& Meaning •
Meaning and etymology of the name satan
The qualities and character of the creature known as satan are almost all debatable. He is thought to be a cherub or ex-cherub (Ezekiel 28:14 - though seemingly about the king of Tyre, obviously about a lot more), and he's been expelled from heaven (Job 1:6, Revelation 12:9). We know that he lead an insurrection, but it is highly unlikely that his following is organized in the way that God's following is organized. Suffice to say that he poses no threat to God and is certainly not an equal counter-pole.
Christ's victory over satan at His resurrection is a victory obtained for mankind. There is no indication that God and satan ever came to blows personally. Satan is not omnipresent and not onmipotent or omniscient. He has no ability to create, and indications are myriad that he is not even able to govern or manage any large number of creatures (see our all-telling article on the name Beelzebub).
Nothing that is commonly ascribed to satan (darkness, fire, evil) actually belongs to satan, as everything belongs to God; the entire world (Psalm 24:1), and all souls (Ezekiel 18:4).
The functional essence of satan may even have originated in a true purpose; the trying and hence actualizing of the potential of God's creation. In the Book of Job (which in itself is monstrously complicated and difficult to place, especially chronologically) satan is still allowed an audience with God and God renders him a specifically limited authority to try Job. Satan goes at it and doesn't cross the line, and perhaps this is why satan is not rebuked in the Book of Job. In stead, in the conclusion of Job's story it reads, "...they consoled him and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought on him."
The events surrounding the Fall Of Man (Genesis 3) may be understood as satan violating a specific limitation set by God: see what they'll come up with but don't make them feed off the Tree Of Knowledge Of Good And Evil.
What exactly went wrong we don't know, but satan became proud and may have even tried a coup against God. The arch-angel Michael (means Who Is Like God? Or: What's God Like?) engaged satan and his squad and cast them out.
These things are very difficult and are certainly not easily explained in any common terms. (What may help is to imagine heavenly causality to rest upon space-time causality the way a cube sits on a flat square that forms one of its sides.)
Finally we note that satan has a much larger and romantic and defined role in general culture than in the Bible, and we stress again that the Bible certainly does not support the dualistic idea that the realm of darkness eternally battles the realm of light. Satan is not God's counter-pole.
The name satan, (satan) - and the feminine form Sitnah: - come from the verb (satan) meaning to resist or be an adversary and is used six times in the Bible, for instance in Psalm 38:20, where it reads: '...they me because good follows me.')
The noun (satan) is used much more frequently, and only a few of these occurrences denote the big bad guy:
1 Kings 11:14, "And YHWH raised up to Solomon; Hadad the Edomite..."
1 Kings 11:23, "And Elohim raised up to him; Rezon son of Eliadah..."
In Numbers we even see this noun ascribed to the Angel of YHWH:
Numb 22:22, "...and the Angel of YHWH set Himself in the road as ..."
And verse 32, "I have come as because your way is contrary to Me."
In the New Tesament Jesus rebukes Peter by saying, "Go behind me ,..." (Mat 16:23), illustrating the difficulty that translators run into when the same word is translated sometimes as a regular verb or noun and sometimes as a defining personal name. Every now and then Jesus' words are transliterated from Aramaic and it is highly unlikely that He personified Peter with the devil.
None of the sources used make mention of a linguistic connection to the following words, but the letter nun is often placed after a root to create a phrase that isolates or personifies the conceptual action of the root. Whether this actually happened with the word may be less important than any audience's supposition:
(sut) means swerve or fall away, as used in Psalm 40:4 (NAS: lapse; NIV: turn aside). Derivation (set) means swerver, revolter as used in Hosea 5:2.
The verb (sata) means turn aside, turn, decline, and always from a good way into a bad one. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes that the Aramaic cognate of this verb means to stray, and the Ethiopic one to be seduced.
For a meaning of the name satan, NOBS Study Bible Name List reads Adversary. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names does not translate.
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