Debating Bible Basics Duncan Heaster  


Job’s Satan

Job 1 v. 6: “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them”.

Popular Interpretation

Satan here is an angel who came among the angels in heaven and criticized Job, whom he had been watching whilst walking around in the earth seeing what trouble he could make. He then brings lots of problems upon Job to try and turn him away from God.


1. “Satan” is only mentioned in the first two chapters of Job and nowhere in the book is he explicitly defined as an angel.

2. We have seen in our comments on Genesis 6:2 , that the phrase “sons of God” can refer to those who have the true understanding of God (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)

3. It cannot be conclusively proved that Satan was a son of God - he “came among them”.

4. Satan is described as “going to and fro in the earth”. There is no implication that he was doing anything sinful. Zechariah 1:11 implies that this is a Hebraism for observing.

5. 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”?

6. Remember that there cannot be sin or rebellion against God in heaven (Ps.5:4-5; Hab. 1:13; Matt. 6:10; Ps. 103:19-21).

7. The major theme of the book of Job is that GOD brought the problems into Job’s life and that eventually they made him a more righteous person (Job 2:10; 16:11; 19:21; 23:16; 42:11). Notice that Job did not believe that only good things came from God; he nowhere complains about Satan bringing the problems. Job realized that his sufferings had made him come to know God in practice rather than just in theory - “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee” (42:5). Seeing that problems make us more righteous people if we respond correctly to them (Heb. 12:5-11), why would a sinful, wicked being, who wants to turn us away from God, bring these things into our lives, when actually they only make us more righteous and closer to God?

8. The fact that Satan and the sons of God were in “the presence of the Lord” and presented themselves “before the Lord” (2:7; 1:6) does not necessarily mean that they were in heaven. The representatives of God carry the name of God, e.g. 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. v. 12). Similarly, priests represent God (2 Chron. 19:6) and to come before them was to come “before the Lord” (Deut. 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.

9. 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.

10. There is no indication that anything Satan did was sinful.

11. 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” (Deut. 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 Numbers 22:22.

Suggested Explanations

1. We have seen that coming “before the Lord” may describe coming before a representative of God, such as a priest or an angel. 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.

2. 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). 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).

A Satan-Angel

In Job 2:5 satan asks God: " Put forth Thine hand" . The hand of God is a phrase often used concerning what God did through the Angels. God agrees- " he is in thine hand" (v.6). Thus satan's hand is God's hand, which is an Angel. This is proof enough that satan is not in any way against God- they work together. Job seems to emphasize the place of God's hand in bringing his trials- 2:5,6,10; 6:9; 10:7; 13:21; 19:21; 27:11 AVmg; 28:9. Job in 12:9 feels that in the same way as God's hand had created the natural creation- and the Angels did this- so that same Angelic hand was upon him for evil. " By His Spirit (God makes His Angels spirits) He hath garnished the Heavens; His hand hath formed the crooked serpent" (26:13). Thus Job associates God's Spirit with His hand, which is satan's hand. It seems far more fitting that this hand and spirit should be Angelic rather than human. Again, it was Angelic work that formed the Heavens. Job recognized that his trials came from the hand of God, but knew that His hand would not kill him- " with Thy strong hand Thou opposest Thyself against me...howbeit He will not stretch out His hand to (bring me to) the grave" (30:21,24). This was exactly the brief given to satan- to try Job, but " preserve his life" . The hand of God creating evil (2:10,11) must surely refer to God's " Angels of evil" (Ps.78:49) rather than to man- Cyrus had to be taught that no one except God (including human satans!) created evil (Is.45:5-7).

" Hast thou considered (lit. 'set your heart upon') My servant Job..?" (2:3) God asked satan initially. Later Job complains to God " what is man, that Thou dost magnify him? and that Thou shouldest set Thy heart upon him? (lit. 'consider him')" (7:17). Thus Job sees God- whom he probably conceived of as an Angel- as considering him, whilst we are told earlier that satan was told to do this. A human satan considering Job would not in itself have brought the trials, and Job would not have complained so bitterly about a human being considering him. An Angelic satan setting his heart upon Job would

Further Insights

- 5:7 " Man is born unto trouble, as the sons of the burning coal lift up to fly" (AVmg.) is using Angel-Cherubim language to say that it is inevitable that our Angels will bring trials into our lives.

- 14:3 " Dost thou open Thine eyes (Angels) upon such an one, and bringest me into judgement with Thee?" . Job here seems to be able to sense when the Angels were closely present in his life- he seems to be asking why God is using His Angel-eyes to take such a special interest in him; why God has asked His Angel to " consider My servant Job" .

- 16:9 " He gnasheth upon me with His teeth; mine enemy sharpeneth His eyes upon me" . In the context, Job seems to be perceiving God as his enemy, and we have shown that God's eyes often refer to the Angels.

- 19:8 God (the Angel) " hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and He hath set darkness in my paths" . This seems remarkably similar to the Angel satan barring the path of Balaam that he could not pass (Num.22:22-27). Job and Balaam have certain similarities- both were prophets (in Job's case see 4:4; 23:12; 29:4 cp. 15:8; Amos 3:7; James 5:10,11); both had genuine difficulty in understanding God's ways, but they to varying degrees consciously rebelled against what they did understand; both thus became angry with God (in the Angel), and were reproved by God through being brought to consider the Angel-controlled natural creation. One suspects there are more links than this.

- 6:9,10 " Oh...that He would let loose His hand, and cut me off...I have not concealed the words of the Holy One" . We have shown that God's hand was satan's hand and that the satan Angel was forbidden to " cut (Job) off" as both Job and the Angel requested. Job associates the satan with the Holy One, which is also Angelic language. Job being a prophet (see notes on 19:8), he would have received revelation from an Angel. He did not conceal the word of this " Holy One" .

- 1:14 " And there came a messenger (Heb. 'malak') unto Job" 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.

- 1:16,19 Job's sons were killed by wind and fire- both of which are associated with Angelic manifestation.

- It may be that Job's satan Angel was the Angel representing the three friends (satans) of Job. Because of His close identification with them, the satan Angel spoke their thoughts as if they were his own- e.g. compare Eliphaz's thoughts of 4:5 with satan's words of 1:9,10.

General Comments

That the orthodox interpretations of this passage are invalid has been extensively proved in works such as Wrested Scriptures and Bible Basics. It should be noted that the 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 (1:12,16; 2:3,10; 6:4; 8:4; 19:21; 42:18). 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. But it isn't a view which strongly commends itself to the present writer, not least because there seem few, if any, examples of this kind of device in the rest of Scripture.

The Satan: A Fellow Worshipper

Such a strong case can be made for the satan being a fellow worshipper that there simply must be some truth in it. " There was a day [a set feast] when the sons of God [the believers- 1 Jn. 3:1; Mt. 5:9] came to present themselves before Yahweh [before a priest, or other representative of Yahweh, probably at an altar, Dt. 19:17; Ps. 42:2], and Satan came also among them" . Here we have a picture of an early ecclesia; scattered believers coming together for a special meeting, the forerunner of our breaking of bread service. As we walk, drive, ride on train or bus, to our memorial meetings, we are repeating what in principle has been done by the sons of God from earliest times. The Satan says he has been " going to and from in the earth, and from walking up and down in it" (1:7). 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', and yet 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 (1:5 AVmg.); 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; but the difference was, that then they allowed the satan to come in among them. Young preachers, take your lesson.

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 (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.

Consider the following hints that the friends were in fact the satan:

- There are several passages where Job speaks as if the friends were responsible for his physical persecution (e.g. 19:22,28); as if they had brought the calamity which the opening chapters make satan responsible for. He associates his deceitful brethren with the troops of Tema and the companies of Sheba which had fallen upon his cattle at satan's behest (6:19). Job knew that the friends had power over his persecutors (6:24). They, Job said, had caused calamity to fall upon him, and thereby overwhelmed their one-time friend (6:27 AV mg.). They thought, as Satan did, that Job's spirituality was only a sham (6:28).

- Job makes several references to the arguments of the satan in his replies to the friends; as if they were in fact the satan, and as if he knew perfectly well what they had said to Yahweh. Thus he tells the friends that those who provoke God are secure (12:6), whereas the satan had suggested that Job would provoke God to His face if his security was taken away. Job says that such people who provoke God have all things given into their hand by Yahweh; and it is hard not to see in this a reference to the satan, into whose hand Job had been delivered. It was as if Job was saying to them: 'You are the ones who have provoked God, you are the ones into whose hand God has delivered me; so actually you are the wicked, not me'.

- The words of the friends suggest that their view was in fact that of the satan in the prologue. Satan obviously quibbled with God's pronunciation of Job as perfect and upright (1:8). And Bildad likewise seems to allude to this when he comments concerning Job's downfall: " If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee" (8:6).

- There is reason to think that Eliphaz, the leader of the friends, may have been the specific individual referred to as 'satan' in the prologue. God singles him out for especial condemnation at the end (42:7). After one of Eliphaz's speeches, Job responds with what appears to be a comment upon him, rather than God: " He hath made me weary: thou hast made desolate all my company. And thou hast filled me with wrinkles...he teareth me in his wrath, who hateth me (surely Job speaks here about Eliphaz, not God): he gnasheth upon me...mine enemy (satan) sharpeneth his eyes upon me. They (the astonished friends?) have gaped upon me with their mouth, they have smitten me...they have gathered themselves together (as the friends did to Job) against me" (16:9-11). Eliphaz was a Temanite, from where Job's afflictors came (6:19).

An Angel-Satan

Yet there is a quite different interpretation possible, which also has the ring of truth to it, just as much as the suggestion that the satan was a fellow worshipper, possibly Eliphaz, who infiltrated Job's ecclesia through the weakness of his children. 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" , in the context of the book of Job, refer to the Angels (38:7). 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. 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). 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 (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.

And yet the question arises: which interpretation is correct? Was the Angel a doubting believer, or a righteous Angel? These two approaches are not irreconcilable. 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.