What does “Satan” mean? – Hebrew Insight

In both Jewish and Christian religious imagination, the person of Satan played a significant role. But what does the word Satan actually mean in Hebrew?

The word (שָּׂטָן) simply means adversary or and is connected with the verb (לְשָׂטָ֖ן) which simply means to oppose. We see this clearly when Balaam the sorcerer was contracted for his services to curse Israel’s armies by the leaders of Moab and Midian. (You may recall his famous talking donkey incident described for us in Numbers 22).

When it became clear that Balaam and not the donkey, as Balam first thought, was blind and stubborn, the Angel of the Lord said to Balaam: “I have come here to oppose (לְשָׂטָ֔ן) you because your path is a reckless one before me.”

אָנֹכִי֙ יָצָ֣אתִי לְשָׂטָ֔ן כִּֽי־יָרַ֥ט הַדֶּ֖רֶךְ לְנֶגְדִּֽי׃

However, the personal name for Satan in the Hebrew Bible is signified by adding the prefix “the” (ה), therefore, forming “the Satan” as in Job 1:6 when we are told that together with others “Satan also came among them”:

וַיָּב֥וֹא גַֽם־הַשָּׂטָ֖ן בְּתוֹכָֽם׃

This article originally appeared on Jewish Studies Blog by Dr. Eli, September 15, 2014, and reposted with permission.