Upon pre-Talmudic demonology new light has been thrown by the “Testament of Solomon,” translated by Conybeare in “Jew. Quart. Rev.” (1898, xi. 1-45), a work which, notwithstanding many Christian interpolations, is of ancient Jewish origin and related to the “Book of Healing” (“Sefer Refu’ot”) ascribed to King Solomon (see Pes. iv. 9; Josephus, l.c.; Schürer, “Geseh.” iii. 300). In this “Testament” it is told that by the help of a magic ring with the seal of Pentalpha, Lilith-like vampires, Beelzebub, and all kinds of demons and unclean spirits were brought before Solomon, to whom they disclosed their secrets and told how they could be mastered. It contains incantations against certain diseases, and specifies the task allotted to each of the chief demons in the erection of the Temple.
The latter was a favorite theme of the Haggadists (Pesiḳ. R. vi.; Soṭah 48b; Giṭ. 68a). The later Haggadah ascribed to Moses this power to make the demons work at the erection of the Sanctuary (Pesiḳ. R. iv. 6b; Num. R. xii.); and Solomon’s “sword against the fear of the spirits at night” (Cant. R. to iii. 8) was transformed into the Magic “sword of Moses” (Pesiḳ. 140a; Pesiḳ. R. 15; Cant. R. iii. 7; Num. R. xi., xii.). Henceforth the magic books of Moses and the “Sword of Moses” (see Dieterich, “Abraxas,” 1891, pp. 155,169 et seq.; Gaster, “Sword of Moses,” London, 1896) took the place of “Solomon’s Testament” in the magic lore of the Jews.
In the main, demonology among the Jews preserved its simple character as a popular belief, the demons being regarded as mischievous, but not as diabolical or as agencies of a power antagonistic to God. Even Ashmodai, or Asmodeus, the king of demons (Tobit iii. 8, vi. 14, Aramaic version), who kills the seven successive bridegrooms of Sara before their marital union, is but a personification of lust and murder; but there is nothing Satanic—that is, of the spirit of rebellion against God—in him; he is driven out by the recipe prescribed by the angel Raphael, and sent to Egypt and bound by Raphael (Tobit viii. 3). It was only at a certain period and within a certain circle that demonology received its specific character as part of the cosmic power of evil, and in opposition to angelology as part of the cosmic power of good.
Babylonian cosmogony describes the combat of Bel-Marduk with the chaos-monster Tiamat, the sea-dragon, the power of darkness whose defeat is the beginning of the world of light and order. The same monster appears in various Biblical passages as Rahab, the sea-monster; Tannin, the dragon of the sea; and Leviathan, the “crooked serpent” slain by Yhwh “with his sure and great and strong sword” (Isa. xxvii. 1, li. 9; Ps. lxxxix. 10, 11; Job xxvi. 12; Gunkel, “Schöpfung und Chaos,” 1895, pp. 30-46 et seq.). While this mythological figure became in the course of time a metaphor symbolizing nations like Egypt (Ezek. xxix. 3; Ps. lxxxvii. 4), the monster remained a real being in the popular belief; and inasmuch as this conflicted with the monotheistic system, the battle of God or His angel Gabriel with Leviathan and Behemoth was transformed into a great eschatological drama which ended in the perfect triumph of divine justice (B. B. 75b). The Babylonian Tiamat, as Behemoth and Leviathan, became on the one hand infernal monsters devouring the wicked, and on the other food and cover for the righteous in heaven (see Leviathan).
Nevertheless, the Mandæan and Gnostic heresies maintained the belief in these cosmic monsters (Brandt, “Mandäische Schriften,” 1893, pp. 144 et seq.), and many descriptions of Gehenna in Jewish and Christian literature preserve traces of these. “Tartarus-holding” or “watching” demons of the lower regions (see Dieterich, l.c. pp. 35, 76 et seq.; Eschatology; Gehenna). In fact, the hosts of demons punishing the wicked in Gehenna are in the service of angels of divine justice, and though called “saṭanim” (Enoch xl. 7 et al.), belong to the category of angels rather than of demons. According to the Book of Jubilees, Noah learned from the angels (Raphael) the remedies against these diseases, and wrote them in a “Book of Healing”, similar to the one ascribed to King Solomon (x. 5-12; Jellinek, “B. H.” iii. 155 et seq., xxx. et seq.). The host of demons under Satan’s direction accordingly seduce all heathen people to idolatry (Jubilees, vii. 27, x. 1, xi. 5, xv. 20, xxii. 17), but the end of Satan will be the healing and resurrection of the servants of the Lord (xxiii. 30).
The speculation regarding the nature and origin of these demons and their leaders led as early as the second pre-Christian century, in those fragments preserved under the name of the Book of Enoch, to the story of the fall of the angels (Enoch, vii.-viii.; lxix.). Like Beelzebub, or Lucifer (Isa. xiv. 12; compare Slavonic Enoch, xxix. 4), two hundred ‘Irin or “watchers” fell, attracted by the beauty of the daughters of men (Gen. vi. 4); only tradition obviously differed as to the leader of the rebellious host, whether it was Azazel or Shamḥazai. At any rate, they acknowledged the supremacy of Satan (liii. 3, liv. 6), though occasionally many satans are mentioned (xl. 7 et al.), and these fallen angels became “the evil spirits” (xv. 8, xix. 19) who taught mankind all the arts of deception, witchcraft, and sin (vii.-viii., lxix.). But their children, the offspring of this mixture of an earthly and a celestial race, became, when slain, the hybrid race of disembodied spirits or demons doing the work of destruction until the Day of Judgment (xvi. 1).
Belial is another name for Satan found in the Book of Jubilees (xv. 33), in Sibyllines (iii. 63), and in Ascension of Isaiah (ii. 4), where he is also called “the prince of injustice” (Sar ha-Masṭemah), who rules over this world. Belial (or Beliar) occurs most frequently in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. He has “seven spirits of deception” in his service (Reuben, 2), and as author of all evil, “the spirit of hatred, darkness, deception, and error,” he is the opponent of God, the “Father of Light,” and of His Law (Simeon, 5; Levi, 19; Issachar, 6; Dan, 5; Zebulun, 9; Naphtali, 8; Gad, 4; Joseph, 20), and when “he and his evil spirits are crushed the heathen world will be converted to the belief in the Lord” (Simeon, 7; Zebulon, 9). Under this aspect the world appeared as the arena in which Satan contends with the Lord, the God of life everlasting, until “the great dragon, the old serpent, he that is called Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world, shall be cast down and his angels with him” (Suk. 52a; Assumptio Mosis, xi.; Matt. xxv. 41; Rev. xii. 9).
New Testament Demonology.
The whole Jewish and pagan world at the beginning of the Christian era believed in those magic formulas by which the evil powers of the demons could be subdued, and the Jewish exorcists found a fertile soil everywhere for the cultivation of their Essene notions and their magic. This was the atmosphere in which Christianity arose with the claim of “healing all that were oppressed of the devil” (Acts x. 38), enforcing the recognition by the unclean spirits themselves of the Son of David as the vanquisher of the demons (Mark i. 27, iii. 11).
The name of Jesus became the power by which the host of Satan was to be overcome, as Jesus himself had seen “Satan as lightning fall from heaven” (Mark ix. 38, xvi. 17; Matt. xii. 28; Luke x. 18). But there was danger lest the exorcism practised by Gentiles and Jews alike (see Conybeare, “J. Q. R.” ix. 88 et seq.) should engender the spirit of impurity underlying all magic, the dividing line between legitimate and illegitimate magic being anything but sharply drawn (see Book of Jubilees, viii. 2; Sanh. 91a: “Abraham handed the name of unclean witchcraft to the sons of Keturah”; compare Blau, “Das Jüdische Zauberwesen,” pp. 15, 23, 41 et seq.). It was, therefore, not hostility which prompted the Pharisees to accuse Jesus and his disciples of “casting out devils by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of devils” (Matt. xii. 24; compare Ben Stada, Shab. 104b). The more devils cast out, the more appeared (Luke xi. 26).
The cure offered to an age in constant dread of demons (Acts v. 16, viii. 7, xvi. 16, xix. 12-20) only aggravated the disease; nor did Paul’s system (see Everling, “Die Paulinische Angelologie und Dämonologie,” 1888) spiritualize the idea of Satan as the Testaments of the Patriarchs endeavored to do, in order to remove the fear of demons (see Eph. vi. 12: Gal. iv. 3, 9).
The Law, the Prophylactic Against Demons.
Pharisaism diagnosed the disease of the age differently, and therefore insisted that the observance of the Law was the best prophylactic against demons. The wearing of the Tefillin, the Greek name of which, φυλακτήρια, indicates that they were regarded by the Hellenistic Jews as amulets (comp. Targ. Cant. viii. 3; Gen. R. xxxv.; Men. 33b), the fixing of the Mezuzah at the door, the reading of the Shema ‘with the name of God in the first verse, and the putting on of the ẓiẓit, while direct observances of the Law (Deut. vi. 4-9, Num. xvi. 38), were also regarded by the Rabbis as a safeguard against all evil powers (Ber. 5a; Num. 48b). The recital of the set prayers each morning and evening (Ber. 9b), the observance of the commandment of the Sukkah (Pesiḳ. 187b), protect against evil powers. In fact, “the wicked are accompanied by the angels of Satan; the righteous by the angels of God” (Tosef., Shab. xvii. 2-3; compare Book of Jubilees, x. 6). For each commandment observed by man becomes an angel “to guard him against demons” (Ex. R. xxxii. and Tan. ad loc.). “Every observance of the Law is a protection” (Soṭah 21a), and those bent upon doing some sacred work (“sheluḥe miẓwah”) need fear no evil powers (Pes. 8b). The priest’s blessing also is a protection against malign influences (Num. R. xi.). And as in the Passover night, “the night of watching,” Satan was bound and prevented from doing harm to Israel (Book of Jubilees, xlviii. 15; Pes. 109b), so is “the left hand when adorned with the tefillim surrounded with thousands, and the right hand performing acts of religion surrounded with myriads, of guardian angels” (Midr. Teh. to Ps. xci. 4). “Every limb engaged in the fulfilment of a divine commandment is protected against the ‘Strong One'” (Pesik. R. ix.; Midr. Teh. to Ps. xxxv.). Thus Pharisaism, while increasing the yoke of ceremonial laws for the sake of love of God, showed a way to overcome the fear of demons. Belief in the power of the Law became the antidote against what may be termed “Satanophobia,” and against the spirit of pessimism and asceticism which was fostered by the Essenes and by their Christian heirs.
Though the belief in demons was greatly encouraged and enlarged in Babylonia under the influence of Parsee notions, demonology never became an essential feature of Jewish theology. The reality of demons was never questioned by the Talmudists and casuists; therefore the Halakah accepted it as a fact (see Shulḥan ‘Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 4, 2 et seq.; 90, 6; 181, 2; Yoreh De’ah, 116, 5; 179, 16, 19; Eben ha-‘Ezer, 17, 10: based upon Shab. 101a, 109a; Ḥul. 105a; Ber. 3a; Pes. 112a; Meg. 3a; Pes. 109b; Yeb. 122a). Nor did most of the medieval thinkers question their reality (see Naḥmanides on Lev. xvii. 7; “Cuzari,” v. 14; Crescas, “Or Adonai,” iv. 6; Solomon b. Adret, Responsa, i. 413; Moses Tachau, in “Ketab Tamim”; “Oẓar Neḥmad,” iii. 97). Only Maimonides, when ignoring or circumscribing the rabbinical references to the demons (see “Yad,” Roẓeaḥ, xii. 5; Gerushin, ii. 13 et seq.; compare “Moreh”, i. 7, the commentary to Mishnah Pes. iv. 11, and Abot v. 6), and Ibn Ezra, on Lev. xvii. 7, denied their existence.
The cabalists, on the other hand, not only took up all the ideas expressed in Enoch and Pirḳe R. El.xxxiv., regarding the demons as the spirits of the men of the Flood and as the result of the union of Adam and Lilith, but they made demons form part of the cosmic design in the emanistic system in which the right and the left are the opposite currents of pure and impure powers filling the world and dividing it between the Holy One and the serpent Samael (see Zohar, Bereshit, 47b, 53 et seq., 169b et seq., 174b, and Cabala). But while the malign powers became agencies of the spirit of impurity working in men and nations, there goes along with this view the popular conception of demons as spirits of the dead roaming about as specters and vampires. This latter view is especially prominent in the school of R. Judah of Regensburg, and is dwelt upon in the Book of Raziel and the “Sefer Ḥasidim,” 172, 326 et seq. Nevertheless, while the number of the demons of diseases increases (see Güdemann, “Gesch. des Erziehungswesens,” 1880, i. 205; Yalḳ., Ḥadash, Mita, 149), and the belief in the efficacy of incantations is firmly adhered to, these writers repeatedly urge their readers not to resort to any conjuration or magic practises, but to have perfect confidence only in prayer and in the power of God. “No one who indulges in such practise will see good results for himself and his house” (“Sefer Ḥasidim,” ed. Wistinetzki, Nos. 211 et seq., 1448-57; Güdemann, l.c. 207).Prayers Against Demons.
Notwithstanding this closing admonition of the “Sefer Ḥasidim,” many prayers for the warding off of demonic influences have found a place in the Jewish liturgy and the Shulḥan ‘Aruk. The privies having been in Talmudic times isolated spots which filled the imagination with specters of fear, a special incantation is prescribed invoking the protection of guardian angels against the evil spirits haunting these places (see Ber. 60b; compare Ber. 62a and Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 13, 1). Most of the prayers to be recited before retiring to bed are intended to guard the sleeper against demons (compare Ber. 4a; Shebu. 15b). At the close of the Sabbath, when the angel Dumah calls all spirits of the wicked back to their place of torment after their Sabbath respite, the evil spirits are supposed to swarm everywhere, poisoning the wells and doing harm in many ways; wherefore Psalm xci. is recited (see Pesiḳ. R. xxiii.; Sheeltot, Bereshit; Tanya, xxi.; Ha-Manhig, Shabbat, 65; Solomon b. Adret, Responsa, 1119; Kol Bo, xli.).
As early as geonic times there was a special incantatory formula, to be recited before drinking from the cup of the Habdalah wine, against “the demon Puta, the prince of forgetfulness,” that “by the power of the holy names of the angels Arimaz, Arimas [Ahuramazda?], Ansisel, and Petahel, he may be cast upon the high mountains [Alburz]” (“Seder Rab Amram,” i. 31). To this Isaac Luria added new features in the form of incantations against all the demons, and instead of “Puta” he read “Purah,” connecting it with Isa. lxiii. 1 as the name of Esau-Samael (see Isaac Luria, “Tiḳḳune Shabbat,” and Ḳiẓẓur Shelah, “Moẓe’e Shabbat”; compare M. Brück, “Pharisäische Volkssitten,” 1840, p. 121; Brüll, l.c.).
Death at all times impressed people with the fear of evil spirits. Many rites and prayer-formulas were introduced to avert their malign influence, and special formulas for the dying were prescribed by the cabalists, by which all the demons—the shedim, ruḥin, lilin, mazziḳim, etc.—that may have been created by the impure thoughts and deeds of the departing, are adjured, by the Holy Decrees, the Powers of Heaven, and the anathemas of men, not to follow the dead nor injure him, nor in any way, direct or indirect, to cause injury to any person through him (see “Ma’abar Yabboḳ,” ed. Landshut, pp. 30-33, Berlin, 1857, and introduction, where the literature is given; Amulet; Childbirth; Incantations). Customs are sometimes explained by the superstitious as being based upon belief in demons; for instance, the one prohibiting women from going to a cemetery because demons are fond of following her who yielded to the temptation of the serpent and thus caused death to come into the world, or the custom of blowing the shofar at funerals to ward off the shedim (see Yalḳ., Ḥadash, l.c. 47).
– In Arabic Literature:
This article treats only of parallels to Jewish demonology found in Arabic literature.
Ante-Islamic mythology does not discriminate between gods and demons. The jinn are considered as divinities of inferior rank, having many human attributes: they eat, drink, and procreate their kind (compare Ḥag. 16a, where a similar belief is expressed), sometimes in conjunction with human beings; in which latter case the offspring shares the natures of both parents. The jinn smell and lick things, and have a liking for remnants of food. In eating they use the left hand (“Manaḳib Al-Ansar,” No. 32). Usually they haunt waste and deserted places, especially the thickets where wild beasts gather. Cemeteries and dirty places are also favorite abodes (compare Shab. 67a; Ber. 62b; Mark v. 5). In appearing to man they assume sometimes the forms of beasts and sometimes those of men; but they always have some animal characteristic, such as a paw in place of a hand (Darimi, “Kitab al-Sunnah,” ii. 213). Eccentric movements of the dust-whirlwind (“zawabi'”) are taken to be the visible signs of a battle between two clans of jinn (Yaḳut, iii. 478).
Under the influence of Jewish and Christian demonology in post-Islamic times, the only animals directly identified with the jinn are snakes and other obnoxious creeping things (compare Pes. 112a). When Mohammed was on his way to Tabuk, it is said that a swarm of jinn, assuming the form of serpents, approached him and stood still for a long while.
Generally jinn are peaceable and well disposed toward men. Many an ante-Islamic poet was believed to have been inspired by good jinn; and Mohammed himself was accused by his adversaries of having been inspired by jinn (“majnun”). But there arealso evil jinn, who contrive to injure men. Among these are specially conspicuous the three female demons named “Ghul” (corresponding to the Talmudical ), “Si’lat,” and “‘Aluḳ” or “‘Aulaḳ” (compare Prov. xxx. 15), and the four male demons “Afrit,” “Azbab,” “Aziab,” and “Ezb.” Ghul is especially harmful to new-born children, and in order to keep her away their heads are rubbed with the gum of an acacia (Zamakhshari, “Asas,” s.v. “ḥaiḍ”).
Demons in Islam.
Islam recognized the existence of all the pagan demons, good and evil, protesting only against their being considered gods. It divides the evil demons into five species: “jann,” “jinn,” “shaiṭans,” “afrits,” and “marids.” Mohammed frequently refers in the Koran to the shaiṭans, of whom Iblis is the chief. Iblis, probably a corruption of the name “Diabolos” = Satan, is said to have been deprived of authority over the animal and spirit kingdoms, and sentenced to death, when he refused, at the creation of Adam, to prostrate himself before him (Koran, vii. 13). The shaiṭans are the children of Iblis, and are to die when their father dies; whereas the others, though they may live many centuries, must die before him. A popular belief says that Iblis and other evil demons are to survive mankind, though they will die before the general resurrection; the last to die being ‘Azaril, the angel of death.
Tradition attributes to Mohammed the statement that every man has an angel and a demon appointed to attend him. The former guides him toward goodness, while the latter leads him to evil (“Mishkat,” i. ch. 3). The shaiṭans, being the enemies of Allah, strive to disturb worshipers. Mohammed, it is said, prefaced his prayers with “O God! In Thee I am seeking for a refuge from the attacks of the shaiṭan and his witchcraft” (Ḥamzah, vii. 293). Among the evil jinn are distinguished the five sons of Iblis: “Ṭir,” who brings about calamities and injuries; “Al-A’war,” who encourages debauchery; “Suṭ,” who suggests lies; “Dasim,” who causes hatred between man and wife; and “Zalambur,” who presides over places of traffic. It was in order to keep them away that the faithful were commanded the cleansings and fumigations which are unbearable to the shaiṭans, who delight in dirt and filth (Waḳidi, ii. 178). The pronouncing of the “takbir” formula (“Allah akbar” =Allah is very great) is also a means of driving them away. Mohammed, it is said, pronounced it in his travels whenever the appearance of the region changed, lest it might be enchanted. In later times amulets were invented to which were ascribed the virtue of protecting their bearers from the attacks of demons.
As in cabalistic literature, the cat plays a great part in Islamic demonology. A demon assuming the form of a cat is said to have presented himself to Mohammed while he was praying (Darimi, l.c. ii. 449). The demons called “Ḳuṭrus” usually assumed the form of cats (Mas’udi, “Muruj al-Dhahab,” iii. 321). As to the good jinn, there are some among them who profess Islamism, and Mohammed pretended that many of them had listened to his sermons (Koran, sura lxxii.).
Interesting are the accounts given in the Koran of the power of Solomon over the shaiṭans, which accounts parallel the legends found in Talmud and Midrashim, and of which the following are examples:
“And we [subjected] to Solomon sundry devils to dive for him, and do other works; and we watched over them” (sura xxi. 81, 82). “And we tried Solomon, and we placed upon his throne a counterfeit body. . . . So we subjected unto him the wind, which moved gently at his command whithersoever he desired; and the devils also—every builder and diver bound in chains” (sura xxxviii. 33-37). “And of the jinn were those who worked in his presence by the will of the Lord; and such of them as swerved from our command we caused to taste of the punishment of hell. They made for him whatever he pleased of lofty halls and images, and dishes large as tanks for watering camels” (sura xxxiv. 11-12).
In the tradition it is said that Solomon possessed power over the demons by virtue of a talisman, which consisted of a signet-ring of brass, upon which was engraved the most great name of God.
Source: Jewish Encyclopedia