cover) perhaps the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and had access to the throne of God (Holy Mountain).
  5. He was created perfect – vs. 15
  6. His sin was from within, he was not subject to external temptation – vs. 15
  7. The source of sin was pride in his beauty (Old Testament Hebrew word is brightness. – vs. 17a
  8. The result of this sin was to try to lift himself up, change his position beneath God to be equal with or above God – Jude 6
  9. This sin caused his destruction – vs. 17-19. The prophets in the Old Testament and John in Revelation speak in terms that this has already been done but they talk with the idea that if God has declared such a thing, it is as good as done, so they describe the final results as already accomplished, even if they are still in the future.
  10. Now he no longer has his position as one who stands as first before God or guards or covers. Now his spiritual abode is the pit of darkness, his place in the world is no longer as guardian of the tree but as an enemy, as an adversary (what the word Satan means in Hebrew) lurking about in a serpent's body ready to attack those who come by the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Satan and the Serpent

And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'
- Genesis 3:1b

The question is why a serpent's body and how a serpent's body? We now arrive in an area where the Bible does not give us a lot of information. You have to deduce based on what you know.

1. Satan has fallen, no longer in the presence of God, perhaps because of this he no longer is beautiful, no longer is "bright." II Corinthians 11:14 says that Satan only disguises himself as an angel of light, not that he is one.

He takes the body of an earthly creature to hide his true identity which might be a warning to Eve. Adam and Eve were intelligent, spiritually discerning people, they may have known who he was if he appeared as himself.

2. The serpent is naturally a wise and crafty animal, superior to others in the animal kingdom. The word serpent meant to "hiss" in Hebrew, and also meant to whisper. How a spirit inhabits a physical body is unknown to us. The Bible tells us that it happens for both evil and good. Evil spirits possess = control; Holy Spirit indwells = lives with.

There is always a debate about whether or not Satan or an evil spirit can still possess people today. There are good arguments on both sides but one thing is sure: Satan or his angels cannot inhabit one in whom the Holy Spirit dwells (I John 4:4).

3. Another point about which there is much speculation is, who does the talking. Here are three possibilities:

  • The devil spoke through the serpent.
  • The serpent spoke and Satan guided, controlled its speech.
  • The snake telepathically communicated to Eve's mind these thoughts and words.

A. If Satan possessed the snake then it is certainly possible for him to speak through a creature that did not normally speak. Balaam's donkey spoke to the prophet in Numbers 22:28 though the power of God.

The argument against this is that Eve, who like Adam, ruled over the animal kingdom would have seen something unusual about a snake speaking.

B. If Satan guided the snake's speech, then it seems some animals could talk and communicate with man. The snake was the smartest, perhaps this denoted speech capabilities. This might be possible in a pre-sin world and scientists have found traces of speech mechanisms and patterns in animals. This would explain why Eve was not alarmed at the snake's speech.

C. Then there is the Hollywood point of view where Eve is thinking these things in her mind, a kind of a self-talk with the devil in her heart and the devil truly present in the form of a snake. This sidesteps the tricky problems of a snake actually speaking somehow, but the words of the Bible do say that the snake actually said these words to the woman.

In any event we have the woman in the presence of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; we have a serpent possessed by Satan who will lure her into using her free will to disobey God. In the next chapter we will examine the dialogue between the serpent and the woman.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does Genesis 3:1 describe Satan (the serpent – Revelation 12:9) and how do you understand the word used?
  2. What similarities are there between the descriptions of Satan from Genesis 3:1, Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:12-19, and I Peter 5:8?
  3. How does Paul in Romans 5:12 describe the entrance of sin into creation?
  4. How can you use this lesson to grow spiritually and help others come into a relationship with Jesus?
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