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Deeper Commentary

Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz- Later scripture assumes that Job was a real historical person (Ez. 14:14; James 5:11), although the entire book is poetry, and clearly isn't to be taken as real time recording of words spoken. It is a drama, concluding with a thunderstorm approaching and the revelation of God Himself. "The whole is divided into three parts—the prologue, poem proper, and epilogue. The poem, into three—(1) The dispute of Job and his three friends; (2) The address of Elihu; (3) The address of God. There are three series in the controversy, and in the same order. The epilogue also is threefold; Job's justification, reconciliation with his friends, restoration".

As will be noted further on this chapter, it would seem he lived in patriarchal times. This would explain why there is no reference to the exodus from Egypt, which is to be found in nearly all subsequent scripture apart from Job. Uz appears to be the relative of Abraham of Gen. 22:21. But much of scripture was rewritten under inspiration at the time of the restoration and also in Hezekiah's time. This explains why ancient Hebrew terms are used along with later Hebrew, with copious connections to the restoration prophecies of later Isaiah. And as noted on :7, there is allusion to Persian concepts too- appropriate if the book was reapplied to the Jews in Persia. Judah and Israel in captivity were struggling with the questions raised in the drama of Job; Job and his children become representative of God's people. His children suffered because of their sins. Job as the righteous remnant also suffered, but was restored. This speaks of the restoration from exile possible for Judah and Israel. They for the most part refused it. But the key was for the faithful remnant to appreciate that they too had sinned, as Job did, even though they were pleasing to God. All was under God's control; the book deconstructs the popular views of evil, a satan being, and suffering being a direct consequence of personal sin. This was required for the exiles. We note that Job is not presented as a Jew, but one of the surrounding peoples related to Abraham. The hero is not strongly Jewish and is presented without genealogy; and that was a lesson for the exiles too, for the prophetic intention was that Jews and Gentiles would repent and form a multiethnic people of God in the restored Kingdom. The name of Yahweh is likewise not mentioned until Yahweh is revealed at the very end of the book. They had effectively forgotten His Name in exile, in real spiritual terms; but through their sufferings and repentance, His Name would be revealed to them at the end.

Whose name was Job- He appears to be the "Jobab" of 1 Chron. 5, indeed the LXX states he is this person. "Job" may come from an Arabic word meaning 'repentance'; and that really is the appeal of the book, for the repentance of God's people, especially the exiles, so that God's saving purpose might be brought forward. The problem of suffering is secondary to this theme of the book.

That man was blameless- God's opinion of Job was that he was "blameless". But as the drama progresses, Bildad argues that if Job were in fact "blameless" then God would not cast him away (Job 8:20 s.w.). Job absorbs this reasoning, and confesses that he is not "blameless" (Job 9:20,21 s.w.), and yet he is driven to the conclusion that the "blameless" and sinner are "destroyed together" by God (Job 9:22 s.w.). It's quite possible that in depression and periods of suffering, we can come to have a lower view of ourselves than that which God has of us; just as at other times we can have a higher view of ourselves spiritually than we ought to. There is true guilt, the guilt which we should take, and false guilt. And Job seems to have picked up the false guilt thrown upon him by Bildad. We too need to learn this difference between false and true guilt.

And upright- God's opinion of Job was that he was "upright". But as the drama progresses, the friends argue that if Job were in fact "upright" then God would not be afflicting him (Job 4:7; 8:6 s.w.). Job absorbs this reasoning, and confesses that he is not "upright" and therefore cannot find God (Job 23:7,8 s.w.). As discussed above, he absorbs false guilt and becomes influenced by the guilt placed upon him by his religion and "friends" amongst the "sons of God".

And one who feared God- A true son of Abraham and Joseph (s.w. Gen. 22:12; 42:18). It seems Job lived in the patriarchal age. The phrase is also used about the righteous remnant amongst the captives in Babylon / Persia, for whom this book was apparently rewritten to comfort them (Is. 50:10).

And turned away from the evil- Job begins the book by being described as a man who shunned [the Hebrew word is also translated “to be without” and “to reject”] ra, “evil”. Michel understands ra here to refer to ‘the evil one’, the Canaanite god of evil, whom Job disbelieved and rejected (W.L. Michel, Job in the Light of Northwest Semitic (Rome: Bible Institute Press, 1987) Vol. 1 p. 29). One of the many themes in Job is the deconstruction of the 'satan' myths of the time, many of which are alive and well today. See on Job 3:8. Job was aware that he had indeed "turned away from evil" and feared God; it was those things, rather than the traditional wisdom of the friends, which he came to see was the true "understanding" (Job 28:28 s.w.). The phrase is also used about the righteous remnant amongst the captives in Babylon / Persia, for whom this book was apparently rewritten to comfort them (Is. 59:15). See on Ps. 34:14.

Job 1:2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters-
Having ten children may invite us to connect Job with the ten tribe kingdom of Israel; their sufferings in captivity, along with those of Judah, elicited the kinds of questions discussed in the book of Job.

Job 1:3 His possessions also were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys and a very great household-

The lack of reference to horses would indicate that Job lived in patriarchal times, before horses were introduced to the Middle East from Asia. The huge number of camels suggests he lived near the desert, which corroborates with the reference to marauding Arab bands (:15) and a desert wind coming upon the tents (:19). This kind of internal harmony within the Biblical record is to me the greatest evidence of its veracity.

So that this man was the greatest of all the children of the east-

Job was the “greatest of all the men of the east” (Job 1:3), the Hebrew implying the eldest, the most senior. The friends were older than Job, and take pleasure in reminding him of the wisdom of the ‘elders’. He had risen above his place, got too great too quick, and therefore they were intent on proving to him that actually he was not so great, he had sinned, and they by their supposed wisdom and understanding were really greater than him. And they bent their theology, their guesswork as to his possible sins, to that subconscious end- of justifying themselves and pulling Job down beneath them by their interpretations of his misfortunes. What this indicates is that during their period of ‘friendship’ previously, they had nursed unconscious feelings of jealousy against him. The lesson for us is to re-examine our friendships, our loyalties, to see if they carry the same feature; a desire to ‘be in with’ the popular and the successful, to catch some reflected glory. The conversion of Job led him to understand the fickleness of his friends, and to pray for them in it.

Job 1:4 His sons went and held a feast in the house of each one on his birthday; and they sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them-
Seven times a year they had these feasts "on their day" (Heb.), i.e. their birthday (Job 3:1). They each had their own houses, admittedly on the edge of the desert (:19) and were not tent dwellers.

Job 1:5 It was so, when the days of their feasting had come to an end, that Job sent and sanctified them-
Perhaps the idea is that he sent for them and sanctified them.

And rose up early in the morning- The characteristic of Abraham; Job is presented as Abraham's seed.

And offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all- There were 10 children, and he offered seven times / year (:4), meaning he offered 70 sacrifices / year for them all. He is presented as carefully and generously obedient to Divine principles of sacrifice, although all those sacrifices didn't save his children from a judgment which (we can infer) they deserved. We see developing the picture of God's people being judged by their neighbours for their sins, despite their receipt of great blessing from God and the existence of a righteous remnant amongst them, represented by Job. For Judah went into captivity because of their feasting (Is. 5:12 s.w.).


For Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and renounced God in their hearts- The same phrase used by his wife when she urged Job to renounce God (Job 2:9). It would seem that the family had indeed done this. The sons or children (s.w.) of Israel did indeed sin and therefore went into exile (s.w. Is. 1:4).

Job did so continually- "Continually" is Heb. 'all the days', i.e. the birthdays of the sons (:4 cp. Job 3:1). There is good reason, linguistically and theologically, to think that the events of Job occurred early in spiritual history (compare the mentions of "Jobab" and some of the friends in 1 Chron. 5). There are also many links with the early chapters of Genesis. We should therefore see Satan's description of himself as being in the context of Gen. 4:12-14, where Cain is made a wanderer in the earth because of his bitter jealousy against his righteous brother. So the satan may have been another believer who was in some sense 'out of fellowship', represented by an Angel before the court of heaven, who still came to the gatherings of the believers to express his envy of Job. The reference to the sons of God coming together in worship before a priest or altar comes straight after the record of Job's children holding rather riotous birthday parties (1:4). "All the days", each day they did this, Job offered sacrifice for them; but then "there was a day" when the sons of God came to keep a feast to Yahweh. It seems that we are led to connect the keeping of days. It could be that the sons of God were in fact Job's children. They came together to party and kill their fatted calves, and then they came together to kill their sacrifices; like Corinth, they mixed the table of the Lord with the table of their own pleasure.


LXX adds "offered sacrifices for them, according to their number, and one calf for a sin-offering for their souls", as if they really had sinned.

Sanctified them- Job prayed God would forgive his children in case they sinned. The friends mocked this in Job 5:4; 8:4; 17:5 and 20:10, saying that the children of the foolish die for their own sins, whereas, by implication, Job had figured that his prayers and sacrifices could gain them forgiveness. Yet in the end, Yahweh stated that Job had understood Him and His principles right, whereas the friends hadn’t.

Job 1:6 Now it happened on the day when the sons of God-
“Sons of God” can refer to God's people (Rom. 8:14; 2 Cor. 6:17-18; 1 Jn. 3:7). Angels do not bring false accusations against believers “before the Lord” (2 Pet. 2:11) It cannot be conclusively proved that Satan was a son of God - he “came among them”.  The “sons of God”- the believers at that time- presented themselves before a priest or angel, perhaps at a religious feast. Someone there, maybe one of the worshippers, reflected that it was not surprising that Job was such a strong believer, seeing that God had so richly blessed him. God gave that person the power to afflict Job, to demonstrate that Job’s love of God was not proportionate to the blessings God had given him. Maybe the Satan was composed of Job’s three “friends” - they are rebuked at the end of the book (notice that “satan” is not rebuked by name). They were these "sons of God" who heard the reasoning of the satan, and they take over from the satan after he disappears from the story at the end of Job 2. The satan morphs into the friends. Their discussions with Job indicate that they had their doubts as to his integrity and suspected that his faith was now weak because God had taken away the blessings from him - “But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest: it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled...who ever perished (which it looked as though Job was going to), being innocent?” Eliphaz pointed out (Job 4:5 ,7).

Came to present themselves before Yahweh- "Before Yahweh" doesn't mean 'in Heaven'; the phrase is often used bout appearing before Yahweh's representatives such as priests or Angels. The angel which led Israel through the wilderness was called “the Lord” because it carried God’s name (Ex. 23:20,21), but it was not God himself in person (Ex. 33:20 cp. :12). Similarly, priests represent God (2 Chron. 19:6) and to come before them was to come “before the Lord” (Dt. 19:17). Cain “went out from the presence of the Lord” (Gen. 4:16) - not out of heaven but probably away from the presence of the angel - cherubim. Jesus was presented as a baby “before the Lord” (Lk. 2:22)- i.e. before the priest. How can Satan be in heaven and also on the earth in Job’s time when, according to popular belief, he was thrown out at the time of Adam, or in 1914, according to the “Watchtower”? There cannot be sin or rebellion against God in heaven (Ps. 5:4,5; Hab. 1:13; Mt. 6:10; Ps. 103:19-21).

That Satan also came among them- Even if the “satan” (adversary) to Job was an angel, there is no reason to think it was sinful. An angel asked Abraham to offer Isaac to find out exactly how obedient Abraham would be, hence he said, “Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Gen. 22:12). Similarly the angel which guided Israel out of Egypt, “led thee these forty years in the wilderness to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no” (Dt. 8:2). God himself knows all things, but the angels bring problems into the lives of their charges in order to see how they will respond. It may be possible to understand Job’s satan like this. Remember that an evidently righteous angel was called a “satan” in Num. 22:22. Much has been made of the fact that in Job 1 and in Zech. 3:1,2 we read of ha satan, the adversary. In Hebrew as in English, the definite article is significant. If I refer to myself as a personal, specific individual / being, I say "Duncan". To speak of "the Duncan" would be a description of a function, more than a reference to my personal name. Sitting at a restaurant table, you might call out: "Waiter!", intending a specific individual. You'd only speak of "the waiter" when describing his function- e.g. "The waiter served me badly". Hebrew and English operate in the same way here. So when we read in Job 1 and Zechariah 3 of the  satan, ha satan, we're not reading of 'A specific person whose personal proper name is 'Satan''. Rather we're reading of a person who functioned as a satan or adversary. Dianne Bergant makes the point: "The word 'satan' appears with an article indicating that here the word is a title or description and not a proper name" (Dianne Bergant, Job, Ecclesiastes (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1982) p. 27). In other words, 'the satan' isn't the personal name of a personal being called Satan. It's a description of the function of a character, as an adversary. Note that the man Haman is called ho diabolos in Esther 7:4 LXX. The Russian literary analyst Vladimir Propp has shown that all stories, folklore etc. of that time contained characters with a set function- there was the hero, the companion, the friends / bystanders, and the adversary (Vladimir Propp, Theory And History Of Folklore, ed. Anatoly Liberman (Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press, 1984); Morphology Of The Folktale (Austin: University Of Texas Press, 1968). ). Whilst I accept that Job was a historical character, the way the book is written in such structured Hebrew poetry shows for sure that the events were 'written up' in story / ballad form. And so when the initial readership encountered "the adversary", ha satan, they wouldn't have thought of him as a cosmic being of evil. The presence of someone functioning as "the adversary" would've been quite normal to them. If we follow through the argument of the book, the logical answer of Job to the friends' allegations would have been "I'm suffering because Satan has it in for me! He's doing this, not God!". For the friends were reasoning that God was bringing such affliction into Job's life because Job was a sinner. The fact Job doesn't make this obvious retort indicates to me that "the Satan" wasn't understood by either Job nor the friends as a personal supernatural being of evil.

It must be noted that the satan never occurs again, under that name. The real adversary of Job was his " friends" ; and in God's final judgment, it is they who are condemned, not 'satan'. It is therefore reasonable to see a connection between the satan and the 'friends' of Job; they too walked to and fro in the earth in order to come to him, as it seems satan did at the beginning. And we pause here for another lesson. The great satan / adversary of Job turned out to be those he thought were his friends in the ecclesia. And so it has been, time and again, in our experience: our sorest trials often come from the words of our brethren. Without underestimating the physical affliction of Job, his real adversary was his brethren. Rather than bemoaning his physical affliction, he commented how his friends had become his satans (Job 19:19) And so with the Lord Jesus, whom Job so accurately typified. Again, without minimizing the material agony of His flesh, the essential piercing was from His rejection at the hands of those He died for. For other reasons to connect the satan with the friends, see on Job 6:19; 8:6; 12:6;  19:28.


But the "Sons of God" of Job 1:6 are interpreted as Angels in Job 38:7. There is nothing in itself wrong with an Angel being called a satan- we have examples of this in Num. 22:22 and 1 Chron. 21:1. We know that Angels can't sin: and yet they are limited in knowledge (e.g. Mt. 24:36). An Angel commented that now he knew that Abraham feared God, after he had seen his willingness to offer Isaac (Gen. 22:12); Israel's guardian Angel lead them through the wilderness in order to learn about Israel's spirituality (Dt. 8:2,3). God Himself, of course, already knew the hearts of men. The sons of God coming before Yahweh suggests a scene in the court of Heaven, similar to that of 2 Chron. 18:19-21, where the Angels appear before Yahweh to discuss the case of Ahab, and then one Angel is empowered by God to carry out his suggestion.  Those Angels represented God's people on earth; this is why the interpretation of the Satan can equally apply to both the people of God at the time, gathering before a priest; and to their representative Angels gathered before the throne of God in the court of Heaven. Satan going out from the presence of Yahweh, empowered by Him to afflict Job, would correspond with other references to Angels 'going out' from God's presence to execute what had been agreed in the heavenly assembly (Ps. 37:36; 81:5; Zech. 2:3; 5:5; Lk. 22:22; Heb. 1:14).

In the same way as the earthly tabernacle was a pattern of the Heavenly system (Heb. 9:24), so it would appear that each of us has an Angelic representative in Heaven, appearing before the presence of God’s glory in what we are invited to see as the court of Heaven. Angels can also represent a whole group – e.g., an ecclesia (Rev. 1:20). So closely identified with their charges are these Angels, that they themselves are rebuked (e.g. Rev. 2:5) – not that they sinned, of course, but because they represented those ecclesias in the Heavenly court.


Satan describes himself as going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it (1:7)- using exactly the language of Zech. 1:11 concerning the Angels. The way that the satan smote Job with a skin disease (Job 2:7) would suggest that he was not only a mere man; accepting an Angel-satan solves this problem. No unaided man could have brought a skin disease upon Job. If the satan refers to a righteous Angel, it is likewise easier to understand why all the problems which the satan brought are described as God bringing them (especially as Job may have conceived of God in terms of an Angel). It is also understandable why there is no rebuke of the satan at the end. For other connections between the satan and Angels, see on Job 1:14,16,19; 4:5; 5:7; 6:9,10; 14:3; 16:9; 19:8.


It has been correctly observed that we don’t read of ‘Satan’ after the prologue to Job. Instead we read only of God bringing the afflictions into Job’s life. But the friends, and Job himself, struggle to explain those afflictions in terms of the current ideas in the surrounding world. This may not be immediately evident, because the Hebrew of Job is notoriously hard to translate. But closer attention to the text reveals that there is repeated mention of the various beings and forces of evil which were thought to be in competition with God. It seems that the story of Job originated very early in Biblical history, in the times of the patriarchs. And yet the book has many connections with the latter half of Isaiah – just take a glance down the marginal cross references in Job, and see how often the later chapters of Isaiah are referenced. My suggestion is that the book was rewritten and edited [under Divine inspiration] during the captivity in Babylon, as a message especially relevant for the Jewish exiles as they struggled with the temptation to accept Babylonian mythological explanations of evil. This would explain the allusions to both early Canaanite and later Babylonian views of the ‘Satan’ figure. And we recall from Is. 45:5–7 how Israel’s God was at pains to remind the exiles of His omnipotence, that He is the only God and source of power in creation, and that both good and disaster, light and darkness, are ultimately His creation; and the surrounding Gentile myths about these things were totally wrong. This is in fact the theme of the book of Job. Susan Garrett points out how Babylonian views of a dualistic cosmos, with God creating good and the ‘Satan’ figure creating evil, began to influence Jewish thought. She shares my view that the purpose of the book of Job was to counter this: “The story of Job checked an escalation in the power and authority that were ascribed to the Satan–figure, by the repeated and unambiguous assertions in Job 1–2 that Satan had obtained the authority to test Job from none other than God” (Susan Garrett, The Temptations of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998) p. 49).

The references to ‘Satan’–like beings and related myths in the book of Job is in order to ultimately deconstruct them as false, and to re-iterate the utter omnipotence of Yahweh as the only source of power, the only God. And this of course we would expect from an Old Testament, God–inspired book. It’s been suggested by literary critics that the prologue which mentions Satan (Job chapters 1 and 2) and epilogue (Job 42:7–17) were likely written before the poetic discourses – they appear to be “an Israelite revision of an older Canaanite or Edomite epic poem expressing their views on the age–old problem of evil” (Douglas Wingeier, What About the Devil? A Study of Satan in the Bible and Christian Tradition (Nashville: Abingdon, 2006) p. 15. More documentation of this is to be found in The Interpreter’s Bible, ed. George Buttrick, (Nashville: Abingdon, 1954) Vol. 3 pp. 878,879). Thus those ideas are alluded to and deconstructed – God is presented as all powerful, and the ‘Satan’ beliefs as untrue.

Job 1:7 Yahweh said to Satan, Where have you come from? Then Satan answered Yahweh and said, From going back and forth in the earth, and from walking up and down in it-
There is no implication that he was doing anything sinful. Zech. 1:11 implies that this is a Hebraism for observing. The references to 'wandering about on the face of the earth' have great similarities with the language used to describe the Persian empire's spies, called "The King's Eye"- a kind of agent of the King who wandered around picking up information and reporting back to him. But of course, "The King's Eye" was on the King's side and not working against him! (More documentation of this in Rivkah Kluger, The Satan Of The Old Testament (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1967). This view is confirmed in other research by Harry Torczyner, The Book Of Job (Jerusalem: Kiryat-Sefer, 1981) pp. 38-45. Note that Torczyner also interprets the Satan as being in God's service, and not in opposition to Him: "The figure and role of the Satan derives from the Persian secret service... We now understand that there are in God's service, as in that of any earthly king, secret roving officials, who go and come and report to him on the doings of his subjects"). Satan's walking / running "to and fro in the earth / land" and reporting back to God about an individual is thus very much taken from the Persian idea of the King's "evil eye", "the eye of the King", a kind of agent provocateur, a secret police-type agent, travelling around the Kingdom and reporting back to the King about suspect individuals. It also has an evident connection with the Zechariah passages which speaks of the Angels in the time of the exile and restoration from Persia "running to and fro in the earth" on God's behalf (Zech. 1:10,11; 4:10). The implication of course was that God and His Angels, and not the Persian King and his agents, were the ones really in control of the land. It's maybe significant that the Septuagint translates "going to and fro" in Job 1:7 with the word peripatei- and we find the same word in 1 Pet. 5:8 about the adversary of the early Christians 'going about' seeking them- a reference to the agents of the Roman and Jewish systems. I have elsewhere demonstrated that much of the Hebrew Bible was rewritten [under Divine inspiration] in Babylon, to bring out relevant issues for the Jewish exiles in Babylon. This includes the book of Job. It can be understood as an allegory- Job, the suffering servant of the Lord, becomes a type of Israel, the suffering servant of Isaiah's later prophecies. There are many links between Isaiah's prophecies and Job- a glance down the margin of most reference Bibles will indicate that. Just as the returning exiles faced 'satans' in the form of local Arabic opposition, so did Job. The Zechariah 3:1,2 passage uses the word 'satan' to describe this opposition to the returned exiles. Note that both Zechariah 3 and Job 1 use the idea of a Heavenly court. As God put a fence around Job (Job 1:10), so He was a "wall of fire" to the returning exiles (Zech. 2:5). And his final triumph and restoration, by God's grace, was intended as a prototype for Judah in captivity. J.B. Russell mentions a Babylonian document consisting of a dialogue between a sufferer and his friend (J.B. Russell, The Devil (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977) p. 87). Perhaps the re-writing of the book of Job during Judah's captivity in Babylon was intended as a counter to this, explaining Yahweh's perspective on suffering.

Eliphaz reminds Job that the wicked of Noah's time were destroyed by a flood, implying that the sudden calamities of Job's life were like the flood, thus equating him with the world at Noah's time. Jude, Daniel, Peter and the Lord Jesus all interpret that world as representing apostate Jewry in the first century, destroyed by the " flood" of AD70. It is therefore interesting that 1 Pet.5:8,9, concerning the Jewish devil walking around seeking to draw away Christians, is quoting the Septuagint of Job 1:7, suggesting Job's satan is also to be linked with the Jewish satan. 

Job's satan was perhaps not simply a sceptical worshipper who had these questions and was represented by an Angel in the court of heaven; but also an Angel wanting for himself to find out more about Job, not understanding how a man with all the blessings Job had could sincerely worship God. God therefore gave this Angel the power needed to try Job to see whether this was the case. The idea of an Angel being called a satan (adversary) is familiar to us in Num. 22:22 where the Angel stood in the way of Balaam for an adversary. The fact the Angel brought the trials would explain why all through the book the trials are credited to God. Satan coming "from going back and forth in the earth" (Job 1:7) would connect with the descriptions of the Angels being God's eyes going to and fro in the earth (Zech. 1:11). Job 1:16 describing God sending a flame of fire to minister one of the trials is understood in the Angel context when one recalls that He "makes His ministers a flaming fire" (Ps. 104:4). The series of "messengers" who come to Job announcing the trials (Job 1:14) may possibly also be Angels, or Angels controlling human messengers on earth. Job associates his trials with God's eyes being upon him (e. g. Job 7:8) and we have seen that the eyes of God seems to be a synonym for the Angels.


Job 1:8 Yahweh said to Satan, Have you considered my servant, Job? For there is none like him in the land, a blameless and an upright man, one who fears God, and turns away from evil-
Notice that Satan had to get power from God (Job 2:3-6); he had none in his own right, indeed, God brought Job to Satan’s notice (1:8). Job comments about God being the source of his sufferings: “If it be not he, who then is it?” (Job 9:24 RV). Job didn’t believe anyone apart from God was responsible.

God knew what the satan Angel's response would be to His question. Thus God guides an Angel to think about a believer- or person- in order to further that Angel's spiritual education. This is still necessary, despite them having "had their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" previously. The knowledge of good and evil which the Angels have is exactly the same as we have- "the man is become as one of us,  to know good and evil" the Angels lamented in Eden (Gen. 3:22). Despite our experience of life, we appreciate pitiably little how God works through evil. Some can scarcely comprehend it, especially if they have no knowledge of the Truth. Yet by nature they have some dull concept of it- and it is this dim concept which the Angels possessed in Eden, which was shared with us by Adam's eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Thus we can understand why the Angels need to be educated like this.

The tragedy was that those taken into captivity weren't reformed by their sufferings, and now their children likewise refused to "take it to heart" and repent (Is. 42:25 s.w.). Here we have another connection between Isaiah and Job, the book which appears to have been rewritten for the exiles with Job as representative of both the exiles and the righteous servant. "Have you considered My servant..." (Job 1:8) is the same phrase in Is. 42:25 "take it to heart". The book of Job was therefore written as a way of appealing for the repentance of the exiles and for them to contextualize their own sufferings.



Job 1:9 Then Satan answered Yahweh and said, Does Job fear God for nothing?-
The returned exiles refused to serve God for nothing (s.w. Mal. 1:10). But the final investigation of the book of Job revealed that Job was prepared to serve God for nothing, just because He was God and he was His servant; and not because he expected any reward or material advantage. Job is therefore set up to the exiles as the embodiment and personification of who they should have become. But they refused to respond. The sufferings which came upon Judah were to reveal whether they would serve God for nothing; and Mal. 1:10 makes it clear they didn't.

Job 1:10 Haven’t You made a hedge around him and around his family, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land-
LXX "blessed the works of his hands, and multiplied his cattle upon the land?"- an allusion to the promises of blessing and multiplication of Abraham's seed, of whom Job was presented as being representative. In Job 10:11,12 Job complains "Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast fenced me with bones and sinews. Thou hast granted me life and favour, and Thy visitation hath preserved My spirit". "Fenced" is the same word as "hedge" when satan complains that God has made a hedge about Job (Job 1:10). Job appears to be aware of the conversation between the satan and the Lord. It therefore makes sense to understand that the gathering of the sons of God and 'satan' was a gathering of the people of God, including the friends and Job, and the conversation was heard by all. Job is therefore saying that actually the only hedge or fence he has is his own physical body. Job seems to be saying 'You say  I'm hedged about with blessings. But now the only hedge I've got is this sick body. The only help you give me now is to give me my spirit to keep me alive, only so you can torment me more'. Understandable, if faulty, reasoning in Job's situation.

Job 1:11 But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has, and he will renounce You to Your face-
See on Job 30:24. The same phrase for putting forth the hand is used of how God put forth His hand against Judah and sent them into exile (Ez. 10:7; 14:13). The 'touching' of Job uses the word used of the 'touching' of Judah by their invaders and abusers (Is. 8:8; Jer. 4:10; 12:14; Ez. 7:12). And it is used of how the suffering servant of Is. 53:4 was considered "stricken" or 'touched' by God after the pattern of Job. That suffering servant represented the faithful remnant at the restoration, and then when they ultimately failed to be as intended, it was all more fully reapplied to the Lord Jesus. Several times the friends refer to how Job has been touched by God; the parallels between the Satan and the friends will be noted throughout the book. The Satan clearly influenced the friends to think likewise, and they effectively become the Satan. And it is therefore they and not 'Satan' who are rebuked at the end of the book.

Job 1:12 Yahweh said to Satan, Behold, all that he has is in your power. Only on himself don’t put forth your hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of Yahweh-
See on Is. 37:36, where an Angel likewise goes forth from Yahweh. I have suggested above that the Satan refers to both one or some amongst the "sons of God", perhaps the friends; and also to the Angel who represented them in the heavenly throne room. For there is no indication that anything Satan did was sinful; Angels don't sin. Satan never actually says or does anything wrong; he simply makes the observation that there may well be a relationship between Job's service of God and the material blessing which God has given him. He is them empowered by God to bring calamities into Job's life. Time and again is it stressed, really stressed, that God brought the problems upon Job, not satan independently (Job 1:12,16; 2:3,10; 6:4; 8:4; 19:21; 42:18).

The going forth from the presence of Yahweh continues the allusion to the court of Heaven, which is implied by the sons of God, the Angels representing their charges on earth, coming before God. The ‘Satan’ figure is not in itself evil, but could refer to an Angel [a ‘good’ one, as I submit there are no ‘sinful’ Angels], or an Angel representative of a fellow worshipper on earth. The debates in Heaven between the Angels, the will of God as articulated there, is then reflected and carried out on earth – rather like how in Daniel 1–6 we have events on earth described in historical terms, and then we are given an insight into what’s been going on in Heaven in Daniel 7–12. Yet the court / legal language continues throughout the book – e.g. Job is “perfect”, i.e. legally blameless. Job appeals for ‘witnesses’ (Job 9:33–35; 16:18–22; 19:20–27), an advocate in Heaven (Job 9:33), denies his guilt and demands a legal list of his sins (Job 13:19), he wishes for God to come to trial (Job 9:3), and thus Job is described as a man who has taken out a ‘case’ with God (Job 23:4; 40:2). Job 29–31 is effectively Job’s declaration of legal innocence and an appeal to God to hear his case more sympathetically (Job 31:35). And of course God pronounces a final legal verdict at the very end (Job 42:7), in response to Job’s earlier plea: “Sleeplessly I wait for His reply” (Job 16:22). It’s as if the whole experience of Job was [at least partly] in order to test out the Canaanite theories of ‘Satan’, suffering and evil in the court of Heaven; and also the various theories which arose to explain Judah's captivity in Babylon. The friends represent the traditional views of evil, and often make reference to the myths of their day about ‘Satan’ figures. They speak as if they are the final court – Eliphaz speaks of how the judges and elders of their day, the “holy ones”, had concluded Job was guilty, and that they, the friends, were right: “To which of the holy ones will you appeal [legal language]?... we have [legally] examined this, and it [Job’s guilt] is true” (Job 5:1,27). This is of great comfort to those who feel misjudged by man – above them in Heaven the ultimate Heavenly court is considering our case, and that is all that matters. Job perhaps perceived this, even though the vision of the court of Heaven in chapters 1 and 2 was presumably unknown to him as he endured his sufferings; for in response to the friends’ wrong judgment of him, he comments that “God covers the faces of the judges of the earth” (Job 9:24). The final summing up speeches from both God and Job simply emphasize the omnipotence of God; how ultimately He has been the adversary to Job, and there is no room in the cosmos of His creation for any other power, especially any of the various personal ‘Satan’ figures believed in by the worlds of both Canaan and Babylon. The heavenly court of “sons of God” is paralleled with all the stars in Job 38:7. Bear in mind that the stars were understood as pagan deities. The whole pagan understanding of the cosmos is being deconstructed. The stars are paralleled with the Angelic sons of God who are all totally under God’s control; they are His Heavenly court.


The legal language of the book of Job has far reaching implications. We have noted the many connections between Job and the latter part of Isaiah, where again there is the impression of ‘God in the dock’, a cosmic trial of truth. The gods of the nations are invited to present their best cases, to demonstrate their reality against the claims of Yahweh, Israel’s God, to be the only true God. In this trial, the suffering servant is the witness used by God. And this in turn is the basis for the same lawsuit motif in the Gospel of John, where the witness is the Lord Jesus as the suffering servant, and by extension all those in Him (3). Indeed there appear to be seven witnesses in John: John the Baptist (Jn. 1:7), Jesus Himself (Jn. 3:11), the Samaritan woman (Jn. 4:39), God Himself (Jn. 5:32), the miracles (Jn. 5:36), the Old Testament (Jn. 5:39) and the crowd (Jn. 12:17). John presents the cross as the decisive verdict, linking back to a similar verdict pronounced in Isaiah, which in turn has as its basis the final verdict of Yahweh in support of Job against the beliefs of the friends in the various ‘Satan’ gods of Canaan and Babylonia.


Job 1:13 It fell on a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house-
Usually Job went and offered sin offerings for his children after these parties. But the disaster came exactly whilst they were partying. This would invite us to see this as judgment upon them, looking ahead to the judgment of the children ["sons"] of Israel.

Job 1:14 that there came a messenger to Job and said, The oxen were ploughing and the donkeys feeding beside them-
A malak came with news of the calamities brought by the satan (Angel). It would be understandable if that malak should have been translated 'Angel' seeing there is so much other Angelic language in this area. See on Job 1:6,7. We see again a connection to the work of a Satan Angel.

Job 1:15 and the Sabeans attacked and took them away. Yes, they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword-
The Sabeans are literally 'those of Sheba'. The same word is used by Job when he reflects upon the disaster at the hands of "the troops of Tema... the companies of Sheba" (see on Job 6:19). It seems therefore that there were people from Tema involved. And Eliphaz was from Teman (Job 2:11). Again we have a hint that these Sabeans and associated Temanites were somehow involved with the Temanite "friend" of Job, Eliphaz. The friends were in some form the Satan. In the restoration context, all the people of Sheba would repent and come to Zion (Is. 60:6 s.w.). The former enemies of God's people were to repent and join them.


And I alone have escaped to tell you- It has been suggested that the prologue to Job is in fact a literary device to place theological problems before us, e.g. of the relationship between service of God and receipt of blessing, and sin and suffering. But we must remember that later Scripture takes the experiences of Job as literal, and Job himself as a real historical person. However, it is not impossible that the account of the conversation between God and the satan was not a literal occurrence, but simply a way of setting up the problems which the historical narrative then addresses. It's worth meditating on this one. The three different messengers come and tell Job of the various disasters and conclude with the same rubric "and I alone have escaped to tell you". This is surely a theatrical presentation rather than a literal transcription of actual speech which historically occurred; my friend Steve Cook has suggested, quoting Jewish sources, that Job may well be the very earliest extant theatrical drama script of ancient literature. Job being drama would explain why the book is written as poetry. This approach also assists us in understanding how Job was told by a messenger that his sons had all died, and then at the end of the book he appears to be given his sons back again. If the messenger wasn't telling the truth, but was just part of the plot, the mechanism to present the theological problem, then this is understandable. The use of "the satan" would therefore not be referring to any cosmic being, but rather to a role. It has been observed: “In biblical sources the Hebrew term the satan describes an adversarial role. It is not the name of a particular character” (Elaine Pagels, The Origin of Satan (New York: Random House, 1996) p. 39). And again: "[ha-satan] is not the personal name Satan but a role specification meaning “the accuser/adversary/doubter”" (N.C. Habel, The Book of Job (London: S.C.M., 1985) p.89). The 'satan' or adversary was not therefore necessarily sinful: “As he first appears in the Hebrew Bible, Satan is not necessarily evil, much less opposed to God. On the contrary, he appears in the book of Numbers and in Job as one of God’s obedient servants" (Pagels, op cit. p. 39). He is “subject to God’s control and was used by God to accomplish his purposes... [there is] a pronounced emphasis on his subordination” to God (S.H.T. Page, “Satan: God’s Servant” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society; Sept. 2007 Vol. 50 No. 3 p. 449).

The Sabeans of 1:15 were probably the descendants of Sheba, Abraham's grandson (Gen. 25:1-3). For his children to grow into a separate tribe, the events of Job must have happened some generations before the Law was given.

Job 1:16 While he was still speaking, there also came another and said, The fire of God has fallen from the sky-
As noted on :13,19, this is the language of judgment. Job's children were indeed guilty of serious sin, and all Job's animal sacrifices couldn't save them from that judgment. At the end of the book, the friends are also liable to Divine judgment, but are saved not by sacrifice or ritual but by prayer. This all looks forward to the failure of Mosaic ritual to save; whereas a righteous mediator, the Lord Jesus, is the One who can save. See on :20.


And has burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you- "The servants" is "shepherds" in LXX and GNB. Destruction of the sheep and shepherds is language elsewhere used about the suffering of Israel at the hands of the Babylonians. Job's sons were killed by wind and fire- both of which are associated with Angelic manifestation (:16,19). See on Job 1:6,7. It was the "servants" who were 'smitten with the edge of the sword' at the Babylon invasion (s.w. Jer. 21:7). Again we see how the book of Job discusses the very issues which were facing the exiles in Babylon as they reflected upon these same tragedies.

Job 1:17 While he was still speaking, there came also another and said, The Chaldeans made three bands, and swept down on the camels, and have taken them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you-
"The Chaldeans" confirms that Job is being set up as representative of the exiles in Chaldea who had lost their families to the Babylonian / Chaldean invaders. See on :16; Job 19:9.

Job 1:18 While he was still speaking, there came also another and said, Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house-
Again as noted on :13, the disaster came exactly whilst they were partying. This would invite us to see this as judgment upon them, looking ahead to the judgment of the children ["sons"] of Israel.

Job 1:19 and behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young men, and they are dead. I alone have escaped to tell you-
"Struck" is the same word as "touch" in :11. This was the hand of God 'touching' Job as Satan had requested. A wind which struck four corners of a house at the same time was a whirlwind, associated with Divine judgment and theophany.

Job 1:20 Then Job arose, and tore his robe, and shaved his head, and fell down on the ground and worshiped-
His robe, as the head of the family, was likely of religious significance; a kind of priestly robe. And he realizes now that all such ritual has failed to save- as noted on :16. The shaved Job again becomes a picture of the shaved Judah after the Babylonian invasion (Jer. 7:29 s.w.), and of the suffering servant who was "sheared", s.w. "shaved" (Is. 53:7). The response to this shaving was to "worship" and not charge God wrongly, a lesson not learnt by the exiles, who wrongly charged God over it all (as Ez. 18 makes clear).

Job 1:21 He said, Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away. Blessed be the name of Yahweh-
The 'taking away' is the term used of Judah's taking away into captivity (Jer. 20:5). God gave Judah a king in His anger, and took him away at the time of Zedekiah and the captivity (Hos. 13:11 s.w.). The raft of questions and mental struggles elicited by all this are those which the drama of Job will now discuss and debate. We note that Job immediately sees 'God in all this'. It wasn't that Yahweh gave, and Satan took away. God took away as well as gave. Without his family and wealth, Job feels naked- as if he is now ready to go into the grave. But it was with that now naked man that God would work, and He does likewise with men today.

Job 1:22 In all this, Job did not sin-
Job's reaction at this point was wonderful. He didn't sin in this respect; but he is later led to understand that he has indeed sinned and he accepts the call to repentance of Job 33:27. But the appeal for Job to repent and his final acceptance of it could also lead us to interpret this as meaning that Job did not consider he had sinned, when in fact he had. He would then become again representative of Judah; "Behold I will plead with you, because you say, I have not sinned" (Jer. 2:35).

Nor charge God with wrongdoing- This is legal language, as if Job did not put God in the dock and accuse Him wrongly. The idea of Israel as it were taking a court case against God recurs in the prophets. Job was their example and they largely failed to follow it.