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Isaiah 34:14 and the mystery of the “satyrs”, “demons”, and the “Lilith”

Isaiah 34:14

The botched translation of the verse reads like these,

And wild animals shall meet with hyenas; the wild goat shall cry to his fellow; indeed, there the night bird settles and finds for herself a resting place. ESV

And desert creatures will meet with hyenas, and goat-demons will call out to each other. There also Liliths will settle, and find for themselves a resting place. ISV

And devils shall meet with satyrs, and they shall cry one to the other: there shall satyrs rest, having found for themselves a place of rest. LXX Septuagint

And the wild-cats shall meet with the jackals, And the satyr shall cry to his fellow; Yea, the night-monster shall repose there, And shall find her a place of rest. JPS Tanakh

What many translators failed to see was that writers were entirely capable of using figurative creatures to describe literal things. And they most certainly did. Giving in to enlightenment era philosophy, the Church started retreating from these words thinking that the “Holy Word” couldn’t possibly contain such “unscientific” fantasy creatures, never stopping to realize that there could be deeper allegorical meanings. Lest anyone think the Bible taught fantasy, they went ahead and simply changed the words.

  • Tsiyyi (pronounced tsee-ee) is an unidentified creature of “the desert”. It is defined by the ~70 elders of Israel in their Greek translation (LXX) of the Hebrew Scriptures in the 2nd century BC as demons.
  • Iyyim (pronounced ee-yeem) is defined as howlers, screamers, screechers, etc. Social justice warriors anyone?
  • Sa’iyr (pronounced sah-eer) means “hairy one” or “he-goat”. The elders in the 2nd century BC translated it in the LXX as ONOCENTAUROS. This is related to the word Centaur the half-man half horse creature. The Onocentaur was regarded as a creature of Ethiopia (which would be Cush in Hebrew Scriptures) and was apparently half-man and half-donkey. It was said that their “face is like that of a man and is surrounded by thick hair.” (Aelian, 2nd Century AD). Plots thicken when you learn that Esau was called a sa’iyr, and that the Azazel (Scapegoat) was to be a sa’iyr (hairy one) of the female goats in the Atonement rite (Leviticus 16).
  • Lilith was in many legends of antiquity associated with the night and stealing/killing children. The Jewish Encyclopedia relates, “She becomes a nocturnal demon, flying about in the form of a night-owl and stealing children. She is permitted to kill all children which have been sinfully begotten.” In recent times she has come to represent the feminist Lilith-fair. But these are legends. The Hebrew word behind “place of rest” is based on the same as that of Noah’s name, manoah (#4494), the dove not finding a manoah (Gen. 8:9), and the ark of the covenant coming to a manoah (1 Chron. 6:31). She also “causes a wink” or “twinkling” (Hebrew raga #7280) which Paul cryptically mentions in his own writings. Food for thought.

These figures of speech appear to speak to the reality that humans act like animals. Whether a “brood of vipers”, “sheep”, “goats”, “birds of prey”, “donkey”, ostriches, moles, etc, etc. This way of speaking about people is found everywhere in the Bible. The use of such words does not mean it intends to teach about literal demons, but most likely to use the figure to teach us about the realities that exist within the World and to know what is ahead. The lays the largest claim in history to knowing what is “ahead”. The majority of it is prophetic literature.

So it says in Hosea 12:10 literal, “I have also spoken over the Prophets, and myself has abounded a vision, and in the hand of the Prophets I have likened.

The verb to resemble/liken is used by Hosea without any additional information, but appears to infer that through the Prophets Yahweh has “likened” truth to all sorts of things—i.e. metaphors, allegories, riddles, enigmas.

The concrete rendering stands more like this,

And the desert-dwellers have met near the howlers, And the satyr is calling upon his friend; indeed there Lilith has caused to wink, and she has found to-herself a place of rest.

Be wise. In fact, be wise as the serpents, (hint: this means serpents are not inherently bad) and unmixed/pure as the doves (Matt. 10:16). As the Bible uses sheep, trees, birds, bees, etc. to describe groups of people perhaps it uses demons to describe certain groups of people. Sheep and birds are real but when Jesus speaks about them he is not speaking of actual sheep or birds. He stated that he came to seek the lost “sheep” of Israel. They are used figuratively. For example,

“You offspring of vipers!” Luke 3:7