Written around 170 BCE, the book of Jubilees appears to have been venerated by many Jews (and later Christians) in ancient times, although it never became part of the Hebrew Bible. While its author differs from what would become the rabbinic tradition on several important points, some of its readings of the Bible found their way into rabbinic literature, including one that sees the story of the binding of Isaac as resulting from a challenge (like that in the book of Job) issued to God by Satan. But Jubilees adds an additional twist in its version of the story: Abraham’s aborted sacrifice of his son took place on Passover. Stuart Halpern comments:
[Jubilees] did this to tie the story, ever so subtly, to another, similar biblical tale, the commandment the Israelites received, in the book of Exodus, to slaughter the paschal lamb and smear the blood on their doorposts. In that tale, a seemingly demonic figure makes an appearance. We read, in Exodus 12:23 [that God] “will see the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, and the Lord will pass over the door and not let the Destroyer enter and smite your home.”
Whoever, or whatever, the Destroyer was, credited with laying waste to the Egyptian firstborns, he seems to be under the employ of God. Jubilees, not surprisingly, says, in its retelling, that it was the “powers of Mastema” [its name for Satan] who were “let loose” upon the enslavers. (The Passover Haggadah, hundreds of years later, seems to have been so disturbed by the reference to a “Destroyer,” it assures us, repeatedly, that it was none other than God Himself who had done the damage.)
Furthermore, [the author of] Jubilees had noticed something when reading the Exodus story. He had seen this episode before. Here, in Egypt, there was the narrow avoidance of the death of the favored children (Exodus 4:22 has God instructing Moses to tell Pharaoh “Israel is my first-born son”) and the sacrifice, in place of said chosen son, of a lamb.
Though Jubilees never did make it into the Bible, maybe it’s time to restore Satan to the seder. Or at the very least, remind ourselves that on the night that commemorates God’s passing over, in protection, of the houses of Israel, the night the Destroyer didn’t harm us, it was because God asked us to be willing to sacrifice for Him. And we listened. And we were redeemed.