The accuser is not Satan (RJS)

The prose prologue to the book of Job, found in chapters 1 and 2, introduces a number of issues that challenge standard Christian presuppositions. As a result I am going to move rather slowly, in two or three posts, through the prologue to think about some of these issues. The commentaries by John Walton (Job (The NIV Application Commentary)) and Tremper Longman III (Job (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms)), both their agreements and their differences, provide the basis for this discussion.

There are three major points:

First, Job is not on trial, God is on trial. Although the legal metaphor is not carried through consistently in the book, it appears most strongly in the prologue.

Second, the challenger or accuser is not Satan.

Third, Job is innocent, and he proves faithful.

The book of Job is not about Job, it is a thought experiment that explores the way God works in the world and the appropriate human response to God.

The prologue opens by introducing Job (I am going to quote from Longman’s translation of Job as the NIV used by Walton is readily available to most readers).

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was innocent and virtuous, fearing God and turning away from evil. (Job 1:1 Longman- p. 78)

As John Walton points out, everything about Job is ideal. He has the perfect number of cattle and the perfect number of children. Job is portrayed as “a person who is beyond reproach and who has achieved success by the highest standards.” (p. 58 – Walton)  Job is also a righteous God-fearing man. Longman, with his emphasis on Job as wisdom literature notes that in this introduction Job is characterized as wise as described in the book of Proverbs. There is no criticism of Job in this preamble, not of his piety, righteousness, or conduct. Both Walton and Longman agree that anyone who finds fault with Job (likely to shore up some “orthodox” Christian theology)  has undercut the entire thrust of the book of Job.

YHWH and the accuser. After introducing Job the story moves on to introduce YHWH.

One day the sons of God came to stand before Yahweh, and the accuser was also in their midst. (Job 1:6 – Longman p. 81)

The setting is a divine assembly where God as the supreme king is consulting with his court. Heaven is described in analogy with an ancient Near Eastern royal court. Most English translations translate “the accuser” as Satan, capitalized to indicate a proper name. The dramatized audio I listened to cast the voice as a stereotypical diabolical Satan. Both Walton and Longman point out that this is wrong. Walton prefers to use the term “Challenger” while Longman calls him the accuser. Not only is the accuser not Satan, but there is nothing particularly diabolical about the exchange. The accuser is not out to destroy mankind in general or Job in particular. Rather he is challenging the policy of reward and retribution.

Walton summarizes his conclusions about the Challenger (p. 74 – Walton):

He is one of the “sons of God” (a member of the divine council)

He serves as a policy watchdog.

He uses the ambiguity of Job’s motives and concept of God to challenge God’s policies.

He does not act independently.

He is not inherently evil.

He cannot confidently be identified with Satan in the New Testament.

Longman doesn’t discuss the accuser as extensively as Walton, but the conclusion is the same. Both find it highly unlikely that the accuser or challenger in Job can or should be identified with Satan.

The challenge. During the exchange with the accuser God brings up his servant Job, restating the opening verse lest we have any doubt of Job’s innocence.

And Yahweh said to the accuser, “Have you considered my servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, and innocent and virtuous man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (Job 1:8 – Longman p. 83)

The accuser is not impressed – after all Job has lived a life characterized by health, wealth, prosperity, and success. He is God-fearing, but is this not simply to protect his status? Job is virtuous and innocent for his own benefit.

Longman, who also wrote the volume on Proverbs in the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms, sees echoes of Proverbs in the way the challenge is framed. As an example:

Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Prov. 3:9-10 NIV)

Proverbs often explicitly appeals to reward to motivate right action. Why then should God care if Job’s motivation is shaped by his material prosperity? Longman points out that godly behavior is expected no matter what – a theme that continues throughout scripture. Walton sees the challenge of this idea of reward for behavior as central to the story of Job. The “wager” that comes from the exchange between God and the accuser is not a challenge to Job per se, but a challenge of the wisdom of God’s policies.

And now we wring our hands. In the next passage Job’s wealth, servants, and children are wiped out as a test of his motivation for fear of God. Lest this worry us, we should remember that the book of Job is a thought experiment. Walton, doubtless from the experience of unnumbered students viewing the calamity from the point of view of the children, notes:

It is pointless to wring our hands over the sad fate of Job’s innocent family, for the challenge does not focus on his family and their innocence, but on God’s work in the world. The children simply represent the blessing of God, like Job’s cattle. … Their fate is part of the challenge to God’s policies, but not its focus. (p. 69 – Walton)

I also wring my hands over the poor servants – wiped out by Sabeans, Chaldeans, and the Fire of God – all to answer the accuser’s challenge. (It is not just the children who die.)

The book of Job is a thought experiment – a parable of sorts designed to make a point, not a historical account of a wager between God and Satan. It is pointless to plead the case of either the children or the servants; to do so, or to insist on the historicity of Job, or for that matter, the literal reality of the divine council, only misses the point.

What features of the prologue to Job do you find the most challenging?

Where does the standard evangelical understanding of the prologue (if there is such a thing) go wrong?

If you would like to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net.

If interested you can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

  • Mike the Geologist

    I don’t know RJS, Job uses the Hebrew word “satan” which means “adversary” in all the concordances and Hebrew dictionaries I looked up. Its the same word in Greek in Luke 10:18 Σατανᾶς
    that Jesus says he saw fall from heaven.

  • CGC

    Hi RJS,
    Okay, Walton and Longman are in agreement that this is not Satan but is there a precedent for this among the early church fathers? If there is, this would give this interpretation a link with the ancient church. If the early church has consensus on this being Satan, I would be cautious of following Walton and Longman on this one. I could come up for example with many reasons why this ancient story of of possibly talking of ‘the Satan” (and not a personal name) could be very different than what we find in the NT.

  • scotmcknight

    CGC,
    Fair points, but the first rule of interpretation is to consider the evidence itself. For instance it is quite easy to identify the serpent Gen 3 with Satan and be done with it, but the text does not say that. So I would want to consider the evidence as Walton and Longman do, and I think this has been one of the points of Tom Wright’s various comments about the ‘satan’, and to do that before asking the fathers for some wisdom. I suspect you’d agree at least in part with the drift of my points here.

  • http://www.andyrowell.net/ Andy Rowell

    Good post, RJS. Thank you. Just thought I would comment on the title of the post “the accuser is not Satan” because I was just looking at Revelation 12:9-10 where the accuser (κατήγωρ) (12:10) is the devil (Διάβολος) or Satan (Σατανᾶς) (12:9). Interesting that the LXX calls Job’s accuser (διάβολος) (Job 1:6-7).

  • nathan

    given ANE understandings of deities and their “councils” and the like, I would say the evidence of the “accuser” being more like a “royal prosecutor” than being some early expression of Lucifer is quite credible.

  • T

    Couple of questions:

    1. who authored this post, RJS or Scot? The post says RJS but the comment (#3) seems to say Scot. Just want to know who is speaking.

    2. This is interesting, even that these two scholars agree on this point (that Satan is not the “accuser/challenger” in this story, but obviously the consensus of scholars who translated the NIV (as just one example) believed it was “Satan” enough to use the term with a footnote. But perhaps this is what these committees do when their scholarship leans one way but tradition has leaned hard the other way—Go with tradition but give a footnote? I don’t know. FWIW, it appears that the ESV and HCSB translators did the same thing.

  • RJS

    T,

    I wrote the post – but I am, of course, relying on the experts (Longman and Walton in this case) in judging the issue of the identity of the accuser.

    This is a question that Longman touches on (half a page or so), and Walton devotes many pages to.

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    Good work RJS.

    It seems to me the book of Job, up til the end is a book of bad answers to the question: why does the good person suffers? Even the accuser seems to me deceived. The accusers challenge of “the policy of reward and retribution” is the precise thing upon which Job’s friends will ground their claims–and it seems the one thing God is entirely uninterested in. It seems to me, the prologue should be read as God holding his cards close to his chest until the answer at the end.

    Also, can the servants be lumped in with the children: as those Job–being a good man–would have cared for deeply?

  • Scott Gay

    Terence E. Fretheim’s “Creation Untamed…………” has an excellent section describing the book of Job as several different theologies. His approach to this chapter is as interesting.

  • Bev Mitchell

    RJS,

    “He serves as a policy watchdog.” I love it! I know some of those guys from thirty years in academia. We used to have a policy oriented little department that was so serious about the matter we instituted a policy review every fifth year. This was not really to seriously consider changing policy (I found this out when as chair for a while I tried to change something), rather, it was to make sure we were following policy and to figure out how to shore things up in areas where we appeared to be sinning. Does this remind us of any other groups?

    And the suspicion of the accuser is so completely reasonable. How do we know that Job loves God? Given his success, what’s not to love? Who wouldn’t wonder? It’s interesting that God did not seem to wonder. Perhaps he knows his children better that his policy watchdog! Should give us pause when we are tempted to judge others. It’s also instructive to note that even with Job’s inadequate theology he was restored by God.

    So, in answer to your question about challenges in Job, perhaps we always need to be learning to better see others through God’s eyes and not through the eyes of the accuser.

  • EricW

    From Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible:

    The opening chapter of the book of Job describes a gathering of the →‘sons of God’, i.e. a meeting of the divine →council. Present at this gathering is a being called haśśāṭān: this is the common noun śāṭān preceded by the definite article. The definite article makes it virtually certain that śāṭān is not a proper name (contra B. Waltke & M. O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax [Winona Lake 1990] 249). Most scholars translate haśśāṭān as ‘the Accuser’, which they understand to be a title that describes a specific role or office. However, it should be noted that no analogous office has been convincingly identified in the legal system of ancient Israel, nor do the divine councils of the surrounding cultures include a deity whose specific assignment is to be an accuser. Some scholars have argued that professional informers/accusers existed in the early Persian period, and that the śāṭān in Job 1 and 2 is modelled on these informers. The evidence for this is inconclusive. Given the uncertainty of the existence of adducible legal parallels, another possibility would be to understand the force of the definite article differently. For example, in Gen 14:13 a certain person who has escaped from a battle is referred to as happālîṭ. The precise identity of the character is not important to the story. What is important for the narrative is the character’s current and temporary status of escapee. The force of the definite article is to deemphasize precise identity and focus on the status of the character as it is relevant to the narrative plot (cf. Ezek 24:26; 33:21 and P. Joüon, Grammaire de l’Hébreu biblique [Rome 1923] 137n). Attributing this force to the definite article of haśśāṭān in Job 1:6 would lead us to understand that a certain divine being whose precise identity is unimportant and who has the current and temporary status of accuser is being introduced into the narrative. The advantage of this interpretation is that it is consistent with known Israelite (and Mesopotamian) legal practice in that ‘accuser’ was a legal status that various people temporarily acquired in the appropriate circumstances, and not a post or office.

    When Yahweh asks the śāṭān whether he has given any thought to the exemplary and indeed perfect piety of Job, the śāṭān links Job’s piety with the prosperity he enjoys as a result. If the pious inevitably prosper, how do we know that their piety is not motivated by sheer greed? Given that God is responsible for the creation and maintainance of a world order in which the righteous reap reward, what the śāṭān is in fact challenging is God’s blueprint for divine-human relations. In other words, the śāṭān is questioning the validity of a moral order in which the pious unfailingly prosper. The test of true righteousness would be worship without the promise of reward. Yahweh accepts the śāṭān’s challenge: he permits the śāṭān to sever the link between righteousness and reward. Although Job is blameless, he is made to suffer, losing first his wealth and his children, and eventually his own good health. In the end, a suffering and impoverished Job nevertheless bends his knee to a god whose world order is devoid of retributive justice, thus proving the śāṭān wrong.

    In Job, the śāṭān seems clearly to be a divine being, although most scholars would agree that śāṭān is not a proper name. Though he challenges God at a very profound level, he is nonetheless subject to God’s power and, like Yahweh’s messenger in Num 22, acts on Yahweh’s instructions. He is certainly not an independent, inimical force.

    The book of Job does not contain references to historical events, and hence dating it is problematic. Most modern scholars read it as a response to theological problems raised by the Babylonian exile and consequently date it to the latter half of the sixth century bce.

  • scotmcknight

    EricW, #11, thanks for that comment!

  • http://www.internetmonk.com chaplain mike

    I like the distinction: Job is not on trial/God is on trial. Furthermore, wisdom teaching, in particular the concept of reward/retribution is on trial. If Job was written in exilic or post-exilic times, it is likely designed to challenge the too easy assumption that Israel/Judah was simply punished via exile for her sins. Surely many righteous people were taken into captivity and suffered greatly as well.

    Two questions regarding the nature of Scripture, RJS. First, do the authors weigh in on the historicity of this story. I have always seen it as wisdom literature and therefore non-historical (though I could accept that there may have been a man named Job who suffered that it is based on). It is a hypothetical “case study” combined with poetic speeches which stand for various strands of wisdom teaching that are being challenged. If this is the case, then the identity of the “accuser” is really a moot point in terms of our actually theology of Satan.

    Second, if my perspective is correct, then this shows that one characteristic of the OT is that it is a conversation about God and his ways that includes debate and disagreement. The author is positing that other wisdom literature is not always an accurate portrayal of reality. The confident assertions of Proverbs about who gets rewarded and who gets punished don’t always hold true. We don’t always reap what we sow. Some of the exiles who trusted God and loved their neighbors, who were nevertheless swept off to Babylon, should realize that it is not as simple as the Deuteronomic History and other wisdom teachers were making it.

  • Rodney Reeves

    Isn’t it possible that “the Satan” changed over time? The early version in Job reveals a divine function that became more sinister, leading to the advesarial figure of the NT?

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Yes Scot, I do agree with your point.
    Bev, great thoughts (thanks)
    I like Eric’s post (it covers a lot but doesn’t wrap things up neatly either)

    If the argument by Walton and Longman is that the serpent (in Genesis) or the Adverary (in Job) is not directly Satan then they may have a point. But it seems they go further here in the book of Job and suggest they have no connection or association with Satan. Here is the rub for me. I can agree with what they affirm but I am not sure I would agree with what they deny? From a scholarly perspective, they may be right. But since there is a spiritual side to exegesis for me, they seem to miss the deeper meaning of Scripture here (particularly the meaning that Christians have understood from the earliest times till the present).

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Rodney makes a great point here as well. A kind of evolution of Satan or possibly a seed idea that grows into a tree that looks quite different in the NT.

    Mike, I agree that we should be careful of pushing poetic or figurative or symblic language too far but the book of Job is teaching theology whether it is historical or not. It seems like you may be driving a wedge between can we learn anything about Satan from this non-historical narrative as those on the other side who say, if its not historical, then it’s not true or have any real meaning today. I just think we have got to get pass this kind of impasse and bifurication today.

  • Bev Mitchell

    CGC (15, 16),

    Yes, we have difficulty explaining a lot of things if we are reluctant to include spiritual reality, of both the good and the bad sort. I don’t know if these authors are actively avoiding such un-scientific conclusions, but it can seem so at times.

    God is spirit and creates through spirit. The Bible strongly suggests that spiritual beings exist which oppose God, so presumably, when these affect material creation they function through spirit as well. Thus, spiritual reality can and does affect material reality. We know next to nothing about spiritual reality but have discovered much about material reality. It irks us to no end to not be able to explain, at all, how spiritual reality affects material reality, for good or for ill – to create and sustain or to oppose creation and destroy. Apparently this epistemological deficit was/is not an embarrassment to the eastern Hebrew mind. We Greeks would do well to get over it too!

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    EricW (11). I like this section and wanted to challenge the following, “When Yahweh asks the śāṭān whether he has given any thought to the exemplary and indeed perfect piety of Job, the śāṭān links Job’s piety with the prosperity he enjoys as a result. If the pious inevitably prosper, how do we know that their piety is not motivated by sheer greed? Given that God is responsible for the creation and maintainance of a world order in which the righteous reap reward, what the śāṭān is in fact challenging is God’s blueprint for divine-human relations. In other words, the śāṭān is questioning the validity of a moral order in which the pious unfailingly prosper. The test of true righteousness would be worship without the promise of reward. Yahweh accepts the śāṭān’s challenge: he permits the śāṭān to sever the link between righteousness and reward. Although Job is blameless, he is made to suffer, losing first his wealth and his children, and eventually his own good health. In the end, a suffering and impoverished Job nevertheless bends his knee to a god whose world order is devoid of retributive justice, thus proving the śāṭān wrong.”

    How does this work into the whirlwind scene? It seems that God’s motives must be much bigger than merely “proving the satan wrong.” This would be the common challenge to the character of God many often read in this text. If at the end of the book the conclusion is “might makes right” certainly that is a downer.

  • Johannes

    Does the Satan/ a Satan figure ever operate in what we would deem freedom? Or is he an agent of the Divine that like death and Hades has no place in the coming Kingdom? I see less trouble connecting this figure to the NT figure, then connecting the collection of satan figures to the Lucifer figure in Isaiah or the King of Tyre figure in Ezekiel

  • Phil Miller

    I don’t remember for sure because it’s been quite a while since I read it, but I sort of remember Terrence Fretheim mentioning in God and World in the Old Testament the possibility that ‘the satan’ was something of heavenly prosecutor who went rogue. While at one point he was doing the work of God, eventually, he went overboard with his accusations to the point in the New Testament where Jesus is delivering people from His work. Again, I could be misremembering the author, but for some reason Fretheim sticks in my mind.

  • Norman

    I tend to being a little less dogmatic on the subject of who Satan/accuser represents. If he can be classified as a “policy watchdog” then perhaps he is inclined toward legalism which would possibly infer someone not entirely helpful to God. However I think as RJS has presented from Walton and Longman that there is enough nuance to indicate a more subtle purpose toward the accuser. I tend to the idea that an unbiased prosecutor would be a little more even handed than the accuser thus perhaps there is commentary regarding the attitude portrayed. Yet the purpose of the literature has to come into play within the context in which RJS presents from Walton and Longman which is very important.

    Also keep in mind that the Jews may have been considered “sons of God” and especially the priesthood. Yet they were sometimes identified as Children of Satan by Christ when their ideas didn’t translate with God’s.

  • John McCauslin

    But the pious do not receive rewards in this world with any degree of certainty. So the premise that this is a challenge to God’s blueprint is questionable.

    I have always read the story as an exploration of ways of interpreting God’s role in human suffering and an affirmation of acceptable ways of responding. As for the role of the satan in all of this, I have interpreted it as a way fictive way of relieving God of direct responsibility for it. But Human suffering is a reality. Job and his friends struggle to find justice in what has befallen him. Job concludes that the claim of divinely executed reciprocal fairness will not explain the matter. Bad things happen to good people. It is unfair to the notion of a good God to presume that our blessings and woes are directly attributable to our level of piety.

    And when we are overwhelmed with suffering, the story affirms that in all of his wailing and challenging, Job remained sinless. Though he complains and cries out for justice, Job never doubted the goodness of God, and Job fairly and honestly sought only to understand how the goodness of God could coexist with his profound suffering.

    In the end, while Job is denied an answer, Job is reassured with a response, when the divine voice which communicates to Job that God is vitally aware of what Job has endured, and that in the depths of his suffering, Job is justified in remainng confident of God’s abiding and steadfast love. In the same response God communicates that Job’s friends’ explanations, which favor a God of of stark justice and harsh and merciless retribution, are not just wrong, but are wrong to the point of offending God.

    I have always presumed (perhaps with less criticality than I should) that the prologue, epilogue and the intrusion of Elihu were the result of later editors who were not willing to accept the core story’s main premise and thus could not let go of the paradigm of a God who always rewards piety and always punishes rule-breakers.

  • Tim Atwater

    Thanks for this post and for all the comments. (All.)

    Those of us who have a copy of Walter Wink’s Unmasking the Powers (Fortress, 1986) may do well to re-read the first chapter, “Satan,” which looks at pretty much all the scriptural references to satan, including the less-direct (The Accuser) ones… (I don’t know if the revised and abridged version of Wink’s powers trilogy (titled if i remember rightly, The Powers That Be) has the whole chapter or not, but guessing it will have most of it…)
    Wink attempts an ‘evolution of satan’ approach, that whatever it’s shortfalls, is still the best I’ve seen on this difficult topic…
    Read it if possible…

    grace and peace be…

  • CGC

    Hi Tim,
    Although I believe Wink is on to something showing the evolution of Satan, he does exactly what Bev speaks in an earlier post of translating the spiritual out of the equation. Principalities and powers are not dark spiritual forces but evil sociological structures of society. Even though I believe Wink has done a tremendous service to the church to bring back into the fray of the discussion how evil works through the large human structures of society (therefore there is institutional or structural evil that needs to be dealt with and not just personal evil), he unhinges the spriritual from the material. This still needs to be a both/and issue and not an either/or one.

  • EricW

    @Jeff Cook:

    I suspect the interpretations of Job are varied, and don’t have a sure answer to the questions you and others ask. I was just posting what I thought might be a relevant scholarly piece from a resource I enjoy consulting. http://www.amazon.com/Dictionary-Deities-Demons-Second-Edition/dp/0802824919 I also have it in Logos.

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    EricW (25) Sounds good.

  • http://www.internetmonk.com chaplain mike

    CGC #16. I spoke in shorthand and I’m sorry if that was confusing. I’m not saying we can’t learn anything theologically from Job, even perhaps about Satan. I’m merely saying that the accuser in this story is a plot device through whom the challenge to wisdom is set forth. The accuser may or may not fit with Jewish theological concepts of the satan; that is a separate issue. Many Christians however, that I have known, read this story as if it were historical reporting from heaven, and therefore we can learn specific facts about the spiritual realm and the role of the Devil in it. That’s the point I think is moot if we understand Job as non-historical.

  • Percival

    Eric #11,
    Although in English the definite article indicates a title rather than a name, this is often not the case with all Semitic languages. Arabic (the only Semitic language I know) often uses definite articles for names. Allah (a loan word from Aramaic) and Ash-Shaitan are examples. There are numerous other examples. (Also, all evil spirits are called satans in Arabic but that may only be the case for the last few thousand years.) I still think Walton and Longman are right, but I wouldn’t put too much stock in the definite article to solve the problem. The context of the setting and the late history of the character of Satan are more indicative that this is not a name.

  • Percival

    Oh, and of course we use The Devil in English as well. Definite article and also a name.

  • RJS

    Percival,

    I would say that devil isn’t a name – it is descriptive of a function, and we use the definite article to denote a specific devil.

    In a similar was we might say The Senator or The President or The CEO or The Pastor.

    Satan is the accuser, but the accuser in Job is not Satan as understood in later Jewish or Christian tradition. The accuser of Job 1-2 fulfills a specific role in the story.

  • CGC

    Thanks Mike,
    I take it your words are more dealing with reading Job from an over-literalistic interpretation. I think I am more in ageement with you although there are some folks on the other extreme side of things who empty out any real substance or meaning from the symbols and types of Scripture.

  • Percival

    The devil is in the details. (Not a name)
    The Devil made me do it. (Name)
    It would be incorrect to not capitalize the second example, which indicates a proper noun. Yes, it starts as an office and morphs into a title and finally a name. “The accuser” probably does not need to be capitalized (and neither does “the pastor”). Sorry to belabor the point, but as a linguist, it is an occupational hazard for me. You may henceforth refer to me as The Linguist if you like. :)

  • Bev Mitchell

    Percival, 32 aka The Linguist
    And boy do we need the help. I just recently woke up to Gospels vs the gospel (Enns I think was the linguist that time). These kinds of details can even change the meaning, or at least sow doubt of all kinds. Thanks.

  • http://www.internetevangelismday.com Tony Whittaker

    If it’s an extended parable-like story, then is not the author allowed considerable flexibility in the way satan and God are introduced and interact? Indeed, that’s one of the many features that convinced me this is not intended to be a historical narrative. Though even to suggest that to many dear people would get me shot.

    Blessings

    Tony

  • Marshall

    Perhaps the Satan has the function of an Inspector General; he has just come back from walking to and fro on the world, inspecting. If so, his reply to God is more than a little snarky: actually as emphasized, everything around Job is quite perfectly in order. So, like the Serpent in the Garden, he changes the subject with a challenge to God, to the perfect orderliness of things. God accepts the challenge (… or takes the bait …). In the end, God is vindicated. The Satan is presumeably humiliated, but doesn’t appear again in the text, so this frame is incomplete.* You would have to say the book is rather about Job with his Friends.

    * Maybe there used to be a different chapter 42. An attractive, although hopeless, notion.

  • chris white

    okay–you all got me thinking and confused. But what about looking at Job in a Christological way? Like maybe–he is a type of Christ? Jesus lived blameless. he then suffered massively–even being betrayed or abandoned by those close to him. Yet in the end, his rewards will be Great! Hebrews 12 comes to mind. Just thinking out loud.

  • Mike M

    A few thoughts. What if there really is a Divine Council made up of “Sons of God?” This implies a divine family and perhaps human existence is an an experiment of God’s in which He wants us to join His family?
    Is Job even Jewish? I don’t read this here.
    What if the Accuser is Jesus, who claims to be a “Son of God and a Son of Man?”

  • Paul D.

    The premise here seems a little disingenuous.

    Of course Satan is the Accuser. That’s what Satan (and Diabolos, the devil) literally means, whether taken as a name or as a title. That’s the divine, mythical character (or characters) we see at work in the tempting of David in Chronicles, the bet with God in Job, the accusations against Joshua in Zechariah, and the tempting of Jesus in the Gospels.

    Perhaps you mean the Accuser of Job isn’t a supreme evil being with hoofs and a trident. True enough, but that being doesn’t actually exist, except in Zoroastrian myth and the versions of Christianity it influenced.

  • EricW

    I vote for story, not history.

  • http://patheos.org David Gibbs

    I fear we may be overlooing some salient points. The final and critical issue which is made is found in In Job 42: 1-6. There Job admits he was wrong and he repents fully, unreservedly and unconditionally . in otherwords the point of the book of Job is that God wishes to bring the best behaved most exemplary person – Job – to repentance, not merely to show-off how righteous and perfect Job is. Repentance from what? Fom the challenging God’s soverignty. From the notion that surrender to God can be negotiated. Repentance from the idea that surrender to God is not absolute, but is constrained/conditioned by our good behaviour which we can use as a bargaining chip. That we can “get time off” for good behaviour. The matter of bad things happening to good people is a mute point since if even Job had to repent for seeking to undermind and contest God’s soverignty, then surely we all are never “good people” in the sense that repentenace is not always in order

  • Phil Miller

    David,
    Where does Job ever challenge God’s sovereignty? It sounds like you’re saying the Book of Job can be used as an apologetic for total depravity. I don’t think that’s the point of the book at all. It seems simply to that the point of God and Job’s interaction is that there are things that are beyond Job’s understanding, and that even if God gave him an answer he wouldn’t understand it. It would be like trying to explain calculus to a two-year old. I don’t think Job is repenting out of guilt for wrongdoing, per se. I think he’s repenting because he sees God.

  • Percival

    Job did indeed have a mute point. He said, “I place my hand over my mouth.” :)

  • John McCauslin

    I disagree that Job repented of his challenges to God’s sovereignty. I agree with Phil Miller. I don’t read Job as challenging God’s authority, but as a sincere search for answers to his dilemma, how can he integrate what has befallen him with the notion of a Good and Just God. He is certain that God is Good and that God is Just – he just can’t make the logical connection between the spiritual truth and the physical truth of his suffering. And he knows that the only source for an answer is God. He has rejected his friend’s counsel because the God they describe is far from Good and Just. SO he pleads with God for understanding. And God indeed responds, communicating to Job that what he asks for cannot be granted.

    But at the same time, God’s very appearance communicates God’s Goodness, God’s Justice and especially God’s personal loving regard for Job. Job is literally and figuratively dumbfounded. God’s personal appearance, especially when contrasted with the vastness of God’s creative endeavor which God has just summarized, tells Job all he needs to know: that God cares enough to listen to us when we cry out. Job’s response is essentially saying, ‘What am I that you would regard me?’ Perhaps Job repents, but I think it is not that he repents of any inappropriate challenges to God’s sovereignty, but of his wavering trust in God.

  • Stephen Hesed

    The Accuser is definitely Satan. I mean, the Hebrew is literally ha-satan – “the accuser/adversary.” The Accuser reappears in Zechariah 3 accusing the High Priest Joshua even more aggressively than he accuses Job. YHWH goes as far to rebuke the Accuser, implying that the relationship between the two is (or has become) adversarial. It’s widely thought that the temptation of Jesus narrative in Matthew 4 intentionally echoes the language of Zechariah 3, as the Greek version of the earlier passage translates “Joshua” as “Jesus” and uses the same word for the Accuser that Matthew uses for the devil. So I believe that “the satan” introduced in Job is the same Satan we see as the main enemy in the New Testament.

    This also helps to explain the Christus Victor view of the atonement. Since Satan was originally the prosecutor in God’s court, human sin gave him a claim on humanity, which was then voided by the atonement. Looking at it this way is totally compatible with penal substitution etc.

  • Jonathan

    If Job is indeed a moral fable, then I suppose the identity of the Accuser could change across history and culture. In our skeptical world, I suppose he is a stand-in for anyone who has doubted someone’s piety in light of prosperity (a large sample, indeed). Remember when Dave Ramsey was lampooned recently for having a huge house?


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