For the moth genus, see Mastema (moth).

Mastema is an angel who persecutes evil in Jewish mythology. He carries out punishments for God. He tempts humans and tests their faith. In the Zadokite Fragments and the Dead Sea Scrolls, he is the angel of disaster, the father of all evil, and a flatterer of God. He first appears in the literature of the Second Temple Period as a personification of the Hebrew word mastemah (משטמה), meaning "hatred", "hostility", "enmity", or "persecution".

Book of Jubilees

According to the Book of Jubilees, Mastema ("hostility") is the chief of the demons engendered by the Watchers/fallen angels with women.

His actions and name indicate he is the Satan, the "Adversary", but more the Satan who appears in the Book of Job with a function to fulfill under God than the Satan of later tradition who is the uttermost enemy of God. Beliar, mentioned twice in Jubilees, is likely to be identical with Mastema in this work.[2]

When God is ready to destroy all these demons after the flood and Noah prays that his descendants be released from their attacks, Mastema intervenes, beseeching God to allow him to retain and control one tenth of these demons in order to exercise his authority because they are "intended to corrupt and lead astray before my judgement because the evil of the sons of men is great". (Jubilees 10:8)[3] Mastema is the tester of humans, with God's permission.

Mastema sends a plague of birds onto the land in the days of Terah. (Jubilees 11:10)[4]

Later, Mastema counsels God to test Abraham (Jubilees 17:15-16),[5] just as Satan in the book of Job wants permission to test Job. As Abraham prepares to sacrifice his son Isaac, Mastema stands in God's presence. On his deathbed, Isaac promises that the spirits of Mastema will have no power to turn Jacob or his descendants away from Yahweh.

The strange account in where Yahweh meets Moses by the way and tries to kill him is retold in a way that attributes the attack to Mastema instead (Jubilees 48:1-3).[6] It is claimed that Mastema aided the Egyptian priests that opposed Moses. Mastema is also said to have been chained while the Israelites left Egypt, but then let go to encourage the Egyptians to chase after the Israelites and so come to their doom in the Red Sea. The deaths of the firstborn of the Egyptians are attributed to "all the powers of Mastema".[2]

In Popular Media

  • In Anne Rice's novel Vittorio the Vampire, Mastema is an angel that aids the main character in attacking a vampire coven.
  • In the Megami Tensei series of video games and its spin-offs, Mastema is portrayed as a demon, although within the context of the franchise, the term "demon" is used to refer to any supernatural creature. Mastema can be fought, but can also join the player's group.