God in the Dock, or “I’m Going to Sue God.” [Job 6-9]

Hello, Scroll Eaters! Yesterday I mentioned that most of the early part of Job will be spent “off-reading” while I give much of the background. Let’s talk about the framework of the entire book today.

Job, the book, is a legal metaphor. Job sues God for wrongful punishment. Here are some NASB quotes from Job’s mouth:
“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.” – Job 13:15
“Behold now, I have prepared my case; I know that I will be vindicated.” – Job 13:18
“If you say, ‘How shall we persecute him?’ And ‘What pretext for a case against him can we find?'” – Job 19:28
“I would present my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments.” – Job 23:4

Job’s biggest aggravation is that he feels that even if he’s been wrongly accused, who can defend him against God? I mean, seriously, if God thinks you’re guilty and punishes you, and he is both Judge and Jury and Prison Warden, what defense attorney is getting you out of that one? Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are trying to convince Job he’s done something to deserve this, and if he’ll just repent, he’ll be fine. Job adamantly maintains his innocence, and cries out for an advocate who can defend him. Again, some NASB quotes:
“For [God] is not a man as I am that I may answer Him, that we may go to court together. There is no umpire between us, who may lay his hand upon us both.” – Job 9:32-33
“Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my advocate is on high.” – Job 16:19 (Though Job has no concept of the coming Christ, he knows on some deep level that the only one who can defend him against God is God.)
“And as for me, I know that my redeemer lives, and at the last he will take his stand on the earth.” – Job 19:25 (Ditto.)

So, Job maintains his innocence and his friends argue his guilt. Ultimately, God shows up and tells the friends that Job has spoken rightly about him, and they haven’t. Job is restored to even greater riches than before, has ten more children, and Job sacrifices on behalf of his friends, intervening for them (Job 41-42). God never tells Job what happened with Satan.

Before God restores Job, however, he has a few choice words for him along the lines of “Who do you think you are challenging how I do things?”

Now, in this legal construct, if God is the judge and jury and penal administrator, and he’s also the defense attorney (though Job doesn’t know this), who is the prosecuting attorney? Meet Satan.

Now, I’m about to get controversial, but I’ve never shied away from controversy, even if I don’t exactly search it out. Here goes.

First, the word הַשָּׂטָ֖ן is transliterated as “hasatan” and is literally translated as “the adversary.” It could be rendered as “the satan.” It is not translated “Satan.” That is a transliteration as a proper name. Confused yet? Hebrew names are words. Melchizedek is “the king of righteousness.” Joel is “Jehovah is God.” “Satan” is actually not a name, but a title. The word simply means “adversary.” So Job 1:6 reads, literally, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and the adversary also came among them.”

This word הַשָּׂטָ֖ן “hasatan” is used in the Old Testament 27 times. 26 of those times it is used as a title. Only once is it used as a name (I Chronicles 21:1 HCSB). Of those 26 times it’s a title, over half of them, 14 to be exact, are in Job 1-2. When Bible translations use “Satan” the name in Job 1-2, they are “reading backwards” from the full revelation of the New Testament, assuming it’s the devil. Personally, I’m a proponent of not “interpreting for us via translation,” and appreciate it when translators translate the literal phrase. It’s here used as a title, and should be translates as such. Many scholars state that הַשָּׂטָ֖ן “hasatan” of Job 1-2 is not the devil we think of in the New Testament.

Who is he then? “Adversary” was a legal term, along with “Advocate,” so הַשָּׂטָ֖ן “hasatan” in Job is God’s prosecuting attorney. Consider the legal construct again. The prosecuting attorney brings an accusation toward Job. He may not even really believe it, as a real prosecuting attorney today might think a defendant is innocent, but his job is to prosecute. So, he accuses Job of being faithful to God only because God has built a hedge of protection around Job. Job’s wealthy, has a big family, and has good health. Take all that away, and he won’t worship you. Two accusations are brought here by the adversary. The first is obvious: he’s accusing Job of taking bribes. Much more subtle is the implication that God is giving bribes. God is being subtly accused by the adversary of buying Job off. The implication is “You’re buying his loyalty.” God’s character is put on the line. So, God gives permission for the adversary to take all that away. Job of course feels wronged, but stays faithful; he does not “curse God and die.”

I named this post “God in the Dock” because the adversary accuses God of buying off Job. I also named it “I’m going to sue God” because that’s exactly what Job wants to do.

A few more biblical references will drive the point home that הַשָּׂטָ֖ן “hasatan” is not necessarily “Satan” with a capital S. In I Samuel 29:4 HCSB, the Philistines call David “the satan” when they say, “Send that man [David] back and let him return to the place you assigned him. He must not go down with us into battle only to become our adversary during the battle. What better way could he regain his master’s favor than with the heads of our men?” In I Kings 5:4 HCSB, and enemy of Solomon’s is called הַשָּׂטָ֖ן “hasatan” – “The LORD my God has now given me rest all around; there is no enemy or crisis.” Finally, Numbers 22:22, 32 NASB, the Angel of the LORD, who is of course the Second Person of the Trinity Himself, is called הַשָּׂטָ֖ן “hasatan.” That’s right, the Person of the Trinity who will be born as Jesus is called הַשָּׂטָ֖ן “hasatan” – “But God was angry because [Balaam] was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him…. And the angel of the LORD said to him, ‘Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me.'”

See, הַשָּׂטָ֖ן “hasatan” is primarily adversary, not Satan, and in Job 1-2 it could go either way, but the legal construct makes it likely that it’s The Adversary and not Satan.

Regardless, once Job us “successful” in not denouncing God, the adversary disappears from the book. He does not appear after chapter 2! Once the case is presented, he’s gone. He’s done his job before God (if Adversary), or he’s tucked tale and run (if Satan).

We’ll look some more at Job background tomorrow. For tomorrow read Job 10-13.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

This entry was posted in Bible, Bible 2011, Bible Reading, Bible Reading Plan, Christian, Christianity, Ketubim, Ketuvim, Old Testament, Religion, Theology, Wisdom Literature, Writings and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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