For Strong's Hebrew number 7854 (Satan) the Brown-Driver-Briggs' notes give these meanings:

(1) adversary, one who withstands

(1a) adversary (in general — personal or national)

(2) superhuman adversary

(2a) Satan (as noun proper)

And Strong gives us:

From H7853; an opponent; especially (with the article prefixed) Satan, the arch enemy of good: - adversary, Satan, withstand.

Whereas SH7834 has:

A primitive root; to attack, (figuratively) accuse: - (be an) adversary, resist.

The first meaning of SH7835 seems to agree with the root form. The second sticks out as quite a bit different.

Can anyone explain where this second meaning (superhuman adversary & proper noun) comes from (ideally with sources I can go and look at) and from what point in time this second meaning might have been contemporarily understood?

  • The hebrew word means, intrinsically, 'adversary'. Context dictates who the particular adversary may be - earthly or heavenly.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 1, 2021 at 15:04
  • It gained that meaning when Brown-Driver-Briggs wrote his notes. Pity it can’t be substantiated Biblically.
    – Dave
    Apr 1, 2021 at 19:47
  • I wonder if Brown-Driver-Briggs got it from strong or Strong from Brown-Driver-Briggs... Apr 3, 2021 at 12:40

1 Answer 1


If, as many believe, the Book of Job is the earliest book of the Bible ever written, then "Satan" appears in the first chapter. Here is a list of cases where "Satan" appears as a person with super-human capabilities and as adversary:

  • Job 1:6, 7 - One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. “Where have you come from?” said the LORD to Satan. “From roaming through the earth,” he replied, “and walking back and forth in it.” See also Job 1:8, 9, 12, 2:1, 3, 4, 6, 7.
  • Zech 3:1 - Then the angel showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, with Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
  • 1 Chron 21;1 - Then Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.

In the NT, "Satan", Σατανᾶς is a transliteration of the Hebrew, שָׂטָן and occurs 36 times in the NT from the Matthew to Revelation. Significantly, as BDAG describes this word thus:

in our literature, only as a title or name: (the) Satan , in a very special sense, the enemy of God and all those who belong to God, simply, Satan, the enemy ... almost always with the article.

[For more details in the extensive entry, see BDAG.]

Note that not only does Σατανᾶς almost always appear with the article, but it also occurs in the vocative case, eg, Matt 4:10, 16:23, Mark 8:33, where Jesus directly addresses Satan.

Other Names

In two places in Revelation Satan is given alternate titles:

  • Rev 12:9 - The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
  • Rev 20:2 - He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.

This confirms what is already revealed in other places that when διάβολος has the article, "The Devil" it is referring to "Satan", eg,

  • Compare Matt 4:1, 5, 8, 11 with V10
  • Luke 4:2, 3, 5, 6, 13 tells the same story of Jesus' temptations.

In Matt 10:25, 12:24, 27, Mark 3:22, Luke 11:15, 18, 19, Satan is given the name Βεελζεβούλ Beelzeboul, "lord of flies", a false god of the Ekronites (2 Kings 1:2) - a Jewish name of extreme contempt.

In 2 Cor 6:15 we have another name Βελίαρ, "Beliar", or "Belial".

Thus, both the OT and the NT treat Satan as personal being just as much as as any other person whether human or superhuman, including vocative address. The theology of Satan is far more highly developed in the NT than the OT.


Several passages in the NT describe Satan and his minions as falling from heaven to earth such as Luke 10:18, Rev 8"10, 9:1, 12:8, 9, 13. These all appear to allude to the poetic/symbolic references in Isa 114:12-15 and Eze 28:12-17.

Lastly, the naming of Satan as the "serpent" in Rev 12:9, 20:2 appears to allude to the very thinly veiled description of the serpent in Gen 3.

  • 1
    As usual, an excellent outline. But, although I have no issue with ‘adversary, part, it’s the addition of ‘superhuman’ that I can’t find any source for - therefore have an issue with.
    – Dave
    Apr 2, 2021 at 0:34
  • @Dave - I am using "superhuman" in the sense of the OP - a transcendental being in the same sense that God and angels are superhuman or transcendental - above or beyond humanity.
    – Dottard
    Apr 2, 2021 at 0:51
  • I’d better clarify - my issue over ‘superhuman’ was not with your outline, it’s with the authors (Brown-Driver-Briggs) use of it to define/describe Satan. I can’t see any exegetical foundation for it.
    – Dave
    Apr 2, 2021 at 17:34
  • @Dave that's exactly why I asked. That superhuman bit is a bit of a head scratcher. Apr 3, 2021 at 19:17

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