Was it Satan as the “devil” who was permitted to ruin Job’s life (see Job 1)? My long-time friend Louis McBride over at Baker Book House Church Connection has some fascinating entries on the identity of Job’s opponent. Traditionally the one who inflicts suffering and devastation on Job is Satan, A.K.A. the “devil.” However, two very well-known and highly respected evangelical scholars of the Old Testament bring this into question.
Check out Tremper Longman’s take and John Walton’s take and you’ll see some surprising findings that suggest the traditional understanding may not be so informed. Needless to say, if the text does not refer to Satan or the “devil,” this may significantly reshape some of our thinking around the cause of evil and suffering, as well as our understanding around Satan’s role and power in this world.
Here are a few lines from Walton and Longman:
“The profile of the Hebrew śaṭan in the book of Job does not answer to the same description as the Christian view of Satan in the New Testament. While the pictures are not contradictory, and they may even be complementary, we cannot consider them homogeneous.”
— John Walton
“The verb śṭn means ‘to accuse’ or ‘to be an adversary,’ but as may clearly be seen from the transliteration of the Hebrew, it also eventually is used as a proper name for the devil. Thus many English versions give the impression that this figure is the devil (NIV, NLT, NRSV). However, there are significant reasons to doubt that this refers to the devil.”
— Tremper Longman
Given God’s meticulous sovereignty over every event in our lives, which he orchestrates for his own purposes that are finally and fully good for us and which will bring optimal glory to himself, here are a few questions I have: If God himself were our opponent and he came against us, whether by use of other beings such as angels, circumstances, relationships, economic loss, et al., would we remain faithful to him as our opponent no matter what? Does it really matter who is the source behind our affliction and suffering, so long as we remain steadfast in our conviction that God knows precisely what he’s doing and has morally sufficient reasons, often known only to him, why he allows suffering and pain in our lives? Most importantly, “When the Son of Man man comes, will he find faith on the earth” (note Jesus uses the strong contrastive πλὴν = “however,” which could be translated “regardless”)?
See also my post Reflections on Aurora, Colorado Shootings: “Why God?”