If Pharaoh’s magicians changed their rods into snakes through being empowered by Satan, does that mean that Satan has the power to create life?
While the Bible does not specifically tell us how the magicians were able to copy the miracles performed by Moses through God’s power, the two possibilities are that they either did it through a fraudulent sleight-of-hand magic trick, or they were empowered by Satan.
2Timothy 3:8 — Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.
The above verse in the New Testament identifies two men named Jannes and Jambres as two of the magicians summoned by Pharaoh to oppose Moses. Jannes and Jambres, according to historians, were two principal Egyptian sorcerers who were known to practice occult arts.
“Jannes and Jambres, one or both, are also mentioned by Pliny (23-79 AD), by Apuleius (circa 130 AD), both of whom speak of Moses and Jannes as famous magicians of antiquity. The Pythagorean philosopher Numenius (2nd century AD) speaks of Jannes and Jambres as Egyptian hierogrammateis, or sacred scribes.” (excerpted from classic.net.bible.org)
Jannes and Jambres are only mentioned once in Scripture, in 2Tim 3:8. They are not mentioned in the Old Testament, but are believed to be the two sorcerers, or among the sorcerers, who opposed Moses by copying the supernatural miracles that Moses performed through God’s empowerment.
Exodus 7:8-13 — Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, “Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.
Some people believe that the magicians simply performed a fake magic trick to turn their rods into snakes. This argument can be supported by the fact that Egyptian magicians have a longstanding history of being skilled snake handlers, and that the Egyptian cobra is a snake that can be placed into a cataleptic state by pressing on its neck. This makes the snake stiff and immobile, thus seemingly changing it into a rod.. The magic trick involves the magician concealing the “rod” in their clothing, then producing it and seemingly changing the “rod” into a snake.
Men like Jannes and Jambres, however, were not the magic trick type of magician that the word “magician” brings to mind today. They were Egyptian sorcerers who practiced occult arts, and sorcery is an abomination to God.
Deut 18:9-13 “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God,
Again, the Bible does not specifically say how Jannes and Jambres turned their rods into snakes, but we do know from God’s Word that the true battle takes place in the spiritual world..
Eph 6:12 — For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.
Therefore, it seems likely that as sorcerers known to practice the occult, Jannes and Jambres were supernaturally empowered by Satan. If we believe that the sorcerers performed their miracles supernaturally, we may ask, “does Satan then have the power to create life?” If the sorcerers changed an inanimate object into a live snake, and they derived their power from Satan, it seems logical to conclude that Satan has the power to create life.
God and Satan, however, are not equal counterparts of good and evil. They are not equals in position or power.
Col 1:16-17 — for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him – all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers – all things were created through him and for him. He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him.
Before being cast out of heaven for rebelling against God, Satan was an angel whose name was Lucifer. Angels are beings created by God, whereas God exists before all things, and is sovereign over all things.
Isaiah 46:10 — I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.
Ultimately, everything and everyone is subject to God and nothing happens that God does not allow. In this event with the sorcerers and snakes, God allowed Satan to empower the sorcerers with the supernatural ability to change inanimate objects into snakes in order that God would accomplish His purpose and plan. The book of Job provides us with some insight into God establishing Satan’s boundaries.
Job 1:12 — The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
Job 2:6 — The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”
God is never directly responsible for evil, for there is no evil in Him, but He is able to use evil for the good of those who have been called by Him.
Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose,
The book of Job shows that God grants Satan permission to operate within the boundaries that He establishes, and in accordance with His ultimate plan and purpose. In Pharaoh’s court, God granted Satan permission to empower the sorcerers to supernaturally turn their rods into snakes. God followed that by demonstrating His greater power when Aaron’s snake ate and destroyed the sorcerers’ snakes. This event in the Bible with Pharaoh and his sorcerers foreshadows what will happen in the end times when God allows Satan to empower the antichrist (the lawless one). The antichrist will deceive many people by copying and counterfeiting God’s miracles, signs and wonders. Just as God hardened Pharaoh’s heart against Moses, He will send a deluding influence to those who have set their hearts against Him and rejected the salvation He offers through faith in Jesus.
2Thess 2:8-12 — and then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will destroy by the breath of his mouth and wipe out by the manifestation of his arrival. The arrival of the lawless one will be by Satan’s working with all kinds of miracles and signs and false wonders, and with every kind of evil deception directed against those who are perishing, because they found no place in their hearts for the truth so as to be saved. Consequently God sends on them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false. And so all of them who have not believed the truth but have delighted in evil will be condemned.
Satan likes to deceive by copying and counterfeiting the same miracles, signs and wonders that God performs because it’s an effective strategy. Satan’s power is supernatural, and the miracles he will perform in the end times will not be magic tricks. Satan’s miracles will be counterfeit not because they are fake, but because they are based on lies instead of God’s truth. Those who are not in Christ and rooted in God’s Word will be deceived by the miracles Satan performs because they will be very real and convincing, but performed by the father of lies. In the same manner that God demonstrated His power by destroying the sorcerers’ serpents, He will also ultimately demonstrate His power by defeating Satan and sending him to hell for eternity.
Photo by James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
This post is adapted from an answer written for GotQuestions.org