IT’S THE QUESTION OF THE WEEK
It comes from Rachel Fry, who wins a free book for her trouble.
She says her question comes from this verse in the Bible: “One day when the angels came to report to God, Satan, who was the Designated Accuser, came along with them” (Job 1:6, The Message).
Her question: What is happening at this presentation, and how did Satan obtain access to this heavenly occasion?
Tell you what, Rachel. I’ll give you some of the theories I’ve heard about. I’ll let you pick the one you think sounds most reasonable – recognizing the fact that the most reasonable explanation is not always the reality.
The book of Job is a parable
The story never happened.
To many Christians, that answers a lot of questions about the book of Job. Questions like: “How could any writer take such accurate and detailed notes about an incredibly long-winded debate without some kind of recording device a bit more advanced than a quill and a scroll?”
As the theory goes, the story was invented as a way of teaching that when bad things happen to people it’s not necessarily because God is punishing them.
Many Jews believed that good things happened to people because God was rewarding them and that bad things happened to people because God was punishing them. That’s why when Jesus’s disciples saw a man born blind they asked, “Was this man born blind because he sinned? Or did his parents sin?” (John 9:2 NIRV).
The Accuser wasn’t Satan
Satan is a Hebrew word. When we say Satan, we’re speaking Hebrew. The word means “accuser.” There are times in the Bible when the Hebrew language calls God the accuser, or satan.
For example, compare these two versions of the same story:
- “Satan rose up against Israel and caused David to take a census” (1 Chronicles 21:1 NLT).
- “The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census” (2 Samuel 24:1).
So it’s possible, some theorize, that accuser in the story of Job was simply a celestial being who had been patrolling the earth. An angelic policeman.
But given his recommendation to God about what to do to Job, if this celestial being was an angel, he was one devil of an angel.
It was his idea to put Job through all the tortures Job endured: death of his kids, the loss of all of his flocks and his workers, and the loss of his health.
I wouldn’t want a guardian angel like that.
The Accuser was the devil
Many Bible experts argue that Satan doesn’t show up in the Bible until the New Testament, when he arrives to tempt Jesus.
Even the story of the talking snake stops short of identifying the snake as the devil. We have to wait until the last book in the Bible – Revelation – before anyone connects the snake to Satan.
Yet, given the tortures this accuser put Job through, he certainly doesn’t sound like a heavenly insider. He sounds like the kind of intruder we’d want to sic the dog on.
Whoever this accuser was and whatever he was doing in heaven in a meeting with God, it all seems to baffle most Bible experts.
It’s kind of fun to think about this for a few minutes and to write about it for a few more. But after that, I figure, we ought to get back to the business of living the kind of life that would make us better people to be around than Job’s comforters were.
We should probably talk only so long about Bible stuff that doesn’t take us anywhere.
If we talk any longer, perhaps someone should ask us the same question Job asked his comforters: “Won’t you ever stop blowing hot air?” (Job 16:3).