John T. Willis

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The First Heavenly Council

FINALLY, we begin to work through the Book of Job. PLEASE keep before you the earlier blogs on Introductory Considerations on the Book of Job and the blogs on "[The] Satan." In what follows, I will be assuming many of these previous thoughts and not repeat them as we work through the Book of Job.

We have already presented Job 1:1-5, so I will not repeat this here. Just a reminder. The composer of the Book of Job portrays as a: (1) wealthy, (2) healthy,
(3) wise person [a wise person is one who fears God and turns away from evil]. These three elements are CRUCIAL for understanding the entire Book of Job.

Hence, in this blog, we discuss The First Heavenly Council related in Job 1:6-12. Let us work verse by verse.

Job 1:6--"The heavenly beings" present themselves before Yahweh, and [the] Satan comes among them. Note that Job knows absolutely nothing about this council. It is in heaven, and thus invisible to human beings. Job 1:6 does not state who the heavenly beings are. Surely they are faithful followers of Yahweh, BUT in my opinion they may be [include] ALL heavenly beings--evil as well as good. [The] Satan seems to be a member of this heavenly council. And this may include "the devil and his angels" as described in Matthew 25:41.

Job 1:7--This text assumes that God as KING [and not anyone else] speaks first. God specifically identifies [the] Satan to ask Satan where he has come from. Satan replies that he has being going to and fro and walking up and down on the earth. The context makes clear that Satan is doing this up to no good--Satan desires to harm or overthrow or destroy human beings.

Job 1:8--God specifically points out Job as God's servant, who fears God and turns away from evil. The context here indicates that God is daring Satan to attack Job.
NOW, why would God do this? Is God mischievous or mean or enjoys making human beings squirm or suffer? Of course, it could be, but as we study through the book of Job I think you will find that this is NOT what God intends.

Here, I think it is important to point out another way that several scholars think about this picture. To illustrate this, note the words of Carol Newsom, The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume 4, page 349:
"One who defends a king's HONOR by zealously ferreting out hidden disloyalty simultaneously exposes the king to DISHONOR by showing that he is DISRESPECTED. Here, Yahweh pre-empts such activity and in effect defends HIS OWN HONOR by directing attention to "my servant Job."
Admittedly, Satan dishonor God by opposing God, BUT in my opinion, this is not the point or the issue set forth by the composer of the book of Job. Rather, the issue here pertains to JOB, not God. The issue in the book of Job is: Does [Can, Should] Job [or any human being] fear God just because he or she loves and serves God without getting anything out of that for himself or herself. Think through this issue.

Job 1:9--Satan replies: "Does Job fear God for nothing?" THIS is the PRIMARY PROBLEM of the entire book of Job. Yes--Job fears God. Satan grants this. BUT, WHY does Job fear God? Does Job fear God for self-centered purposes? To be wealthy, healthy, and wise? I am afraid that this IS the motivation for serving God in the minds and hearts of many people. This is a very critical issue.

Job 1:10--Satan complains that God PROTECTS Job, and thus Job has not had a fair chance to know whether he really fears God or not. God has put a FENCE outside around Job's house and possession with protective shields against any invader. Accordingly, there is no way that Satan can get to Job.

Job 1:11--Satan, therefore, asks God to stretch out God's hand and TOUCH all that Job HAS, and Job will CURSE God as a result. Satan implies that GOD will attack Job actively. Many assume that God is the CAUSE of Job's losses and suffering. But one must move on to verse 12.

Job 1:12--God replies by REVERSING Satan's suggestion, saying: "All that he [Job] HAS is in YOUR [Satan's] power; only do not stretch out YOUR [Satan's] hand against him [Job]." According to this text, God ALLOWS Satan to attack Job, but prevents Satan from attacking Job's health [this will come later]. Then Satan goes out from the presence of God.

NOW, the sufferings of Job which Job 1:13-19 describe are NOT from God, BUT from Satan. Keep that in mind. This is crucial in the book of Job.

What are your thought, your insights, your responses to this study of Job 1:6-12. Share your ideas with others. Let me hear from you. I need all the help I can get.

John Willis


Here is West Texas, we often have "thunder storms." Just last night, we heard quite a bit of thunder. Thunder is the sound made by lightning. Depending on how far away a storm may be, one may hear a sharp loud crack or a long extended rumble. The sudden increase in pressure and temperature from lightning produces rapid expansion of the air surrounding, and within a bolt of lightning. This expansion of air creates a sonic shock wave which produces the sound of thunder. One explanation of this is that in a fraction of a second, the air is heated to a temperature approaching 50,000 degrees fahrenheit. This heating causes it to expand outward, plowing into the surrounding cooling air at a speed faster than would would travel in the cooler air. The outward moving pulse that results is a shock wave, similar to the shock wave formed by an explosion, or the front of a supersonic aircraft. Other experts hold different explanations.

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 29. This is a very simple psalm, and most scholars think Psalm 29 was borrowed from a very ancient Ugaritic text concerning the storm god Baal, and then re-applied and transformed into a beautiful song about Yahweh, the God of Israel.

Psalm 29 falls into three parts.
1. Summons to the angels to praise Yahweh as the God of glory. Verses 1-2.
2. Description of a typical storm in the land of Israel tracking from the Mediterranean Sea to the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountains in the north, turning south along the Jordan Valley, and phasing out in the Wilderness of Kadesh south of the Dead Sea. Verses 3-9.
3. Concluding praise of Yahweh as KING with a prayer that Yahweh will bless his people with peace--like the calm and quiet that occurs after a storm. Verses 10-11.

The theme of Psalm 29 is THUNDER. The biblical term for THUNDER in this psalm is THE VOICE OF THE LORD, which occurs seven times in these eleven verses: verses 3, 4
[2x], 5, 7, 8, 9.

When I hear thunder in an approaching storm, I always think: This is the voice of the Lord. God is always present in our world. He reminds us in many ways. One of this reminder is thunder.

What are YOUR experiences? Share your thoughts with others around you. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Friday, September 04, 2009

Satan--Part 5

The composer presents the story of Job as a TRIANGLE between God--Job--Satan. One way to look at this is that Job is "caught" in a situation between God and Satan. [Obviously, there are other ways to look at this story. But in this blog, we will talk about this way of looking at Job].

I will divide this into two segments.
I. A. What are God and Satan trying to accomplish? Job has no choice about his situation. Surely, Job would like to continue his life and enjoy his wealth, health, and wisdom [fearing God]. But God and Satan are preparing to change all this. Without even mentioning Job, God and Satan proceed to making decisions about Job's life, Job's fate, Job's future. This is just not right. At least, that is the way it seems.
B. Does the book of Job teach that God CAUSED Job to suffer or that God ALLOWED Job to suffer? It SEEMS that it would be "harsher" to think God CAUSED Job to suffer than to think God ALLOWED Job to suffer. This DIRECTLY raises an important issue about GOD: Is God a GOOD God, a LOVING God, IF God CAUSES or ALLOWS a human being to suffer. This comes right to the heart of a tremendous human problem--and human beings have struggled with this issue throughout the centuries. This is WHY many people cannot BELIEVE IN a God. Surely, there is NO GOD. This SEEMS very rational, very logical.
C. IF God CAUSES or ALLOWS Job to suffer, WHY would God do such a thing? We human beings naturally respond: suffering is HARMFUL; suffering is PAINFUL--THEREFORE, it is BAD, EVIL, WRONG, UNGODLY. Is that correct? What do YOU think?
D. WHY would [the] Satan CAUSE Job to suffer? From the book of Job, in my opinion, the answer here is pretty clear. [The] Satan wants to harm or shame or overthrow of destroy Job's trust in [fear of] God. Carol Newsom says succinctly [The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume 4, pages 348-349: "[ . . .] One can assume that the satan has been patrolling the earth LOOKING FOR DISLOYALTY OR SINFUL BEHAVIOR to indict before Yahweh."
Now, such questions are these lead to the second suggestion in this blog.

II. Could it be that God and Satan are working IN THE SAME EVENT [or set of events] with DIFFERENT INTENTIONS and for DIFFERENT PURPOSES? It seems to me that the Bible offers at least FIVE examples of just this kind of situation. Here they are briefly:

A. 2 Samuel 24:1 says THE LORD "incited David" against Israel, and 1 Chronicles 21:1 says SATAN "incited David" against Israel. IF these two texts are correct, God and Satan are both working in the same event. Is God's intention of doing this the SAME as Satan's? In my opinion--NO. ONE way to understand this enigma is that God wanted to emphasize what God had done for David, while Satan wanted to emphasize that David had become proud for all David's achievements.
B. Zechariah 3:1-2 says THE LORD rebuked SATAN who stood at the right hand of Joshua to high priest to accuse him. God and Satan are both working in the same event. Is God attempting to do the same thing that Satan is attempting to do in this situation? In my opinion--NO. Joshua had become proud, and God is rebuking him, but is not destroying Joshua, as Satan would like to accomplish.
C. Matthew 4:1 says that Jesus was led up BY THE SPIRIT [God] into the wildernes to be tempted by THE DEVIL. Is the Holy Spirit's [God's] intention to harm or destroy or shame or overpower Jesus Christ?--But the devil intends to do this.
D. Paul says that his "thorn in the flesh" was GIVEN him by THE LORD, whom he besought three times that it would leave him, but he also identifies THAT THORN as a MESSENGER OF SATAN--2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Does God WISH to do the same thing that Satan WISHES to do in this series of events relating to Paul?
E. John 13:2 says THE DEVIL put it into the heart of Judah to betray Jesus--hence, Satan was ACTIVE in putting Jesus Christ on the cross. But Peter declares on Pentecost in Jerusalem that Jesus Christ was delivered up and crucified "according to the DEFINITIVE PLAN AND FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD"--Acts 2:23. Now, WHO put Jesus Christ on the cross--Satan? or God? --According to the Bible. Would a student of the Bible conclude from this that Satan put Jesus Christ on the cross--THEREFORE, SATAN is responsible for SAVING LOST HUMANITY as a result of Jesus' death on the cross? Does it not seem obvious that God and Satan are working in the same event--but for different reasons and intentions?

Now, here is my point. Like these five examples, I believe that the Book of Job presents a picture of God and Satan working in the same event [or series of events] pertaining to Job, BUT FOR DIFFERENT REASONS. It seems clear that Satan DESIRES to overthrow, destroy, harm, shame Job for his trust in or fear of God. Does God have the same desire as Satan's desire? In my opinion, NOT SO. I think the book of Job makes clear that God is working in Job's life in these ways as described in the book of Job for an entirely different reason. This will become clear as we work through this marvelous book.

What are YOUR insights? YOUR problems? YOUR misgivings? YOUR solutions? Share your thoughts with others. Please help me understand the Bible better.

John Willis


Every year, my wife plants Zinnias in beds around our house. Zinnias are ideal for this part of the country, because West Texas is hot for several months and the rain is relatively sparse. BUT, Zinnias flourish. And they are beautiful. They are in orange, pink, white, purple--many beautiful colors.

We watch many butterflies spending a lot of time in the flowers of the zinnias. Experts tells us that zinnias essentially originated in Mexico, then slows spread into American Southwest to South America. Zinnia leaves are opposite and usually stalkless (sessile), with a shape ranging from linear to ovate, and pale to middle green in color. The flowers have a range of appearances, from a single row of petals, to a dome shape, with the colors, white, chartreuse, yellow, orange, red, purple and lilac.

Evelyn and I marvel at man-made buildings ancient and modern, like the Egyptian pyramids or the faces of four presidents on Mount Rushmore or the Louvre in Paris. But none of these human "creations" or "inventions" or "productions" come close to the marvels of the Creator of the Universe. God's zinnias are so unique, so delicate, so appealing, so stunning, so inspiring, so transforming.

I hope you spend time with zinnias. These are God's gifts--God's blessings.

Share your experiences. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Satan--Part 4

There is still another issue at stake involving [the] Satan as presented in the story of Job in Job 1-2. As I hear and read different assumptions or insinuations or affirmations in this account, I want to attempt to address a related issue in this blog. How does the composer of the book of Job present GOD in relation to [the] Satan in Job 1-2?

1. Some people seem to conclude that in Job 1-2, God appears as a "loose cannon." God is unstable, untangible, erratic. No one know what God might do next. After all, Job is a "righteous" person, and yet God "invites" or "challenges" [the] Satan to assail or attack or try to destroy Job. Can one trust or serve such a God? In my opinion, this is a VERY INCORRECT view, but many people seem to make this conclusion from reading and studying Job 1-2.

2. Some people seem to think God is "capricious" or "fickle." God may be one way on Monday, but a different way on Tuesday. If this is true, certainly NO ONE could depend on God. Again, in my opinion, this is not the way the composer of the book of Job presents God.

3. Some propose that God is schizophrenic, a split personality, a dual or multiple personality. God is both good and evil. This explains WHY God initiated Job's terrible losses. Again, sorry, this is not the way the composer of the book of Job presents God.

4. Some suggest that God is mischievous. God is all powerful and all wise. Human beings are weak and ignorant compared with God. And God enjoys making human beings "squirm" and "suffering" and experience "deep embarrassments." Hence, Job 1-2 presents God as using Job [one of numerous human beings] as a "play toy," a "dupe," a "fool," just to have God's fun at Job' expense. My response is: Does the Bible portray God as treating human beings in such a way? In my opinion: I think NOT!!!

Why, then, does God specifically approach [the] Satan and DARE [the] Satan to TEST, ASSAULT, ATTACK Job? Is God's INTENTION is to make Job suffer, or to destroy Job's faith? I get the impression that [the] Satan DESIRES to do just this. But is this God's intention? I think not. But why? Could it be that God has something else in mind?

I hope to get into this issue in the next blog.

What are YOUR thoughts? I am often blinded. Share me YOUR insights. We all need one another if we are going to grow spiritually. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


God blesses Evelyn and me with hummingbirds from March to October every year. We keep three hummingbird feeders. There are at least two pairs of hummingbirds at our home. It is wonderful to watch these birds behave.

Our hummingbirds often come very close to us and hover in the air as if to invite conversation. They are not afraid at all. Often, they perch on our feeders just to rest and drink the nectar. Other times, they drink nectar as they hover in the air.

Hummingbirds flap their wings from 12 to 90 times per second, depending on the species. Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards as well as forwards. Their English name deries from the characteristic hum made by their rapid wing beats. Hummingbirds are able to fly at speeds of 34 miles and hour. These marvelous birds also feed on nectar of flowers and other plants. When we were in Vitoria, Brazil to speak several times for a national missionary conference, we thoroughly enjoyed watching hummingbirds there. In Vitoria, the hummingbirds were larger than in our area, and had different colors. They were all beautiful.

Most hummingbirds have long straight bills, but some are curved. This enables different species to get nectar from different types of flowers and plants. The two halves of a hummingbird's bill have a pronounced overlap, witht he lower half (mandible) fitting tightly inside the upper half (maxilla). When feeding on nectar, the bill usually opens only slightly, allowing the tongue to dart out and intot he interior of flowers.

Experts have discovered that in flight, a hummingbird produces 75% of its weight support during the downstroke and 25% during the upstroke. God has designed the hummingbird to fly as it does in unusual ways.

The hummingbird is one other tiny "window" into God's intelligence and love. What a blessing it is to view hummingbirds. I hope you see and enjoy hummingbirds. They will change your attitude, your outlook, your life.

Tell me your stories about hummingbirds. Spend time in the out of doors. Watch for God's creation. It is all around. Praise God for hummingbirds.

John 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

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Dead Sea

Evelyn and I have been abundantly blessed by traveling worldwide. As many of you know, Evelyn and I have spent significant time in Israel on four different trips: one to deliver a scholarly paper and participate in the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament in Jerusalem in 1985 for two weeks; and then on three archaeological excavations in Banias near Dan at the foot of Mount Hermon in North Israel for six weeks each time. During these times, several times, we went with students by bus along the Dead Sea.

The Bible never refers to "the Dead Sea" by this name. The uses the terms: "the Salt Sea" in Genesis 14:3; Number 34:3; etc.; "Sea of the Arabah" in Deuteronomy 3:17; 4:49; Joshua 3:16; etc.; and "the Eastern Sea" over against the "Western Sea," which is the Mediterranean in Ezekiel 47:18; Joel 2:20; etc. However, some English versions translate these terms as "the Dead Sea" because of the modern name.

The Jordan River, perennial wadis like the Arnon and Zered, fresh or mineral springs like En-Gedi and En-Feshka, feed into the Dead Sea, but the Dead Sea does not empty out beyond itself. An evaporation results, and salt builds up in large amounts in this sea. We and our students went swimming in the Dead Sea several times. Some of our students said they could not swim, but they floated on the top of the sea because the sea is so thick.

The Dead Sea is a very important region for those interested in biblical studies.
1. Genesis 14; 18-19 relates stories about the five cities of the Plain, the most famous of whom are Sodom and Gomorrah. Many scholars thinks these cities flourished in ancient times, but are now submerged a few feet below the surface of the Dead Sea on the south, which is relatively shallow. As we travelled, we saw numerous salt formations nearby, and one could very well "double" with Lot's wife, whom God changed into a pillar of salt.
2. Just north of the Dead Sea a few miles to the northeast is the site of the biblical Shittim or Baal-peor, a very important site because it was here that Moses and the Israelites camped just before Moses' death and just before the Israelites crossed the Jordan River to conquer and settle the Land of Canaan beginning in the days of Joshua. See Numbers 25; 33:49; Joshua 2:1; 3:1.
3. On the west of the Dead Sea is En-gedi set up on a large hill with springs. There were caves in that area. In one of these caves, David and his men hid from Saul who was trying to kill David, and David cut off a hem of Saul's garment. 1 Samuel 24.
4. Near the Dead Sea is the now famous site Masada, where Herod built a palatial fortified retreat, where later the Zealots made their suicidal last stand against the Romans. Evelyn and I and several of our students went all over Masada on several occasions. Herod's remains are stunning. The National Geographic recently highlighted this wonderful site.
5. A shepherd, and later archaeologists, excavated caves near the Dead Sea, where they found hundreds of scrolls dating from the Bible and other ancient Jewish writings from the second century B. C. to the first century A. D. Since 1947, "tons" of discoveries have been found, examined, scrutinized, and continue to be under discussion.

God has given the world tremendous gifts. One of these is the Dead Sea. There are so many hidden treasures in this region. I hope you appreciate this part of the world. I hope some of YOU can go there some time. It will bless YOU.

John Willis

Monday, August 31, 2009

Satan--Part 2

It is fundamental to try to understand how the author of the Book of Job portrays [the] Satan.

Careful study of the Bible leads the examiner or investigator or pursuer to encounter stern realities. Stated simply:
1. The Bible SAYS certain things. A properly trained individual arrives at WHAT the text SAYS.
2. All biblical texts omit "unsaid" statements. THEN, the examiner MUST attempt to "fill in" the missing blanks in the biblical material.
3. One well-meaning committed person of God will reach one conclusion, and another well-meaning committed person of God will reach a different conclusion. The REASON for this is NOT what the text SAYS, but what the examiner MUST INFER or READ IN BETWEEN the lines of what the text SAYS.
4. We all HAVE to do this, but often we are unaware that we are "deducing" our conclusions from what the text SAYS.
This is the situation in trying to understanding the role of [the] Satan in the Book of Job [Job 1-2]. As best as I am able, I will be as "honest" as possible about my inferences from this issue. I trust others will do as well.

I. What the text SAYS. Follow Job 1:6-12 [which is almost identical to Job 2:1-6].
1. The heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. Job 1:6; 2:1.
2. The Lord spoke to Satan directly: Where have you come from? Satan replied, From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down in it. Job 1:7; 2:2.
3. The Lord said to Satan directly: Have you considered my servant Job? Job is a godly servant of God=one who fears God and turns away from evil. Job 1:8; 2:3a.
4. Satan replies directly to the Lord: "Does Job fear God FOR NOTHING?" Job 1:9.
5. Satan continues, speaking directly to the Lord: YOU [the Lord] protect Job in every way, but if YOU [the Lord] "touch" all Job has [his possessions], he [Job] will curse YOU [the Lord]. Job 1:10-11.
6. The Lord responds: All that Job has is in YOUR [(the) Satan's] power is in YOUR [Satan's] power, BUT I will not allow YOU [Satan] to "stretch out YOUR [Satan's] hand against him [Job]." Job 1:12ab.
7. At this point, Satan goes out from the presence of the Lord.

II. What MAY infer from this. [Here, I would imagine that different thinkers will make different inferences from this text. SO, I openly admit that the following ideas are inferences--not WHAT the text SAYS--of my own. But remember--any other commentator will behave in this same way].
1. Satan comes among the heavenly beings before the Lord--Job 1:6. Notice that 2:1 says in addition that "Satan also came among them to present themselves BEFORE THE LORD," a statement that does not appear in Job 1:6. On this point, I INFER that Satan was ONE OF "the heavenly beings." To me, this is important for at least two reasons:
a. "Heavenly beings" in the Bible are ALL heavenly personalities [whether the Bible calls them "gods," "spirits," "angels," "demons," etc.]; they are CREATED BEINGS living in the universe who are invisible to human beings. I assume that God created all these beings IN THE HOPE that they would ALL be faithful to God, BUT God gives these creatures FREE WILL to decide whether they will serve God faithfully or not, just as I assume that God gives human beings FREE WILL to decide whether they will serve God faithfully or not. ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE, some of these heavenly personalities decide to serve God faithfully, and some decide to rebel against God. IN my feeble thinking, this is WHY Satan and his angels [this is biblical--see Matthew 25:41], or "the cosmic powers of this present darkness," "the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" [this is biblical--see Ephesians 6:12]. Biblically, I think God REQUIRES that ALL of these heavenly personality appear before the Lord even if they are AGAINST the Lord's desire.
b. ALL of God's heavenly creatures MAY function FREELY--BUT within the LIMITS that God SETS. This is just a fact--for human beings AND for heavenly beings. As an example of human beings--A human being CANNOT fly like a bird--OR live like a fish constantly under the water in the ocean--OR survive for 1000 years of life on earth. God has SET LIMITS on his creatures. In the same way, God SETS LIMITS on his heavenly creatures, whether these creatures serve God or not. SO, Satan CANNOT function unless and until God ALLOWS Satan to act. In my opinion, Satan realizes or knows this, and THUS, FIRST Satan must RECEIVE God's PERMISSION to act. Accordingly, God allowed Satan to destroy Job's possession, but NOT Job's physical life. Now, I THINK Job 1:12 SAYS THIS. Check me out. Am I right or wrong. How do YOU read Job 1:12?

2. I infer from Job 1:7 that God REQUIRES Satan [and I would conjecture ALL his heavenly creatures] to tell God what Satan has been doing. And Satan says that he has been walking up and down on the earth. [Here, I think of the vision of the man riding on a red horse and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses "patroling the whole earth" in Zechariah 1:8-11, but this is NOT SATAN!!!]. But WHAT has Satan been doing? The Bible DOES NOT SAY. So here we are. We HAVE to guess. FROM THE PRESENT CONTEXT, I infer that Satan is trying to find human beings whom Satan intends to turn away from God to Satan. Now, that is a bold assertion or inference, and I am sure others will differ from me on this. But this is my inference. What do you think? Why?

3. God SAYS to Satan: Have YOU [Satan] considered my servant Job? Job is a godly person. I infer from God's question to Satan and Satan's reply in verses 9-11 that Satan has already indeed "considered" Job, but up to this point, Satan has not pursued "considering" Job BECAUSE Satan KNOWS that God is protecting Job, and THUS Satan cannot "consider" JOB. Now, what does the word "consider" mean in this context?
[Right here, I will stop, and continue this line of thought in the next blog].

What are YOUR thoughts thus far? This is long and tedious? Are you [we, I] getting anywhere? Give me your ideas. Share with others.

John Willis

World Wide Jokes

The September 2009 Reader's Digest has a section on jokes from countries around the world. I think YOU would enjoy most of these. I will share a few of these in this blog.

Argentina: An elderly couple goes to Burger King, where they carefully split a burger and fries. A trucker takes pity on them and offers to buy the wife her own meal. "It's all right," says the husband. "We share everything." A few minutes later, the trucker notices that the wife hasn't taken a bite. "I really wouldn't mind buying your wife her own meal," he insists. "She'll eat," the husband assures him. "We share everything." Unconvinced, the trucker implores the wife, "Why aren't you eating?" The wife snaps, "Because I'm waiting for the teeth!"

Brazil: Tired of waiting in the back of the line to get on Noah's ark, a flea jumps from one animal to another as she moves closer to the front. She leaps and leaps until she lands on the back of an elephant. The pachyderm turns to its mate and says testily, "I knew it! Here they go with the pushing and shoving!"

Finland: Hannu wants everything to be perfect for his anniversary trip to the hotel where he and hiw wife honeymooned 30 years earlier. So he gets there a day early to make all the arrangements. That night, he e-mails her but misspells the addres and it goes to a recent widow. The next day, the widow's son finds his mother passed out in front of her computer. On the screen is this e-mail: "My darling wife. I've just gotten here and everything's set for your arrival tomorrow. I hope your trip down here will be as pleasant as mine. P. S. It's really hot!"

Philippines: Joe, Mike, Mary, and Tom were talking about their dream jobs. "I want to be a lawyer," Joe began, "so I can defend my countrymen." "I want to be a congressman," said Mike, "so I can draft laws to benefit my countrymen." "I want to be a doctor," said Mary, "so that I can cure my countrymen." "How about you, Tom? What would you like to be?" asked Joe. Tom thought a moment and replied, "I'd like to be a countryman."

Thailand: "Hurry up or we'll be late!" shouts a teacher to her kingergarten class. "What's the rush?" a tot asks coolly. "If we're late, we'll miss your next class!" the teacher reminds him. The kid shrugs. "If you're in such a hurry, go on without us."

The United States: A priest, a minister, and a rabbi want to see who's best at his job. So they each go into the woods, find a bear, and attempt to convert it. Later they go together. The priest begins: "When I found the bear, I read to him from the Catechism and sprinkled him with holy water. Next week is his First Communion." "I found a bear by the stream," says the minister, "and preached God's Holy Word. The bear was so mesmerized that he let me baptize him." They both look down at the rabbi, who is lying on a gurney in a body cast. "Looking back," he says, "maybe I shouldn't have started with the circumcision."

How about YOUR jokes? Humor helps us get through life. There is a world of humor throughout the Bible. I share some of this from time to time. Tell your good jokes to your friends, your church, your community, your nation, the world. Happy Days.

John 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