All The Times The Devil Pops Up In The Bible - It's Not As Many As You Think

In the biblical conflict between good and evil, the world's evil seemingly stems from one figure: the devil. Reckless teenagers who mistakenly summon Satan via rituals or ouija boards pepper the pop culture consciousness, and plenty of scary movies cast Satan or his demonic horde as the source of unspeakable horrors. 

When prompted to explain the omnipresence of Satan, most point to the devil's appearance in the Bible's Old and New Testaments. Those same people may be surprised to know that Satan only appears in the Bible roughly a dozen times. The general perception of Satan largely comes from sources outside of the Bible, such as Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy and the art that arose from that epic poem.

In the Bible, Satan often arrives when the weakness of mankind is on display, taking on the appearance of a snake or beggar to test humanity's faith. While the devil's presence in the Bible is impactful, Satan's role is not as prevalent as most would assume. These are all of the times the Devil appears in the Bible.


  • In The Book Of Genesis, The Devil Appears As The Serpent In The Garden Of Eden

    Perhaps the most well-known and oft-cited appearance of Satan takes place in Genesis 3:1-13 when he appears to Eve as a serpent in the Garden of Eden:

    Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will [perish].'" "You will not certainly [perish],” the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" The man said, "The woman you put here with me - she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

    One thing to note is that Satan isn't mentioned by name in the text, which leads some biblical scholars to point out that the serpent may just be that: an animal God rebukes. Later interpretations cast Satan as a disguised serpent tempting man. 

  • The Gospels Of John And Luke Say Satan 'Entered' Judas 

    The Gospels Of John And Luke Say Satan 'Entered' Judas 
    Photo: Benoît-Hermogaste Molin / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The story of Judas betraying Jesus before the Last Supper serves as another key biblical appearance for Satan. Luke 22:3-5 offers a reason for Judas's betrayal: "Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present."

    In John 13:27, there is another reference to Judas being filled with Satan: "As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, 'What you are about to do, do quickly.'"

  • In The Book Of Job, Satan Tests Job

    In The Book Of Job, Satan Tests Job
    Photo: William Blake / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Satan plays a significant role in the Book of Job. According to the Bible, Job is a God-fearing man tested by Satan to prove his faithfulness to God. Job's servants are struck down in the fields, his livestock are wiped out, and his children meet their end in a collapsed house. Job maintains his faith and prayers to God, but Satan soon appears again. This time, Satan questions Job's faith in the face of disease. In Job 2, the devil gets God's permission to test the man and places sores all over Job's body.

  • In 1 Chronicles, Satan Encourages David To Take A Census Of Israel

    In 1 Chronicles 21:1, Satan persuades King David to count all the citizens of Israel: "Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, 'Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.'"

    Taking the census is not a sin in itself; however, because the intention behind the census is to boost David's ego and wealth, it displeases God. Once the count is completed, David repents and throws himself on the mercy of God. David gets to choose from three punishments: three years of famine, three months of loss at the hands of his enemies, or three days of plague in Israel. David chooses the plague and later builds an altar to God.