5-4-2 Job's Satan: An Angel-Satan?
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.
Num. 22:22 describes how an Angel of God stood in a narrow, walled path
before Balaam, so that his donkey fell down beneath him. That Angel is
described as a "satan", an adversary, to Balaam. Job comments
how the sufferings which the 'satan' brought upon him were God 'walling
up my way that I cannot pass' (Job 19:8). The connection is clear- and
surely indicates that Job's satan was a satan-Angel, acting as an adversary
to Job just as such an Angel did to Balaam. 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.
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
"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 / the adversary 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.
- 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! (1). 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 (2). 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 (3). 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 (4). 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
(1) 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".
(2) See my Bible Lives Chapter 11.
(3) I have traced the similarities between Job and Israel, and Job and
the "suffering servant", in Bible Lives Sections 3-1-3,
3-1-5 and 3-3-7.
(4) J.B. Russell, The Devil (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,
1977) p. 87.