The First Mention of Satan
The Bible is the infallible word of God. The writings of over forty different authors, spanning over fifteen hundred years, and every piece of it existing in perfect harmony with each other shows the Bible could have only been written by men inspired by God. The Bible is the recorded word of God, and gives insight into who God is. Although man, in his limited understanding will never be able to fully comprehend an infinite God, the Bible is God’s word by which men can know Him more. Because the Bible is the word of God accurate interpretation is a must. Hermeneutics seeks to accurately find the meaning scripture. One of the many principles of hermeneutics is the first mention principle. First mention looks at the Bible as a whole, authored from the mind of God with its canonization being under God’s protective direction over His written word. It points to the first mention of a subject in God’s word as showing the truth in which it stands connected in the mind of God. The first mention of a subject provides the foundation for that matter, and will give it substance that is then carried throughout the entire book. The first mention principle is a proven study method of the word of God and used in accurate interpretation.
The first mention principle can be applied to the study of knowing the ways of our adversary. Paul tells us we are in a war, not of flesh and blood but a spiritual war. In every war, it is highly advantageous to know the enemy. The first mention of Satan in the Bible is found in Genesis chapter three, and gives insight into his character and business. The first two chapters of the Bible shows everything is good; man and all of creation are approved of by God. Then, in chapter three there is an abruption to the story with the introduction of a new character. This first mention of Satan shows him to be subtle in his ways, a characteristic that is then seen throughout the Bible from that point on. He comes in subtlety of disguise and words. In Genesis, he comes to eve as a serpent in the garden and presents her with half truths. Here is an animal in the garden like all other animals, and asking what seems to be a harmless question. His approach was not denial but of deception. He did not come in blatantly attacking God, but with his true purpose in disguise. He asked her, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” This question was cleverly presented to position Eve on a path of doubting God. This first question in the Bible presents the idea that it is alright to question God’s word thus showing the true business of Satan. With this question, he led Eve from questioning God to distrust of God to disobeying God. Satan’s business is to stand in direct opposition of God. Here Satan brings into the world, through the guise of a serpent, that man can question God. It is as if he said, is it not odd that God has restricted you, let us talk about that. He implied that it is alright for God’s commands to be up for discussion. Further subtlety is seen as he never mentions to Eve the forbidden tree but puts it in her mind with his question. He turned her thoughts from God’s great provisions to the only prohibition. Then Satan told her the first recorded lie. The father of lies, denied there is consequence of sin. Eve answered him that God said they may eat of all the trees in the garden except the one in the midst of the garden. She told the snake that God said they would not eat of it or touch it lest they die.Satan’s reply was a lie, “Ye, shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” He attacked the character of God. He told her God’s warning was not because of His love for her or that there was death, but it was because God was selfish. Satan had led Eve to focus on the forbidden object leading her to believe God’s provision was insufficient. He told her the state in which they were living was less than what they should have, that God was withholding good from them because of His ego. In this point, there were no questions for Eve; rather he was dogmatic in his assault on the character of God. Eve did not know what evil was, but the thought was introduced to her to stimulate her curiosity of knowing everything.You do not have everything you want, you are prohibited by God. You cannot eat of every tree and you do not know both good and evil. Satan again was telling her God was holding back good from her. The seeds of his lies were planted and Eve’s thoughts focused on the forbidden, and it was the serpent’s word versus God’s word. He first questioned the word of God and then lied about the character of God. Satan’s strategy was subtlety. He came in an innocent disguise seeking knowledge. He even quoted the word of God, “Hath God not said.” His work is to oppose God. He got Eve to question God’s word and character and then act in disobedience to God.
The first mention of Satan in the Bible offers the foundational understanding of who he is and how he works. This is evident by his first mention of Satan in the New Testament. Satan first appears in the gospels when he tempts Jesus in the wilderness. Like his approach with Eve, his first utterance was deceiving, “If.” His question appeared simple enough, as it did in the garden. Since you are divine, why should you be hungry, turn these stones to bread and eat.Satan appealed to the most basic instinct of man, hunger. Surely, Jesus had the power to turn the bread into stone, he fed a multitude of people on a few loaves and fishes, and there is no sin in eating. The request seemed harmless, but Jesus was able to see through the subtlety to the danger in the deeper meaning behind Satan’s statements. Jesus answered Satan with, “It is written man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” This was a direct quote from Deuteronomy dealing with the Israelites in the wilderness. Israel was to learn to obey God. He gave them manna but they could only enjoy it if they gathered it and ate it in the way God had instructed. Obedience to God in Deuteronomy was more important than the people having all they could eat. Eating was not a sin, making bread was not a sin, but being disobedient to God was a sin. Jesus was dependent upon God and was going to trust in God. He and the Father were one, and He was divine but He would not use His divine nature for self fulfillment. He was to do only the will of the Father and would not act out of that will. As he said, Jesus’ food truly was to do the will of the One who sent Him, and He would not act outside of that will. God would make sure his basic needs were met. Jesus affirmed that He had absolute confidence in God unlike Eve who entreated the idea given to her by the Serpent that God was not meeting all of her needs. The second temptation of Satan was to take Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and tell Christ to throw himself down. Satan said it was written that God would give His angles charge over Christ and they would bear Him up. Like he did in the garden, Satan twisted the word of God to bring about his own means. In Eden he said, “God hath said,” and in the wilderness he said, “It is written.” Satan will malign the word of God as seen in the first mention, and he knows that word well. However, Jesus knew the word of God and saw through Satan’s twisted deception. Christ again countered the temptation with, “It is written.” Jesus quoted a second time from Deuteronomy saying, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord your God.” Just as Satan had told the woman in the garden he was telling Christ, “You will not surely die.” Satan was trying to deceive Jesus into acting outside the will of God. It was definitely not God’s will Christ die in this way. His first attempt, getting Christ to act outside the will of God did not work, so he tried by misquoting scripture. However, Jesus saw the subtly of the temptation disguised in the word of God and would not act independently of God but stuck to the plan and will of the Father. Lastly, Satan showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world and promised to give them to Jesus if he would worship Satan. Jesus replied, “Away from me Satan. It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord they God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” Satan was trying to tempt Jesus to forego the coming great sufferings of Gethsemane, the cross, and humiliation. Christ was promised power and dominion in the end, but Satan wanted Christ to do it his way and not God’s way. Christ was resolute in following the will of the Father. Without question, it is God’s law that He be worshiped alone. Christ stood firm when tempted showing we can be strong in trusting God’s plan, love, and word. Satan’s true work was seen in the wilderness temptations in that he wanted to oppose God. God had a plan for Christ and Satan failed in his opposition to that plan. He caused man to fall by tempting Adam and Eve into sin and he wanted to thwart God by getting Jesus to sin. Jesus was the “second Adam” to a new race. Satan succeeded in causing man to fall in the garden, but he failed miserably to get Jesus to fall in the wilderness.
When applying the first mention principle to the first mention of Satan in Genesis 3 much can be learned of our adversary. The characteristics of Satan in Genesis 3 are the same as they are in Matthew 4. The subtlety of his temptation resonates as a warning from the first mention that is carried throughout the Bible. There were so many implications with his seemingly harmless questions. He is the father of lies, and works in deceit. He appears as an angle of light in careful disguise. He is not going to be in the bars on Sunday morning but going door to door with a Bible in his hands. He knows the word of God well and will twist it to work his deception. The first mention principle of Satan shows we must be alert and trust in God’s love and promises. We must be grounded in the word of God, as Jesus was, to resist temptation. The first mention principle also alerts us to Satan’s plan. He stands in direct opposition of God. He desires for disobedience to God’s word, he desires to malign God’s character, and will not accept God’s sovereignty.He attacks our human needs on the physical, emotional, and intellectual level. He used Jesus’ hunger and what looked good for food to Eve. He implied to Eve and Jesus that God was not meeting there needs. He insinuated to Eve she did not have all she deserved and told Jesus he did not have to suffer. He told Eve she could become wiser and tried to use the scripture against Christ. He cast doubt in the guise of a seeker, stating, “Has God said,” and “If you are the Son of God.” He perverted the word of God “You shall not eat from any tree of the Garden”, “He has given them charge over you.” He uses lies and deceit, “You will not surely die”, “I will give you this, it has been handed over to me.” He lied to Eve and to Jesus stating there would be no retribution for sin. He would like man to think that there is no punishment for sin that we will not reap what is sown. However, from the very beginning, the wages of sin have always been death.Even believer will suffer the consequences of his actions for the Lord disciplines those He loves. Satan’s methods, plans, and lies are the same as they were in Genesis chapter 3. He remains the father of lies and set against God. He comes in disguise with the word of God in seeming innocence. The first mention principle gives a good look at the adversary and shows the saint must be equipped to stand and must stand firm against the wiles of the Devil.