Satan the Accuser: Trickster in Talmudic and Midrashic Literature
Friedman, H. H. & Lipman, S. (1999). Satan the Accuser: Trickster in Talmudic and Midrashic Literature, Thalia: Studies in Literary Humor, Vol. 18, March, 31-41.
15 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2016
Date Written: March 1, 1999
Satan, condemned in Christianity as a fallen angel, as evil incarnate, is a more complex figure in Judaism. Satan is the angel who is constantly carping and who causes people to transgress the will of God. He is the angel that accused Joshua, the High Priest, of misdeeds before God (Zechariah 3:1) and who instigated David to sin by taking a census of Israel (I Chronicles 21:1). In Job (1:7), Satan is introduced as the angel who has come from “going to and fro on the earth, and from walking in it.” Satan diligently but unsuccessfully tried to get Job to blaspheme the Lord. John Milton, in Paradise Lost, has Satan saying: “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.” Judaism sees him in a different light. Satan described in the Talmud and Midrash, is not all that interested in being of the ruling elite. He revels in his work as a tempter of mankind, a tester of the righteous. He glories in his persona as the Evil Inclination, performs brilliantly as Angel of Death, and awaits every opportunity to function as the Accuser in the Heavenly tribunal. He is a trickster par excellence. Because the Talmudic Satan is not overly intimidating, he figures in many Jewish jokes and sayings.
Keywords: Satan, Humor, Bible, Talmud, Midrash, Aggadah, Trickster
JEL Classification: B30, B31, I2, Z00, Z10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation