I loaned out my Walter Wink (who had a highly enlightening chapter on this very question) so I’ll need to wing it…
But another source tells me that “a satan” was a sort of political undercover cop for the Persian Empire. Basically, the word translates into English, where we first find it in Job, as “The Accuser.” His role there is one of ferreting out disloyalty to God, using entrapment & abuse in his efforts, but with some restraint by God, who knows Job is innocent. Does Job? Where did this “satan” get his anonymous tip? Who fingered Job in the first place? I think it was Job himself, who had not been suffering and wasn’t clear in his own mind whether he was “really” devoted to God, or just to the rewards he’d been receiving.
In other words, this accuser seems to depend on our fears for his influence. If we’re very young, and haven’t had anything too dreadful happen to us, we are paradoxically afraid of the possibility, so much so that we almost “need” some suffering, just as reassurance that it will not destroy us. Hence, I imagine, the appeal of scarey movies, to those who like them.
Anyway, Satan in the ‘Old’ Testament plays the role of God’s enforcer, an angel delegated to probing for & punishing human sinfulness. As we read toward & into the Christian scriptures there’s more a sense that this is a spirit exceeding its authority, a prosecutor who as Jesus says, “Always was a liar.” That is, the guilt we personify as this spirit is not, and never was, truly deserved.
So here we have this element of our psyche chained up, and restrained by satanic-type torment, for 1000 years, whereupon “he must be loosed for a little while.”
Hmmmm…. extremely “Hmmmm!”