At the Armstrong IPE we received a great question from Ed: Who was the satan of Job?
If you’ve read about the Christadelphians, you probably know that we espouse the Biblical view that the Bible “satan”, as the Hebrew pronoun indicates, is nothing more than an adversary, good or bad.
Most often in scripture the word satanas refers to a person (for example King David in 1 Samuel 29:4), once it is God himself (2 Samuel 21:1,2 cp 1 Chronicles 24:1-3) and once it is an angel doing God’s will (Numbers 22:22, 32), but NEVER in the bible do we encounter one of God’s celestial servants doing anything other than obeying God’s commands (Psalm 103:20).
One of the leading responses to that statement is “what about the Satan of Job?” What is really being asked is who brought all of the suffering upon Job (destroying his possessions and killing his children). That’s what we want to look at in detail in this post.
Note: Want the short version? Skip right down to the section titled, “Who does Job Blame for what happened?”
Who Made Job Suffer?
There’s no doubt that Job suffered at the hands of an unidentified “satan”, but who were they and who is to blame for Job’s suffering?
The story of job is familiar, but let’s recap it:
- The “sons of God” come to present themselves before God
- This satan is “among” the sons of God
- God asks satan to consider Job
- Satan attributes Job’s faithfulness to the easy life he has had
- Satan challenges God twice to make him suffer to prove his point (satan’s)
- Job suffers, losing his family, possessions and friend
- Job laments his suffering
- Job’s misguided friends propose the reason for his suffering, accusing him and his children of unfaithfulness
- Job demands an explanation for his suffering
- Elihu enters the picture and attempts to act as mediator
- God speaks to Job and his friends
- Job repents of his arrogance, reconciles with his friends and is blessed
Who is the satan?
There are lots of different “satans” in the Old Testament, so it’ll be the context that will give us hints. So let’s ask a few more questions:
Who are the sons of God?
We are told that he presents himself before God amongst the sons of God. Although once the phrase “sons of God” is used of angels, it is most often used of the faithful servants of God (Deut 14:1; Psalm 82:6, Hosea 1:10; Luke 3:38; John 1:12; 1 John 3:1).
Where are they presented in the presence of God?
When the faithful servants in the bible presented themselves before God, it wasn’t in heaven itself, but rather in front of God’s representative on earth. See Deuteronomy 19:17; 2 Chronicles 19:6 for example. Cain serves as a good example of someone who was in the presence of God and who left it… without having ever entered heaven in the first place (see Genesis 4:16)
Who does Job Blame for what happened?
When Job suffers in the first chapters, his understanding of who is responsible for his suffering is clear:
- “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” – Job 1:21
- “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” – Job 2:10 cp Job 19:21
But is job right to conclude that God is the one responsible for this? The Inspired narration tells us that he is. Look at the following quotes that follow Job’s understanding of who is responsible:
- “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” (Job 1:22 compare v 21)
- “But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” – Job 2:10
Even at the end of everything, the story is the same:
Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold. – Job 42:11
Do we ever find out who this satan is?
By reading the context we get the idea that the satan or adversary of Job is simply a jealous servant of God who falsely accused Job. We have some corroborating evidence of this in James 5, which deals with jealousy and infighting in the church. See the context:
- The church is accused of condemning the just (v6)
- The faithful are encourage to be patient when suffering injustice (v7,8)
- The church is told not to bear grudges against each other (v9)
- The example of how to faithfully and patiently suffer at the hands of their brethren is presented (v10, 11)
- Job is presented as the ideal of example of a faithful and patient servant who suffered, endured and who at the end saw the fruit of his endurance (v7, 11)
- In lieu of infighting, James encourages the ecclesia to pray for one another, confess their faults to one another and convert their brethren from the “error of their ways” (v 12-20)
We will never be sure who exactly the satan of Job was, but we can be sure that a super-natural, fallen angel not only doesn’t fit the context, but doesn’t fit the greater context of the scriptures.