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One day the divine beings presented themselves before the LORD, and [the] Satan came along with them. The LORD said to the Satan, “Where have you been?” ... -“I have been roaming all over the earth.” ... -“Have you noticed My servant Job? ... a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil!”... -“Does Job not have good reason to fear God? ... You have blessed his efforts so that his possessions spread out in the land. But lay Your hand upon all that he has and he will surely blaspheme You to Your face.” ... -“See, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on him.” The Satan departed from the presence of the LORD." Job.1.6-12

This passage was written presumably with Ruach Hakodesh, i.e. God dictating the happenings to a scribe, and not Job (or someone else) fantasizing about the cause of the events. However, it clearly presents God and Satan in a henotheistic way, e.g. God doesn't know Satan's whereabouts, Satan distrusts God's explicit knowledge, God lets Satan do as he pleases with God's devoted servants, etc.

How does this opening to a prophetic book square with Judaism monotheistic theology?

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  • See Ralbag's commentary there. – Alex Dec 20 '20 at 0:02
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However, it clearly presents God and Satan in a henotheistic way, e.g.(1) God doesn't know Satan's whereabouts,(2) Satan distrusts God's explicit knowledge,(3) God lets Satan do as he pleases with God's devoted servants, etc

(1)Same way Hashem also asks Adam where he was. No one would understand that as Hashem actually not knowing where he was. It was the opening of a conversation

(2)He didn't distrust or disagree with anything. He simply made the (correct) observation that were Iyov in a different set of circumstances he would act differently.

(3) Needing and then getting god's permission to do something isn't henotheism. It is the opposite.

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Saadiah wrote that Satan in Job is a contemporary human. Similarly, the “sons of G-d,” in Job, were probably adherents of a religious cult. Maimonides agreed. He felt that since G-d is good and only does good things, and since Judaism is a monotheistic religion, it is inconceivable that Satan, an evil cosmic force, should exist. Thus, Maimonides rejected the existence of Satan literally. He felt that evil was not a power but a privation. He quotes the rabbinic dictum:

“Satan, the evil inclination, and the angel of death are one and the same.”[1]

According to Rambam, Satan is the personification of a psychological power called the “evil inclination” (Hebrew: יצר הרע yetzer hara‘).[2] Rambam links the yetzer hara to the imagination, writing that “the imagination ...is the evil inclination.”[3] Since some feel that there is no such thing as the yetzer hara, an evil inclination, a being, then Rambam is correct in his interpretation. According to Rambam, "Satan" is a metaphor for the imagination.[4] Satan is the cause of all delusions, hallucinations, and fantasies. The term "Satan" is derived from the root satoh, which means “to stray” or “to deviate.”[5] Thus, Satan is the psychological power that leads us astray from–and is–(the privation of) reason.

[1] B.T. Baba Batra 16a

[2] See Guide, part 3, chap. 22, 489

[3] Ibid., part 2, chap. 12, 280

[4] Rambam does not say whether "Satan" refers to the faculty of imagination or imaginary objects? It is possible that he is referring to the “privation” or “nonexistence,” which would belong to the faculty but not the intellect because it is imagined. Also, note that when the Rambam identifies the imagination with the yetzer hara he does not use the term "mutakhayyilah," denoting the imaginative faculty, but "khayy_l" which refers to phantasm, a figment of the imagination.

[5] Guide, part 3, chap. 22, 489

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  • Thank you. IIRC, Rambam is famous for his attempt to deny the existence of angels as separate forces in his support of Aristotelian monotheism. This view was largely refuted by Ashkenazi rabbis who sided with anthropomorphism. – Al Berko Dec 21 '20 at 22:49
  • @AlBerko Yes, that is correct. – Jonathan Dec 24 '20 at 2:26

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