BIBLICAL CONCEPTS:
WHO IS "SATAN" IN THE BOOK OF JOB?

Satan in the Book of Job: The Facts
The Book of Job does not tell us many facts concerning the identity of Satan, which is doubtless why it forms such a mystery. Nevertheless we do glean two things from the passages where Satan is mentioned:

  1. Satan presented himself before God

    Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. (Job 1:6 RSV)

    Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. (Job 2:1 RSV)

  2. Satan is given the authority (by God) to cause calamity to Job

    The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” (Job 1:12)

    The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. (Job 2:6-7)

Figure 1: "Satan Before the Throne of God," Blake, 1826

These two dialogues, in Job 1 and 2 respectively, are the only appearances of the word “Satan” in the book of Job. So the information we have to work with to understand who “Satan” is, is minimal. To help us understand these quotes it is useful to explore occurrences of the two facts: ‘presenting oneself before the Lord’ and the ‘power to cause calamity’ in other parts of the Bible.

Comparing the facts in Job with other Scriptures

  1. Presenting oneself before the Lord
    It is noteworthy that in the Bible those who present themselves before the Lord are invariably men: not angels, nor any other type of being. Here are some examples:

    The LORD said to Moses… “Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain.” (Exodus 34:1-2)

    The priest who pronounces him clean shall present both the one to be cleansed and his offerings before the LORD at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. (Leviticus 14:11)

    Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy… (Jude 1:24 KJV)

    By contrast, the angels are described as being permanently in the presence of God.

    “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)

    On the basis of the evidence above, we are left to question who then was: “…Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD”? If the scriptural pattern is consistent the answer is that it must be men, appearing in a place of worship or otherwise who are presenting thoughts to God, e.g. in prayer or meditation.

    Furthermore the Bible categorically states that an angel could not have brought this slanderous accusation against Job in the presence of God:

    …angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against [righteous men] in the presence of the Lord. (2 Peter 2:11)

  2. The Power to cause Calamity
    Figure 3: "Job Covered with Boils," ~14C, Martin of Aragon
    The Bible makes clear that God has ultimate control over everything, including the power to allow or prevent the evil behavior of men. The power to cause calamitous diseases is beyond the capacity of humans and must come solely from God.

    “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:5-7 KJV)

    If God is the sole source of such calamity it must be God who brought the evil upon Job. This conclusion is harmonious with the text in Job, which also affirms that God was the one who afflicted him:

    All his [Job’s] brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. (Job 42:11)

    Nevertheless the explanation that God was the “Satan” who afflicted Job does not satisfy all the verses, because clearly God is speaking to a second party when discussing Job’s impending calamities.

    The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD, and afflicted Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. (Job 2:6-7)

    So who is this second party to whom God is speaking? The answer is that when God acts to bring calamity (or deliverance) in scripture, it is commonly described as being performed by an angel acting under the divine directive. There is much evidence for this; here are just two examples:

    “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.” (Daniel 6:22)

    He unleashed against them his hot anger, his wrath, indignation and hostility-- a band of destroying angels. He prepared a path for his anger; he did not spare them from death but gave them over to the plague. (Psalm 78:49-50)

    Who then is the Satan sent out of God’s presence to afflict Job? The scriptural answer must be that “Satan” is an angel, obediently performing God’s decisions to allow Job to suffer affliction.

    But now we seem to have two Satans: the jealous men and the destroying angel! How are we to determine who is Satan – or are they both Satan? We account for this apparent discrepancy by realizing that the term “Satan” in Hebrew is a title given to something or someone, which is in opposition, rather than to a particular person himself. Thus the title “Satan” belongs to whoever is in opposition at that time (much like the title of “King” or “governor” therefore, it can pass from person to person through time). Consequently “Satan” is used to describe the men whilst they generate their jealous hatred of Job, and “Satan” is used to describe the angel whilst he is directed by God to act upon this jealous hatred.

    “Satan” is not the only Hebrew word that is used in this generic titular fashion. It will enhance our understanding of the use of the word “Satan” in Job to consider at least one other Hebrew word, which is used in this way.

Generic Titles in Scripture
Certain words in scripture are generic titles, rather than personal names. That is to say their application is not restricted to a particular personality, but is applied to a variety of different people at such times as they satisfy the criteria for the title, much like the title of an office. Two specific examples of this are the words: “Elohim” and “Satan.”

Example 1 ELOHIM – A Title for Mighty One(s)
“Elohim” is a Hebrew title for one who stands in great power, to rule and judge. This title is applied across the entire range of scriptural characters, from a) God, to b) angels, to c) human men.

a) God as “Elohim”
In the beginning God [Hebrew: ELOHIM] created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
b) Angels as “Elohim”
“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels [Hebrew: ELOHIM], and hast crowned him with glory and honour.” (Psalm 8:4-5 KJV)
c) Human men as “Elohim”
But if the servant declares, “I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,” then his master must take him before the judges [Hebrew: ELOHIM]. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life. (Exodus 21:5-6)

Example 2 SATAN – A Title for an Opponent
The title “Satan” is equally generic in scripture. It is not a personal name, and thus again its use is not limited to a single character. The title “Satan” is applied for one who stands in opposition; and it is applied, in the same way as “Elohim,” across the full spectrum of scriptural characters from a) God, to b) angels, to c) human men.

a) God as “Satan” (Compare these two parallel accounts)
Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.” (2 Samuel 24:1)
SATAN rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. (1 Chronicles 21:1)
b) An angel as “Satan”
But God’s anger was kindled because he went; and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary [Hebrew: SATAN]. Now he was riding on the ass, and his two servants were with him. (Numbers 22:22 RSV)
c) A human man as “Satan”
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, SATAN! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)
The Big Picture of God and “Satan” in Scripture
Figure 5: "The Fall of Man," 1510, Michelangelo
To gain a deeper understanding of the real interplay in the book of Job, it is essential to analyze the broader relationship in scripture between God and the various parties who adopt the role of Satan. We find that this relationship adopts the same characteristic three-point trend, as shown below. We shall then use this model to solve the puzzling mystery of who is Satan in the book of Job.

Trend of the relationship between God and “Satan” in the Bible:
{1} God pronounces a truth.
{2} Satan opposes God’s truth (“opposes” by definition) and declares a lie.
{2b} Often this lie is an accusation against a righteous man.
{3} God invariably rebukes Satan for his error.

Here are example cases from which we establish this trend as scripturally valid. The first example is the classic encounter in the Garden of Eden.

Example 1: The serpent in Eden bringing the downfall of man
{1} Pronouncement of God’s truth:
And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
{2} Satan opposes, speaking lies:
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)
[Revelation 12:9 shows that the serpent of Eden can indeed be called Satan]
{2b} Satan’s lies are accusations against the righteous (notice the reference to the “ancient serpent,” which shows that this is a commentary on the Eden story)
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world--he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” (Revelation 12:9-10 RSV)
{3} Satan is rebuked by God
So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15)

This archetypal relationship between God and whoever is in the role of Satan is evidenced in later scriptural scenarios. Here is the evidence: notice the characteristic points of the relationships in each case.

Figure 6: Peter, 1470, Zoppo
Example 2: Peter contradicting Christ
{1} Pronouncement of God’s truth
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew 16:21)
{2} Satan opposes, speaking untruth
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22)
{3} Satan is rebuked
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)
Example 3: The enemies of Judah frustrating the rebuilding of the temple
{1} Pronouncement of God’s truth
…the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: “…The LORD, the God of heaven… has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you--may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:1-3)
{2} Satan opposes…
When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel… [they] set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. (Ezra 4:1,4)
{2b} …by making accusatory lies against the righteous
At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes, they lodged an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem… This is a copy of the letter they sent him… “The king should know that the Jews who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city.” (Ezra 4:6,11-12)
{3} Satan is rebuked by God for his slander upon Jerusalem. (Zechariah is commenting on the same historical events recorded in Ezra – see also Jude 1:9.)
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” (Zechariah 3:1-3)
Figure 7: Rebuilding Jerusalem's walls
Reconstruction of Events in Job
Figure 8: "Job and His Wife," 1504, Durer
Using the model above of the three-point relationship between God and Satan in scripture, we can now identify who “Satan” is in Job. The way we achieve that is by looking for the signature characteristics of the behavior of Satan, which we have deduced in the previous section.

We expect to find:
{1} A pronouncement of God’s truth in the presence of Satan
Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8 c.f. Job 1:1)
{2} One who opposes, speaking lies: this will be Satan
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied… “But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (Job 1:9,11)
{2b} …whose opposition is realized as accusing the righteous with lies: this will be Satan
Eliphaz: “Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless? You demanded security from your brothers for no reason; you stripped men of their clothing, leaving them naked.” (Job 22:6)
Bildad: “The lamp of the wicked is snuffed out; the flame of his fire stops burning… He has no offspring or descendants among his people, no survivor where once he lived.” (Job 18:5,19) [Remember Job’s family had been destroyed: Job 1:18-19.]
Zophar: “Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom has two sides. Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin.” (Job 11:5-6)
{3} One who is rebuked by God: this will be Satan
After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ”I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.” (Job 42:7-8)
Figure 9: "Job," 1998, Ratner: SATAN IN THE BOOK OF JOB

Conclusion
Figure 10: The Complaint of Job, 1785, Blake
Who then is Satan in the book of Job? “Satan” in Job is those who oppose God’s opinion of righteous Job. This is the jealousies of men that contradict the truth of God that Job was an upright man, (Job 1:9-11) and which the evil men bear into God’s presence (Job 1:6; 2:1). God gives limited rein to the evil by dispatching His angel to realize the desires of the evil men (Job 1:12; 2:6).

Specifically, “Satan” is identified as Job’s three friends: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. They are the ones who oppose Job, even during his suffering, who bring lying accusations against him, (Job 22:6; 18:5,19; 11:5-6), and who are rebuked by God at the end of the matter (Job 42:7-8). We have seen how opposition; lying accusations against the upright; and a subsequent rebuke from God, are telltale characteristics of the presence of Satan. Additionally, that the core of Satan’s jealousy is of Job’s wealth (Job 1:9-10) is instructive, for jealousy is an essentially human trait. It does not easily befit a Mephistophelean Superpower, posing his supernatural guile and strength in eternal battle with the Almighty, to be distressed by the fact that Job has got a lot of sheep. Jealousy of material possessions is an emotional response so preternaturally petty as to be of undoubtedly human origin: and indeed the text confirms that Satan was “from the earth” (Job 1:7). Hence we confidently conclude that it is these three men, who know Job well, with whom the evil jealousies began, and from whose evil jealousy all the disaster was initially precipitated.

Figure 11: Job and His Daughters, 1800, Blake

In conclusion it is appropriate to point out that God was always in control of the entire situation, which is why such evil that radiated from Satan was always limited by God’s control (Job 1:12; 2:6), and the end saw Satan condemned (Job 42:7-8), whilst upright Job was blessed (Job 42:12-17)


SOME RESPONSES YOU MAY HAVE TO THE ABOVE ARTICLE

So if man is Satan what consequences does this have on the world God has made?

This accounts well for the book of Job, but what about the broader picture of the Devil in scripture?

This accounts well for the book of Job, but I still believe with so many names in the Bible seeming to refer to the Devil he exists as a scriptural character.

Ok, but what about demons. Aren’t they connected with the devil too?

If man is Satan, how are we ever to overcome our own nature?