What are demons?

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In our series on the spiritual realm we have already looked at angels (angelology) and the adversary or Satan(satanology.) We have seen that the adversary is the ruler of this world and that he has a system in place that rules over the unbelievers. Through our believe in Y’shua our Messiah, we have been taken out of this system, even though we are still in this system. In the article on the adversary, we discovered that he also has his own angels. In this article we will start looking at the demons. Are they the angels of the adversary or are they something else? Let us look in Scripture to get more clarity on this.

In the article on the adversary, we saw the big difference between the view of the adversary in the Tanakh and the Apostolic Writings. When we look at the concept of demons (demonology) we see that same pattern again. Let us see what the words being used can show us.

Word Study

The English word “demon” comes via the Latin word “daemon” from the Greek words: daimon and daimonio. In English it is usually used to describe an evil spirit or an agent of evil, harm or distress. It is seen as a supernatural being with a negative connotation. In it’s original Greek form, the word could be referring to either a good or an evil spirit. From the context of the phrase you had to determine which one was implied.

Tanakh and Septuagint

In the Hebrew Scriptures we find two words being translated as “demon” in English. They are “śā·ʿîr” – שָׂעִיר – H8163 and šēḏ – שֵׁד – H7700. The word sayir is only used once in Leviticus and then refers to a goat demon or satyr.

Leviticus 17:7
“They shall no longer sacrifice their sacrifices to the goat demons with which they play the harlot. This shall be a permanent statute to them throughout their generations.” ’

This Hebrew word occurs four times in the Hebrews Scriptures and is translated as goat demon, shaggy/hairy goat and satyr. One of the other places where the Hebrew word is used, is in the case where Jeroboam set up his own temples in Tel Dan and Beth-El.

2 Chronicles 11:15
He set up priests of his own for the high places, for the satyrs and for the calves which he had made.

In the Septuagint the word “satyr” is translated as the Greek word “mataios,” that is normally translated as futile, empty or worthless. The other two cases are found in Isaiah where the prophet speaks of the spiritual beings that inhabit the deserted land. Please refer to our article regarding defiled land to get a better understanding of what Isaiah was talking about in these two verses (Isa 13:21 and Isa 34:14.) In these cases we see that the Septuagint translated the word with the Greek word “daimonion.”

The second word, “sed” or “sedim,” is translated in two verses as “demon.” In both cases, these verses refer to a object to which sacrifices were made. These are the only two verses in which this term is used. In both cases it is used in the plural form “sedim.”

Deuteronomy 32:17
“They sacrificed to demons who were not Elohim, To gods whom they have not known, New gods who came lately, Whom your fathers did not dread.

Psalm 106:37
They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons,

In the Septuagint, in both cases the Greek word “daimonion” is used. The translators of the Septuagint were not so consistent in their translation of the two Hebrew words. We also see in Psalm 96:5 that they translate the Hebrew word “elohim” as “diamonion.” In the Septuagint we see “satyr”, “sedim” and “elohim” being translated as “diamonion.”

We see that, in the context of the Tanakh, the demons were seen as idols that were worshipped by the people. We do not see any example of a demon possessing a person. For this, the Tanakh uses a different term. In the case where King Saul rebels against YHVH, we find that the Spirit of YHVH departs from Saul and he is then tormented by an evil spirit from YHVH.

1 Samuel 16:14
Now the Spirit of YHVH departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from YHVH terrorized him.

Saul’s servant acknowledged that it was an evil spirit from YHVH, that was causing these problems in his life. We also see an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Schechem, in Judges 9:23-24. Also, in this case, it is mentioned that the evil spirit is from YHVH. In the Septuagint this term is translated as “pneuma ponēros” meaning evil/bad spirit/wind/ghost. In our original article on the spiritual realm, we also referred to the story where YHVH conferred with His heavenly beings and then sent a deceiving, or lying, spirit to the kings of Judah and Israel.

1 Kings 22:22
“YHVH said to him, ‘How?’ And he said, ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.’

Once again we see the deceiving spirit of YHVH entered a person, the prophets in this case, and then caused the will of YHVH to happen.

In Zechariah we see that the evil spirits will be removed from the land by YHVH.

Zechariah 13:2
“It will come about in that day,” declares YHVH of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land.

What is interesting about this verse is that it makes a clear distinction between idols and evil spirits. The names of the idols will be cut off and the unclean spirits will be removed. Thus, it is a clear that evil spirits are not idols and evil spirits are not worshipped. We also see that evil spirits can originate from YHVH. Evil spirits can dwell in people or the land.

Gospels

When we get to the Apostolic Writings we see a more common use of the word “demon.” It occurs a total of 64 times in the New American Standard Updated translation, as compared to the 3 times in the Tanakh. The Greek words used are also a lot more consistent with 62 of the 64 occurrences using the Greek word “daimonion” – δαιμόνιον – G1140. The other two verses use the word “daimōn” –δαίμων – G1142 in Matthew 8:31 and translate it as “demons.” In James 3:15 we find the Greek word “daimoniōdēs”δαιμονιώδης – G1141 being translated as “demonic.”

In the Apostolic Writings we still see the concept of demons being the receivers of worship and sacrifice.

1 Corinthians 10:19–21
19 What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to YHVH; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of YHVH and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of YHVH and the table of demons.

Revelation 9:20–21
20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; 21 and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.

However, we do see a big difference in what it is that these demons do. In the Tanakh we saw that it is evil spirits from YHVH, that enter people, but in the Apostolic Writings we see that it is demons that now enter and afflict the people.

Luke 4:41
Demons also were coming out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of Elohim!” But rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Messiah.

We find a number of incidents described in the gospels where people were delivered from the affliction of these demons. Not every gospel describes every incident. Below is a table that provides us with a summary of these events.

Incident

Matt

Mark

Luke

John

Man at Gadares with Legion

x

x

x

Mute man with a demon

x

x

Blind man with a demon

x

Daughter of a Canaanite woman

x

x

Man in synagogue

x

x

x

Son of Jewish man where the disciples could not help

x

x

x

The woman bent double for 18 years

x

Matthew provides us with the most complete account, followed by Luke. What is interesting from this list is to see that the “spiritual” gospel – John, does not record any of these incidents. What is even more fascinating is the fact that John only uses the word “demon” when other people are using it to accuse Y’Shua.

John 7:20–21
20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?” 21 Y´Shua answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel.

John 8:48
The Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

John 10:20
Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?”

John also uses the word “spirit” only in it’s positive context. He refers to the Spirit of YHVH and the spirit of truth in his gospel. There is no instance of an “evil spirit” in the gospel of John. In fact, in all the Johanine literature (Gospel of John, 1,2,3 John and Revelation) there is one reference to a demon and an unclean spirit. This is in Revelation when John is quoting an angel.

Revelation 18:2
And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.

From the other three gospels we see that the demons or “evil spirits” cause sickness and affliction in all sorts of people. They range from young children to a man in the synagogue to two men living among the graves. In some cases, they caused physical sickness, the women bent over for 18 years, no speech and blindness. In other cases, they simply afflict the people to do harm to themselves: two men at Gadaras and the Son of the Jewish man. All these demons were driven out by Y’Shua speaking the word. The authors of these gospels are not very specific about the cause. They do not distinguish between demons and evil spirits.

Here we see a case in Luke where a spirit can cause the sickness.

Luke 13:11–13
11 And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Y’Shua saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” 13 And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying YHVH.

In another case Luke states that it was a demon that caused the man not to speak.

Luke 11:14
And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed.

Thus, in the Apostolic Scriptures the focus is a lot more on the physical affliction and diseases that the demons or evil spirits cause. The focus is not as much on the temptation to sin, although this does still exist. An example is where Y’Shua reacts to the comment of Peter.

Matthew 16:22–23
22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “YHVH forbid it, Master! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on YHVH’s interests, but man’s.”

We also see from the accusations made against Y’Shua and John the Baptist that the common view at this time was that demons cause people to do sinful, evil or crazy things. This included a case in John where the crowd accused Y’Shua of falsely believing that they wanted to kill Him. According to the crowd this case of paranoia was caused by a demon.

Luke 7:33
“For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’

John 7:20
The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?”

The Apostolic period

At the time of the apostles, we also see that the deliverance of people from the effect of unclean spirits continue. In the book of Acts it is recorded that the people brought those who were sick and afflicted to the apostles in Jerusalem to be healed.

Acts 5:16
Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick and afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.

We also have record of a man named Philip, who was able to deliver many people from unclean spirits.

Acts 8:5–7
5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Messiah to them. 6 The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. 7 For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed.

The Apostle Paul was also confronted by a demon during his visit to Philippi. Here Paul encountered a slave-girl that had a demon tormenting her. Paul got annoyed with what this demon was doing and he commanded the demon to leave her in the name of Y’Shua the Messiah.

Acts 16:16–18
16 It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High Elohim, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” 18 She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Y’Shua the Messiah to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.

Paul most probably did this more than once. He became known for the fact that he drove the demons out in the name of Y’Shua. It is recorded for us in the Book of Acts that the sick or possessed simply had to come into contact with his handkerchief or apron, in order to be healed. He actually became so well known that people started to imitate him. We have the story of the seven sons of Sceva recorded in the Book of Acts.

Acts 19:11–16
11 YHVH was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. 13 But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Master Y’Shua, saying, “I adjure you by Y’Shua whom Paul preaches.” 14 Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Y’Shua, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16 And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

What is most interesting is that the demon in this case stated that he was aware of who Paul was. The Greek verbs tell us best what the demon actually said. When speaking about Y’shua, the word “ginōsko” (to know by interaction and experience) is used, but when referring to Paul the word “epistamai” (to know about, to understand) is used1. Thus, the demon had a more personal experience with Y’Shua than with Paul. Paul he only knew by reputation.

This is also one of the texts that show us that a demon can give the person it inhabits, supernatural physical strength. This man was able to defeat seven men to the point where they all ran out bleeding. This supernatural physical strength was also in the men that lived between the graves. Even chains could not bind them. (Mark 5:3-4)

In his epistles to the congregations, Paul also touches on the topic of the spiritual realm. Here he very rarely uses the words “demon” or “evil spirit.” When he does, he uses the terms in context of the idols that the people were worshipping and bringing offers to.

1 Corinthians 10:20–21
20 No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to YHVH; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of YHVH and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of YHVH and the table of demons.

This is not a new concept as Deut 32:17 already mentioned the idea of sacrificing to demons. It may appear as if Paul is paraphrasing the verse here. In the Tanakh the concept is found in a number of verses, including Lev 17:7 and Psalm 106:37.

In his epistles Paul does refer to the spiritual powers. He refers to it using different terms like principalities, thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Rom 8:38, Colossians 1:16, Ephesians 1:21) Paul states that these powers have control and influence over the people, sometimes via the idols they serve, but Y’Shua is still the Master of them all. This view confirms what we have seen in the article related to what really happened at Babel – The spiritual impact of Babel.

Ephesians 1:18–21
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Messiah, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

We see that Peter confirms this viewpoint.

1 Peter 3:21–22
21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to YHVH for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Y’Shua Messiah, 22 who is at the right hand of YHVH, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.

To summarize – Paul had personal experience with demons and what it takes to deliver people from the oppression caused by these demons. In his teachings to the communities, he does not focus on the demons, but rather on the higher level, the powers and authorities in the heavenlies. He alerts the believers of the impact that these powers will have on them and what they need to do to fight the impact of these powers in their lives. Paul does not deny demons or deliverance, but rather he would like the believers to be aware of their complete role in the spiritual battle that they are involved in.

The origin of demons?

Now that we have had a look at what Scripture tells us about demons, let us try and be a bit more specific about what demons are. If you search the Scriptures, you will not find a clear description of where demons come from. As we have seen, you will not even find a consistent use of the terminology. Terms like demon, evil spirit, idols, ghosts, etc. are used to refer to what we believe are the same thing. Are all these things the same or do we need to distinguish between them?

In the Scriptures you will not find a clear description of the origin of demons, just like we do not find a clear description of the creation of angels. This implies that we can only determine our understanding of their origin by reading and interpreting the verses that could relate to this topic. The result of any theory based on interpretation, is that we will have different interpretations. This also holds true for the origin of demons. Any search of the literature on this topic will produce a number of different views on this topic.

There exist several theories on the origin of demons. Here are some of them2:

1. Demons are the souls of the dead who, having been unjustly treated or killed, sought retribution

2. Demons are the ghosts of the wicked dead (Josephus – Wars of the Jews 7.185)

3. Satan, after becoming apostate, induced many of the angels to fall away with him; these fallen angels are the demons. (Origen – First Principles, Preface 6)

4. Demons are the disembodied spirits of dead Nephilim. They are therefore by nature disembodied, which is why they seek to inhabit other things.3

The last theory is recorded in the Intertestamental period Jewish writings of 1 Enoch and Jubilees. The authors of Enoch and Jubilees based their theories on what is described in Genesis 6:1-4. Some of the authors of the books of the Apostolic Writing were also familiar with this theory, 2 Peter 2:4-5 and Jude 6-7. So where does this theory come from? It actually originates from what we learn in the Scriptures. Let us see who these Nephilim were, and why these authors believed that their spirits could become demons.

Who are the Nephilim?

As we have already stated, the first part of Scripture that refers to Nephilim is Genesis 6.

Genesis 6:4
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of Elohim came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

As a result of the wickedness that was in the land after the Nephilim, YHVH decided to destroy the earth with a flood. All people, excluding Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives, were destroyed by this flood. Yet, after the flood, we see again that the Anakim (sons of Anak) originate from the Nephilim. This is also confirmed by Genesis 6:4 that states “on the earth in those days, and also afterward.”

Numbers 13:33
“There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

These Anakim were giants, as we can see from the testimony of the 12 spies. We also see references to tribes called the Emim and Zamzummim.

Deuteronomy 2:10–11
10 (The Emim lived there formerly, a people as great, numerous, and tall as the Anakim. 11 Like the Anakim, they are also regarded as Rephaim, but the Moabites call them Emim.

Deuteronomy 2:20–21
20 (It is also regarded as the land of the Rephaim, for Rephaim formerly lived in it, but the Ammonites call them Zamzummin, 21 a people as great, numerous, and tall as the Anakim, but YHVH destroyed them before them. And they dispossessed them and settled in their place,

It is in the writings of the prophet Isaiah that we find the connection between the Rephaim and the spirits from Sheol.

Isaiah 14:9
“Sheol from beneath is excited over you to meet you when you come; It arouses for you the spirits (shades or Rephaim) of the dead, all the leaders of the earth; It raises all the kings of the nations from their thrones.

Isaiah 26:14
The dead will not live, the departed spirits (Rephaim) will not rise; Therefore You have punished and destroyed them, And You have wiped out all remembrance of them.

Isaiah 26:19
Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits (Rephaim).

This word is also used in this context in other verses in Scripture.

Job 26:5
“The departed spirits (Rephaim) tremble Under the waters and their inhabitants.

Proverbs 2:18
For her house sinks down to death And her tracks lead to the dead (Rephaim);

Proverbs 9:18
But he does not know that the dead (Rephaim) are there, That her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

What is again interesting is to see how the Septuagint translated this word into Greek. Here is the Septuagint translation of these verses:

Isaiah 14:9 (Lexham Septuagint)

Hades below was embittered after meeting you; all the giants who ruled the land, who roused all the kings of the nations from their thrones, rose together with you.

Isaiah 26:14 (Lexham Septuagint)
But the dead certainly will not see life, and healers will by no means rise up. Because of this you have brought and destroyed, and you have taken away every male of theirs.

Isaiah 26:19 (Lexham Septuagint)
The dead will rise, and those in the tombs will be raised, and those in the earth will rejoice; for the dew from you is a remedy for them, but the land of the impious will fall.”

Job 26:5 (Lexham Septuagint)
Are not giants brought forth from beneath the water and its neighbors?

Proverbs 2:18 (Lexham Spetuagint)
for she has set her house close by death and her paths close by Hades with the men of old. (Or “earthborn,” which is associated with primeval men, Titans, giants)

Proverbs 9:18 (Lexham Septuagint)
But he is unaware that shades meet their death by her, and he is encountering a perch of Hades.

We find no consistency in the way the Hebrew word “Rephaim” is translated. We do see that three of the six verses do have a link, direct or implied, to the giants or Nephilim. Other case the word is translated as healers, impious or shades.

Demons are not the same thing as the “fallen angels” described in Genesis 6. We can say this because Jude and Peter gave us the answer as to what happened with these heavenly beings that left their abode. They were imprisoned by YHVH until the great day of judgement. If they were imprisoned when they left their abode, they cannot be the spiritual beings that the Apostolic Writings are taking about. 4

Jude 6–7
6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.

2 Peter 2:4–5
4 For if YHVH did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell (hold captive in Tartarus) and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;

In our article on the Spiritual impact of the tower of Babel, we showed you that YHVH had appointed the sons of Elohim to rule over the seventy nations. These gods are still under the authority and rule of YHVH and, according to Psalm 82, YHVH will judge these gods for judging these nations unjustly and leading them away from Him. Their penalty for this will be that they will die like men (Psalm 82:7) and fall like one of the princes. Are these gods or rulers then demons? No, according to the Hebrew we find that these rulers are referred to as “shed – plural shedim.” This word likely originated from the Akkadian language where the word “shadu” refers to guardian spirits. Deut 32:17 specifically mentions that people sacrificed to these “shedim” that are “elohim“and not to YHVH. 3

Deuteronomy 32:17
“They sacrificed to demons (shedim) who were not God (Elohim), To gods (elohim) whom they have not known, New gods(something not previously known) who came lately, Whom your fathers did not dread.

We see from the way that the demons are described in the Apostolic Writings, that they always want to inhabit a living being. For them it does not make a difference if it is human or animal.

Matthew 12:43–45
43 “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44 “Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45 “Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”

Mark 5:10–13
10 And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain. 12 The demons implored Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.” 13 Y’Shua gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

If we understand that after the flood, certain tribes were descendants of the Anakim, who were the Nephilim, and that the spirits of these Nephilim want to inhabit people or animals, we get a better appreciation for the instruction that YHVH gave the Israel as the conquered the land.

Deuteronomy 7:1–6
1 “When YHVH your Elohim brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, 2 and when YHVH your Elohim delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. 3 “Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. 4 “For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of YHVH will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you. 5 “But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire. 6 “For you are a holy people to YHVH your Elohim; YHVH your Elohim has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

We see that Israel are specifically told to “utterly destroy” these nations. When the conquer Jericho we see exactly what this implies:

Joshua 6:21
They utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.

Joshua 10:28
Now Joshua captured Makkedah on that day, and struck it and its king with the edge of the sword; he utterly destroyed it and every person (literal – soul or heart) who was in it. He left no survivor. Thus he did to the king of Makkedah just as he had done to the king of Jericho.

Why would YHVH, a loving Elohim, instruct His people to kill woman, children and animals? Now we have a good idea, the inhabitation of the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim. We see that throughout the book of Judges they suffer because of this.

Difference between ghosts and demons

If a demon is a disembodied spirit, is it the same thing as a ghost? The answer is both yes and no. Both demons and ghosts are disembodied spirits. But a ghost is the spirit of a dead person or animal that appear in a visible form. This could also be the spirit of a righteous person. In Scripture, we find the example where Saul used the witch of Edor to call the ghost of the prophet Samuel.

1 Samuel 28:11–14
11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul.” 13 The king said to her, “Do not be afraid; but what do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a divine being coming up out of the earth.” 14 He said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped with a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and did homage.

Here we see that a medium was able to call up the spirit of a righteous man. The Torah specifically prohibits the calling up of the dead.

Leviticus 19:31
‘Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am YHVH your Elohim.

Leviticus 20:6
‘As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set My face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.

Deuteronomy 18:9–11
9 “When you enter the land which YHVH your Elohim gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. 10 “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.

Isaiah 8:19
When they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their Elohim? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?

In the times of the Apostolic Writings people were still afraid of ghosts. When the disciples were alone in the boat at night, they thought they had seen a ghost over the lake. Y’Shua proved to His disciples that He was not a ghost. He did this by showing them that he was not disembodied but actually had flesh and bones.

Luke 24:39
“See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

Also, after His resurrection, Y’Shua used the same argumentation to prove to His disciples again that He was a live person and not a spirit. Not only did He show them His body, He also ate food in the presence.

Luke 24:37–43
37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate it before them.

We do not see any reference of a ghost that resides within a living person. Thus, there exists a clear difference between ghosts and demons.

Relationship between elohim, idols and demons

From our study so far on the spiritual realm, we have learned that YHVH had appointed the “sons of Elohim” to rule over the nations while He rules over Israel. Each nation was given it’s territory and elohim to rule over the territory. At the same time we also read a number of times about people who worship idols. Are these idols demons or are they the “lesser gods” that rule over each of the nations / territories?

Idols are not spiritual beings. Idols are objects that humans make as a symbol of false gods / lesser elohim that they choose to serve. Idols are typically made of stone, silver, gold or wood.

Psalm 135:15–18
15 The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, The work of man’s hands. 16 They have mouths, but they do not speak; They have eyes, but they do not see; 17 They have ears, but they do not hear, Nor is there any breath at all in their mouths. 18 Those who make them will be like them, Yes, everyone who trusts in them.

A good example of an idol was the golden calf that the Israelites made at Sinai. They believed that they were worshipping YHVH by making an idol. Most likely their thought pattern, based on their past, was that since Moses were not around to represent YHVH, they needed another object. This object would then help them on their journey as YHVH had done previously via Moses. In this story we also see YHVH’s impression of idols. This is why we received such clear instructions from YHVH when He spoke the ten words.

Exodus 20:3–6
3 “You shall have no other elohim before Me. 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, YHVH your Elohim, am a jealous Elohim, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

Here we are given very clear instructions not to make, and then worship or serve these idols. YHVH is the only Elohim that we should serve and worship. We can also see how serious YHVH takes this by looking at the lives of the kings of Israel. David it the king that YHVH has called His son and a man after YHVH’s heart, but yet David committed some of the most horrific sins. He had one of his men killed because David had committed adultery with his wife (2 Sam 11). These are serious sins in the eyes of YHVH. Why then did he remain the son of YHVH? Because David never worshipped any other gods. He was always faithful to YHVH, even in his most difficult times. His son, who committed none of these sins, and was blessed with wisdom, did not get to understand this one crucial rule. He allowed other gods to be worshipped in the territory of YHVH. He allowed other gods to be worshipped via their idols and temples. The result of this was the split of the kingdom after Solomon’s death.

This is the reason why Paul is so vocal in his letters on the topic. He explains that we need to make the choice. Either we serve YHVH or we serve other gods via their idols. You cannot have both. If you participate in the worship of other gods, you will provoke YHVH to jealousy. This is what YHVH said when He spoke the ten words. YHVH is a jealous Elohim. David understood this!

1 Corinthians 10:14–22
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. 16 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Messiah? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Messiah? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar? 19 What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to YHVH; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of YHVH and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of YHVH and the table of demons. 22 Or do we provoke YHVH to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?

Paul’s advice is to flee from idolatry. This does not mean that we should not do it, it also implies that we should stay away. Having idols of other nations in your house as decoration will cause problems in your life. Those African masks, dream catchers, Buddha statutes and all other things will give these gods a right to enter your property. You are inviting them into YHVH’s territory. Do not share YHVH’s space where you live of work with demons.

What does “demonized” really mean?

We have determined that demons are the spirits of Nepillim that seek to indwell the body of living being. It is clear from the Apostolic Writings that this possession or control by a demon was a widely held believe. More than once Y’Shua was accused of demon possession because of what He said or did. Not because He was sinning, but because the people saw His actions and words as “crazy.” At the same time we have also seen a number of cases where demons were blamed for the physical things that people did. This included tormenting the person by inflicting pain.

Luke 9:38–39
38 And a man from the crowd shouted, saying, “Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, for he is my only boy, 39 and a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly screams, and it throws him into a convulsion with foaming at the mouth; and only with difficulty does it leave him, mauling him as it leaves.

These demons were also believed to be able to give the person it inhabits unnatural strength. This was the case for the man that lived between the graves in the area of Gerasene.

Luke 8:29
For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and yet he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.

Does this mean that all people, including believers, can be possessed by a demon?

To answer this question we need to get specific about what it is that we are asking. What does the term “possessed” imply? A number of us have the idea that when a person is “demon possessed” this typically means that the evil spirit is in control of that person and controls the person’s actions. However, this is not necessarily how the writers of the Apostolic Scriptures intended it. The Greek scholars seem to support the idea the writers meant something slightly different. Here is an example from an academic Bible dictionary – The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary.

In addition to these nouns, the Gospels employ the participle daimonizomai to describe the phenomenon. A person is said to “have a demon” or to be “demonized.” The English translation “demon-possessed” for the participle is wrongly understood if associated with the idea of ownership. The term rather designates the influence or control exercised over a person by the demon present.

This is also supported by the Greek when it comes to deliverance of these demons. We see that in most translations, it speaks of demons coming out of the people.

Luke 4:35
But Y’Shua rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst of the people, he came out of him without doing him any harm.

Luke 4:41
Demons also were coming out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of YHVH!” But rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Messiah.

If we look at bit at the Greek verb being used, we see that it has different interpretations based on the context. If we consult a lexicon like “A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition6“, that looks at the Greek in a number of sources outside the Scripture as well, we see a number of different ways the verb was being used in this time period. Here is a summary of the ways the verb was used:

ἐξέρχομαι (Strong’s G1831; Louw-Nida LN15.40)

a. to move out of or away from an area frequently with indication of the place from which, with or without mention of destination

b. to depart in death, die

c. to come from by way of ancestry, go out, proceed

d. to discontinue an association, depart

e. to get away fr. or out of a difficult situation, escape6

This implies that, depending on your view, it can be translated as “come out” or “go away from.” This view is also supported by earlier Greek manuscripts like the Septuagint. The same Greek verb is used in this verse from the Tanakh.

Genesis 4:16
Then Cain went out from the presence of the YHVH, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

This implies that the verb could also refer to remove something from the proximity of another, or put another way – break the association between two objects.

Thus, if we look at the real intent of the Greek verbs, it does not necessarily need to imply a complete control over a person. In some cases, it could imply that when you look at the complete context of the incident. The source text actually supports the concept that the people were being afflicted by these demons and that Y’Shua then sent these demons out of their lives. This implies that we shouldn’t simply assume complete demonic possession. We believe that this is really the exception, especially with believers that have that have the Spirit of YHVH in their lives. Demonization (infected by demons) or demonic affliction would be a better way to describe what happens to believers.

How to test a spirit

If we determine that a person that has the Spirit of YHVH in him/her an be afflicted by a demon, how we we determine if hat is happening to a person at a specific point in time is from YHVH or the result of a demon affliction? The first thing we need to acknowledge is that there exists a spiritual gift for the distinguishing of spirits.

1 Corinthians 12:8–10
8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.

This implies for us, that certain people will have a much better sense of determining if the spirit is evil or from YHVH. In the same way as any of the other gifts, we all could have this gift at a specific point in time. However, there exists a very easy and sure way to start when trying to distinguish a spirit.

Both Paul and John agree on this point. A spirit that is not from YHVH will not acknowledge that Y’Shua is the Messiah that has come in the flesh. If a person is able to confess that Y’Shua is the Messiah, then that implies that the Spirit in that person is from YHVH. Only the Ruach haKodeh (Holy Spirit) can cause a person to make this statement.

1 Corinthians 12:3
Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of Elohim says, “Y’Shua is accursed”; and no one can say, “Y’Shua is Master,” except by the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit).

1 John 4:1–3
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from YHVH, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of YHVH: every spirit that confesses that Y’Shua the Messiah has come in the flesh is from YHVH; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Y’Shua is not from YHVH; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

However, this raises some questions as to how some of the demons were able to recognize who Y’Shua was. Let us see what they acknowledged.

Luke 4:33–34
33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Y’Shua of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of Elohim!”

Luke 8:27–28
27 And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs. 28 Seeing Y’Shua, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, “What business do we have with each other, Y’Shua, Son of the Most High Elohim? I beg You, do not torment me.”

The exact same titles and phrases are also recorded in Matthew and Mark. The demons acknowledge that:

· Y’Shua is from Nazareth

· Y’Shua is the set apart one of YHVH

· Y’Shua is the Son of YHVH

Thus, the demons knew that Y’Shua was sent by YHVH, but they may not have had a complete understanding of what His role on earth was. After Y’Shua was crucified, raised from the dead and ascended to the right hand of YHVH, it became clear to all what His purpose was. Thus, now they would need to acknowledge Him as the Messiah who came to free all believers from the everlasting death and that He has dominion over all things, including the curse of everlasting death. This they cannot do!

Deliverance from demons

We have seen in our study that a number of people were able to drive out/away demons. This included Y’Shua, the twelve disciples, the seventy disciples sent out, Paul and some Jewish men. The ability to deliver people from the affliction was thus not limited to a select group, for example the twelve, or only people that Y’Shua had specifically given the instruction /ability to do this.

Mark 16:15–18
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. 17 These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Luke 9:1–2
1 And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. 2 And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of YHVH and to perform healing.

Matthew 10:5–8
5 These twelve Y’Shua sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.

We see that in these three cases, the deliverance of people from the affliction of demons was seen as part of the proclamation of the gospel that the Kingdom of YHVH/heaven is at hand. We can thus see why a person like Paul was able to deliver people from demons as he was proclaiming the gospel to all the nations. As he was telling them about how Y’Shua had taken them out of this “kosmos,” he was also freeing some of the people from the hold of the master of this system. Thus, if we believe that are still required to bring the gospel, or good news, of Y’Shua to the people around us, we should also consider that this may include the deliverance of people from demonic affliction.

However, be careful! There still exists the danger of simply driving away demons in the name of Y’Shua, but doing this almost as a simple spell. The seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:14-16) learned the hard way that using this “magic formula ” could simply agitate the demon(s). People that want to operate in the area of deliverance ministry must ensure that they operate in the Spirit of YHVH when doing deliverance. It is by the spirit of Y’Shua working through these people that the demons can be sent away. It is via the authority of Y’Shua that these things happen. Thus, we need to ensure that we operate in the full power that Y’Shua has given us, if we want to take on these demons.

Conclusion

In our previous studies, we have learned about heavenly beings. These included the sons of Elohim who were appointed to rule of the nations, the adversary that tries to keep people from the Kingdom of Elohim by keeping them tied into his system and the heavenly being that serve YHVH (angels and cherubim.) In this study we have looked in more detail at the evil spiritual beings. These are most often referred to as demons. Demons are different beings from these sons of Elohim (sedim) or ghosts. As the fallen angels were kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, these could also not be demons that are currently afflicting the people of this world.

Similar to the adversary, the role of demons changed between the Tanakh and the Apostolic Writings. In the Tanakh, demons are evil beings that occupy land and used as objects of worship. In the Apostolic Writings we see that demons are now also responsible for making people sin, causing medical conditions and also make people do things that are abnormal. Several people were able to cast away demons and this was seen as part of the instruction of proclaiming the gospel to the world. Evil spirits, or demons, can be recognized by their inability to acknowledge that Y’Shua is the Master and Messiah.

Before we go about entering into a spiritual battle with these demons, we need to ensure that we have the Spirit of YHVH working through us. We must not think that we can drive away these beings with our own power or by simply pronouncing some magic formula. If we operate within the power that Y’Shua has bestowed upon us, we are able to deliver people and heal the sick. We should not be afraid of these beings, as they are all under Y’Shua who is the Master of all things. In Him, we will be victorious.

References

1. Toussaint, S. D. (1985). Acts. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 410). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

2. Riley, G. J. (1999). Demon. In K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible (2nd extensively rev. ed., p. 238). Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans.

3. Van Dorn, D. (2015). The Unseen Realm: A Question & Answer Companion. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

4. Duffield, G. P., & Van Cleave, N. M. (1983). Foundations of Pentecostal theology (p. 482). Los Angeles, CA: L.I.F.E. Bible College.

5. Reese, D. G. (1992). Demons: New Testament. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 2, p. 140). New York: Doubleday.

6. Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 347). Chicago: University of Chicago Press

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