John T. Willis

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Satan--Part 3

All of us know that many issues in the Book of Job are VERY DIFFICULT. One of these is the role of [the] Satan portrayed in Job 1:6-2:7. I hope YOU are following in the previous two blogs. I assume the thoughts in the first two blogs--Now, I will "pick up" the thought from there to continue our discussion of [the] Satan.

The Lord asked [the] Satan in 1:8 and 2:3: "Have you [the Satan] CONSIDERED my [God's] servant Job?" What does this mean? Why does God bring this up?
a. H. H. Rowley, The Book of Job [The New Century Bible Commentary, 1976], page
31, paraphrases this as: "paid close attention to" Job. Well, to "consider" is something like "pay close attention to." But it seems to me that this is "too weak."
b. I think the context and tone of Job 1:8 and 2:3 is much deeper, and much more important. BEHIND God's question here are at least TWO ASSUMPTIONS [in my opinion].
1. "[The] Satan" wants [would like] to HARM or HURT or DESTROY Job, but Satan knows that, as things now stand, Satan cannot assault Job. The text CRIES OUT [in my opinion] that God KNOWS what Satan desires, and THIS is WHY God initiates this question. SO, in this context, I would propose that "consider" actually means ASSAULT, ATTACK, DEVASTATE--at least, by implication.
2. God's question to Satan ASSUMES [in my opinion] that God and [the] Satan are OPPONENTS. The issue here is INDEED "opposition" between [the] Satan and Job [and I think, all scholars agree on this--I certainly agree on this]; BUT ALSO, the issue here is "opposition" between [the] Satan and God.
c. NOW, look at Job 2:3 AGAIN. AFTER [the] Satan's "attacks, assaults, devastations" against Job described in Job 1:13-19, God calls "the heavenly beings" before the Lord, and [the] Satan also comes among them, and God says TO [the] Satan: "Have you CONSIDERED my servant Job?"
If I were [the] Satan at this point, I would EXPLODE to God and respond: "God--Where have YOU [God] been?" Did you see all the turmoil and pain and suffering that I inflicted on Job--and YOU dare to ask me [Satan]: "Have you [the Satan] CONSIDERED my servant Job?" What have I been doing all this time? Of course, I have CONSIDERED your servant Job.
Finally, that brings me to this point. The context here clearly indicates [in my opinion] that God's question to [the Satan] here is a "dig," a "ridicule," a "taunt," a "derision," a "twit," a "mockery,"--help me find the right word. God is "throwing" [the] Satan's wishes and assaults on Job in [the] Satan's face. God is laying down "the gauntlet" and daring [the] Satan to defy God.
IF this is on the right track, THE ISSUE here is NOT JUST between Satan and Job [and it is indeed THAT], but ALSO and MUCH MORE IMPORTANTLY between Satan and God.

But, you may ask, WHY ALL THIS TROUBLE? Well, study various scholars [and I sincerely highly respect and honor ALL of them], and you will find that many well-meaning, deeply committed, well-trained scholars think "[the] Satan" is a "faithful servant" of God whom God uses to carry out God's purposes!!! Here is one example. N. H. Tur-Sinai, an outstanding, highly respected scholarly has made the attractive suggestion that the figure and role of the Satan derives from the Persian secret service. Herodotus says the royal secret police in Persia were called "the eyes and ears of the king." By parallel, God as king in the Old Testament has a royal secret police unit, and the role of the Satan was a kind of SPY roaming the earth and reporting to God on the evil that the Satan found among human beings on earth. As a roving secret agent, the Satan was always ready, as God's faithful servant, to aocuse and indict his human victims and serve before God as PROSECUTOR.

Now, I LOVE to read and study theories like this. BUT, in my opinion, THE CONTEXT of Job 1:8-2:7 does NOT depict [the Satan] in this way. The Satan in Job 1-2 is NOT God's "faithful servant," designated by God to "identify" vulnerable human beings. Rather, God and Satan stand in BOLD OPPOSITION to one another.

Lest you think I am a NUT, there are outstanding scholars to take this same view. Here are a few quotes:

Marvin Pope, Job, The Anchor Bible 15 (1965), page 11: "strolling . . . is used here in a technical sense of roaming around LOOKING FOR TROUBLE or AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO HARM." ". . . The Satan TAKES A DIM VIEW OF MANKIND and is convinced that every man has his price of his breaking point."

Francis I. Andersen, Job, Tyndate Old Testament Commentaries (1976), pages 82-83: "It is hard to examine the role and character of the Satan in Job without thinking of the Devil that he became in later literature--the accuser in Zechariah, the Spirit of Perversity in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the tempter of the New Testament, to say nothing of the fancies that gathered around him in later tradition. If he is still only the provoker of men, and not the opponent of God, we should not follow the commentators who see him here as simply another of God's loyal servants. His insolence shows a mind already twisted away from God, but his hostility is not on the scale of a rival power. There is evil here, but not dualism. The Satan may be the chief mischief-maker of the universe, but he is a mere creature, puny compared with the Lord. He can do only what God permits him to do. In the assembly he is more like a nuisance than an official. To compare him with teh roving secret police of the Persian administration, who spied on the disaffected and reported disloyalty to the king, is conceding too much to him. He is not God's minister of prosecution; it is the Lord, not the Satan, who brings up the case of Job."

I admit that I may be naive or blind or ignorant, but it seems to me that the context of Job 1-2 demonstrates that [the] Satan is an OPPONENT of God, NOT an ally or faithful servant of God. To me, this is crucial in understanding the Book of Job.

NOW, as "scholars," we certainly QUIBBLE all the time. I would VERY HESITANTLY advance two thoughts:
1. Based on Hebrew evidence, [THE] SATAN may or may not be a proper name. Here is JUST ONE of MANY examples. The word CARMEL. In Hebrew, this word appears as THE [article] CARMEL in Isaiah 35:2; Jeremiah 50:19; but as NO ARTICLE with CARMEL in Joshua 19:26; Jeremiah 46:18; Micah 7:14; Nahum 1:4. THIS is Mount Carmel that juts out into the Mediterranean Sea on the western shore of the land of Israel. CARMEL appears in the Hebrew Bible to refer to this site WITH and WITHOUT the ARTICLE "THE." A study of the word "Satan" occurs WITH and WITHOUT the ARTICLE "THE." Many scholars INSIST that this CANNOT be Satan, but an "official." Maybe so, but one cannot establish THIS on the basis of the article "THE"--in my opinion.
2. In my opinion, it is no big deal whether "Satan" is the IDENTICAL invisible, heavenly being in Job 1-2 with Satan in the New Testament. At the same time, IF [the] Satan in the Book of Job is NOT the New Testament Satan, "[the] Satan" in the Book of Job is a strong opponent of God and Job as portrayed in the book of Job. If this is the case, there MUST BE many other similar personalities who function in a similar way. THIS PARTICULAR INDIVIDUAL in the Book of Job is cited as the character under consideration in the story of Job.

Sorry. This is way too long. But I not finished yet. There is more. Be patient with me. Share your thoughts with me and others.

John Willis


  • John, I'm reading through Job and enjoying your commentary as I go.

    My starting point in understanding the Satan is that God creates ALL THINGS for His own glory, including "vessels of dishonor" that He allow Him to pour forth His justified wrath. I don't think that is in any way inconsistent with what you are saying here.

    By Blogger A Future Metaphysician, at 5:20 AM  

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