The Bible doesn’t give us a great deal of information about the devil. He appears in the first book of the Bible (Genesis 3), but we only know that it is he from the last book of the Bible (Rev. 12:9). He is the Serpent, the Tempter of Christ (Matthew 4:1, 3), and the leader of the forces that will marshal against God in the end of time (Rev. 20:8). The book that gives us the most information about the devil in the Old Testament, however, is the book of Job. Job gives us insights into his character, his purposes, his tactics, and his goals. Job 1-4 flesh out a basic doctrinal understanding of Satan. As we read the Bible together in Chronological Bible Teaching Ministries, these truths emerge from asking good questions of the text and paying attention to the Word.
Satan is an Adversary. The very word “Satan” means “adversary” in the Hebrew. He is an adversary to God (he is juxtaposed to the “sons of God” in 1:6) as one who comes to confront God. He accuses God of buying men’s love (1:9-10) with His blessings and His protection. He is also an adversary to men as image-bearers of God because he seeks to inflict hurt on those who serve God (“My servant Job”). While it is true that God brings up Job’s name, He does so only because Satan has already been scouting Job out for harm, but has been hindered by God’s “hedge” around him (1:10). Peter tells us that he is a “roaring lion, walking about seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8), and probably draws his “walking about” from Satan’s own words in Job 1:7, 2:2. Satan is adversarial because he has been charged with error (Job. 4:18), so he enters heaven’s court only to accuse and leaves at the earliest opportunity. He imputes to humans his own evil motives (1:9; 2:4), just as his followers do today.
Satan uses Means. He has both minions (Job 1:15, 17) and powers (1:16, 19) that do his bidding. He sends evil men to steal and to kill, and he employs the lightning (16) and the wind to destroy. He uses sickness (2:7) to inflict pain on God’s people with the goal of having them curse God. He also uses timing. Satan’s timing is exquisite—he sends word of one disaster on the heels of another so that Job is inundated by calamity and overwhelmed by grief (3x the text says, “while he was still speaking, another also came and said,” 16-18). Satan uses means that God has created so that he can do his evil while he lets God take the blame—and God allows it to see if His people will truly trust Him even in their calamity and pain.
Satan has Goals. As the story of Job progresses and his situation deteriorates, the constant refrain of the early chapters is, “Job did not charge God with wrong” (1:22). Satan’s goals are consistent. He wants to steal, kill, and destroy. He steals Job’s livestock (14-15, 17). He kills Job’s sheep, servants, and children (1:15, 16, 19). He destroys Job’s houses and health (1:19; 2:7); it appears to delight him to inflict pain. It is no wonder that Jesus says, “The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10a). His ultimate goal is that God’s servants curse God just as he has (2:9).
Satan has Limits. Satan is a spiritual being whose limits appear clearly in the story. He cannot touch Job without God’s permission; God’s hedge must be lifted (which Job clearly does not discern—Job 3:23). He cannot go beyond what God permits, and when his time period is ended, God “turn[s] the captivity of Job” (Job 42:10). At every point of his attack, God has to grant him permission and actually allow the evil that the enemy will inflict—but so wise is God that He will bring such future joy to Job that the present suffering will become a testimony of grace and a type of Christ. No one had as much as Job and lost it, no one was accused as unjustly as Job, no one suffered as much as Job, and no one had less understanding of the situation than Job in the Old Testament—no one, that is, until Jesus.
Dr. Stan May
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