Mastema – The ‘Persecutor’ of God
Christian texts are full of controversies regarding actions of God which could be perceived as harsh, or even revengeful. These controversies are also extended to other Biblical figures/beings, for example, the angel called ‘Mastema’. In Hebrew the word ‘mastemah’ means ‘hatred’ and ‘hostility’. Another translation suggests that the name comes from the word ‘Mastim’, which is the Hiphil participle of ‘Satam’ and it means ‘one who is adverse’. According to the book of Jubilees, Mastema was the chief of the spirits and very similar to what Christianity today promotes as ‘Satan’. Yet Mastema was under Gods’ commands, fulfilling his orders.
God in general is portrayed as having human-like behaviour showing not only love and affection but also aggression, revenge and even jealously. Some have argued that Gods characteristics could be said to match the profile of a dictator, especially when considering some of the accounts that are present in the Old Testament:
Behold, Abraham loveth Isaac his son, and he delighteth in him above all things else; bid him offer him as a burnt-offering on the altar, and Thou wilt see if he will do this command, and Thou wilt know if he is faithful in everything wherein Thou dost try him.- Book of Jubilee 16.16
A dictator wants his people to worship him and at the same time fear him; usually he shows his strength through acts of power in order to increase the fear and at the same time the belief in him. He will be aggressive to his competitors and most of the times he would either eliminate them or demonize them in the eyes of his followers. At the same time he will show affection and protect his country.
According to the book of Jubilees , ‘Prince’ Mastema was the one that suggested to God to test Abraham’s loyalty by asking him to offer Isaac to the altar. And according to the Old Testament, God listened to Mastema and did as he suggested.
Later on in the book of Jubilees, Mastema asks God to allow some of the spirits to stay with him so he could command them and help him to fulfil God’s commands. God again accepted his proposal and allowed him to keep one tenth of the spirits while the rest were condemned.
Lord, Creator, let some of them remain before me, and let them hearken to my voice, and do all that I shall say unto them; for if some of them are not left to me, I shall not be able to execute the power of my will on the sons of men; for these are for corruption and leading astray before my judgment, for great is the wickedness of the sons of men. - Book of Jubilees, 10.8
Continuing in the book of the Jubilees, Mastema helps the Pharaohs and the Egyptian sorcerers to stand up against Moses in Egypt.
And the prince of the Mastêmâ stood up against thee, and sought to cast thee into the hands of Pharaoh, and he helped the Egyptian sorcerers, and they stood up and wrought before thee. Book of Jubilees, 48.9
And at the same time it looks that he was the one that executed the plagues of God.
For on this night--the beginning of the festival and the beginning of the joy--ye were eating the Passover in Egypt, when all the powers of Mastêmâ had been let loose to slay all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh to the first-born of the captive maidservant in the mill, and to the cattle.Book of Jubilees, 49.2
It is clear that Mastema, or ‘Satan’ in modern Christianity, is not exactly an enemy of God, but rather a ‘prince’ of God that is responsible for punishing and bringing destruction to all of those that do not obey God and at the same time he is used to fulfil God’s plans. Mastema is for God what the army is for a Dictator. However, it seems that the perception of his role has been twisted to be an enemy of God, in order to be more compatible with the image of an all-loving God. The story of Mastema is another story that portrays an inconvenient reality that mainstream religion finds difficult to explain.
By John Black