🔼The name satan: Summary
- Adversary, Opposition, Resistance
- From the noun שטן (satan), adversary.
🔼The name satan in the Bible
The qualities and character of the creature known as satan are almost all debatable. He is thought to be a cherub or ex-cherub but there's very little proof of that, and he's been expelled from heaven (Job 1:6, Revelation 12:9). We know that he led 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 (see our article on the name Deborah for more on this).
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 omnipotent 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). And believe it or not: even the name Lucifer does not belong to satan.
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 evidently is a review of the main religions and philosophies of the ancient world) 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. Instead, 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" (Job 42:11).
The prophet Isaiah says it this way: "I am YHWH, and there is no other. I am the One forming light (אור, 'or) and the One creating darkness (= the absence of light), making שלום (shalom, wholeness) and רע (ra', evil, = the absence of wholeness). I am YHWH who does all these" (Isaiah 45:7).
Darkness is the absence of light, not the presence of something else. Cold is the absence of heat, not the presence of something else. Stupidity is the absence of wisdom, not the presence of something else. Chaos is the absence of order, not the presence of something else. Hate is the absence of love, not the presence of something else.
These things are very difficult, particularly to people who are used to the pagan bi-polar reality models of most modern religions. But it should nevertheless be recognized that satan has a much larger and romantic and defined role in general culture than in the Bible. 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.
🔼Pyramids, clouds and the second law of thermodynamics
The most essential buzz-word in a satanic humanity is obedience. There are always more people obedient than folks to be obedient to, which inevitably leads to a pyramidal structure with at the top one dude to whom everybody ought to be obedient but who himself has no master and who wafts his vapid fantasies down the imperial tube for all to follow. That inevitably leads to a kind of royal psychosis, via which the king begins to believe in his own divinity. Since no one is allowed to challenge the beliefs of the pyramidal top, the supreme ruler of a satanic empire will inevitably spin into madness, until some other nut is brave enough to knock him off, takes his place and becomes mad himself.
To keep the whole idiotic structure stable, obedience has to be controlled by police and army types, and enforced by all sorts of punishments, mind control and social engineering. In general, the closer one sits to the bottom of the pyramid, the less value one has and the more one suffers. That inevitable leads to opposition, and will always result in destabilization and ultimately demise.
An empire that is based on obedience will always generate opposition (Matthew 12:25). That's a chicken-and-egg situation: you can't have obedience if there isn't disobedience and thus opposition. This is how you can tell you are in a satanic situation: when there is opposition. The opposition is what signifies a satanic (=oppositive) situation.
So no, even though Hebrew literature sometimes personifies general principles (like Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly), not even in the Book of Job is Mister Opposition a lanky red guy with a pitch fork and horns coming out of his head. Satan is opposition of any sort, righteous or not. And he's not any of the sides, but resides in the fact that there are sides. It's opposition that marks an imperfect society; a perfect society is not opposed, neither by people nor by animals nor by spirits nor by natural laws. A perfect society cannot possibly be destabilized because there are no forces that oppose it.
A godly humanity encounters no opposition, neither from within nor from the universe and its everlasting laws. That is why there is no satan in the New Jerusalem; there is no opposition. The most essential buzz-word in a godly humanity is autonomy: total individual freedom and thus complete personal responsibility. A humanity like that is formed like a cloud, which explains the many cloud-metaphors in the Bible and particularly the New Testament. In New Testament times, the world was indeed organized as a pyramid, with the Roman emperor as the divine head of state.
Our modern world is still mostly formed according to Roman ideals of centralization, with its masters, slaves and its endless competition, but the Internet and blockchain technology is allowing great billows of human energy to escape the rigid pyramid and form clouds of freedom over it. It's on these clouds of decentralized human freedom that the free will meet their Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17, Revelation 1:7, Matthew 26:64). And this Lord is not a Master but the human embodiment of the natural laws that describe the most fundamental property of the universe, namely freedom (Galatians 5:1).
🔼Etymology of the name satan
The name satan, שטן (satan) is identical to the noun שטן (satan) meaning adversary:
The familiar noun שטן (satan) means adversary and in the Bible this word mostly does not denote some archetypal Evil One. Instead our noun refers to anyone or anything (including the Angel of the Lord) that aims to prevent something or someone else from its or his proper or intended course, irrespective of whether that course is good or bad, or whether the opposition is good or bad.
The derived verb שטן (satan) means to be an adversary; to obstruct or lay in the way. Noun שטנה (sitna) denotes a kind of written or formal notice that aims to stop a certain proceeding; something like a modern Cease And Desist notice.
It's unclear where our noun comes from, but candidates are: the verb שוט (sut), to swerve or fall away, or the verb שטה (sata), to turn aside. It may even have something to do with the verb שתן (shatan), to urinate.
For a meaning of the name satan, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Adversary. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names does not translate.