The Bavli records in many places the existence of demons, and answers to this question cite rishonim and acharonim who take this seriously. Pesachim 112b relates a story in which demons are (initially) allowed to wreak havoc in the world at any time. (They are later limited to specific times.)

What is the purpose of these demons and their havoc-wreaking? Humans have free will and can thus act badly, but demons are not humans and I understand that only humans have free will. Demons are also not natural occurrences; earthquakes, tornados, etc. also wreak havoc, but that's built into the fabric of the universe that God created. And as far as I can tell (I may be wrong on this) demons are not acting on specific divine orders the way ha-satan does.

So what purpose do they serve? Why did God create them and allow them to act in the world?

  • ze l'umat ze asa Elokim. just like there is a holy chariot of G-d with holy ministering angels so too there is a chariot of the Samech Mem with his ministering forces. it's part of the balance between good and evil.
    – ray
    Oct 11, 2013 at 5:19
  • Re: only humans have free will, See מלאכי עליון by Reuben Margoleous, under אשמדי, footnote 15 on Jewish, Muslim and Christian Demons. Also see the first entry of the סיטרא דשמאלה, Abalmus, first son of Adam and Lilith, a demon.
    – Baby Seal
    Jan 16, 2014 at 4:51

2 Answers 2


The Ramchal in Da'as Tevunos in the section בריאת הרע וגדריו, starting with siman 96 and particularly in siman 114 and 118, explains how demons came into existence.


כשאנו אומרים שהקב"ה ברא העולם הזה, ודאי נבין בתחילה בריאת הכלל, ואחר כך הפרטים, פירוש, בתחילה הטבע עצמו, ואחר כך אישיו. והנה כשרצה האדון ב"ה לחדש הטבע בטוב ורע, הנה ודאי הוא שבאה השפעה ממנו לחדש מציאות הטבע, וזהו הטוב; וזאת ההשפעת עצמה - קצת ממנה נעדרה, היינו, ההכנות הטובות שהיו בה, ותנאי השלמות שלה שהיו עושים הטבע בתכונתו טוב. והנה מציאות ההעדר הזה הוא שחידש בטבע הפסדי המציאות הטוב, שהם הם כלל הרע.


אך בני האדם הם פחותים מן המלאכים וחסרים מהם, והחסרון בהם גבר כל כך שיש בהם מה שהוא רע, כי יש בהם יצר הרע, חולאים ומיתה. בעלי החיים יש בהם חסרון יותר, שאין להם לא שכל ולא דיבור, והם מזוהמים ומטונפים. ויש המזיקים ומלאכי חבלה ורוחות הטומאה שהם רע ממש, והם ההפך ממש לטוב ולשלמות, אותם שהשם העליון ב"ה מתעלם מהם העלם גמור

They are, in short, a natural outcome of the degeneration of the world into evil. It is hard to sum up, but the basic idea is as follows: the world was created in two stages, first with a general construct of all the structure of creation, and then the specific entities that were created, both spiritual and physical. The original construct defines what exists, and the subsequent "supply" gives the degree of perfection of that existence. When Hashem "hides His presence" as a result of our actions and misdeeds, this construct still exists, but without perfection. When the "hiding" reaches a certain threshold, things that are evil manifest result. That is where demons and destructive forces come from. Their existence is built into the framework of creation to allow "destruction" to exist.

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    "When the "hiding" reaches a certain threshold, things that are evil manifest result. That is where demons and destructive forces come from. Their existence is built into the framework of creation to allow "destruction" to exist."? Can you explain?
    – Aigle
    Feb 9, 2016 at 21:50
  • I think he refers to de existence of two options. right way and wrong way. If there were no wrong way, you can not have misdeeds because there is no such wrong way Oct 23, 2021 at 16:29

The Tanakh is silent on the matter in great measure. The two sole exceptions are the incident of the evil spirit which came upon Saul and the satan who is allowed to tempt Job. These give feeble clues as to the purpose of evil spirits. Saul deserved his punishment; Job did not. He was allowed his experience as a test. I Chronicles 21:1 (compare 2 Samuel 24:1) may be added to those two texts. They read respectively: 'Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.' 'And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.' We see how what is in the first instance attributed to Satan is attributed to the LORD in the second. The LORD used Satan to punish Israel because he was angry.

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    @Monica Cellio. I have provided an answer to your questions 'Why does God tolerate demons? What is their purpose?' Jun 3, 2018 at 9:14
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    I don't think ha-satan is generally understood to be a demon (at least by Jews). My question was about sheidim who apparently can act independently to wreak havoc in the world. Jun 3, 2018 at 16:40

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