In the book of Job, Satan approaches God and offers up a bet against God’s most favored human being, Job. Satan actually makes two bets (the first of which Satan loses fairly quickly). Both bets involve supernatural acts levied against Job. In order to accomplish these acts, Satan seems to be in control but the power that is being used seems to be from God.
Satan starts his first bet:
Job 1:9 So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?
Job 1:10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.
Job 1:11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”
Job 1:12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
Here, there seems to be multiple dynamics at play. Satan tells God to “touch” Job, signifying God’s power will hurt Job. Satan is saying God will be the one touching Job. God then replies that Job is in Satan’s hand, just that Satan cannot hurt Job’s person. This repeats itself in the second chapter, as Satan proposes a new bet along the same lines.
Job 2:4 So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life.
Job 2:5 But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”
Job 2:6 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.”
Job 2:7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.
Again “God” is the one stretching out His hand against Job, but Job is in Satan’s hand and given leeway to do anything that does not kill Job. Again, Satan tells God to use God’s power against Job yet God tells Satan that Satan is in control.
Back in the first chapter, the fire is said to have come “from God”:
Job 1:16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
Although in a quote (which is not necessarily truth) and possibly a figure of speech, this does attribute the fire being from God (at least in popular theology of that day). In the next chapter, God claims that Satan incited God against Job:
Job 2:3 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.”
Both chapters indicate Satan is in charge and performing the acts, yet both chapters also indicate God is using His power (God is acting).
The next piece of evidence is that after the events all transpire in Job, another statement is made that the calamity came from God:
Job 42:11 Then all his brothers, all his sisters, and all those who had been his acquaintances before, came to him and ate food with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversity that the LORD had brought upon him. Each one gave him a piece of silver and each a ring of gold.
Atheists say that the entire chapter is at odds with each other, but there seems to be a simpler solution:
Satan does not have his own power to perform his curses against Job. Satan must latch onto God’s power and God’s power must be used to fulfill the conditions of the bet. In essence, God is lending His power to Satan to use within parameters. In this sense, both God is the one bringing the evil against Job, yet Satan is the moral agent who is acting.
It appears at the time Job was written, the common understanding of angels did not extend to them being able to perform all these acts.
If this is accurate, Christians should incorporate this into their theology when talking about Satan. Satan is not the anti-thesis of God. Satan is not the origin of all evil. Instead, Satan has normal angel powers, and operates in a severely limited capacity compared to modern conceptions.
Also see: Understanding Satan
To me the text seems to indicate that God is saying: “I’m not going to touch Job, you can do it to extent X.”
The basis of this article seems to be the beginning of thought about satan, but goes against what you have stated in other articles that are more recent that you wrote (satan as an agent in the court of God). Is this just a progression that has been made in your thought and understanding? And if so, have you considered revising your earlier articles, or just composing one big update on the subject of “the satan” in the OT?
Other than that, i have really enjoyed reading your thoughts and understanding. Thanks!
“Is this just a progression that has been made in your thought and understanding? ”
I definitely should do a mass update, like you suggest. I think the core of this article is still good. The power seems to be from God, not the satan.