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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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What about the book of Daniel? –  Deva De Silva May 17 at 2:28

5 Answers 5

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
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Not sure a "harmful spirit from the LORD" (emph mine) is quite the same thing –  Marc Gravell Mar 10 '12 at 16:39
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@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
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Genuine question - would such still be considered "from the LORD"? –  Marc Gravell Mar 10 '12 at 17:14
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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

Conclusion

In summary, there is no Hebrew word that can be translated as "demons" to communicate what that word implies in English. There does lie behind the Old Testament conception a basic animistic and mythological world view with which the Israelites are in dialog. But they are using the terms and in dialog with such conceptions, not because they accept them or are dominated by them, but precisely to deny the validity of such mythological world views. The biblical writers use the terms not to accept what they represent but precisely to reject it. It is clear that there was a popular belief among Israelites in such things as ghosts and the mythological creatures of Canaanite religion. But the biblical tradition as it stands moves beyond such popular mythological conceptions to a vision of a Creator, a sovereign God who is in sole control of the world, and does not share that with anything or anyone. So again, there are no "demons" in the Old Testament, only idols that are rejected as "no-gods."

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Why do you start with "conclusion"? Is this a quote? –  curiousdannii Aug 12 at 13:46

you are missing: Genesis 3:1-7

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.’" 4 And the serpent said to the woman, "You surely shall not die! 5 "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings"

isn't this spirit the most unclean?

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