The Talmud is the enormous corpus of Jewish legal and legendary literature produced between the second and sixth centuries C.E.


Janet Howe Gaines, “Seductress, Heroine or Murderer?” BR, October 2001, p. 12; and “The Seductress of Qumran” (based on an article by Joseph Baumgarten), BR, October 2001, p. 21.



For an introduction, see Jack M. Sasson, ed., Civilizations of the Ancient Near East (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1995), pp. 1,777-1,785, 1,865-1,867, 1,889-1,904, 1,960. See also the famous anti-demonic amulet from Arslan Tash in Syria, for which the most recent treatment is B.W. Conclin, “Arslan Tash I and other Vestiges of a Particular Syrian Incantatory Thread,” Biblica 84 (2003) pp. 89–101.


References to evil angels and demons include Matthew 4:24, 7:22, 10:1, 25, 12:22–28, 17:15–18; Mark 1:23–26, 32–34; 3:22–23, 9:17–29; Luke 8:2, 27–33, 9:38–42, 11:14–19, 13:11–13; Acts 5:16, 8:7, 10:38, 19:11–16. See also the extrabiblical texts 1 Enoch 15–16; 19:1; 53:5; Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs passim; Tobit 3:8, 17. The Gospel of John, however, seems less inclined to accept demonism (only 8:48; 10:20–21), while Paul identifies the gods of polytheism with demons (1 Corinthians 10:20–21).


Josephus Antiquities 8.45-49.


b. Giṭṭin 68b.


Berachot 6a, 51a; Pesaḥ 110a–112b.


Dan Levene, A Corpus of Magic Bowls: Incantation Texts in Jewish Aramaic from Late Antiquity (New York: Kegan Paul, 2003).


Alois Musil, The Manners and Customs of the Rwala Bedouins (New York: American Geographical Society, 1928), p. 411.


In postbiblical Hebrew, the generic term šēdîm means “evil spirits, demons.” But in their biblical attestations (Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 106:37), šēdîm simply are “gods,” to whom Israel is forbidden to sacrifice. This corresponds with the derivation from Akkadian šēdu, “spirit, god.”


The best discussion of demons in the Hebrew Bible is by Theodor H. Gaster in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville/New York: Abdingdon, 1962), vol. 1, pp. 817–824. In addition to the foregoing, Gaster suggests that demons lurk within various biblical idioms: e.g., “cramp seized me” (2 Samuel 1:9), “the destruction that wastes at noonday” (Psalm 91:6), etc. These and other bogeys also inhabit the pages of the best-selling Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, ed. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking and Pieter W. van der Horst (Leiden: Brill, 1999).


In contrast, the Mishnah (Avot 5:6) describes the demons’ creation on the eve of the first Sabbath. Similar traditions are found in Persian and Arabic sources.


The classic discussion is Paul Volz, Das Dämonische in Jahwe (Tübingen: Mohr, 1924).


See William H.C. Propp, Exodus 1–18, Anchor Bible 1 (New York: Doubleday, 1999), pp. 434–439.


I briefly sketched out the following comparison of demonology and covenant in Propp, “Monotheism and Moses: The Problem of Early Israelite Religion,” Ugarit-Forschungen 31 (1999), pp. 548–549.


This understanding, instead of the traditional “sin couches at the doorway,” is proposed by E A. Speiser, Genesis, Anchor Bible 1 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1964), pp. 32–33.


In addition, Elijah condemns Ahaziah for seeking healing apart from Yahweh (2 Kings 1:2–4), and Jeremiah scoffs at medicine’s efficacy (Jeremiah 8:22, 17:5, 14, 46:11, 51:8–9). All approved acts of healing involve either Yahweh or his priests and prophets (Genesis 20:7, 17; Exodus 23:25–26; Numbers 12:13; 1 Kings 13:6, 17:17–24; 2 Kings 4:8–41, 5, 13:21, 20:1–7). In contrast, we have a single oblique but neutral reference to medical expenses in Exodus 21:19. The earliest positive reference to healing in Jewish literature is Ben Sira 38:1–15 (second century B.C.E.). Starting in the Middle Ages and until modern times, however, Jews have traditionally specialized in medicine. See John M. Efron, Medicine and the German Jews (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2001).