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Sermon : Sodom and Gomorrah


As time progressed, people increasingly became uneasy with attributing 'evil' to God, the all powerful and all knowing being. It became uncomfortable for many to continue ascribing pillage and destruction to the will of God, therefore, new answers were sought - evil as a result of human sin, and perversity began to arise.45 However, human sinfulness became somewhat insufficient, for how could God allow evil in the world if He, indeed, was all powerful and all knowing? So, Israel turned to yet another answer: that "the instigator of evil was a malevolent spirit who had greater power to offend than mere mortals".46 Thus, a "twinning" occurred, and the malignant, destructive aspect of God was subtracted from Him and attributed to a different spiritual power - the one God split into two parts, and the satan rose to a higher, more independent role.47 2 Samuel's account of King David taking the census of Israel makes it known that this act is a sin. However, it also noted that it is Yahweh who commands David to take the census in order to punish the people - this is understandable if God is, indeed, ambivalent.48 The later historian of Chronicles, however, is unable - or perhaps unwilling - to grasp such ambivalence of God, and therefore writes that the satan sets himself against Israel - indeed, the author could not believe that Yahweh would will His people to sin.49 Here, the satan has gained an independence from God that he did not previously have, and becomes the substitute for God as the "agent provocateur".50 Consequently, the story is altered, in that it is a supernatural being who infiltrates David's royal house and has him sin, causing God to become angry and send an avenging angel to destroy seventy thousand people by plague - the blame, then, falls upon both King David and the angelic being who incited the act.51 God is 'innocent', and merely punishes after the fact.

It has thus been seen that the satan of the ancient Israelites is not the "Satan" of modern Christianity, or Judaism. Indeed, the need to justify God's ways has perhaps resulted in a reduced vision, where problems are rarely seen with the insight of Job - the Chronicler, and those that follow after him, could not see the proud quality of this "newly moral" view of God - a pride that makes God in humanity's image.52 Although many will believe that this view of "Satan" as a "divine subordinate" is outdated and primitive, it does not warrant a dismissal of any kind. It follows that if Yahweh is, indeed, the one God, He has created all things, and nothing exists without His will or permission - all power and authority must come from Him, and Him alone. Therefore, God also directs all things, including this satan - God created the satan and uses Him as an instrument, along with all the other angels of His heavenly court.53 Our current beliefs disallows both good and evil to come from God, yet there is still one God, and after all is said and done, it appears as though such a view emphasised above is more holistic, attributing all things to the God who has made all things, and orders all things. God cannot be reduced - and neither, can He be understood. Here there are no answers, but merely speculation. Therefore, just as Yahweh ultimately remains a mystery to the limited human, the satan, and evil, will continue to be an unknown force of the spiritual realms.

  1. Russell, The Devil, p.181.
  2. Ibid., p.182.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid., p.203.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Forsyth, The Old Enemy, p.121.
  7. Pagels, The Origin of Satan, p.43.
  8. Forsyth, The Old Enemy, p.121.
  9. Russell, The Devil, p.214.