The Masih tested by Shaytan

We have seen how the prophet Yahya (PBUH) came to prepare the people for the coming of the Masih. His simple but powerful message was that everyone needed to repent. The Injil goes on to recount that the prophet Isa (PBUH) was then baptized by Yahya (PBUH). This declared that the public ministry of Isa (PBUH) as the Masih was to start. But before it could start the prophet Isa (PBUH) had to first be tested and tempted by the great enemy of us all – by Shaytan (or Satan or devil or Iblis) himself.

The Injil describes this testing in some detail by telling of three specific temptations that Shaytan brought to Isa (PBUH). Let us look at each in turn. (In the temptations you will notice that Shaytan addresses Isa with that difficult title ‘Son of God’. To understand what that means please see my article here).

The Temptation of bread

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:1-4)

Here we see a parallel to when Shaytan tempted Adam and Eve in Paradise. You may recall that in that temptation the forbidden fruit was ‘… good for food…’ and that was one reason why it was so tempting. In this case, with Isa (PBUH) having fasted (and this fast had no stop – no iftar – or breaking of the fast each evening) for such a long period the thought of bread was understandably tempting. But this outcome was different from Adam since the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) resisted the temptation while Adam did not.

But why was he not allowed to eat during these 40 days? The injil does not tell us specifically, but the Zabur had predicted that the coming Servant would be a representative for the Jewish nation of Israel. The nation of Israel, under the prophet Musa (PBUH), had wandered for 40 years in the desert eating only food (called manna) from heaven. The 40 days of fasting and meditating on the Word of God as spiritual food was a symbolic re-enactment of that time in the desert as the promised Servant.

The Temptation to Test God.

The second temptation was equally difficult. The Injil tells us that

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4: 5-7)

Here Shaytan quotes from the Zabur to tempt Isa (PBUH). It is obvious therefore that in his opposition to Allah, he has studied the sacred writings so he could devise ways to oppose them. He knows the books very well and is an expert on twisting them.

I reproduce the complete passage of the Zabur from which Shaytan had quoted only a small part. (I underlined the part he quotes).

10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. (Psalm 91:10-14)

You can see that here in Zabur it is about a ‘he’, which Shaytan believed referred to the Masih. But this passage does not say directly ‘The Masih’ or ‘Christ’, so how did Shaytan know this?

You will notice the ‘he’ will ‘trample’ the ‘great lion’ and ‘the serpent’ (v.13 – I put it in red). The ‘lion’ is a reference to the tribe of Judah of the Israelites since the prophet Yakub (PBUH) had prophesied in the Taurat that:

9 You are a lion’s cub, Judah;you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down,like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?

10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. (Genesis 49:8-10)

Yakub (PBUH) as a prophet, had stated long ago in the Taurat (i.e. about 1700 BC) that the tribe of Judah was like a lion from which a ‘he’ would come that ‘he’ would rule. The Zabur  continued this prophecy.  By declaring that ‘he’ would trample the ‘lion’, the Zabur said this ‘he’ would be the ruler of Judah.

The passage of the Zabur that Shaytan spoke from also stated that the ‘he’ would ‘trample the serpent’. This is a direct reference to the First Promise made by Allah in the Sign of Adam that the ‘offspring of the woman’ would crush the serpent. Here it is again with the diagram explaining the characters and the actions in this First Promise:

So the Lord God said to the serpent…

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

the offspring diagram for temptation of isa

This promise had been first given in Sign of Adam, but the details were not clear then.  Now we know that ‘The Woman’ is Mary because she is the only person who had an offspring without a man – she was a virgin.  And therefore her offspring, the ‘he’ that was promised we now know to be Isa al Masih (PBUH).  So I have included these names in this diagram.  As you can see in this diagram, the ancient promise had said that Isa al Masih (the ‘he’) would crush the serpent.  The prophecy in Zabur that Shaytan quoted had reiterated this when it said

“you will trample the great lion and the serpent.” (v13)

So Shaytan quoted from the Zabur which in turn referred to these two earlier prophecies from the Taurat that a ‘he’ was coming that would command obedience and crush Shaytan (the serpent).  So Shaytan knew that the verses he quoted in the Zabur referred to the Masih even though they did not say ‘Masih’.  Shaytan’s temptation was to try to fulfill this in the wrong way.  These prophecies from Zabur and Taurat would be fulfilled, but not by Isa (PBUH) jumping off the temple to draw attention to himself, but by following the plan, without deviation, revealed in the Taurat and Zabur by Allah.

The Temptation to Worship

Shaytan then tempted Isa with everything he had – all the kingdoms of the world. The Injil states that:

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:8-11)

‘Masih’ means ‘anointed’ to rule so Masih had a right to rule. Shaytan tempted Isa (PBUH) with what was rightfully his, but Shaytan tempted him to take a wrong shortcut to his rule, and he was tempting Isa (PBUH) to worship him to get it – which is shirk. Isa resisted Shaytan’s temptation, by (once again) quoting from the Taurat. Isa al Masih (PBUH) saw the Taurat as a very important book and obviously knew it very well and trusted it.

Isa – someone who understands us

This period of temptation of Isa (PBUH) is very important for us. The injil states about Isa:

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18)

And

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4: 15-16)

Remember Harun (PBUH) as High Priest brought sacrifices so the Israelites could receive forgiveness. Now Isa (PBUH) in a similar way is considered a High Priest that can sympathize and understand us – even helping us in our temptations, precisely because he himself was tempted – yet without sin.  And so we can have confidence before Allah with Isa (PBUH) acting as our High Priest because he underwent the most difficult temptations but he never gave in and sinned. He is someone who understands us and can help us with our own temptations and sins. The question is: Will we let him?

The Sign of Adam

Adam and his wife Eve are unique since they were directly created by Allah and they lived in the Paradise of Eden.  So they have important signs for us to learn.  There are two passages in the Qur’an that talk about Adam, and one from the Taurat. (Click Here to read them).

These accounts are very similar.  In both accounts the characters are identical (Adam, Eve, Shaytan (Iblis), Allah); the place is the same in both accounts (the Garden); in both accounts Shaytan (Iblis) lies and tricks Adam and Eve; in both accounts Adam & Eve put on leafs to hide the shame of their nakedness; in both accounts Allah then comes and speaks to give judgment; in both of the accounts Allah shows mercy by providing raiments (i.e. clothing) to cover ‘the shame’ of their nakedness.  The Qur’an says this is ‘sign of Allah’ for the ‘Children of Adam’ – which is us.  In other words this is not just a history lesson about sacred events in the past. We can learn from the account of Adam.

Adam’s Warning to us

Adam & Eve only committed one sin of disobedience before Allah judged.  There are not, for example, ten sins of disobedience with Allah giving nine warnings and then finally judging.  Allah judged from only one act of disobedience.  Many people believe that Allah will only judge them after they have committed many sins. They reason that if they have ‘less sins’ than most others, or if their good deeds outnumber their bad actions then (perhaps) God will not judge.  Adam & Eve’s experience warns us that this is not so.  Allah will judge even one sin of disobedience.

This makes sense if we compare disobedience to Allah with breaking the law of a nation.  In Canada where I live, if I broke just one law (e.g. I stole something) the country can judge me.  I cannot plead that I have only broken one law and have not broken laws for murder and kidnapping.  I only need to break one law to face Canada’s judgment.  It is the same with Allah.

When they clothed themselves with leafs we see that they experienced shame and tried to cover their nakedness.  Likewise, when I do things that makes me feel shame then I try to cover up and hide it from others.  But Adam’s efforts were futile before God.  Allah could see their failure and He then both Acted and Spoke.

The Actions of Allah in Judgment – but also in Mercy

We can see three actions:

  1. Allah makes them mortal – they will now die.
  2. Allah expels them from the Garden.  They must now live a much more difficult life on Earth.
  3. Allah gives them clothes of skins.

It is fascinating that all of us even to this day still are affected by these.  Everyone dies; no one – prophet or otherwise – has ever returned to the Garden; and everyone continues to wear clothes.  In fact these three things are so ‘normal’ that we almost miss noticing that what Allah did to Adam & Eve is still being felt by us thousands of years later.  The consequences of what happened that day still seem to be in effect.

The clothing from Allah was a gift of mercy – their shame was now covered.  Yes He judged – but he also provided mercy – which He did not have to do.  Adam & Eve did not earn the clothing through good behaviour that gave ‘merit’ against their disobedient act.  Adam & Eve could only receive Allah’s gift without meriting or deserving it. But someone did pay for it.  The Taurat tells us that the clothing was ‘skins’.  Thus they came from an animal.  Up until this point there was no death, but now an animal with skin suitable as a covering of clothes did pay – with its life.  An animal died so that Adam & Eve could receive Mercy from Allah.

The Qur’an tells us that this clothing did cover their shame, but the covering that they really needed was ‘righteousness’, and that in some way the clothing that they did have (the skins) was a sign of this righteousness, and a sign for us.

“O you Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment to you.  But the raiment of righteousness – that is the best.  Such are among the signs of Allah, that they may receive admonition” [Surat 7:26 (The Heights)]

A good question is: how do we get this ‘raiment of righteousness’?  Later prophets will show the answer to this very important question.

The Words of Allah in Judgment and in Mercy

Allah not only does these three things for Adam & Eve and us (their children), but he also speaks His Word.  In both accounts Allah speaks of ‘enmity’ but in the Taurat it adds that this ‘enmity’ will be between the woman and the serpent (Shaytan).  This particular Word is repeated here.  I have just inserted with () the persons referred to.  Allah speaks:

“And I (Allah) will put enmity
between you (Shaytan) and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he (offspring of woman) will crush your (Shaytan) head,
and you (Shaytan) will strike his (offspring of woman) heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

This is a riddle – but it is understandable. Reading carefully you will see that there are five different characters mentioned AND that this is prophetic in that it is looking forward-in-time (seen by the repeated use of ‘will’ in future tense). The characters are:

  1. God (or Allah)
  2. Shaytan (or Iblis)
  3. The woman
  4. The offspring of the woman
  5. The offspring of Shaytan

And the riddle maps out how these characters will relate to each other in the future. This is shown below.

The characters and their relationships in the Promise of Allah given in Paradise
The characters and their relationships in the Promise of Allah given in Paradise

It does not say who the woman is.  But Allah speaks of an ‘offspring’ of Shaytan (Satan) and an ‘offspring’ of the woman.  This is mysterious but we know one thing about this offspring of the woman.  Because the ‘offspring’ is called a ‘he’ and a ‘him’ we know that it is a single male human.  With that knowledge we can drop some possible interpretations.  As a ‘he’ the offspring is not a ‘she’ and thus cannot be a woman – but ‘he’ comes from a woman.  As a ‘he’ the offspring is not a ‘they’ (i.e. it is not plural).  Thus the offspring referred to is NOT a group of people whether that refers to a national identity or a group of a certain religion.  As a ‘he’ the offspring is not an ‘it’ (the offspring is a person).  Though this may seem obvious it eliminates the possibility that the offspring is a particular philosophy or teaching or religion.  So the offspring is NOT (for example) Christianity or Islam because then it would be referred to as an ‘it’, nor is it a group of people as in the Jews or the Christians or the Muslims because then it would be referred to as a ‘they’.  Even though there remains mystery about who the ‘offspring’ is we have eliminated many possibilities that might naturally come to our mind.

We see from the future tense of this promise that a plan with a purposed outcome is in the Mind of Allah.  This ‘offspring’ will crush the head of Shaytan (i.e. destroy him) while at the same time Shaytan will ‘strike his heel’.  The mystery of what this means is not clarified at this point.  But we know that a plan of God is going to unfold.

Notice now what Allah does NOT say to Adam.  He does not promise the man a specific offspring like he promises the woman.  This is quite extraordinary especially given the emphasis of sons coming through fathers through the Taurat, Zabur & Injil. The genealogies given in the Taurat, Zabur and Injil almost exclusively record only the sons that come from the fathers.  But in this promise in the Garden it is different – there is no promise of an offspring (a ‘he’) coming from a man.  The Taurat says only that there will be an offspring coming from woman – without mentioning a man.

Out of all the humans that have ever existed, only two have never had a human father. The first was Adam, created directly by God. The second was Isa al Masih (Jesus – PBUH) who was born of a virgin – thus no human father. This fits with the observation that the offspring is a ‘he’, not a ‘she’, ‘they’ or ‘it’. Isa al Masih (PBUH) is an offspring from a woman. But who is his enemy, the ‘offspring’ of Shaytan? Though we do not have space here to trace it out in detail, the Books speak of a ‘Son of Destruction’, ‘Son of Satan’ and other titles that depict a coming human ruler who will oppose ‘the Christ’ (Masih). Also known as Dajjal, the later Books speak of a coming clash between this ‘Anti-Christ’ and the Christ (or Masih). But it is first mentioned in embryo-like form here, at the very beginning of history.

The climax of history, the conclusion of a struggle between Shaytan and Allah, started long ago in the Garden is prophesied at that same beginning – in the first Book. Yet many questions remain and more have been raised.  Continuing from here and learning from the successive Messengers will help us better answer our questions and understand the times we are in. We continue with their sons of Adam and Eve – Qabil and Habil.