Dr Tom Kerns
North Seattle Community College


ha satan:
the adversary


Who is Satan? Is he the devil, the source of all temptation and evil who shows up later in the Judeo/Christian tradition?

Here in the Book of Job the answer to that question is no.

"ha satan" is the hebrew phrase to be translated here, and the most literal translation is "the adversary." "Adversary," in this context, is a courtroom metaphor and refers to the advocate on the other side of the argument (i.e., the prosecution or the defense, depending on which side we're looking from). The Hebrew "ha" is simply the definite article, "the" in English.

"ha satan" is thus a common noun, not a proper noun; it is not someone's name, as in George or Harriet.

Nor is it, for example, especially in these early books of the Hebrew scriptures, the person "Satan," the evil being who is the source of all evil and temptation.

There is even some suggestion, though I do not personally take it very seriously, that this "ha satan" may be one of the "sons of God" who the Prologue says were there with God when this conversation with the adversary begins.