Job 1:6: “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves
before the Lord, and Satan came also among them”.
Satan in Job is an angel who came among the angels in heaven and criticized Job, whom he had been watching whilst walking around in the earth seeing what trouble he could make. He then brings lots of problems upon Job to try and turn him away from God.
1. “Satan” is only mentioned in the first two chapters of Job and nowhere in the book is he explicitly defined as an angel.
have seen in our comments on Genesis 6:2 , that the phrase “sons of God” can
refer to those who have the true understanding of God (Rom. 8:14; 2 Cor.
6:17-18; 1 Jn. 3:7). Angels do not bring false accusations against believers
“before the Lord” (2 Pet. 2:11)
3. It cannot be conclusively proved that
Satan was a son of God - he “came among them”.
4. Satan is described as
“going to and fro in the earth”. There is no implication that he was doing
anything sinful. Zechariah 1:11 implies that this is a Hebraism for observing.
5. How can Satan be in heaven and also on the earth in Job’s time when,
according to popular belief, he was thrown out at the time of Adam, or in 1914,
according to the “Watchtower”?
6. Remember that there cannot be sin or
rebellion against God in heaven (Ps.5:4-5; Hab. 1:13; Matt. 6:10; Ps.
7. The major theme of the book of Job is that God brought the
problems into Job’s life and that eventually they made him a more righteous
person (Job 2:10; 16:11; 19:21; 23:16; 42:11). Notice that Job did not believe
that only good things came from God; he nowhere complains about Satan bringing
the problems. Job realized that his sufferings had made him come to know God in
practice rather than just in theory - “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of
the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee” (42:5). Seeing that problems make us more
righteous people if we respond correctly to them (Heb. 12:5-11), why would a
sinful, wicked being, who wants to turn us away from God, bring these things
into our lives, when actually they only make us more righteous and closer to
8. The fact that Satan and the sons of God were in “the presence of the
Lord” and presented themselves “before the Lord” (2:7; 1:6) does not necessarily
mean that they were in heaven. The representatives of God carry the name of God,
e.g. the angel which led Israel through the wilderness was called “the Lord”
because it carried God’s name (Ex. 23:20-21), but it was not God himself in
person (Ex. 33:20 cp. v. 12). Similarly, priests represent God (2 Chron. 19:6)
and to come before them was to come “before the Lord” (Deut. 19:17). Cain “went
out from the presence of the Lord” (Gen. 4:16) - not out of heaven but probably
away from the presence of the angel - cherubim. Jesus was presented as a baby
“before the Lord” (Lk. 2:22)- i.e. before the priest.
9. Notice that Satan
had to get power from God (Job 2:3-6); he had none in his own right, indeed, God
brought Job to Satan’s notice (1:8). Job comments about God being the source of
his sufferings: “If it be not he, who then is it?” (Job 9:24 RV). Job didn’t
believe anyone apart from God was responsible.
10. There is no indication
that anything Satan did was sinful. Satan never actually says or does anything
wrong; he simply makes the observation that there may well be a relationship
between Job's service of God and the material blessing which God has given him.
He is them empowered by God to bring calamities into Job's life. Time and again
is it stressed, really stressed, that God brought the problems upon Job, not
satan independently (1:12,16; 2:3,10; 6:4; 8:4; 19:21; 42:18).
11. Even if
the “satan” (adversary) to Job was an angel, there is no reason to think it was
sinful. An angel asked Abraham to offer Isaac to find out exactly how obedient
Abraham would be, hence he said, “Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou
hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Gen. 22:12). Similarly the
angel which guided Israel out of Egypt, “led thee these forty years in the
wilderness to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart,
whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no” (Deut. 8:2). God himself
knows all things, but the angels bring problems into the lives of their charges
in order to see how they will respond. It may be possible to understand Job’s
satan like this. Remember that an evidently righteous angel was called a “satan”
in Numbers 22:22.
12. Much has been made of the fact that in Job 1 and in
Zech. 3:1,2 we read of ha satan, the adversary. In Hebrew as in English, the
definite article is significant. If I refer to myself as a personal, specific
individual / being, I say "Duncan". To speak of "the Duncan" would be a
description of a function, more than a reference to my personal name. Sitting at
a restaurant table, you might call out: "Waiter!", intending a specific
individual. You'd only speak of "the waiter" when describing his function- e.g.
"The waiter served me badly". Hebrew and English operate in the same way here.
So when we read in Job 1 and Zechariah 3 of the satan, ha satan, we're not
reading of 'A specific person whose personal proper name is 'Satan''. Rather
we're reading of a person who functioned as a satan or adversary. Dianne Bergant
makes the point: "The word 'satan' appears with an article indicating that here
the word is a title or description and not a proper name" (1). In other words,
'the satan' isn't the personal name of a personal being called Satan. It's a
description of the function of a character, as an adversary. Note that the man
Haman is called ho diabolos in Esther 7:4 LXX.
13. We read and receive the
style of the book of Job in a way far different to how its original readership
would've done. Continuing the point made in  above, the Russian literary
analyst Vladimir Propp has shown that all stories, folklore etc. of that time
contained characters with a set function- there was the hero, the companion, the
friends / bystanders, and the adversary (2). Whilst I accept that Job was a
historical character, the way the book is written in such structured Hebrew
poetry shows for sure that the events were 'written up' in story / ballad form.
And so when the initial readership encountered "the adversary", ha satan, they
wouldn't have thought of him as a cosmic being of evil. The presence of someone
functioning as "the adversary" would've been quite normal to them.
14. If we
follow through the argument of the book, the logical answer of Job to the
friends' allegations would have been "I'm suffering because Satan has it in for
me! He's doing this, not God!". For the friends were reasoning that God was
bringing such affliction into Job's life because Job was a sinner. The fact Job
doesn't make this obvious retort indicates to me that "the Satan" wasn't
understood by either Job nor the friends as a personal supernatural being of
15. We have demonstrated in chapter 1 how Jewish thinking came to be
influenced by Babylonian ideas of a dualistic cosmos, split between God and some
'Satan' figure. The book of Job is a corrective to this, in that it teaches that
evil comes from God, and any Satan figure is under His total control. Yet a mere
skim reading of the prologue to Job has led some to the very opposite
conclusion. Significantly, the apostate Jewish writing The Testament Of Job
completely twists the intent of the Biblical record, and adds into it the common
misconceptions concerning Satan- e.g. it claims of Job's wife: "Satan followed
her along the road, walking stealthily, and leading her hear astray... [Job
warns her] 'Do you not see Satan standing behind you and unsettling your
reasoning?'" (23:11; 26:6). These classical images of 'Satan' have to be added
in to the Biblical record- because they are simply not there in the Biblical
1. We have seen that coming “before the
Lord” may describe coming before a representative of God, such as a priest or an
angel. The “sons of God” - the believers at that time - presented themselves
before a priest or angel, perhaps at a religious feast. Someone there, maybe one
of the worshippers, reflected that it was not surprising that Job was such a
strong believer, seeing that God had so richly blessed him. God gave that person
the power to afflict Job, to demonstrate that Job’s love of God was not
proportionate to the blessings God had given him.
2. Maybe the Satan was
composed of Job’s three “friends” - they are rebuked at the end of the book
(notice that “satan” is not rebuked by name). Their discussions with Job
indicate that they had their doubts as to his integrity and suspected that his
faith was now weak because God had taken away the blessings from him - “But now
it is come upon thee, and thou faintest: it toucheth thee, and thou art
troubled...who ever perished (which it looked as though Job was going to), being
innocent?” Eliphaz pointed out (Job 4:5 & 7).
3. It has been suggested that
the prologue to Job is in fact a literary device to place theological problems
before us, e.g. of the relationship between service of God and receipt of
blessing, and sin and suffering. But we must remember that later Scripture takes
the experiences of Job as literal, and Job himself as a real historical person.
However, it is not impossible that the account of the conversation between God
and the satan was not a literal occurrence, but simply a way of setting up the
problems which the historical narrative then addresses. It's worth meditating on
this one. The three different messengers come and tell Job of the various
disasters and conclude with the same rubric "and I alone have escaped to tell
you". This is surely a theatrical presentation rather than a literal
transcription of actual speech which historically occurred; my friend Steve Cook
has suggested, quoting Jewish sources, that Job may well be the very earliest
extant theatrical drama script of ancient literature. Job being drama would
explain why the book is written as poetry. This approach also assists us in
understanding how Job was told by a messenger that his sons had all died, and
then at the end of the book he appears to be given his sons back again. If the
messenger wasn't telling the truth, but was just part of the plot, the mechanism
to present the theological problem, then this is understandable. The use of "the
satan" would therefore not be referring to any cosmic being, but rather to a
role. It has been observed: “In biblical sources the Hebrew term the satan
describes an adversarial role. It is not the name of a particular character”
(3). And again: "[ha-satan] is not the personal name Satan but a role
specification meaning “the accuser/adversary/doubter”" (4). And I'm grateful to
Steve Cook again for pointing out that the 'satan' is in fact being presented as
more adversarial to God rather than to Job personally. The 'satan' or adversary
was not therefore necessarily sinful: “As he first appears in the Hebrew Bible,
Satan is not necessarily evil, much less opposed to God. On the contrary, he
appears in the book of Numbers and in Job as one of God’s obedient servants"
(5). He is “subject to God’s control and was used by God to accomplish his
purposes... [there is] a pronounced emphasis on his subordination” to God (6).
4. The friends insist that "the destroyer" [by which they surely meant an early
equivalent to 'the devil' of popular belief today] had touched Job- whereas Job
insists that it is God who had destroyed him (Job 15:21 cp. 19:10; 13:21). In
some ways the book of Job is a deconstruction of the popular Persian and
Canaanite myths about a 'satan' figure. Job, both in the story of his sufferings
and his specific words, seeks to demonstrate that the essential issues in life
is being "just with God", and not whether or not we are touched by the hand of
an evil being; for the hand of God which touched Job (Job 19:21) is the hand of
'satan' into whom God delivered Job temporarily (Job 1:12). Job says that the
attitude of the friends is wrong- they should be looking into themselves, rather
than fantasizing about the action of some unseen evil being they imagined: "Ye
should say, Why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matter is found in
me?... know that there is a [personal] judgment"(Job 19:28,29).
5. It can be
argued that the book of Job is a dialogue concerning evil and suffering, with
three popular views being represented by the three friends. These views are
examined and corrected by the personal history of Job, as well as by the
epilogue and prologue to the book. Eliphaz seems to be representative of the
idea that Job is being hit by supernaturally controlled evil- Eliphaz speaks of
a force of darkness (Job 22:10,11) and sinful or faulty Angels living in an
unclean Heaven (Job 4:18; 15:15). Yet the answer to all this is that the Satan
figure is under God's control, all Job's misfortunes come from God and His
Angels- one of whom may have been called 'the adversary' ('Satan')- are in fact
perfectly obedient to Him and not disobedient. And finally, Eliphaz and the
friends are rebuked for their various wrong understandings, with God declaring
Himself supreme and ultimate sovereign. Likewise Bildad's view of Angels in Job
25:5 "The stars are not pure in God's eyes" is corrected by God in Job 38:7,
when He says that "the morning stars sang together and all the Sons of God
shouted for joy".
(1) Dianne Bergant, Job, Ecclesiastes (Wilmington:
Michael Glazier, 1982) p. 27.
(2) Vladimir Propp, Theory And History Of
Folklore, ed. Anatoly Liberman (Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press,
1984); Morphology Of The Folktale (Austin: University Of Texas Press, 1968).
(3) Elaine Pagels, The Origin of Satan (New York: Random House, 1996) p. 39.
(4) N.C. Habel, The Book of Job (London: S.C.M., 1985) p.89.
(5) Pagels, op
cit. p. 39.
(6) S.H.T. Page, “Satan: God’s Servant” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society; Sept. 2007 Vol. 50 No. 3 p. 449