The Hebrew Word Satan
A Brief Word Study
When we hear or read the word satan, we tend to think of it as the personal name of the evil one depicted in the Bible, which it is, but more than a personal name it is a description. It is actually a word used for an adversary of any kind in the Bible.
In return for my love they are my accusers (satan in Hebrew)...~ Psalm 109:44
Gesenius' Lexicon translates satan as adversary or enemy and the New Testament additionally describes the adversarial role of the character of Satan as "the" accuser in the book of Revelation.
Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. ~ Revelation 12:10
How interesting that the one who invites us to wrong doing is the one who also makes accusation against us when we do. We see this illustrated as well and described as such in the book of Zechariah when Joshua the High Priest stands before the Lord.
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him ~ Zechariah 3;1
In looking at the word pictograph for Satan, the illustrations it provides are fairly obvious as well as in agreement with these insights. The word consists of three Hebrew letters Sheen, Tet, and Nun.
Sheen ` Teeth
Sheen is a picture of teeth and can communicate the idea of devouring, consuming, or destroying.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. ~ I Peter 5:8
Job gives us an example of this "walking about" and the purpose of it, in a conversation between God and Satan concerning Satan seeking an opportunity and right to the territory of Job's life...
the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” ~ Job 1:7
Satan is looking for a legal opportunity and authority to steal, kill, and destroy through an accusation of unrighteousness. He is surveying the land of a life to see if he can gain a right to dwell and have dominion there.
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. ~ John 10:10
Lets contrast this with what God's surveillance is seeking opportunity to do. After Adam and Eve chose evil we see...
...God walking in the garden in the cool of the day ~ Genesis 3:8
We might be tempted to think that God was checking up on them to see if they had done something wrong. Exactly the opposite is true according to II Chronicles
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him ~ II Chronicles 16:9
God is seeking an opportunity to bless!
Tet - Coil
The second letter of our Hebrew word study is a tet and is a picture of something coiled like a serpent and carries the idea of the contrast of distinguishing between good and evil. The snakes forked tongue gives us image of this in being an instrument of discernment.
but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” ~ Genesis 2:17
We see a mixture of good and evil in the tree. Discernment comes with the idea of differentiating and distinguishing.
But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. ~ Hebrews 5:14
The biggest lie of the universe is that good and evil can co-exist and that we can experience both without consequence.
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. ~ I Corinthians 10:21
I have often wondered why the tree was called the "tree of of the knowledge of good and evil" Why not just call it evil considering it's consequence. I think the key is in God's response to all that He had made when He declared all that He had made good. The tree initially was good like all the others but something had defiled it.
Ancient Egyptians had a god named "Set" who was a god of the desert, storms, disorder, and violence ~ Wikipedia
Evening - Mix
A word study on the Hebrew word for evening (erev) is quite interesting in reference to this and concerns the concept of mixing, interweaving, and interchanging. It is understood by definition that this is what this word actually means. It is thought to come from the idea that evening is when the darkness begins to mix with the light creating confusion and chaos and is metaphoric for things that come from God that are good but mixed with other things. Genesis 1:3-5 is notable in relation to this.
God said, Let there be light; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. ~ Genesis 1:3-5
We see that God calls the light good but not the darkness and separates light and dark. He distinguished between them by calling one night and the other day. Next we see that evening (first mention of the word) begins the first day. Recalling that evening has to do with mixing, it images for us daily that the mixing of darkness with light ends with death, chaos, confusion, and total darkness. The Hebrew word for morning boker is connected in definition to that of opening, awakening, discernment, and revelation that brings order and substance in life.
How fascinating that this word erev both meaning evening and mixing, is also the root word for merchandising, west, and sterility. From a current events perspective this is quite telling. In what is known as "the west" as in the United States, is quite famous for both its mixing and merchandising that has lead to spiritual slumber and headed for an even greater darkness. In terms of the church I think it is obvious that we have become quite sterile and unproductive because of our participation with this.
knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep ~ Romans 13:11
A quick pictograph from the Hebrew word for evening, before we move along, is quite revealing. Ayin, resh, and bet are the three root letters that comprise this word. Ayin meaning perception, resh meaning person and can concern dominion, and bet meaning inside a house or strong hold. Ayin and resh together is an uncommonly used word for enemy, and a vav added between those two means naked. In combination we see that mixing darkness with light, or evil with good, as imaged in the evening, results in the skewed perceptions of a person within an enemy stronghold. Can we see what happened in the garden with the enemy of God and man when he peddled this mixture of lies, that upon their cooperation with him, he molested and divested them and altered their perceptions and left them subject to the dominion of his stronghold.
Some interesting scriptural examples concerning the prohibition of mixing, begins with a curious command of God in Leviticus is this one.
‘You shall keep My statutes. You shall not let your livestock breed with another kind. You shall not sow your field with mixed seed. Nor shall a garment of mixed linen and wool come upon you". ~ Leviticus 19:19
An odd demand at first glance, unless you understand the underlying principle of the danger of mixing. The fact that there are three categories reveals that this command has a spiritual application. We might find our example in the modern day practice of genetic modification. Through this mixing of genetic material in species of plants for the production of what appears to be "good for food and pleasant to the eye" consumption, is actually being discovered to be unhealthy and environmentally damaging. It is also to be noted that these genetically altered and mixed plants are almost completely sterile.
This visualizes for us how mixing the seed of God's Word and truth with worldly human thought philosophy and agenda can create a confusing tree of "good and evil" that looks "good for food and pleasant to the eye" but is utterly unhealthy, damaging, and unproductive.
This is also displayed in the mixing of species as it applies to livestock. If you mix a female horse with a male donkey you end up with a mule which cannot reproduce and such is the case for other mixed species of beast such as the liger (lion and tiger) and geep (goat and sheep) which are also noted for their genetic fallibility. This agrees with another definition of the word for evening (erev) and that of sterility Could this be God's image that to us that to mix natures might seem like interesting and profitable mutations but they are in reality deforming and unproductive.
This mixing of natures as it concerns us has to do with flesh and Spirit should not be mixed.
For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another ~ Galatians 5:17
We would therefore for do well to distinguish between the two.
and the final reference in Leviticus concerned that of clothing in which the linen is a symbol of human works, and the wool being a symbol of God's provision, were not to be mixed.
"Salvation must be all of God, with no mixture of human merit" ~ "A Dictionary of Bible Types by Walter L. Wilson
I think it is worth the observation as well to notice that in the Old Testament when the children of Israel got most off course, they didn't stop their "worship" practices as much as they began mixing other religious ideas and practices with it. When they built the golden calf...
Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord ~ Exodus 32:5
What is this mixture of things producing in the church today? ...a mutant breed of fruitless and defective "Christians" that are distorting the image of God in their lives and presentation and not producing a new generation of believers.
The Man Who Fell Asleep in the Window
The next exhibit of mixing comes from the book of Acts when Paul is giving an extra long speech.
Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead ~ Acts 20:7-9
I once heard a sermon preached on this with a special note that the the room was lit with many lamps, lending to a picture of a life lived in worship to God. It was midnight and therefore dark and cool outside giving image to the darkness of life outside of God's rule and realm. The man was sitting in the window and therefore experiencing a mixture of the indoor warmth and light with the outside cold and dark which eventually led him to be overcome with sleep and eventually to his fall and death. The imagery is stunningly obvious in that mixing light with dark will put us in a spiritual slumber that can lead us to a fatal fall. His fall was from the third story window indicating this concerned a spiritual reality. Now we know that the man was restored as the account reads, but it would be wise not to ride that fence.
Mixing Hot and Cold
My final example of mixing comes from the book of Revelation in Jesus confrontation to the church of Laodicea in chapter 3.
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth" ~ Revelation 3:15,16
This verse means so much more when we understand a little bit about the geography of the area surrounding Laodicea. Laodicea had two neighboring cities, Hieropolis, which was known for its hot springs and the other Colosse was known for its cool springs. The imagery comes from an aqueduct made by the Laodiceans for the purpose of channeling water to their city possibly from both sources. This process of mixing the two led to lukewarm water that was putrid, poisonous, and undrinkable. Mixing sources of waters from a spiritual perspective is lethal.
“For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water ~ Jeremiah 2:13
Continuing with our letter study...
Nun ~ Fish or Seed
Nun, the last letter in "satan" is a picture of a fish or a seed and can represent something that is perpetual and or eternal and is symbolic of life.
So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. (the actual Hebrew translation reads the word " "life" as soul.) ~ Job 2:4
when we put it all of these concepts together we can see the devouring consuming snake is seeking to destroy man by convincing him that evil is good that in doing so as man partakes of this mixture it will warp his ability to distinguish between the two thereby robbing him of his eternal existence and forfeiting a life with God.
He is the devourer of good and life.
Satan tempts a man to give up "all" to gain what he thinks he might want, need or even what he might think is "good" for the gain of his own soul and ends up forfeiting his life to get it.
For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? ~ Matthew 16:26
As man thought, once, to give up his life in order to gain. Christ asks him to do it again...
Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. ~ Luke 17:33
This new Testament portion of scripture is descriptive of what happened when Adam and Eve lost their lives and how they lost it...by seeking to save "their own life" their own independent life and they ended up losing everything. The way back home is the same road. Losing our lives for His sake we gain it back again.
In conclusion the word picture makes us aware that there is an enemy of our soul and it would be wise for us to distinguish between good and evil that we may choose good and give the enemy no foothold in our lives. Satan was not allowed access to man except through man's disobedience.
May we be loyal to the one who came to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8) by giving up His life to save ours.
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live ~ Deuteronomy 30:19
© 2010 Tamarajo