Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible Online

Get access Subject: Biblical Studies And Early Christianity
Edited by: Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking and Pieter W. van der Horst

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The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible Online contains academic articles on the named gods, angels, and demons in the books of the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint and Apocrypha, as well as the New Testament and patristic literature. This online version contains the second extensively revised edition.

More information: Brill.com

Sabbath Σάββατον

(803 words)

Author(s): T. Baarda
I. Name A deity called Sabbath does not occur in the Bible. For the first time it seems to be found in Valentinian ‘mythology’. It is quite probable that the creation of a deity with this name was based on the interpretation of a NT passage ( Luke 6.5). II. Identity Tertullian ( Adv.Val. 20:1–2) describes the Valentinian view of creation: the Demiurge made this world and its hemisphere, then “completed the sevenfold stage of heavens, with his throne above it. That is why he is called Sabbatum, because of the hebdomad of his residence”. In other descriptions (Irenaeus, Hippolytus) …

Saints קדושׁים

(1,267 words)

Author(s): S. B. Parker
I. Name ‘Saints’ or ‘holy ones’ translates the Hebrew qĕdôšîm: the masculine plural of the adjective qādôš ‘holy’. Qĕdôšîm occurs thirteen times in the Bible. It is used variously of people, of divine beings, and of Yahweh. The Aramaic cognate, qaddîšîn, is used in Daniel of divine beings. The root does not appear in any Israelite personal name inside or outside the Bible. qdš is a common Semitic root referring to the quality or property of holiness, sacredness, as opposed to what is profane. In adjectival form, it is sometimes found as an at…

Saints of the Most High עליונין קדישׁי

(1,840 words)

Author(s): J. J. Collins
I. Name The ‘Saints of the Most High’ are introduced in chap. 7 of the Book of Daniel, in the angel’s explanation of Daniel’s dream. Daniel had seen four beasts come up out of the sea, which were then condemned in a judgment scene, after which “one like a son of man” approached the divine throne and was given dominion and glory and kingdom. The angel explains that the four beasts were four kings who will arise on earth, but “the Saints of the Most High” will receive the kingdom (7.18). Later, in a…

Sakkuth סכות

(562 words)

Author(s): M. Stol
I. Name Sakkuth occurs under the form Sikkût in Amos 5.26, and is followed by Kiyyûn. The Masoretic vocalisation of both names is that for idols (Abominations, gillulim). The real pronunciation must have been Sakkut, if we may identify this name with the obscure Babylonian god Sakkud (or Sakkut). Already LXX and CD took the name to be a word with the basic meaning “hut” ( sukkat): not “Sakkuth, your king”, but “tent of the Moloch” (LXX; also Acts 7.43), or “tabernacle of your king” (CD VII 14). Some modern scholars are also of this opinion (Borger 1988:77–80; W. W. Hallo, HUCA 48 [1977] 15). II. …


(9 words)

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Sanctuary היכל

(689 words)

Author(s): F. van Koppen | K. van der Toorn
I. Name The Heb. word hêkāl occurs 78 times in the Old Testament and designates a palace or temple. The word is common in West-Semitic languages ( HALAT 234–35 s.v. היכל; Hoftijzer-Jongeling, DNWSI 278 s.v. hykl) and derives from Sum. é-gal, literally ‘big house’, the residence of a divine or worldly ruler. It is well known from Egyptian and Mesopotamian sources that temples were ascribed numinous qualities. Jalabert & Mouterde 1939 suggested that in Syria during the Roman period the deified temple was known. A single reference from the New Testament testifies …


(9 words)

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Sarah שׂרי

(397 words)

Author(s): B. Becking
I. Name The name of the matriarch Sarah śārâ ( Gen. 12–15; Gen. 49.31; Isa. 51.2), alternatively spelled śārāy ( Gen. 11–17), is derived from a noun * śarr- ‘sovereign; prince’, the name meaning ‘princess’ or the like (Zadok 1988:148; pace HALAT 1262). The Book of Tobit relates about another Sarah, daughter of Raguel destined to become the wife of Tobias ( Tob. 2.8–9). Several proposals have been made to connect Sarah with a goddess. II. Identity Sarah has been interpreted as the goddess of Machpelah (Cybele; Meyer 1906:270; Gressmann 1910:5). Gunkel connected the names of the …

Sasam ססם

(739 words)

Author(s): B. Becking
I. Name Sasam is interpreted as a theophoric element in the personal name sismāy (1 Chr. 2.40; HALAT 719; Fowler 1988: 64). The deity is attested in Canaanite theophoric personal names and as a demon in a Phoenician incantation. II. Identity Sasam appears in West semitic theophoric personal names (Fauth 1970:229–233). West Semitic: ša-aš-ma-a ( ADD 151: BE:1); Ugaritic: ʿbdssm ( UM 73 Rev. 6), bn ssm ( PRU II 47:18); Phoenician: ʿbdssm ( KAI 35:1; 40:3; 49:11, 46.47; mainly from Cyprus); [ s] smy // Σεσμαος ( KAI 42:3; Cyprus) ʿbdssm // A.pa.sa.so.mo.se (= Αψασωμος; RES 1213; Cyprus); …

Satan Σατανᾶς

(4,186 words)

Author(s): C. Breytenbach (I, IV) | P. L. Day (I-III)
I. Name The proper name ‘Satan’ is an Anglicization of the Hebrew common noun śāṭān. The noun śāṭān has been related etymologically to a variety of geminate, third weak and hollow verbs in Hebrew and in the cognate languages. These proposals include verbs meaning ‘to stray’ (Ar. šṭṭ, Heb. śṭh, Eth. šṭy, Akk. šâṭu 1 and Syr. sṭʾ), ‘to revolt/fall away’ (Aram. swṭ, Mandaean swṭ and Heb. swṭ), ‘to be unjust’ (Ar. šṭṭ), ‘to burn’ (Syr. swṭ and Ar. šyṭ) and ‘to seduce’ (Eth. šṭy and Heb. śṭh). These proposals require discounting the nûn of the noun śāṭān as p…


(9 words)

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Satyrs שׂעירים

(1,052 words)

Author(s): B. Janowski
I. Name The word śĕʿîrîm, the plural of śăʿîr ‘hairy’ ( Gen. 27.11 and often), i.e. ‘(hairy) he-goat’ (over 50 examples, in addition to its synonyms ʿattûd ‘he-goat’, ṣāpîr and tayiš), describes a group of creatures which are usually identified as ‘hairy demons, satyrs’ ( Lev. 17.7; Isa. 13.21; Isa. 34.14; 2 Chr. 11.15; HALAT 1250; for older translations see Snaith 1975). The conjectured reading śĕʿîrîm for MT šĕʿārîm ‘gates’ in 2 Kgs. 23.8 is old ( BHS), but is to be rejected on the basis of current knowledge (Schroer 1987: 133 with n. 292). On śĕʿîrîm in Deut. 32.2 …

Saviour Σωτήρ

(2,246 words)

Author(s): J. den Boeft
I. Name Σωτήρ is the nomen agentis of the stem σω-, which is also present in the verb σῴζω, and thus in essence denotes a person who saves or preserves (or has done so). It can be used about those who have saved a community or a group of persons or an individual from an undesirable condition. In a specifically religious sense it functions as an honorific title of several gods, e.g. Zeus, Asklepios, Sarapis, or of men whose status has been raised to the divine sphere, e.g. kings and outstanding Roman authoritie…

Sea ים

(3,900 words)

Author(s): F. Stolz
I. Name As a geographical entity, the sea delimits both cultural and political areas. On the one hand, it provides connections: since the third millennium there has been shipping along the coast of the Persian Gulf (in the direction of Bahrein and India) and the Mediterranean region. The sea is a threatening power which annihilates life by drowning it. On the other hand, the sea is the inexhaustible reservoir of water, the source of life. These multiple and ambivalent relations are represented in …


(9 words)

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(9 words)

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(9 words)

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(9 words)

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Seraphim שׂרפים

(862 words)

Author(s): T. N. D. Mettinger
I. Name The word ‘Seraphim’ is the name given to the beings singing the trishagion to Yahweh as king in Isa. 6.2–3 and carrying out an act of purification in vv 6–7. The Seraphim are now generally conceived as winged serpents with certain human attributes. The word śārāp has three occurrences in the Pentateuch ( Num. 21.6, Num. 8; Deut. 8.15) and four in Isa ( Deut. 6.2, Deut. 6; Deut. 14.29; Deut. 30.6). It is generally taken as a derivative of the verb śārap, to “burn”, “incinerate”, “destroy”. Since the verb is transitive, śārāp probably denotes an entity that annihilates by b…

Serpent נחשׁ

(2,578 words)

Author(s): R. S. Hendel
I. Name In MT the generic word for a venomous snake or serpent is nāḥāš (31 times). In Semitic the only certain cognate noun is Ugaritic nḥš, ‘snake’ (numerous times in KTU 1.100 and 1.107), with a possible cognate in Arabic ḥanaš, ‘snake’ (via metathesis and an altered sibilant). The origin of the word may be onomatopoeic, derived from the hissing sound of a snake. Other words for snakes in MT include peten (cf. Ug. bṯn, Akk. bašmu and bšn in Deut. 33.22; Bashan), śārāp (lit. ‘burning one’), ṣipônî, ʾepʿeh, ʿakšûb, qippōz, šĕpîpōn, and tannîn (which can also mea…
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