9. Angels and Job
It was suggested earlier that Job's satan was an Angel. If it refers to a human satan then there is the problem of him never being mentioned again in the book. If it is an Angel seeking to understand the basis of Job's spirituality, then the many references to God bringing the trials fall into place. If we are not intended to see the satan here as an Angel then the use of such clearly Angelic language in Job is confusing. The fundamentally Angelic basis of the book of Job perhaps provides one of the keys to understanding this difficult book. It is hoped that the following notes will give further insight into both Job and the ways of God. Firstly, additional evidence that the satan was an Angel.
Job's Satan Angel says that he has come from roaming up and down the land. There is a play on words here, for the Hebrew words shatan [satan] and shut [to roam] sound similar. The kings of Persia had a system of intelligence offices who likewise roamed the land, looking for signs of disloyalty amongst the people. This idea would’ve been familiar to the Old Testament readers of Job. And so the point was, that in God’s Kingdom, there’s an equivalent- the Angels roam around likewise, knowing and seeing all(1).
So often, Job speaks of his desire to present his case in God’s court, to prepare his defence, to legally answer false accusations. Consider Job 13:3, 19, 22; 19:28,29; 23:2-7; 31:35-37 in Stephen Mitchell’s excellent and painstaking translation: “I want to speak before God, to present my case in God’s court… I have prepared my defense, and I know that I am right… Accuse me- I will respond… Someday my witness would come; my avenger would read those words. He would plead for me in God’s court, he would stand up and vindicate my name… If only I knew where to meet him and could find my way to his court. I would argue my case before him… I would counter all his arguments and disprove his accusations. Would he try to overpower me or refuse to hear my defense? Surely he would listen to reason; I would surely win my case… if only God would hear me, state his case against me, let me read his indictment”.
Note that Job sees God as his adversary, his ‘satan’. And yet the book begins with the court of Heaven, where ‘satan’ is Job’s adversary. God and the ‘satan’ are clearly paralleled in Job’s thinking. There is every reason therefore to understand the satan as one of God’s Angels, in some ways representing God. And the final meeting with the adversary in court which Job so longed for is to be found at the end of the book- when God Himself appears in the whirlwind and meets with Job, condemning him, causing him to realize the weakness of his case, and then justifying him with a grace amazing in its depth and generosity.
In Job 2:5 satan asks God: "Put forth Thine hand". The hand of God is an Angelic phrase. God agrees- "he is in thine hand" (v. 6). Thus satan's hand is God's hand, which is an Angel. 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). Job sees God as “mine adversary / enemy” (Job 16:9 RV); he understood God to be the satan. Yet it is almost certain that the believers in patriarchal times saw God as manifested in Angels.
Job is full of 'language of limitation'- e. g. "surely now He (God) would awake for thee. . " (8:6); "Thou enquirest after mine iniquity, and searchest after my sin. . . remember, I beseech Thee, that Thou hast made me as the clay" (10:6,9). Job being set in patriarchal times with the relatively open appearance of the Angels, it is to be expected that there should be a conception of God in terms of Angels by Job and his friends.
"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 account for this 'considering' alone leading to the trials. If it is argued that it is a human satan who set his heart on Job here in Job 7, then the context is hard, though not impossible, to square: "Thou dost magnify man. . . Thou preserver of men" (v. 20,21). There is some hint of physical movement by 'God' which would seem applicable to the Angel too: "Thou shouldest visit him. . depart from me. . let me alone" (v. 18,19).
"He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee" (5:19). Ps. 91:10 seems to look back to this:"There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling". Ps. 91 is Moses' encouragement to Joshua that the destroying Angel in the wilderness would not harm him, but he would be protected by the Angels who would "keep thee in all thy ways" (v. 11). Thus Moses may have seen Job 5:19 to be talking about evil brought by Angels of evil (Ps. 78:49 shows his appreciation of these)- i. e. Job's satan Angel who brought the trials.
And most conclusively, the "sons of God" of 1:6 are interpreted as Angels in 38:7.
With this understanding of the book of Job, we can learn a lot from it about man's relationship with God as manifested through the Angels:
-2:4 "Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life". 'Skin for skin' is a human expression- maybe based on trading one animal skin for another. Is this inspiration's way of expressing in human language the satan Angel's conversation with God, or do Angels use such human metaphors in their talking to God? We and other believers in the Biblical record tend to- so why not Angels too? The mighty Angel of Rev. 18 speaks of Babylon as "the habitation of devils (demons), and the hold of every foul spirit. . " (Rev. 18:2), as if He is using the language of the day concerning demon possession.
-2:3 "Hast thou considered My servant Job?" God asked the Angel. Presumably the satan Angel was not therefore Job's 'guardian', as if he was he would have obviously been 'considering' him. In this case, other Angels can get involved in our lives apart from our guardian, either by direct discussion with God or by application to our guardian. Or are different Angels our guardians for different periods? Satan's query "Hast not Thou made an hedge about him?" (1:10) may be an example of one Angel questioning another, in this case Job's guardian Angel. Yet later Job accuses 'God' of hedging him in by giving him both good and evil. Thus his initial guardian Angel may have been replaced by the 'Satan'-Angel during the time of his distress.
- 2:3 "Thou movedst Me against him (Job), to destroy him without cause", God rebuked the Angel. This shows that Angels have to persuade God to do things, which sometimes they are unsuccessful in due to their lack of spiritual perspective in the things they request; exactly like us in our wrestlings in prayer with God through our Angel. If God agrees, He "performeth the counsel (advice) of His messenger" (Angels; Is. 44:26). "To destroy him" implies "to ruin him" (N. I. V. )- which did happen to Job. Thus the Angel appears to have gained his request, despite God in some ways being unwilling, or disliking, the request. "Move" means to prick or stimulate- God can be moved or provoked to action by the Angels, as human beings can provoke Him to anger.
- 1:7,8 "Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth?". God knew what the satan Angel's response would be. 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.
- 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.
- 7:17-20 has been shown above to refer to the Angel. Verse 21 is therefore Job complaining that "thou shalt seek me in the morning" to give him more trials ("Thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment",v. 18), but would not find him (more language of limitation) because "I shall sleep in the dust. . I shall not be" (i. e. Job thought he would die that night). Job therefore perceived God as manifest in the satan-Angel as limited. Note too that Job asked the Angel to "pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity". If such power was delegated to Jesus, Peter and the apostles, it can be to Angels too- hence the Angel shining forth on the day of Atonement as a sign of Israel's forgiveness.
- 23:3 "Oh that I knew where I might find Him" speaks as if God was a physical being on earth- fitting, if Job conceived of God in terms of an Angel whom he occasionally met.
- 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. Perhaps the Angel told Job this as well as God. Job is therefore saying that actually the only hedge or fence he has is his own physical body. In 3:23 and 19:8 this hedging seems to be interpreted as a feeling of spiritual restriction- as if like Paul, Job yearned to be released from this body of sin and corruption to "the glorious (spiritual) liberty of the sons of God" (Angels?). Job accepts that the Angel is keeping him alive every moment: "Thy visitation (Angelic language) hath preserved my spirit". We have already suggested that the Angels being spirits give and take the spirit of life from our body. Job seems to be saying 'You (the satan Angel) 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.
- 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". When Job asks God to ‘look away’ from him, or remove His eyes from him (Job 7:8,19 RV and frequently in Job), this would then be understood as a reference to God’s Angel-eyes, whom Job perceived as bringing about his problems.
- 14:5 "his (man's) days are determined, the number of his months are with Thee"- i. e. the 'wonderful numberer' Angel of Dan. 8:13 who controls the timing of all things?
- 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.
- 19:26 "In my flesh shall I see God". Throughout the Old Testament there are examples of men being terrified at the idea that they had seen God in the flesh- Manoah and Isaiah are obvious examples. Because of this, it is unlikely that Job would talk in such a way about seeing God Himself in person face to face. It is therefore far more likely that Job conceived of 'God' as God manifested in an Angel. The same reasoning can be applied to 42:5: "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee". Job presumably felt that now he more fully understood the ways in which God worked with him- through the satan-Angel.
- 20:29 "This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage of his decree from God" (AVmg. )- the decree from God is put into action by Angels.
- 21:9 "Their houses are safe from fear (cp. Job's, which fell down as a result of the Angel-satan whirlwind), neither is the rod of God upon them". Earlier in 9:34 Job pleaded: "Let Him take His rod away from me, and let not His fear terrify me". The fear of God is Angelic language, and it is the same as the rod of God. That rod acted through the satan-Angel.
- 26:13 "By His Spirit He hath garnished the heavens; His hand hath formed the crooked serpent". Here the hand and Spirit of God are equated- both are Angelic phrases, and thus provides further evidence that the Angels actually performed the creation.
- 34:18 "Is it fit to say to a King (God), Thou art wicked? and to princes (Angels), ye are ungodly?". Here Elihu (speaking on God's behalf), is rebuking Job for wrongly accusing the Angels, who had brought the trials.
- 38:22 "Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail. . . ?" implies that God has gone exploring though His own creation- language more relevant to Angels than God Himself.
- 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.
- The Hebrew word 'shaddai' (Almighty) is often linked in the Pentatuch with the idea of fruitfulness and provision of good things (Gen. 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 49:25). The Hebrew root 'shad' is the word for 'breast'. The references in Genesis speak of the Almighty making the promises; elsewhere we see that the promises were made by the Angels. Thus the Angels were perceived as providers of all good things, which would explain why the book of Job so frequently uses 'shaddai' as the word for God; and why one of the purposes of the book is to correct the wrong idea of shaddai as a giver of only good things, perhaps through the desire to contrast the true God with other contemporary fertility gods who were thought to provide all good things.
- 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.
(1) This idea comes from Neil Forsyth, The Old Enemy: Satan And The Combat Myth (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987) p. 114.