Published: 3 October 2022

We Don’t Know The Devil’s Name

Devil's Name

If you ask anyone what the Devil’s name is, they will almost certainly respond that it is Satan, Lucifer, or perhaps Beelzebub. This is what Bible teachers and Hollywood alike teach us, so it is understandable that most people will give one or all of these answers. However, this is a case where Bible teachers and Hollywood both got it wrong. In reality, the Bible never tells us what the devil’s personal name is.

Someone may say, “Not so fast! Both Job and Isaiah mention the devil’s name and the gospels mention Beelzebub.” It is true that these “names” are in the Bible, but there is more to the story. Let’s take a look at some of the passages where people think the Bible reveals the devil’s name.

Satan

Perhaps the most well known verse in the Old Testament regarding Satan is found in Job:

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. (Job 1:6 ESV)

It certainly sounds like the Bible is revealing the devil’s name in this verse, but due to a couple of issues in most English Bible translations, we don’t get the full picture. First of all, the word satan is not a translation, but a transliteration. It’s a Hebrew word represented in English by substituting the Hebrew letters in the word using equivalent sounding letters from the English alphabet. The Hebrew word satan is not a personal name, it is a description. The word satan (Hebrew: שָׂטַן) is a word which means accuser or adversary.1 Satan is a word describing an opponent.

One other important clue that our English Bibles omit is that in Hebrew, Job 1:6 says “the satan.” The one who appeared before God to accuse Job was not just any adversary, he was the adversary. 

Who else in the Old Testament was a satan?

Adversary (satan) is not a word indicating an evil being. In fact, the Bible refers to David as a satan:

4 But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him. And the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place to which you have assigned him. He shall not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become an adversary [Hebrew: satan] to us. For how could this fellow reconcile himself to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of the men here? 5 Is not this David, of whom they sing to one another in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?” (1 Sam. 29:4–5 ESV)

The Bible also calls the Angel of the LORD satan:

21 So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. 22 But God’s anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary [Hebrew: satan]. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. (Num. 22:21–22 ESV)

The Angel of the LORD was none other than God Himself! He was Balaam’s adversary. It is interesting that the Bible translators chose to translate satan as adversary in these two passages, but transliterated them in Job. Satan is not the devil’s name.

New Testament

Just as satan is a transliterated word in some passages in our English Bibles, the word was also transliterated in the Greek New Testament. The Hebrew word satan appears in the New Testament as satanas (Greek: σατανᾶς) by substituting Greek letters for Hebrew letters. Regardless, it carries the same meaning in the New Testament: an adversary.

Lucifer

Just as satan is not a name, neither is lucifer. The word lucifer appears in Isaiah 14 in a minority of English Bibles and has been mistaken by most people as the devil’s name:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! (Is. 14:12 KJV)

The Hebrew word which lucifer translates is helel (הֵילֵל) and means “shining one” or “morning star.”2,3 Lucifer is clearly not a transliteration, so how did the word lucifer end up in our English Bibles?

Lucifer is a Latin word

The word lucifer made its way into our English Bibles from the Latin Vulgate Bible. When Jerome translated the Hebrew Bible into Latin, lucifer was the Latin word that had the same meaning as the Hebrew word helel: “shining one.” For unknown reasons, rather than translate helel into English, some of the translation teams of older English Bibles borrowed the word lucifer from the Latin Vulgate Bible.4,5,6

Who was this “shining one?”

The context of Isaiah 14 makes it clear that Isaiah was speaking about the king of Babylon.

you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: (Is. 14:4 ESV)

Further confirmation that this passage is about a human ruler is found in v. 16:

Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, (Is. 14:16 ESV)

Clearly, the text is telling us it is a man under consideration and not a spiritual being. Like the word satan, lucifer is not the devil’s name; it is a description applied to the king of Babylon.

Beelzebub

Beelzebub (or Beelzebul, or Baal-zebub) is a word which appears in the New Testament (Mt 12:24; Mk 3:22, etc.) but originates in the Old Testament. 

Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay sick; so he sent messengers, telling them, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness.” (2 Kings 1:2 ESV)

Baal-zebub is a compound word which means “Baal of flies.”7 The word baal is a Hebrew word meaning lord or master. So, what this word means is “lord of the flies.”8

This was the designation of a false Philistine god who was the master of the flies. So, once again, we see that Beelzebub is not the devil’s name, just a title or description.

We don’t know the devil’s name

The words satan, lucifer, and beelzebub are not names of the devil. They are descriptions which are applied to him. The simple fact of the matter is that God has never revealed to us the devil’s name. I’m sure he has one, we just don’t know what it is. Why would God not reveal the devil’s name? Any answer would be speculative, but since God hasn’t seen fit to tell us, we can be sure it’s for our own good.

References

  1. Koehler, Ludwig, Walter Baumgartner, and M. E. J. Richardson, eds. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Accordance electronic ed., version 3.6. Leiden: Brill, 2000, s.v. “שׂטן,” 3:1316.
  2. Brown, Francis, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, eds. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Abridged). Accordance electronic ed., version 4.1. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906. BDB, s.v. “הָלַל,” 237.
  3. Koehler, Ludwig, Walter Baumgartner, and M. E. J. Richardson, eds. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Accordance electronic ed., version 3.6. Leiden: Brill, 2000, HALOT, s.v. “הֵילֵל,” 1:245.
  4. https://bible.faithlife.com/books/esv/Is14.12.
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucifer.
  6. https://youtu.be/UzSHFiVsUGU?t=305.
  7. Thomas, Robert L., ed. Hebrew-Aramaic Dictionary of the New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance. Accordance electronic ed., version 2.6. La Habra: Lockman Foundation, 1981.
  8. Christian Standard Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017.