There is a quite different interpretation possible, which also has the ring of truth to it, just as much as the suggestion that the satan was a fellow worshipper, possibly Eliphaz, who infiltrated Job's ecclesia through the weakness of his children. There is nothing in itself wrong with an Angel being called a satan- we have examples of this in Num. 22:22 and 1 Chron. 21:1. We know that Angels can't sin: and yet they are limited in knowledge (e.g. Mt. 24:36). An Angel commented that now he knew that Abraham feared God, after he had seen his willingness to offer Isaac (Gen. 22:12); Israel's guardian Angel lead them through the wilderness in order to learn about Israel's spirituality (Dt. 8:2,3). God Himself, of course, already knew the hearts of men. The " sons of God" , in the context of the book of Job, refer to the Angels (38:7). The sons of God coming before Yahweh suggests a scene in the court of Heaven, similar to that of 2 Chron. 18:19-21, where the Angels appear before Yahweh to discuss the case of Ahab, and then one Angel is empowered by God to carry out his suggestion. Satan going out from the presence of Yahweh, empowered by Him to afflict Job, would correspond with other references to Angels 'going out' from God's presence to execute what had been agreed in the heavenly assembly (Ps. 37:36; 81:5; Zech. 2:3; 5:5; Lk. 22:22; Heb. 1:14). Satan describes himself as going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it (1:7)- using exactly the language of Zech. 1:11 concerning the Angels. The way that the satan smote Job with a skin disease (2:7) would suggest that he was not only a mere man; accepting an Angel-satan solves this problem. No unaided man could have brought a skin disease upon Job. If the satan refers to a righteous Angel, it is likewise easier to understand why all the problems which the satan brought are described as God bringing them (especially as Job may have conceived of God in terms of an Angel). It is also understandable why there is no rebuke of the satan at the end.
Num. 22:22 describes how an Angel of God stood in a narrow, walled path before Balaam, so that his donkey fell down beneath him. That Angel is described as a "satan", an adversary, to Balaam. Job comments how the sufferings which the 'satan' brought upon him were God 'walling up my way that I cannot pass' (Job 19:8). The connection is clear- and surely indicates that Job's satan was a satan-Angel, acting as an adversary to Job just as such an Angel did to Balaam. Job and Balaam have certain similarities- both were prophets (in Job's case see 4:4; 23:12; 29:4 cp. 15:8; Amos 3:7; James 5:10,11); both had genuine difficulty in understanding God's ways, but they to varying degrees consciously rebelled against what they did understand; both thus became angry with God (in the Angel), and were reproved by God through being brought to consider the Angel-controlled natural creation. One suspects there are more links than this.
In Job 2:5 satan asks God: " Put forth Thine hand" . The hand of God is a phrase often used concerning what God did through the Angels. God agrees- " he is in thine hand" (v.6). Thus satan's hand is God's hand, which is an Angel. This is proof enough that satan is not in any way against God- they work together. Job seems to emphasize the place of God's hand in bringing his trials- 2:5,6,10; 6:9; 10:7; 13:21; 19:21; 27:11 AVmg; 28:9. Job in 12:9 feels that in the same way as God's hand had created the natural creation- and the Angels did this- so that same Angelic hand was upon him for evil. " By His Spirit (God makes His Angels spirits) He hath garnished the Heavens; His hand hath formed the crooked serpent" (26:13). Thus Job associates God's Spirit with His hand, which is satan's hand. It seems far more fitting that this hand and spirit should be Angelic rather than human. Again, it was Angelic work that formed the Heavens. Job recognized that his trials came from the hand of God, but knew that His hand would not kill him- " with Thy strong hand Thou opposest Thyself against me...howbeit He will not stretch out His hand to (bring me to) the grave" (30:21,24). This was exactly the brief given to satan- to try Job, but " preserve his life" . The hand of God creating evil (2:10,11) must surely refer to God's " Angels of evil" (Ps.78:49) rather than to man- Cyrus had to be taught that no one except God (including human satans!) created evil (Is.45:5-7).
"Hast thou considered (lit. 'set your heart upon') My servant Job..?" (2:3) God asked satan initially. Later Job complains to God " what is man, that Thou dost magnify him? and that Thou shouldest set Thy heart upon him? (lit. 'consider him')" (7:17). Thus Job sees God- whom he probably conceived of as an Angel- as considering him, whilst we are told earlier that satan / the adversary was told to do this. A human satan considering Job would not in itself have brought the trials, and Job would not have complained so bitterly about a human being considering him.
- The references to 'wandering about on the face of the earth' have great similarities with the language used to describe the Persian empire's spies, called "The King's Eye"- a kind of agent of the King who wandered around picking up information and reporting back to him. But of course, "The King's Eye" was on the King's side and not working against him! (1). Satan's walking / running "to and fro in the earth / land" and reporting back to God about an individual is thus very much taken from the Persian idea of the King's "evil eye", "the eye of the King", a kind of agent provocateur, a secret police-type agent, travelling around the Kingdom and reporting back to the King about suspect individuals. It also has an evident connection with the Zechariah passages which speaks of the Angels in the time of the exile and restoration from Persia "running to and fro in the earth" on God's behalf (Zech. 1:10,11; 4:10). The implication of course was that God and His Angels, and not the Persian King and his agents, were the ones really in control of the land. It's maybe significant that the Septuagint translates "going to and fro" in Job 1:7 with the word peripatei- and we find the same word in 1 Pet. 5:8 about the adversary of the early Christians 'going about' seeking them- a reference to the agents of the Roman and Jewish systems. I have elsewhere demonstrated that much of the Hebrew Bible was rewritten [under Divine inspiration] in Babylon, to bring out relevant issues for the Jewish exiles in Babylon (2). This includes the book of Job. It can be understood as an allegory- Job, the suffering servant of the Lord, becomes a type of Israel, the suffering servant of Isaiah's later prophecies (3). There are many links between Isaiah's prophecies and Job- a glance down the margin of most reference Bibles will indicate that. Just as the returning exiles faced 'satans' in the form of local Arabic opposition, so did Job. The Zechariah 3:1,2 passage uses the word 'satan' to describe this opposition to the returned exiles. Note that both Zechariah 3 and Job 1 use the idea of a Heavenly court. As God put a fence around Job (Job 1:10), so He was a "wall of fire" to the returning exiles (Zech. 2:5). And his final triumph and restoration, by God's grace, was intended as a prototype for Judah in captivity. J.B. Russell mentions a Babylonian document consisting of a dialogue between a sufferer and his friend (4). Perhaps the re-writing of the book of Job during Judah's captivity in Babylon was intended as a counter to this, explaining Yahweh's perspective on suffering.
- 5:7 " Man is born unto trouble, as the sons of the burning coal lift up to fly" (AVmg.) is using Angel-Cherubim language to say that it is inevitable that our Angels will bring trials into our lives.
- 14:3 " Dost thou open Thine eyes (Angels) upon such an one, and bringest me into judgement with Thee?" . Job here seems to be able to sense when the Angels were closely present in his life- he seems to be asking why God is using His Angel-eyes to take such a special interest in him; why God has asked His Angel to " consider My servant Job" .
- 16:9 " He gnasheth upon me with His teeth; mine enemy sharpeneth His eyes upon me" . In the context, Job seems to be perceiving God as his enemy, and we have shown that God's eyes often refer to the Angels.
- 6:9,10 " Oh...that He would let loose His hand, and cut me off...I have not concealed the words of the Holy One" . We have shown that God's hand was satan's hand and that the satan Angel was forbidden to " cut (Job) off" as both Job and the Angel requested. Job associates the satan with the Holy One, which is also Angelic language. Job being a prophet (see notes on 19:8), he would have received revelation from an Angel. He did not conceal the word of this " Holy One" .
- 1:14 " And there came a messenger (Heb. 'malak') unto Job" with news of the calamities brought by the satan Angel. It would be understandable if that 'malak' should have been translated 'Angel' seeing there is so much other Angelic language in this area.
- 1:16,19 Job's sons were killed by wind and fire- both of which are associated with Angelic manifestation.
- It may be that Job's satan Angel was the Angel representing the three friends (satans) of Job. Because of His close identification with them, the satan Angel spoke their thoughts as if they were his own- e.g. compare Eliphaz's thoughts of 4:5 with satan's words of 1:9,10.
And yet the question arises: which interpretation is correct? Was the Angel a doubting believer, or a righteous Angel? These two approaches are not irreconcilable. In the same way as the earthly tabernacle was a pattern of the Heavenly system (Heb. 9:24), so it would appear that each of us has an Angelic representative in Heaven, appearing before the presence of God's glory in what we are invited to see as the court of Heaven. Angels can also represent a whole group- e.g., an ecclesia (Rev. 1:20). So closely identified with their charges are these Angels, that they themselves are rebuked (e.g. Rev. 2:5)- not that they sinned, of course, but because they represented those ecclesias in the Heavenly court.
(1) More documentation of this in Rivkah Kluger, The Satan Of The Old Testament (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1967). This view is confirmed in other research by Harry Torczyner, The Book Of Job (Jerusalem: Kiryat-Sefer, 1981) pp. 38-45. Note that Torczyner also interprets the Satan as being in God's service, and not in opposition to Him: "The figure and role of the Satan derives from the Persian secret service... We now understand that there are in God's service, as in that of any earthly king, secret roving officials, who go and come and report to him on the doings of his subjects".
(2) See my Bible Lives Chapter 11.
(3) I have traced the similarities between Job and Israel, and Job and the "suffering servant", in Bible Lives Sections 3-1-3, 3-1-5 and 3-3-7.
(4) J.B. Russell, The Devil (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977) p. 87.