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Demons from the Hebrew Bible

17 Years Ago


Demons as described in the Tanakh are the same as "demons" commonly known in popular or Christian culture.

Those in the Hebrew Bible are of two classes, the se'irim and the shedim. The se'irim ("hairy beings"), to which some Israelites offered sacrifices in the open fields, are satyr-like creatures, described as dancing in the wilderness (Isaiah 13:21, 34:14), and which are identical with the jinn, such as Dantalion, the 71st spirit of Solomon. (But compare the completely European woodwose.) Possibly to the same class belongs Azazel, the goat-like demons of the wilderness (Leviticus 16:10ff), probably the chief of the se'irim, and Lilith (Isaiah 34:14). Possibly "the roes and hinds of the field", by which Shulamit conjures the daughters of Jerusalem to bring her back to her lover (Canticles 2:7, 3:5), are faunlike spirits similar to the se'irim, though of a harmless nature.

The evil spirit that troubled Saul (I Samuel 16:14 et seq.) may have been a demon, though the Masoretic text suggests the spirit was sent by God.

Some benevolent shedim were used in kabbalistic ceremonies (as with the golem of Rabbi Yehuda Loevy), and malevolent shedim (mazikin, from the root meaning to damage) are often responsible in instances of possession. Instances of idol worship were often the result of a shed inhabiting an otherwise worthless statue;[citation needed] the shed would pretend to be a God with the power to send pestilence, although such events were not actually under his control.