The character of Satan according to Hebrew terminology

Satan’s character is expressed in two ways in O.T. terminology:

The Hebrew for Satan is: ‘satan’.
This word has been adopted into English terminology as a proper name.

According to the OLB, ‘satan’ is:

  • a noun.
  • to be translated as: adversary, opponent, Satan (as a proper name)
  • derived from the verb: ‘satan’.

According to the OLB, the verb ‘satan’ is translated as: being an adversary, behaving as an adversary, to resist, as among others, in the text, where David says:

Many have become my enemies without cause; those who hate me without reason are numerous. Those who repay my good with evil lodge accusations against (satan) me, though I seek only to do what is good.   (Psalms 38:19-20)

‘Satan’ is used as a noun in 23 verses, in 8 of which it is translated in the sense of opposing, as follows, for example:

But God was very angry when he (Bileam was on his way to curse the people of Israel) went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him.   (Numbers 22:22)

Even the Angel of the Lord acts as an ‘adversary’ (a Satan ??)


Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, “Shouldn’t Shimei be put to death for this? He cursed the LORD’s anointed.” David replied, “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? What right do you have to interfere (literally: that you are my adversary (Satan))? Should anyone be put to death in Israel today? Don’t I know that today I am king over Israel?”   (2 Samuel 19:21-22)

Shimei had cursed David during the rebellion of Absalom, one of David’s sons.
When Absalom was defeated and David was restored to his royal dignity, Abishai thought that Shimei should be put to death for this curse.
At that moment David calls Abishai ‘satan’ in Hebrew, translated as interfere.
Abishai could also be called a slanderer, a gossiper.

Why King David calls Abishai an ‘interferer’

In his joy at being restored to his kingship King David had intended to be gracious and to forgive his immediate enemies. Now Abishai comes and gossips about Shimei.
This could have dissuaded King David from his good intentions.

‘Satan’ in our use of language.

‘Satan’ is a proper name in our use of language.
It begs the question as to whether ‘Satan’ was also used as a proper name in Bible times.

It is quite possible that people in Old Testament times did not so much think of the name of a fallen angel when using the word ‘satan’, but rather of ‘the adversary’ of God.

When reading the Bible, the word ‘adversary’ could be inserted where ‘satan’ is found. This expresses who he really is more clearly.

The character of Satan according to Greek terminology.


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The character of Satan according to Hebrew terminology.