The Destroyer – definition

Sanctuary definition - a place for God?
Correctly understanding these terms leads to a better
understanding of the character of God and the Gospel.

Note: this page is focused not so much on the meaning of the word destroyer as it is on who the destroyer is in scripture.

Traditional Legal Model – The destroyer is Satan at times and God is at other times in order to maintain His justice.

Biblical Healing Model – The destroyer is always Satan. God only destroys in the sense that He allows it to happen.

From a Modern Dictionary 

Destroyer (noun)
a person or thing that destroys.

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

Destroyer, (noun)
One who destroys, or lays waste; one who kills a man, or an animal, or who ruins a country, cities, etc.

The “destroyer” (with the definite article) would be the one who destroys and actually has the habit of destroying as a feature of his character, his identity. Whether God ever destroys or not, destruction is not an identifying feature we would attribute to Him – God is certainly not the destroyer as we understand the act of destroying. There is another power, quite separate from God, who acts like this:

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Note how Jesus makes a pointed contrast between Himself and the one causing destruction. Let’s look for more distinctions between God and the destroyer in scripture.

The Destroyer at the Passover

“And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite (nakah, Strong’s H5221) the land of Egypt.” (Exo 12:13)

In the Septuagint (or LXX, the third century BC Greek translation of the Old Testament), the Greek word used to translate the Hebrew “nakah” is “paio” (Strong’s G3817).  Another Greek word “patasso” (G3960, derived from “paio”) was used in the New Testament to describe the act of the angel who “smote Peter on the side” (Acts 12:7) to awaken him. As in that case, Egypt was “smitten” (actually ten times) in the hope of getting their attention enough to repent and turn towards the true God. Unfortunately, Pharaoh hardened his heart but that was an act of his own free will despite God’s attempts to move him in the other direction.

It was the land of Egypt that was to be smitten and, since Israel was living in Egypt, they were apparently in danger also. God gave instructions for their protection:

“For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite (nagaph, H5062) you.” (Exo 12:23)

Think about that verse and the idea that God was doing the destroying. Does it make sense that God was preventing Himself from acting as the destroyer? Doesn’t it sound like the destroyer is someone else? Note that the “smite” of verse 23 is a different Hebrew word than in verse 13. God was “smiting” as the angel did with Peter, to get attention, hopefully to save; the destroyer was smiting to kill. Note this verse:

“And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go, that they may serve me.” (Exo 10:3)

In mercy, God called ten times for humbleness and repentance. He did all He could to save Egypt from the destroyer.

 The Murmurers Destroyed

“Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.” (1 Cor. 10:10).

Read a discussion of who the murmurers were and what happened to them.

The Destroyer in Psalms

“Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. (Psa 17:4-5)

By observing God’s words, David kept himself from the ways of sin. He did not keep himself from God by observing God’s word. That would make no sense. David is contrasting “the paths of the destroyer” with “thy [God’s] paths.” The word “destroyer” in that verse is a different Hebrew word (“pereets,” H6530) than in Exo 12:23 (“shachath,” H7843) and would seem to mean more like violent men than Satan as the destroyer.

The Destroyer in Revelation

John refers to the destroyer using the Hebrew and the Greek names meaning “Destroyer”:

“And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon” (Rev 9:11).

“The angel of the bottomless pit” is associated with Satan in scripture.

The Destroyer in Job

“And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.” (Job 2:3)

There is a suggestion here that God was destroying in the case of Job. At this point in the account of Job, much of what Job valued – family and possessions – had been destroyed. But the background shows that Satan had made accusations against both God and Job:

“Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?  hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.” (Job 1:9-11)

For the benefit of the understanding of all the world, a test was allowed which, in the end, helped to demonstrate who it is that acts as the destroyer. Satan was allowed to afflict Job:

“And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.” (Job 1:12)

The rest of chapter one details what Satan did to Job and then describes the second meeting between Satan and God:

“And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.” (Job 2:3)

In that verse, God said that Satan “moved” (the original word is often translated as “persuade”) Him to destroy Job. But we know from the details given that the whole thing was Satan’s idea and Satan was the cause of the destruction. This is one example of many where God is said to do what He only allowed or permitted. It is clear from the story of Job that Satan is the destroyer who also does all he can to cast the blame on God. God did not destroy in the case of Job, He simply did not prevent Satan’s work of destruction.

God is Not the Destroyer

God’s role is just the opposite of the destroyer. He protects while the Bible identifies Satan as the destroyer. Yet the Bible does, at times, speak of God destroying so we want to sort that out. It could almost seem like God is the protector until some point is reached and then, all of a sudden, He switches roles, acts totally contrary to His previous actions and dishes out destruction.

How God is prevented from protecting even though He wants to is made clear in this illustration by F. T. Wright.

See the definition page for destroy/destruction for further discussion.

Return to the Character of God and the Gospel Glossary Index

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