Let us begin by looking at the concept of demons in the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament). The
study is not going to be very easy because the word demon does not exist in Hebrew. It is a Greek
word that occurs in the Septuagint. When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek (the
Septuagint – LXX) there were several places where the Rabbis 13 chose to use the Greek word demon
to translate various Hebrew words. This Greek word demon has been transliterated into English and
many other languages. So in order to understand the word demon in the Hebrew Scriptures we must
use the Septuagint as our guide.
The Septuagint is the best guide to the rabbinic understanding of demons prior to the time of Jesus.
From examining the Septuagint, we can see how the people listening to Jesus understood His use of
the word demon. Jesus did not preach in Greek, He preached in Hebrew, so what we will come to
understand is how Hebrew thinking relates to the Greek language of the New Testament. In other
words, the Greek text of the New Testament is based on how the Septuagint used Greek words to
translate Hebrew thought.
The LXX Text: Deut. 32.17 They sacrificed to demons, 14 not to G-d! To gods they have not
known. New, fresh ones came in, whom their fathers knew not.
The Hebrew text: Deut. 32.17 They sacrificed to rulers, 15 not gods. 16 Gods 17 they knew not.
Recent ones from near came. Their fathers feared them not.
This is part of the Song of Moses. In verses 15 through 18 Moses is telling Israel what will
happen in the future when they forget both G-d (Elohim) and the Rock of His salvation. We know that
this word of knowledge came to pass in the time of the latter prophets (from the period of Isaiah to
Jeremiah), when Israel started to worship the gods of the nations around them. Paul tells us (1 Cor.
8.1-5) that the gods (idols) of the nations are nothing. These idols just represent demons, who are not
really gods, but worthless demons. Demons are not powerful sub-deities, they are just cheap
imitations. But whatever you fear will rule over you, so most of the power of demons comes through
the fear that people have of them.
Many Bible translators actually favoured the Greek and not the Hebrew text in Deut 32.17. That is
because the term rulers, in the Hebrew text, does not really give the sense of the text. But the Greek
text says they sacrifice to demons. The creatures called rulers in the Hebrew text were not actually
creatures, just as the Indian or African gods do not represent real creatures. They ruled only in the
sense that people submitted to them in worship, they have no power of their own. These rulers were
simply representations of what their human creators imagined these gods would look like. Their
depictions were no more accurate than a man-made drawing of G-d would be. We create images not
of actual beings, but of weird or wonderful versions of ourselves. We make idols (and demon images)
in our own image.
The LXX Text: Psa. 90.5-6 18
5 You shall not be afraid from the terror by night, or from the arrow flying by day,
6 of the thing that walks in darkness or the demon 19 at noon-time.
The Hebrew Text: Psa. 91.5-6
5 Do not fear the terror of the night, from the arrow that flies by day,
6 of the gloomy plague going in the darkness, or sting that destroys at noon.
In the Hebrew text of these verses we have two sets of parallel synonymous statements, where the
first and last parts of each verse compliment or are equal to each other. So the arrow 20 that flies by
day (in verse 5) is paralleled by the sting which destroys at noon (in verse 6). In the Greek text the
first verse is identical to the Hebrew text, but in verse 6 they translate the sting that destroys at noon
as the demon at noon-time. The rabbis translated this verse into Greek as the demon at noon-time
because they understood that a demon can penetrate into you like something that stings. If you have
ever been stung by an insect, you know that sometimes by the time you feel it the insect has gone, but
has left something inside you that causes irritation. The rabbis are saying that the nature of a demon is
In the first part of verse 6 (in Hebrew) is the word plague. The English Bibles tend to use the
wrong word here; the Bulgarian Bibles usually use the correct word. The Hebrew word that is used
for plague in verse six is not the same word that is found in Exodus (which literally means touch).
The word used in Psalm 91.6 is qatab, 21 which only occurs three times in the Bible (the other two
times are Deut. 32.24 and Isa. 28.2). There is a variation of the word that is spelled the same way, but
is pronounced qotab, and is used only once, in Hosea 13.14. In each case the Hebrew word is used to
mean cutting off. Therefore a demon is something that can cut you off in some way. So we have the
Hebrew wording of this text that literally says the cutting-off that destroys in the darkness being
replaced in Greek by the words the thing that walks in darkness.
So we are to understand from the text that the rabbis thought that demons had the power to terrify
people (especially in the night) and cause them to walk in darkness. The effect of a demon on a
person was similar to the sting of an insect. The sting of an insect can produce discomfort in one
victim, while for another it can bring on partial paralysis; some insect stings can even leave its
victims in a catatonic state. In many cases the same type of insect sting can drastically affect people in
The LXX text: Psa. 95.5 22 For all the gods of the Gentiles are demons. 23 But the Lord made the
The Hebrew text: Psa. 96.5 For all the gods 24 of the peoples are idols, 25 but ADONAI made the
Some Bible translations of the Hebrew text say the gods of the Gentiles are worthless or nothing.
26 Other translations say the gods of the peoples are idols. It is an interesting combination and both
translations are correct. Remember that Paul stated that idols are nothing. 27 So one translation speaks
of idols and another translation speaks of nothing, meaning something insignificant. But the Greek
translation says the gods of the Gentiles are demons.
Psalm 96.5 says that all gods (except the G-d of Israel) are actually demons. This includes all the
gods of the people of India, Africa, etc. So anything that people worship (other than the G-d of Israel)
is a demon, whether it is represented by an idol or not. But we must remember that people fashion
idols out of their own imagination. The demons do not actually have physical bodies; it is just that
many heathen people need to have physical images of whatever they worship. But even if their god is
not represented by an actual image it is still a demon since all the gods of the Gentiles are demons.
This includes the god of the Moslems, because they do not worship the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and
The LXX text: Psa. 105.37 28 And they sacrifice their sons and their daughters to demons.29
The Hebrew text: Psa. 106.37 And they sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the
The Hebrew text uses the word shadim, which is usually translated as destroyers. But in Modern
Hebrew shadim is the normal word for an evil spirit or a demon. In Hebrew this word is also related
to the word for Satan, since he is understood to be the destroyer. When the Hebrew text was
translated into Greek, the rabbis chose to translate shadim as demons. So we know that the Modern
Hebrew definition of shadim was also used at the time of Jesus. Therefore we understand that
demons are agents of destruction, although we are not told in this text exactly what they destroy.
On many occasions the Jews fell into the practice of sacrificing their newborn children to
Moloch, 31 an Ammonite god who required the sacrifice of babies. Although this sounds horrible to
us, the practice had a certain attraction for people. In those days a woman had no safe means of
aborting an unwanted pregnancy. But she could use the religious pretence of sacrificing her baby to
god. In effect the worship of Moloch sanctioned the killing of babies for spiritual reasons. Although it
may seem very strange to us that people would sacrifice their children to a god, it is a very common
form of worship in the modern world, but called by another name, abortion. Women, who have
abortions, are sacrificing their children to the god of humanism. They are saying “My life is more
important to me than having this blessing from G-d” (because children are a blessing from G-d).
Women who have abortions are worshipping demons.
In Hebrew the word Moloch is spelled with the same consonants as the words king and
messenger (which is the word that most English Bibles frequently translate as angel). So the worship
of Moloch was related to the worship of messengers from heaven (and therefore also the worship of
angels). Among the heathen there was a direct belief that angels and demons were related creatures
who were the agents of god and were themselves god-like, so they also should be worshipped. There
is no evidence that the Jews ever confused angels with demons. In fact it would have been very hard
for Jews in Biblical times to confuse the two beings, since they did not actually have a word that
directly corresponded to the Gentile concept of angels. 32
But the Scriptures indicate that any form of worship offered to any being other than the G-d of
Israel is the worship of demons. So any person who comes from any other religion into faith in the Gd
of Israel has been in contact with demons and therefore needs deliverance from demons. This is just
as much a fact today as it was in ancient times. The early church was very careful to always minister
deliverance from demons to all Gentile converts.
We can also see from Psa. 106.37 that through this system of sacrifice the demons (destroyers –
shadim) were destroyers of babies, which made them destroyers of the blessings of G-d, because
children are a blessing from G-d. Therefore demons directly oppose the blessings of G-d. The
demons often do this by making a G-dly blessing seem like a curse and conversely to make a curse
seem like a blessing.
The LXX text: Isa. 65.3 This is a people that continually provoke Me in My presence. They
offer sacrifices in gardens and burn incense on bricks to demons 33 that do not exist.
The Hebrew text: Isa. 65.3 This is a people that continually provoke Me to My face, continually
offering in gardens and burning incense on the bricks.34
Most Bible translations seem to follow the Greek text here. Isaiah tells us that the people are
offering sacrifices in their gardens and burning incense to brick altars. The Greek text says they are
sacrificing on the incense altar to demons. Then it says that these demons do not exist. The demons
did not exist, but the people were sacrificing to them. But the Hebrew text says something completely
different. In the Hebrew text there is nothing about sacrifices; it simply says that the people were
offering incense on bricks. However, the rabbis understood what was being said here. The bricks
were real bricks, but when the people offered incense on them, they were offering incense to foreign
gods. But there is only one G-d. So the people were offering incense to gods that don’t exist. All the
gods of the peoples are demons. That is why the text is translated it into Greek as they were offering
to demons that don’t exist.
There are demons that exist, but people who are deceived away from worshipping the true G-d
fabricate demons out of their imaginations, which they worship. Of course such people are actually
still involved in spiritual adultery because they have rejected the true G-d. In the period immediately
following the flood all people worshipped the true G-d (Noah and his family were worshippers of the
true G-d), we can then see that all forms of worship, other than what is prescribed in the Scriptures
(and followed by Noah), is the worship of demons, whether these are real demons or demons that the
people have thought up. Much like we see in India, where it seems they have taken this practice to the
extreme. It is said that there may be 2,400,000 gods in India. The Indians just keep inventing gods
(demons) to worship.
The Hebrew word lavanim, 35 which is usually translated as bricks, is not an easy word to
understand or to translate. Depending on the situation it can be rendered as white spots, bricks, or
build. In Modern Hebrew the root word lavan 36 is used concerning the man in the Bible called
Laban, or for: to make bricks, whiten, to bleach, elucidate, cleanse, purify, white, the white of the
eye, silver coin, blankness or yoghurt. The feminine form of the root word is levanah 37 which is
defined as: moon, brick, tile or birch tree.
In Modern Hebrew the word/name Laban (the man in the Bible) is used to mean a scoundrel or
deceiver. Because of the way that Laban mistreated his son-in-law Jacob, a Hebrew concept
developed that portrays Laban as the arch-typical servant of Satan. Every year at Passover we Jews
say: “go forth and inquire what Laban, the Aramenian, intended to do to our father Jacob. Pharaoh
decreed the destruction of the males only, but Laban designed to root out the whole, as it is said in
Deut. 26.5: ‘An Aramenian had nearly caused my father to die.’” 38
From ancient times the Jews have said that in every generation there will be a Laban (i.e. one
who will try to destroy them). To the Jews people like Pharaoh or Hitler were just imitators of Laban,
who was the most terrible of the enemies of the Jews. The reason for this is that, in his attempt to kill
Jacob, Laban came close to killing 100% of all the Jews, whereas Pharaoh and Hitler only destroyed
25% of the Jews. So in Isaiah 65.3 the reference to labanim (translated into English as bricks) was
understood by the Ancients to be a reference to those who were like Laban (those who were
Therefore, a demon is an entity that will try to destroy you. But who did Laban try to destroy? He
wasn’t trying to destroy the Gentiles. He was trying to destroy a person who was in covenant with Gd.
That’s a very important statement. Because from this text we understand that the purpose of demons
is to try to destroy the people of G-d. We often think that demons are more likely to attack the
unbelievers. But demons are more involved in attacking the people who are in a covenant relationship
to G-d. Remember that Jesus said a house divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12.25).
Furthermore, any person who tries to destroy the people of G-d is operating under demonic influence.
I think most people would agree that the actions of Hitler were inspired by demons, but Biblically
speaking, anyone who tries to destroy covenant people is demonically inspired (they are working as
servants of the Kingdom of Satan).
We need to look at two texts which may seem obscure but contain important information about the
nature of demons. I need to give you some idea of how the Jews understood these words. Everyone
Jesus ministered to had an understanding of demons, and a belief in the existence of demons. Because
the people knew the Scriptures, Jesus did not need to explain to them the nature of demons. The
problem with most Christians is that they do not know the Scriptures.
Every year you should read your Bible, from the beginning to the end, every word. If you do not
read your Bible all the way through, you will not know what the Bible is talking about.
LXX text: Isa. 13.21-22
21 And wild beasts shall stay there and their houses are filled with howling. And sirens 39 shall rest
there and demons 40 shall dance there.
22 And hoot-owls shall dwell there and nossopoiesousin 41 shall nest in their houses. It will come
soon and not tarry.
Hebrew text: Isa. 13.21-22
21 And arid-ones 42 shall recline there and their houses are filled with uproar. 43 And tabernacle
there shall the daughters of ostrich.44 And hairy-ones 45 shall dance there.
22 And jackals 46 respond in their citadels, and monsters 47 in delicate palaces. And her era is near
to come. And her days are not protracted.
Jesus seems to be referring to this Scripture in Isaiah when He says (Matt. 12.43): Yet when the
unclean spirit comes out from the man, it passes through dry places seeking rest and it finds none.
It is as if Jesus is taking the first two lines of the Hebrew text and combining it with the last two lines
of the Greek text.
This is an extremely difficult passage to understand in Hebrew and even more difficult in Greek.
In fact there is one word in the Greek text of verse 22 that does not seem to exist. It seems that the
only place in written literature where the word occurs is in this verse.
It is necessary to take each phrase in the Hebrew text and explain it and then compare it to the
Greek text. We will start with the Hebrew words, since the Greek text is based on what the rabbis
understood the Hebrew text to indicate.
The first word that we must look at is tzi’im.48 In Modern Hebrew this word refers to a navy or a
fleet of ships. The word tzi 49 comes from a root that means dryness. Since a ship is a dry place in the
midst of water, this word is used to indicate a ship. But it is difficult to understand how one can talk
about dryness (which is literally what this word means in Isa.13.21). The word also occurs in Dan.
11.30 (this section of the book of Daniel is written in Hebrew not Aramaic) and there it is translated
as ships. In Numbers 24.24 we have a slightly different version of this word, there it is written as
tzim 50 and is also understood to mean ships. But because of the context of Isaiah chapter 13 we know
that it cannot be referring to ships because the passage is about Babylon (see verses 19 and 20). It
says that Babylon will become like Sodom and Gomorrah and that no humans will ever live there
again. So we have to understand this use of tzi’im to refer to some type of non-human creature that can
live in very dry places. This is why the Septuagint translates this word as wild-beasts. 51 We find this
Greek word used numerous times in the New Testament, especially in the Book of Revelation, where
it is the word that is translated as the Beast. 52 So the Septuagint translates the Hebrew tzi’im to mean
the beast, and John picks up on the way that the Septuagint uses this word, and so the Beast becomes
the arch-enemy of the Believers at the end of times.
The next line in Hebrew says: and their houses are filled with uproar. 53 As you remember,
Hebrew poetry is written in doublets called parallel statements. This particular doublet statement is a
parallel synonymous statement, so that the word arid-ones 54 in the first line is paired with uproar 55
in the second line. Both words refer to the same creature. Uproar 56 is the plural form of the word
ach, 57 which means: brother or owl. Since in the text we are told that Babylon will be like Sodom
and Gomorrah and will never be inhabited again, we can conclude that in this context the achim 58
cannot be a reference to brothers. Therefore we have to translate it as owls. But this word is used
concerning owls because in its most basic form ach means uproar (apparently because of the noise
that owls make) If you have ever seen brothers playing together you can know why we use the word
uproar to mean brother. 59
The Book of Job contains the oldest form of Hebrew in the Bible and in Job 30.29 we see a use of
ach 60 to show the connection between brother and uproar. The verse reads: I am a brother to
howlers. Job is making a word play on uproar (brothers) and howling. In Isaiah 13.21 the Septuagint
uses the Greek word echo 61 (that which resounds) as a good translation of the concept that ach has in
The text continues – And tabernacle there shall the daughters of ostrich. 62 The Hebrew root
word (ya-en), 63 indicates to be greedy or voracious; it is applied to the ostrich because its
greediness is the subject of many Arabic and Hebrew proverbs. In many of these proverbs the ostrich
is said to have a voracious appetite that can never be satisfied. So the rabbis understood in these
verses that a demon has an appetite for everything and could never be satisfied. In Hebrew thinking
we would say that someone who had a sexual appetite that could not be satisfied is just like the
ostrich; that is the description of a demon.
This line is translated into Greek as and sirens 64 shall rest there. In later Greek Mythology the
Sirens were depicted as women who sang beautiful and alluring songs. But in this text the word sirens
is identified with the older meaning of the Greek word, where it was birdlike creatures that sang
beautiful and alluring songs. But both the earlier and later Greek meanings of the word siren
described a creature that had an insatiable appetite for the destruction of its victims.
Next the Hebrew text says, hairy-ones 65 shall dance there. The usual Hebrew definition of a
hairy-one is a goat that is more than one year old. The Greek text replaces hairy-ones with the word
Then the Hebrew text says, and jackals 66 respond in their citadels. The Hebrew word ayyim 67
is the plural form of “i”, 68 which can mean: island, habitable land, howler or where. The word is
applied to jackals because at night they make noises that sound like the cries or howls of an infant.
The Greek translates this as hooters (or hoot owls) for the same reason. At night the hooting of the
hoot owl sounds like the cries of an infant.
In verse 22 we have two other strange animals. In many Bibles the first word is probably jackal
and the second word is hyena. It is interesting that many Bibles have these words exactly the opposite
way. The second word is a very interesting word in the Bible. It is one of these words where its
translation depends on the context in which it appears. In the Greek this word is always translated as
dragon. It is that way in many of the English Bibles too, especially the older ones. Some of the
modern translations are calling it a jackal.
In Hebrew verse 22 continues, and monster 69 in delicate palaces. This is a difficult word to
explain because there are two words in the Hebrew Bible that some Christian commentators believe
are actually different spellings of the same word and other Christian commentators believe are two
separate and unrelated words. The two words are tannim 70 and tannin. 71 This word also occurs
once in the feminine plural form tanot, 72 which could be the feminine plural form of either tannim or
tannin. In the appendix at the end of this chapter I have listed all the places where these words occur
in the Hebrew text, how these words were translated into the Septuagint and also how they are
translated into English.
The rabbis understood each of the three Hebrew words to correspond primarily to the Greek
word dragon. 73 Indeed the Authorised Version of the Bible 74 usually translates each of the three
words by the English word dragon. So it is clear that the ancient rabbis thought that tannim and
tannin were the same word, or at least had the same definition. Most languages have words that mean
exactly the same thing but vary slightly in their spelling. 75 The variant spelling and pronunciation is
usually a result of geographical differences between the people who use such words (i.e.: the
difference in the spellings of British and American words).
So the Hebrew words tannim and tannin are interchangeable, and now we must establish what
they mean. In Genesis 1.21 this word is used of creatures that are related to the sea (also in Job 7). In
Exodus 7 we know that the creature that transformed from the rod of Moses had a tail. In Deut. 32.33
the word is paired with snakes. In many other passages the word is used in relationship to other types
of animals that feed on carrion. So we have the image of a creature that lives on the land and in the
sea, has a tail, feeds on carrion and reminds people of a snake. To me the only creature that most
closely matches all these descriptions belongs to the reptile family, which includes alligators,
crocodiles, lizards, iguanas and gila monsters.
The Hebrew words tannim and tannin are translated into Greek as dragon. 76 Because of the
great mythology that has developed in Europe about dragons, we need to take a moment to understand
what this word actually means in Greek. The root of this Greek word is derkomai, 77 meaning to look
at. So the original meaning of the word dragon 78 in Greek means a creature that has very good
In the New Testament the word dragon only appears in the Book of Revelation, 79 where it talks
about a creature who took control of one third of the stars of heaven. 80 The dragon fights against
Michael and against the angels who are aligned with Michael. The war takes place in the heavenlies.
So there is a general idea that this is a reference to Satan (who was an angel of light, a seraph) and
because he takes one third of the seraphim with him in this war, a theory has developed that Satan
was once a co-equal of two other seraphim, Michael and Gabriel. It is good theoretical theology, but
In the Septuagint the word dragon is usually an interpretation of the Hebrew tannim and tannin,
however there are eleven exceptions to this general interpretation. Noting these exceptions gives us a
way of defining what the rabbis had in mind when they used the Greek word dragon.
In Job 4.10 and Job 38.39 dragon translates the Hebrew ke-FIR 81 a young-lion.
Although in the Hebrew language the word ke-FIR 82 is translated to mean young lion, the word
does not actually have anything to do with the word for lion. In actual fact the word ke-FIR 83 comes
directly from the root kippur, 84 which means to cover, or atonement (as in Yom Kippur). Literally the
word ke-FIR 85 means covered, or concealed. So it was in this sense that the rabbis understood the
word in Job 4.10 and 38.39 and from this meaning they chose to us the Greek word dragon to
translate ke-FIR. 86 So a dragon is something that is either concealed or hidden, or has the power to
conceal or hide something.
In Job 40.20; 87 Psa. 73.14; 88 Psa. 103.26; 89 Isa. 27.1, dragon translates the Hebrew liv-ya-tan 90
This word is never actually translated into English. Leviathan is simply a transliteration of the
Hebrew word. The description of Leviathan in Job 40.15-23 91 is very strange; he has fire coming out
of his mouth and beams of light from his eyes (40.18-19). Pride is a shield to him (40.15). This is not
the description of any earthly creature. But the fact that it specifies that pride is a shield to him would
probably be a reference to Satan, who sinned through pride. So the rabbis seem to be saying that
Satan is the dragon.
In Job 26.13 and Amos 9.3 dragon translates the Hebrew na-hkash 92 which means snake,
serpent, magic, divination, guess, or estimate.
The rabbis also translate the Hebrew word na-hkash 93 as dragon. It seems clear that the rabbis
had the general idea of a snake or a serpent when they translate nahkash as dragon. But the other
definitions of this word (magic, divination, guess, or estimate) have a distinctly demonic character
to them in that these definitions are associated with the worship of idols. 94
In Jer. 27.8 95 dragon translates the Hebrew atod 96 which means he-goat, or billy-goat.
The Hebrew word atod 97 (he-goat, or billy-goat), is translated by the Greek word demon only in
Jer. 50.8. 98 The last part of this verse is very different in the Greek text for it says, “and go forth and
be as demons before sleep” whereas the Hebrew text says, “and be as a he-goats facing the flock”. I
cannot really understand what motivated this translation, or exactly what the rabbis were trying to say.
In Job 20.16 dragon translates the Hebrew peten 99 which means viper, adder, cobra, or mamba.
In the Acts of the Apostles we see a relationship between demons and snakes evident in the story
where Paul cast a python spirit out of a woman (Acts 16.16). Demons are likened to snakes because
of the fact that snakes are seen as creatures that can hide themselves, and can attack and squeeze the
life out of a man. Snakes are generally viewed in negative terms, especially due to the popular image
of Satan appearing as a snake in the Garden of Eden.
In Hebrew this creature is sometimes depicted as a dragon or a jackal, other times as a sea
monster, crocodile, or a snake. The fact is that the creature probably does not exist, but is a concept, a
symbol of the devil. In fact the Hebrew word is translated into Greek by the exact word that is used
for the Beast in Revelation. We understand that this creature represents the devil and his activities.
The devil has his servants (the demons) whose desires can never be satisfied.
Let us begin by looking at the concept of demons in the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament). The