The Book of Job: a Retelling and Meditation
As mentioned, Messiah: Biblical Retellings is here. Daughters of Zion: Biblical Retellings is here. Covenants: Biblical Retellings is coming soon. Introduction: I put the story of Job in a book about covenants, even though God never makes a covenant with Job, because I believe the only way to properly interpret the events in the story is within the context of the covenants that did (and did not) exist at the time. Most scholars place the story of Job after the flood and before Abraham’s covenant with God in Genesis 12. This means that the only covenant Job had with God are those of Adam and Noah. When Adam sinned and obeyed Satan, God was left on the outside of the world He had made, looking in—like a landlord whose tenants had turned Him out. Satan was now the god (little g) of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). While God had promised to bring the promised Seed of Eve (Genesis 3:15), He would need a people willing to more or less play by His rules in order to do so, and then the cooperation of generations of prophets to speak Him into existence. He hadn’t gotten that far yet. Job is a righteous man, and so clearly favored by God that Satan takes notice. It’s actually God’s blessings that paint a target on Job’s back. While Satan of course comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), in this story he does so not for the sheer pleasure of it, but to prove his point to God, almost as if in a courtroom drama. He aims to establish that our love for God is contingent upon God’s blessings. If Satan can establish this for the most righteous man on earth at the time, it would follow that the same is true for all the rest of us. In Job 1, God brings up Job to Satan before Satan mentions him, which seems to indicate that it was God who placed Job in Satan’s crosshairs. But God is omniscient, and Satan’s immediate rejoinder showed that Satan was already thinking about Job. I suspect God just knew what Satan was thinking and cut to the chase. Many translations of Job have it that God “allowed” Satan’s attack against Job, which would seem to make God complicit in Job’s misery. But the context of the covenants in place at the time indicates that God allowed it only in the loosest sense of the word. Job lived at a time when God had not yet established a reciprocal covenantal protection for His people. God had to allow Satan’s request, even though He hated it. Did He have the power to refuse Satan? Technically yes, but He did not have the authority to do so—because He had given that authority to man in the garden. Man, in turn, had given it to Satan. At that point, Satan became the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). By nature, all of Adam’s descendants were slaves of Satan (Ephesians 2:3). So legally, Satan had the authority to do what he asked to do to Job. Had God refused, He would have violated the integrity of His word. The writer of Hebrews tells us that it is the integrity of God’s word that holds the very universe together (Hebrews 1:3). While in Job 2:3, God said to Satan, “You moved Me against him,” God only moved against Job in the sense that He withdrew the “hedge of protection” (Job 1:10) that He had placed around Job when Satan complained about it. Ecclesiastes 10:8 says, “whoso breaks a hedge, a serpent will bite him.” Without the hedge, the serpent had access to bite. Satan’s challenge put God in a very difficult position. Satan (meaning adversary in Hebrew) is only mentioned by name 18 times in the Old Testament, 14 of which are in the book of Job. He isn’t even mentioned as Satan in Genesis (maybe because he wasn’t the adversary yet—this was the story of how he became the adversary), or in Isaiah 14, where the story of his fall appears (there he is called Lucifer, meaning “Light Bringer”—his angelic name). As mentioned in the story, I suspect God did not warn mankind about Satan and his angels because there was nothing they could have done about them at this...
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April 30, 2021
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