John T. Willis

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Satan--Part 1

The composer of the Book of Job presents several characters. One of these characters is [the] Satan. One cannot study, teach, preach the Book of Job without dealing with "[the] Satan" in this book. So, I am going to give my view of "[the] Satan" in the book of Job. It will take me a while to work through this issue. It will take me at least two blogs to get through this, maybe several more. We will see. I will do this "laboriously," and some of you will get worn out of this, and I can certainly understand. If so, just bypass these blogs on "[the] Satan."

I. The Word "satan." Okay, unfortunately, here one has to know Hebrew, or trust scholars who know Hebrew. Sorry, this is just a fact. But here are the data.
a. The Hebrew word "satan" occurs 32 times in the Hebrew Bible. Here is the breakdown.
a. "Satan" occurs 6 times as a verb: "to be hostile to, have animosity toward, be at enmity, be an adversary" or "resist"--Psalms 38:20; 71:13; 109:4, 20, 29; Zechariah 3:1.
b. "Satan" occurs 31 times as a noun: "opponent, adversary, enemy"--Numbers 22:22, 32; 1 Samuel 29:4; 2 Samuel 19:22; 1 Kings 5:4; 1:14, 23, 25; 1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 1:6, 7, 8, 9, 12; 2:1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7; Psalm 109:6; Zechariah 3:1, 2 [2x].
c. "Sitnah," a cognate noun occurs two times: "indictment"--Genesis 26:21; Ezra 4:6.
b. In addition to this, the Hebrew word "satam" [probably an alternate reading of "satan"] occurs 6 times as a verb: "to be hostile to," etc.--Genesis 27:41;
49:23; 50:15; Job 16:19; 30:21; Psalm 55:3.

II. Here are some significant observations.
a. Psalms 38:20; 55:3; 71:13; 109:4, 20, 29 refer to "enemies" of God's people using the verb "be hostile to, have animosity toward, be at enmity, be an adversary." One example is Psalm 38:20:
"Those who render me evil for good
ARE MY ADVERSARIES because I follow after good" [thus the NRSV].
b. "Satans" are "human beings" who are military or political opponents (1 Samuel 29:4; 1 Kings 5:4; 11:14, 23, 25), opponents in legal matters (Psalm 109:6), or "human or angelic beings" who wish to counteract some advantage through malign behavior or opposition (Numbers 22:22, 32; 2 Samuel 19:22).
c. "Satan" occurs WITH the article "the" in Job 1:6, 7, 8, 9, 12; 2:1, 2, 3, 4,
6, 7; Zechariah 3:1, 2 [2x], and WITHOUT the article "the" in 1 Chronicles 21:1.

III. NOW, this brings us to the question: Who is "[the] Satan" in the book of Job? Scholars differ over the identity of this individual. I doubt that I can solve this problem. But here are some of my thoughts.

a. The TEXT of Job 1-2 SHOULD help one get an idea of WHO "[the] Satan" is.
b. Job 3-42 NEVER refer to "[the] Satan" elsewhere in the book of Job. One might conclude that "Satan" is not very important in the book. I differ with this, BECAUSE "to me" it does not make sense to introduce Satan into this book without presenting this individual for an important reason. So, I am assuming "Satan" is an important person in the Book of Job.

IV. Have said all this, let us move SLOWLY into Job 1-2 concerning Satan. In this blog, I want to make only TWO points.
a. Whoever Satan is, Satan is a "heavenly being," NOT a human being, AND he "came among" other "heavenly beings" before the Lord. Job 1:6; 2:1. What is one to make of all this? Three thoughts.
1. "Heavenly beings" are angels. Thus, they are "created" beings by God; they are NOT "deities" or "rival gods" to the God of the Bible.
2. The Bible portrays God as "gathering" his angelic beings before him. In ancient Near Eastern protocol, the king of a nation would gather his officers before him to make proclamations for the people. See this picture in 1 Kings 22:19-23; Isaiah 6:1-3; Psalm 82:1.
3. "[The] Satan," like the other "heavenly beings" in Job 1-2, is completely subject to God. Satan cannot do anything unless or until God "allows" Satan to act. Hence, any idea of Satan as a "rival" to God "on equal to" God contradicts the picture of the composer of the book of Job in Job 1-2. [It is significant that the New Testament ALSO depicts "Satan" as a person subject to God, who can do nothing unless or until God allows Satan to act. See, for example, Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 11:14-23; Revelation 12; 20].
b. Satan is clearly the "adversary" of Job--Job 1:9-12; 2:4-6. But many scholars insist that Satan is not the "adversary" of God. For example, Carol Newsom writes: "[Satan] is not 'God's' adversary but the adversary of sinful or corrupt human beings." (New Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 4, page 348). I highly respect my scholarly colleagues, but I respectfully differ on this point for two reasons.
1. The Book of Job presents God and Satan "in opposition to one another" in Job 1:8, 9. God claims that Job is one who "fears God," while Satan claims that Job does "not fear God" for nothing. And THIS is the issue in the Book of Job.
2. Zechariah 3:1-2 also presents God and Satan "in opposition to one another." Verse 2 says: "And the Lord said to Satan, The Lord rebuke you, O Satan." It seems to me that here God and Satan stand in opposition to one another.

This is probably too much in one blog. Be patient. We will continue in the next blog on the Book of Job.

Give me your thoughts, your ideas, your responses. Share your ideas with other.

John Willis


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