The last few Hebrew word studies we've done have all pertained to God's name or God's creation account, and in each case, the original pictographic form of the language revealed a spectacular additional layer of meaning that was not conveyed by the modern Hebrew text. So this week, I thought it would be interesting to examine the name of the adversary, and see what the pictographs may reveal about his name and overall nature. The results were actually quite interesting, and quite consistent with what we have learned about him throughout scripture.
From Webster's 'New World Hebrew Dictionary', we find the word 'satan' interpreted in the following manner;
satan nm 1. Satan; 2. accuser; opposer; 3. obstacle.
The name of Satan appears in the Old Testament Hebrew as 'haSatan' when we render it phonetically, with each letter 'a' sounding like a short 'o', as in the word 'on'. The word 'haSatan' can be interpreted as either a name, as shown above, or as an attribute such as 'accuser' or 'opposer' or 'obstacle'. When we combine the potential meanings of this word, we can see how the common interpretation of 'the adversary' is appropriate.
As you can see in the illustration of the Hebrew letters, the 'Hey' is the first letter of his name, which gives us the first part of that interpretation, which is the word 'the'. You may recall from our prior Hebrew word studies that when the Hebrew letter 'Hey' precedes the object, it is pronounce 'ha' and it means 'the'. We saw this with 'haEloheem' which meant 'the powers', or 'haShamayim' which meant 'the heavens'. But this letter is technically not part of the name of Satan, or at least, it does not describe his essence. The next three letters will do that. So let's review his entire name as presented in scripture, and see what it reveals.
As we learned in the lesson on the Tetragrammaton, the letter 'Hey' is intended to get one's attention. It's a picture of a man with raised arms, and it's meanings include 'look' or 'reveal' or 'breathe'. It also carries many associated meanings such as 'behold', and it can even mean 'praise'. The particular meaning that is used in each instance would depend entirely on the intended context, and yet they are closely related.
The second letter of 'haSatan' is really the first letter of his name, and it is the letter 'Shin', which the original Hebrew depicts as two front teeth. The meanings for this word include 'two' because of the two front teeth, but it also carries the meanings of 'sharp' or 'press' or 'eat/consume'. All of these meanings can be associated with teeth, and again, context determines which particular meaning is implied.
The next letter of this name is the letter 'Tet', which in ancient times was depicted as a basket. This basket was a very understandable symbol for the meanings 'surround' or 'contain', because that is what baskets do. imprisonment is a related concept as well. However, it also carried the meaning 'mud', presumably because that is how mud was carried in the making of bricks. But it can also mean simply 'basket' or 'container'.
The last pictographic letter in this name is the 'Nun', whose symbol was a seed. As you would imagine, the meanings of this letter are all associated with what results from seeds, and include 'continue' or 'heir' or 'son'. And as with all the other pictographs, it can also mean 'seed'.
In order to develop the proper context for these pictographs, we only need to reflect on what we know of Satan from scripture. When we consider how Satan has persecuted Israel, who along with Jesus Christ is the heir to the kingdom of God, then the inferred meanings of each letter become clear. The pictographs simply reveal the role he has played throughout scripture;
"Behold he who consumes and imprisons the heir."