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The Deeper Meaning of the Hebrew Word Satan

Tamarajo is an avid Bible scholar who loves nothing more than seeking out the treasures in God's Word and sharing them with others.

the-hebrew-word-satan

The Word Satan Defined

When we hear or read the word "satan" in the Bible, we tend to think of it as the personal name of the evil one, which it is. Still, more than a personal name, it is a description of an accusatory adversary of any kind in its Old Testament Hebrew definition. King David, in Psalm 109, uses this word to describe his false accusers.

In return for my love they are my accusers ("satan"שָׂטַן).

Thus they have rewarded me evil for good,
And hatred for my love.

Set a wicked man over him,
And let an accuser ("satan"שָׂטַן). stand at his right hand.

. . ..Let this be the Lord’s reward to my accusers ("satan" שָׂטַן), And to those who speak evil against my person.

— Psalm 109:4-6,20

The second use of the word "satan" in the above Scripture is translated as "Satan," the entity, with a capital "S" in some translations, including the King James Version.

The New Testament additionally describes the adversarial role of the spiritual entity, Satan, depicting him 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

Notably, the evil one who invites us to wrongdoing is the one who also accuses us when we do.

The accusatory aspect of Satan's character is also illustrated 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 accuse him.

— Zechariah 3:1

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The Pictograph Perspective

Biblical Hebrew, the language in which the Old Testament was written, was originally a pictographic one. Each letter was a type of icon representing a concept to be included in understanding the word.

In looking at the word pictograph for Satan, its illustrations are relatively apparent and in agreement with these insights.

The word consists of three Hebrew letters, "sheen," "tet," and "nun."

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Sheen—Teeth

Sheen, the first letter of the word "satan," is represented by an image of teeth and can communicate the idea of devouring, consuming, or destroying. This letter is descriptive of the adversarial role of Satan or "the Devil." In Greek, "devil-diablos" also means a false accuser or slanderer.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

— I Peter 5:8

The book of Job gives us an example of this "walking about" clause, underlined in the Scripture verse above, in a conversation between God and Satan. In this scene, Satan seeks an opportunity and right to the territory of someone's life through an occasion of sin. He does this by "going to and fro on the earth," similar to his "walking about" in I Peter.

. . . 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 seeks a legal opportunity to steal, kill, and destroy in the above discourse. He can stake an authorized claim if he can make an accusation of unrighteousness and discover a guilty party. He is surveying the land of Job's life to see if he can gain an opportunity to have dominion there. Jesus describes this idea in the Gospel of John.

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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

Let's contrast this with what God's surveillance is seeking the opportunity to do. After Adam and Eve chose evil, God walked about in the garden looking for His people.

. . . God walking in the garden in the cool of the day (to Spirit the day).

— Genesis 3:8

In the above case, the literal translation of "cool of the day" could more accurately be read as "to Spirit the day." God is seeking an occasion to bless His children with His Spirit.

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, and loyalty to God is the key.

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An Example From Balaam

The accuser's opportunity through sin is demonstrated in the book of Numbers, chapters twenty-two through twenty-four. The children of Israel were just about to enter the promised land. King Balak, king of Moab, feels threatened by God's children and attempts to curse Israel through a diviner named Balaam. Balaam makes three attempts to curse them but ends up blessing them four times instead. The reason for Balaam being unsuccessful at cursing God's people is given in the following verses.

“God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
Behold, I (Balaam) have received a command to bless;
He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.

He (God) has not observed iniquity in Jacob,
Nor has He seen wickedness in Israel.
The Lord his God is with him,

— Numbers 23:19-21

Just as it was with Job, an adversary is attempting access to God's people in order to harm them. In this case, access was denied because there was no iniquity or wickedness found in them. The evil scheme failed.

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Tet—Coil

The second letter of the Hebrew word 'satan" is "tet" and is a picture of something coiled like a serpent. It carries the idea of distinguishing between good and evil. The snake's forked tongue, used as an instrument of discernment, illustrates this.

. . . 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 the knowledge of good and evil." Why not just call it evil, considering its 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." Initially, the tree was good like all the others, but something had defiled it.

From the mouth of the Most High Go not forth the evils and the good. (YLT)

—Lamentations 3:38

"Sheen" and "tet," the first two letters of "satan" spell "set." "Set" is the name of an Egyptian god who appears to be much like the "satan" of the Bible.

Ancient Egyptians had a god named "Set" who was a god of the desert, storms, disorder, and violence.

— Wikipedia

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Evening—Mixing Light With Darkness

Before moving forward with the next letter of our pictograph lesson, it is relevant to study the concept of mixing and what it has to do with evil.

We will begin with the Hebrew word for "evening" (erev עֶרֶב ), which includes the concept of mixing, interweaving, and interchanging in its definition. The idea is that evening is when the darkness begins to mix with the light creating confusion and chaos. It is metaphoric for things that come from God that are good but mixed with things that are not.

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

Notably, God called the light good but not the darkness. He distinguished them by separating light and dark and calling one night and the other day.

"Evening" makes its first appearance in the opening creation scene, demonstrating the blending of darkness with light which ultimately ends with total darkness symbolizing death, chaos, and confusion. The Hebrew word for morning "boker בֹּקֶר" is the opposite as the light begins to invade the landscape with awakening, discernment, and revelation that brings order and substance to life.

The word "erev," meaning both evening and mixing, is also the root word for merchandising, west, and sterility. From a current events perspective, this is quite revealing. The "west" is quite famous for its mixing and merchandising, which has led to spiritual slumber or type of darkness.

. . . knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

— Romans 13:11-12

"Ayin," "resh," and "bet" are the three root letters that comprise the word "evening" (erev עֶרֶב ). "Ayin" means perception, "resh" means person and can concern dominion, and "bet" means inside a house or stronghold. "Ayin" and "resh" together form an uncommonly used word for an enemy. A "vav" added between "ayin" and "resh" makes the word mean "naked." In combination, we see that mixing darkness with light, or evil with good, as illustrated with "evening," results in the skewed perceptions of a person within an enemy stronghold.

This explains what happened in the garden with the enemy of God and man. Satan peddled his mixture of lies to Adam and Eve. With their cooperation through disobedience to God, he molested and divested them, altered their perceptions, and left them subject to his dominion.

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The Man Who Mixed Light with Dark in the Bible

The next exhibit of mixing comes from the book of Acts when Paul is giving an extra long speech.

. . . Paul spoke to the people. Since he intended to leave the next day, he continued talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were gathered. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus. He was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul kept on talking for a long time. When he was sound asleep, he fell down from the third story and was picked up dead.

— Acts 20:7-9

The following thoughts are borrowed from a sermon preached by Pastor Frank Salas of Escondido, California, relating to the mixing of dark and light in the above event.

He noted that the room was warmly lit with many lamps, exhibiting a life lived in fellowship with God. It was midnight and, therefore, dark and chilly outside, illustrating the darkness of life outside of God's rule and realm. The man sitting in the window between the two experienced a soothing mix that eventually led him to be overcome with sleep and finally fell to his death. Mixing light with darkness 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. We know that the man was restored as the account reads, but it would be wise not to ride that fence.

Mixing of Animals, Seed, and Textiles

There are some intriguing Scriptural examples concerning the prohibition of mixing. The book of Leviticus includes a curious list of things not to mix.

‘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. The mixing of genetic material in species of plants to produce what appears to be "good for food and pleasant to the eye" consumption is unhealthy and environmentally damaging. Also, these genetically altered and mixed plants are, in most cases, sterile.

The idea of mixing that results in sterility illustrates how mixing the seed of God's Word and truth with worldly human philosophies and agendas can create a confusing "tree of knowledge" mixed with "good and evil" intentions. Much like the garden scene in Genesis chapter three, what appears to be "good for food and pleasant to the eye is abjectly unhealthy, damaging, and unproductive.

This concept 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 that cannot reproduce, and such is the case for other mixed species such as a liger (lion and tiger) and "geep" (goat and sheep) which are all noted for their genetic fallibility.

Animal mixing addresses another definition of the word for "evening" (erev) and that of sterility. Mixing natures might seem useful and profitable mutations, but they are, in reality, deforming and unproductive even if they look good.

This mixing of natures as it concerns a spiritual application has to do with not mixing flesh and Spirit.

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, do well to distinguish between the two.

The final reference to mixing in Leviticus concerns clothing. Wool was not to be mixed with linen. Linen is a symbol of human works, and wool symbolizes God's provision. In his book A Dictionary of Bible Types, Walter L Wilson captures the underlying message of this command.

"Salvation must be all of God, with no mixture of human merit"1

This idea of mixing concerning worship can take many forms. 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 traditions with them. When Aaron formed the golden calf, he called its dedication a feast to the Lord.

Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.

— Exodus 32:5

The church of today is a prime example of what this looks like. Through mixing world ideologies with Scripture, we have created a mutant breed of fruitless and defective "Christians" that distort the image of God and are not producing a new generation of believers.

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Mixing Hot and Cold

My final example of mixing comes from the book of Revelation with Jesus' confrontation with the church of Laodicea in chapter three.

“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 bit of the geography of the area surrounding Laodicea. Laodicea had two neighboring cities, Hierapolis, known for its hot springs, and the other Colosse, known for its cold springs. The imagery comes from an aqueduct made by the Laodiceans to channel water to their city, possibly from both sources. This mixing process led to lukewarm water that was putrid, poisonous, and undrinkable. Mixing sources of water 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

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Nun—Fish or Seed

"Nun," the last letter in the word "satan," is represented by an image of a fish or a seed. It can mean something perpetual and or eternal. It is also 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 all of these concepts together, the devouring consuming snake seeks to destroy man by convincing him that evil is good. As man partakes of this mixture, it will warp his ability to distinguish between the two, robbing him of his eternal existence and forfeiting a life with God.

He is the devourer of good and life.

In connection with his presentation in the book of Job, 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 to gain something. Christ asks him to lose his life again to gain it back.

Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.

— Luke 17:33

The above Scriptures describe what happened when Adam and Eve lost their lives and how they lost them. Their lives were forfeited by seeking to save and please "their own life," and they lost everything. The way back home is the same road. By Losing our lives for Christ, 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 so 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

Sources

1"A Dictionary of Bible Types by Walter L. Wilson. Published by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. Copyright 1999

© 2010 Tamarajo

Comments

Tamarajo (author) on August 05, 2020:

Hi Ambrie,

I'm glad that this study is useful and I'm grateful for your feedback.

Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

God bless!

Ambrie Anders on August 05, 2020:

Hello Tamarjo and thank you for putting together and sharing these insights on "Satan". I will endeavour to keep your findings in mind when I meditate on the Word.

Tamarajo (author) on October 05, 2016:

Hello Harkness, thank you for that encouragement. It is good to know! I appreciate your visit and comment. God bless!

Harkness on October 05, 2016:

Just an FYI that your post is still touching lives. Thanks so much!

Tamarajo (author) on August 08, 2013:

Hi K Davis. I was unaware of Barak Obama's name referencing Satan. I did however look it up to see how that could be. And those who are purporting it does claim that his first name means lightening and His last means height and some scriptural references are given for how that concept was made.

My personal thoughts are based on Daniel chapter 4 that states "...The Most High rules in the kingdom of men and He appoints over it whom He chooses". When all is said and done all will serve to glorify God and His goodness.

Thank you much for reading and commenting.

K. Davis on August 07, 2013:

I have read on several occasions that the word satan is, in Hebrew translation, Barack Obama. From what I've studied, I see no indication that's true. Any comments?

ThaT

Tamarajo (author) on February 07, 2012:

searchinsany glad you found the hub informative and interesting. His Word is infinitely fascinating.

Thank you for visiting and commenting.

Alexander Gibb from UK on February 07, 2012:

This is a very interesting and informative Hub, thank you.

Tamarajo (author) on April 09, 2011:

Hi Pollyannalana. I understand what you are saying we would not want to give Him that much honor. Nice thing about Hebrew is there are no capital letters so it doesn't get distinguished one way or the other.

I appreciate you stopping by and for commenting.

Pollyannalana from US on April 08, 2011:

Very good hub. I never spell satan with a capital letter unless it begins a sentence and I don't like doing that.

Tamarajo (author) on March 24, 2011:

Thank you Healing Touch I am glad you were able to glean something from the article

Thank you for your vote your visit and your thoughtful comment.

Laura Arne from Minnetonka, MN on March 24, 2011:

This was a very good informative hub. I learned a lot and loved how you took the word and defined in all terms. I vote up and awesome.

Tamarajo (author) on February 28, 2011:

SpongyOllama, thank you for the input.

My study was based upon the meaning of the word Satan based upon the Hebrew Scriptures and definitely comes with the biblical perspective and interpretation.

I see what you are saying that others may hold to a different philosophy or belief about it.

It is interesting that the interpretation of him being "a force of nature that drives us to fulfill our desire" and "the responsibility to reconcile our basic needs for survival" are not too far from a biblical perspective as this is actually a description of what the Bible calls the "flesh" and is foundational in the "self-justification" of our sinful behavior. These statements really do reflect the garden incident that led to the fall of man.

Selfishness is always at the root of driven desires and someone always gets hurt by our self reconciliation of what we think we need to do to "survive".

Thank you for your visit and thought provoking comment.

Jake Ed from Canada on February 28, 2011:

However, branches of Satanism are often misunderstood. It is not devil worship, because Satan does not mean the same thing in this context. In Leveyan Satanism, for example, satan is interpreted as the basic force of nature that drives us to fulfill our desire, and the basic idea behind satanism is that we are all responsible for reconciling our basic needs for survival and self preservation with the society around us.

I am not a satanist, but I think it is important to inform you of a different meaning for Satan.

Tamarajo (author) on February 27, 2011:

Hi Tony, studying God's Word is what I love to do the most. Sharing what I learn ranks right up there with it

breaking things down really help me digest the truth and make it practical.

I am glad you enjoyed this study.

Thank you for your visit and comment.

Tony L Smith from Macon on February 27, 2011:

Tamarjo, you are a good studier, I enjoy your word breakdowns. That scripture in Rev. 12 is one of my favorites, well that whole Chapter.

Thanks for the insight

Tamarajo (author) on February 23, 2011:

Thank you drpastorcarlotta for your encouraging comment and vote.

Blessed by your visit.

Pastor Dr Carlotta Boles from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC on February 23, 2011:

Excellent, excellent Hub! Voted-Up! And Awesome!!

Tamarajo (author) on November 21, 2010:

Hello awesome 77 yes sin and the adversary of our soul are so deceitful. Staying in the truth of His word and loyal relationship with Him is essential to our life.

Your comment brought to mind another biblical story that reflects this same point ...Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of soup

Thank you for your comment

Blessed by your visit

awesome77 on November 21, 2010:

You know in this world we live today, many will sell their soul for a few pieces of silver! Slowly, some of the wise teachings is been usurped by the greedy for selfish gains. I like your hub and will come back and look at the rest. Good job!

Tamarajo (author) on October 20, 2010:

Thank you for your visit sky for your visit and comment. I have really learned to love the Hebrew for the clarity it brings to the things I believe God wanted us to know and understand. Sometimes english translations water down these concepts.

skye2day from Rocky Mountains on October 18, 2010:

Hello I enjoyed this study I may need to come back to absorb more of the Hebrew but I love it. I listen to the 'Good Sheppard' Pastor in the mornings ( forgot HIS name off hand) He refers to the Hebrew text allot in HIS Bible Studies. He is very good. He has been around a while. 6AM MST channell 17 M-F Thank you for the study I have bookmarked. Awesome stuff. The more I know HIM the

more I love HIM and the more I want to know HIM the more I love HIM You are a Blessing. Hugs In HIS name Jesus Christ

The Video Has me in tears It is all good )-;

Choose LIFE! AMEN

Tamarajo (author) on September 27, 2010:

Thank you for stopping by dahogland. I see in the context of scripture in Job that Satan's mission in Job is to get Job to say that God is not good not necessarily advising God as much as requesting opportunity. God is confident that Job will be faithful and will believe that God is still good even in the midst of unjust suffering and therefore allows the trial. And God was correct in that Job's faith being tried by fire came forth as pure gold and was better off than he was before.

I like the idea that God requires faith in Him but also He exhibits faith in us to choose Him no matter what.

thank you for your interest and comment.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on September 26, 2010:

I think people I know generally consider Satan a synonym for the devil. Our church Bible study discussed the meaning of "the Satan" in the book of Job.According to the discussion manual the Satan in Job is more of an advisor to God. I get the impression that one has to go by context.

Tamarajo (author) on September 04, 2010:

Thank you for stopping by and commenting lifegate. learning is my favorite thing. I'm glad you were able to glean something from it.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on September 04, 2010:

Thanks TJ for going the extra mile. There's always something to learn. Thanks for teaching me.

Tamarajo (author) on August 16, 2010:

Thank you for your comment no body. I agree. John 15:8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

To distract us in ways that make us unproductive could lead to our demise is one of the sneaky snakes tactics.

I Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Robert E Smith from Rochester, New York on August 16, 2010:

I am reminded of the verse in Galatians that says: "I am crucified with Christ nevertheless I live yet not I but Christ lives in me and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." Our enemy seeks our life. If he loses the battle for our souls then he would have us do things to shorten our lives or make our lives non-productive for God. He deserves every bit of what God has for him. Blessings sister.

exjwlaurie on August 15, 2010:

Wonderful hub sister Tamarajo! And welcome to hubpages! I look forward to reading more of your hubs, you bring wonderful insight to our online "body" of Christ!

Tamarajo (author) on August 12, 2010:

Thank you for the warm welcome and for stopping by. I get a lot out of the revelations as well. And I absolutely love sharing them with others. "That he may run who reads it" (Hab.2:2)

James A Watkins from Chicago on August 12, 2010:

Thank you for this learned exposition about the name "Satan." I got a lot out of it. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community. We can use your voice here.

Tamarajo (author) on August 06, 2010:

Thank you Hoowantstono. I just discovered the blue letter Bible site recently and yes I do really like it. It has been a time saving study tool.

HOOWANTSTONO on August 06, 2010:

Very nice description,

I add a link you might find useful

http://www.blueletterbible.org/search/translationR...

Tamarajo (author) on August 04, 2010:

no spoon feeding here = ) thanks for the nudge to check it out. I am blessed that these revelations are as much an inspiration to others as they are to me. His Words are always "Life" (John 6:68)

Judah's Daughter from Roseville, CA on August 03, 2010:

Your writing, teaching and inspiration is awesome! So glad to have found you! From the 'fire hose' lady :-) lol

fred allen from Myrtle Beach SC on August 02, 2010:

Wow! You have taught me something new again! Love how you bring it so clearly. Gonna read another one now!

brotheryochanan on August 02, 2010:

I knew i didn't have to spoon feed ya on that one.

Shalom sister. Time for a hub on the serpent hehe.

Tamarajo (author) on August 02, 2010:

ahhh..the evil inclination(yetzer hara), interesting that this inclination is based on a legitimate need that is fulfilled in an illegitimate way through indulgence and I might even go so far as to say entitlement. We mix up evil with good and deceive ourselves when we entitle ourselves those indulgences based on a perceived need. The coiled serpent in the garden convinced them they "needed" something they already had.

He is the God who is enough!! The All Sufficient One. El Shaddai! May we not be deceived today by the serpents lie that satisfaction could be found in anyone or anything else and be robbed of our true fulfillment.

Bloget on August 02, 2010:

Wow.. interesting...You should study the yetzer hara! ;-)

Tamarajo (author) on August 01, 2010:

Thank you brotheryochanan. no, I have not studied the yetzer hara. I think I will though. Do you have anything I could look at about it. I like anything Bible and Hebrew.

brotheryochanan on August 01, 2010:

I liked this hub. I enjoyed this tidbit of information: Tet is a picture of something coiled like a serpent and carries the idea of the contrast of distinguishing between good and evil.

Something was coiled like a serpent in the garden of eden. Have you considered a study of the 'yetzer hara'?

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