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Why does the Old Testament never mention unclean spirits and demon-possessed people? Or I am missing something?

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The main reason, I would guess, is that "demons"' and even "s/Satan" are--for the most part--not part of the cosmology of the Near East at this time. Very generally speaking, s/Satan is thought to be a religious innovation of the Persian period, and demons, the Hellenistic. –  jackweinbender Jun 26 '13 at 14:13
What about the book of Daniel? –  Deva De Silva May 17 at 2:28

3 Answers 3

You're missing something. :)

1 Samual 16:14:

Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the LORD tormented him.

Then he started playing a game of darts with David as the bulls-eye.

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Yes, but that's about only one harmful spirit, but my guess is that his question was about many. Unlike in the O.T., we see a great number of demon-possessed people in the N.T. –  brilliant Mar 10 '12 at 15:10
Not sure a "harmful spirit from the LORD" (emph mine) is quite the same thing –  Marc Gravell Mar 10 '12 at 16:39
@MarcGravell Apparently, (and I just learned this after you posted your reply), there's no word in Hebrew that is the equivalent to the Greek word for demon, thus the "harmful spirit". Nevertheless, I wouldn't discount that a harmful spirit is more than likely not an angel, but rather a demon, and certainly not the Holy Spirit. crivoice.org/demonsot.html –  David Morton Mar 10 '12 at 17:09
Genuine question - would such still be considered "from the LORD"? –  Marc Gravell Mar 10 '12 at 17:14
Simply because it's a harmful spirit doesn't mean it's not from the Lord. If God is in control of all things, then he could send a demon if he chooses. Even Satan is subject to his sovereignty. Christianity isn't God versus the Devil in the sense that they're equal. They're not. –  David Morton Mar 11 '12 at 22:28

As the light shines more brightly the shadows appear more pronounced.

With the Christ event the Kingdom of God has come. It is evidenced by Him casting out demons by the finger (=authority)/Spirit of God. Thus demons are exposed when they come close to Christ and the Spirit filled community.

I would suggest reading some work by George E Ladd on the Kingdom of God in order to get a more thorough understanding.

Another aspect is that the Old Testament texts do not have as a purpose to teach demonology. There are lots of stuff they are leaving out since it is of no value to the point the texts are trying to make. In the original context the authors wanted to teach the listeners (few people would read the texts before Gutenberg) about faithfulness to the Covenant between God and his people.

And yet another aspect is that language itself had to evolve. The prophets spoke words that made sense to their original audience. That audience had no understanding of the Bible in its complete form. It was not until the inter-testamental period that there was a nomenclature available to speak about demons.

So instead of using technical terms, they are using symbolic language: "great waters" and other various descriptions of powers of chaos.

This also helps explain why Saul could be tormented by a spirit "from the Lord". The purpose of that text is not to teach the chain of command in the spiritual realm or the mechanism of abandonment. Fixating upon grammar, especially in a translation that can not do justice to the Hebrew text, is a sure way to miss the point of the text. "from the Lord" is not a terminus technicus.

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'im is not the preposition there. –  jackweinbender Jun 24 '13 at 20:33
Indeed, I misread the Hebrew. There was a mê'im, but it referred to the Spirit of God departing from Saul –  itpastorn Jun 26 '13 at 10:00
1 Sam 16:14 uses mēʾēt "from with" (min + ʾet) and all the others places the evil spirit is in construct with God/Yahweh. Pretty solid connection, if you ask me. –  jackweinbender Jun 26 '13 at 14:06
Dropped paragraph altogether. It was secondary to my argument in any case. Lesson learned: Read more carefully before posting. I just did a quick look up end got "untranslatable part of the accusative case" for mê-'et, but a more careful look says me that it only was about 'et, not the whole. The grammar discussion probably belong better on the hermeneutics site, though. –  itpastorn Jun 26 '13 at 16:04
Yeah. NBD. I looked it up on Biblehub too—I was surprised it said ʾet was the def. direct obj. marker, because it definitely isn't. Internet fail. One more reason to learn the languages (as you clearly have)! –  jackweinbender Jun 26 '13 at 16:08

I wonder if the "deceiving spirit" of 1 Kings 22:22 would count? There's also an "evil spirit" in Judges 9:23, and then there's Saul's "evil spirit", as David Morton mentioned.

Satan is mentioned in a number of places (such as 1 Chronicles 21:1) and some attribute his name to his minions as well, so such references could be to demons as well.

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It is widely accepted that Satan didn't "exist" in the Hebrew Bible until the persian period (Job, Chron, etc.). This text is too early for that. –  jackweinbender Jun 26 '13 at 14:08

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