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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Definition of Hebrew Names


By Jeff A. Benner

The Hebrew word satan means "adversary" as one who stands against another as seen in 1 Kings 11:14.

(RSV) And the LORD raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the Edomite; he was of the royal house in Edom.

At other times this name is translated as a proper name such as in the book of Job.

Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. (RSV)

The Hebrew for Satan is הסטן (hasatan). The prefix ה (ha) means "the" which identifies the noun סטן (satan) is a noun and not a proper name and should therefore be translated as "the adversary." However, there is one verse where the word satan could be translated as a proper name.

1 Chronicles 21:1 Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to number Israel. (RSV)

In this verse the word satan does not include the prefix ha and could be translated as a proper name but upon further investigation we find that this verse is also recorded in 2 Samuel 24:1 where the "adversary" is identified as Yahweh.

Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go, number Israel and Judah." (RSV)

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