I found a great story online from which I would like to quote a part:

The word satan in the Bible seems to mean merely “opponent”. For instance, the angel who obstructs Bilaam’s progress is described as a satan (Bamidbar 22:22), and the captains of the Philistines are afraid that if David fights by their side he will not be an ally but rather a satan, an opponent (Shmuel I 29:4).

But many times we find it has a more specific meaning: an angel who is specially designated by God to act as a prosecuting attorney when He judges men (Zekharya 3:2, Iyov 1,2). Although God already knows all of our thoughts and actions, Divine judgment is described to us in Scripture as following equitable and transparent procedures, with advocates making claims and counterclaims, in order to educate us that this judgment it is not arbitrary but rather fair and balanced.

In the Talmud, we find an additional dimension: Satan is sometimes presented not merely as an accuser, but also as a tempter, someone who confronts our righteousness with trials in order to test us.

While we certainly try to avoid Satan and his judgment and adhere stead- fastly to the mitzvot, the Gemara also teaches us that we have to respect his mission which is after all a necessary part of the administration of justice in the world.

What I would like to know is: Does the word satan mean tempter (one who tempts) besides its possible meaning of adversary; prosecutor, accuser, or hinderer, and is there a common denominator between these kinds of translations?

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    The statement in the Talmud is "He is the satan, he is the evil inclination, he is the angel of death (BB 16a)." The Talmud isn't translating the word 'satan' as much as listing his job titles, one of which is 'satan' another of which is 'tempter (evil inclination).' Maybe a common thread can be found in that the satan opposes mankind by tempting him away from G-d.
    – Y K
    Nov 26, 2016 at 18:55
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    @ Y K I disagree, I don't think HaShem sends a satan in order to tempt people away from Him, rather he tempts people in order to see wheter they are true or not. If they are, it brings one closer because one has shown to be able to serve Him in a different way, circumstance, situation or area. P.s. If these are all just job titles how are they related or derived from the etymological meaning of the hebrew word satan or it's shoresh?
    – Perez
    Nov 26, 2016 at 21:26
  • Whether they are true or not to what? I'm suggesting a common thread between them, in that they oppose humanity either by tempting people away from G-d's Will (thereby incurring punishment) or by taking them away from life. But that commonality could be wrong. The Talmudic statement isn't an etymological one. Its just pointing out what the satan does.
    – Y K
    Nov 26, 2016 at 21:38
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    the s-t-n opposes. That's what the word indicates. HOW he does it includes through tempting. I don't think that that is a claim that the word "means" tempter. The word seems to mean "opposer."
    – rosends
    Nov 26, 2016 at 23:12
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    @mevaqesh Most often it is explained that satan means 'one who stands against another'; an adversary, opposer, etc. What I'm looking for is if the word satan or it's root shows it's meaning of tempting or that we get this from certain context or explanations rather than the word itself.
    – Perez
    Nov 27, 2016 at 5:18

1 Answer 1


'The word 'satan' means 'adversary' and is derived from the verb 'satan' ('to lie in wait'). The word "Satan" is used 24 times in the Tanakh. In Job (1:6 f) and Zec (3:1 f) it has the prefixed definite article. In all cases but one when the article is omitted it is used in a general sense. This one exception is 1Ch 21:1 (compare 2Sa 24:1), where the word is generally conceded to be used as a proper name. . . .' Only in the Christians' New Testament does the term 'Tempter' as a proper name for Satan occur and there only twice (Matthew 4:5; I Thessalonians 3:5). (Louis Matthews Sweet in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.) The term the Tempter is not connected etymologically with Satan.


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