JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
When I went to research this phrase, above, I was surprised to learn that it is about half as old as I. Playing on a slightly older expression, "Le bon Dieu est dans le détail" (the good God is in the detail), commonly attributed to Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), and of course "God in in the detail/s", the "devil" part seems to be only from the mid/late 1970's--a surprise.
Nevertheless, we are still left with a surprise in this devilish detail from the incunabulum of St. Augustus, De civitate dei....(this printed in Basel by Johann Amerbach on 13 February 1489). It shows it in its two panel woodcut the illustrious saint at top, working away at his desk; and at the bottom a battle between the cities of Babylon (founded by Abel) and Zion ("Syon", by Cain). In this battle Zion is defended by devils, and the devils are armed.
The angels of Babylon appear sympathetic but unresponsive to the devil-play, while an angel at top left seems to be blessing its devil enemy who seems to be scaring/screaming at her. In any event this is a lovely and complex image coming in the fourth decade of moveable type printing.
Now: regarding Zion and Augustine, I really don't know why the writer is putting devils in charge of the defense of "the city of the living god". The many-times-mentioned Zion of the Old Testament, "...Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth" (Psalms 50:2), doesn't seem to be calling for devils. But then I don't know this history of Jerusalem during the Byzantine period, 4th/5th century. So far as wars and savages launched against Jerusalem, it was destroyed twice, attacked 52 times, captured/recaptured 44 times, and beseiged 23 times--perhaps this representation wasn't too terribly much out of the ordinary.