"As always," OCG provides the best response we generally get from a theist around here.
One semi-whimsical way I like to interpret the story is to make a distinction between the Serpent/"Prince of Tyre" (Ezekiel 28:11-19) and the "Satan" who serves as Yahweh's Inquisitor. "Satan" (in the Hebrew scriptures, it's always "ha-Satan," i.e. "the
Accuser/Adversary") is a title
, not a personal name. Like "Pharaoh" in the Bible, it does not necessarily always have to refer to the same individual. No one thinks that the "Pharaoh" who wanted to steal Sarah from Abraham is the same "Pharaoh" who made Joseph his Vizier or the "Pharaoh" who battled Moses, even though the Biblical writers seem to use it as if it were a name ("Pharaoh, king of Egypt"--that's like saying "White House, President of the United States," since Per-a'a in ancient Egyptian means "Great House," i.e. the royal palace).
The Serpent/Prince of Tyre differ from "Satan" in that he is treated as a genuine enemy of Yahweh. He "curses" him in both places (the books of Genesis and Ezekiel respectively). In the Hebrew scriptures, "Satan" is treated as an officer of Yahweh's court (look up "Satan" in a concordance and read the passages). He is "rebuked" at one point (the Hebrew word is something like "rebuke" or "chide" IIRC, along the lines of a judicial gavel-tap and "You're out of order, Counselor!" rather than "I will unleash my boundless wrath upon you! RAAAR!"), but never cursed or threatened. His job is to root out treason against the King of Heaven by "tempting" people to "sin" (i.e. running sting operations) or accusing them of sin before the royal court.
In the NT, the waters get muddied a bit. "Satan's" first appearance in the Gospel stories follows the pattern. He shows up on cue, puts Jesus through his paces, then leaves on Jesus' command. Hardly the behavior of a rebel or mortal enemy. He performs his role later in the stories of Jesus' crucifixion. Jesus tells Peter that Satan has requested permission to "sift" him, and this permission is granted (leading up to the "Peter denies Jesus" stories). In John's Gospel, "Satan" waits at Jesus' elbow at the Last Supper, and possesses Judas on his orders to make him "betray" him to the authorities.
At first glance, the numerous "exorcism" stories in the Gospels might lend the impression that "Satan" is now acting to oppose Jesus. But if you look closely at how the "exorcisms" play out, they demons' behaviors are awfully convenient
for Jesus. We are told unequivocally that they know exactly who Jesus is, and presumably know they can't overpower him. Yet, they seek him out or at least make no attempt to evade him in order to keep their victims in thrall. Most of the time they loudly and publicly proclaim that he is the Son of God before he "silences" them, then engages in some exorcism theater. They do much more to further Jesus' fame and renown than his own disciples do! Could we be looking at examples of a "two-man con?"
Only in the Book of Revelation is the Serpent explicitly identified with "Satan." However, the BoR is written as a prediction of the future. Since none of the events have happened yet, the Serpent can hardly be held culpable for them! Furthermore, the predictions--that the "Dragon" will create a brutal theocratic dictatorship that is actually just a short-lived, weaker version of the one that Jesus establishes by the end of the book, with all of the really
big massacres and atrocities taking place at his hand and Yahweh's (the various vials, bowls, trumpets, seals, etc.)--are out of character for the Serpent/Prince of Tyre. In Genesis, the Serpent is completely non-violent. He never threatens, much less attacks Eve--he treats her as an equal! In Ezekiel 27, the prophet spends the chapter describing the wonders of the city. In Chapter 28, it is vaguely implied that the "Prince of Tyre" is being condemned for "violence"--yet not one single example is given. Edit
(had to switch computers):
The Serpent of Genesis is plainly shown as a being of honesty and integrity. When his claim ("You shall not surely die/you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil") and Yahweh's claim ("In the day that you eat of [the Fruit of Knowledge] you shall surely die") conflict, it is the Serpent's that is true. Not only is it shown to be so in the narrative, Yahweh himself quotes it verbatim (3:22) as his reason to expel Adam and Eve from the Garden so that they cannot reach the Tree of Life. In Ezekiel 28, the "Prince of Tyre" is described as a being of great beauty and wisdom. His positive attributes are described in eloquent detail; his alleged crimes not specified at all. It is as if the prophet cannot even resort to the trick of throwing mud at the wall and hoping some of it sticks.
And one more thing: after Yahweh promises to destroy his city through the agency of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon...the Serpent/Prince of Tyre wins!
Ezekiel 29:17-20 has Yahweh speaking through the prophet, admitting that Nebuchadnezzar was not able to conquer Tyre or gain anything to pay wages for the "labor" of his army's attempted conquest, and promising Egypt to him as his "pay." Yahweh fails there as well. His predictions that the Egyptians would be scattered among the nations and permanently destroyed as a power do not come to pass.
Of course it's highly unlikely that the Biblical writers intended their stories to be interpreted in this way, with the Serpent/Prince of Tyre as a heroic opponent of Yahweh's/Jesus' tyranny. Nonetheless, to me it does seem to parsimoniously integrate the various Biblical stories into a coherent narrative. It certainly makes more sense than the orthodox narrative, in which "Satan" is supposed to be an evil rebel against Yahweh's perfect reign--when he's not obeying Yahweh's and Jesus' orders without question or noticeable hesitation.