1.2) A Son of Elohim as a satan: The spy and tester of the Book of Job
The Book of Job is a mystery. It does not deal with the history of Israel, and its form is unusual. It begins with a prose Prologue of two chapters, explaining how Job came to be in his unfortunate situation, followed by a long versified debate between the afflicted Job and various interlocutors, beginning in chapter 3 and continuing to the end. But it is possible that the Prologue was added later, constituting therefore a Prequel.
Most authorities consider the book, or at least the prose framework, to have been written after the return of the Israelites from the Babylonian Exile in 537 BC; others place it before the Exile (that is, before 597 or 587 BC), while still others place it during the Exile. A recent theory (again, out of Harvard2) theorizes that it is by somone who is responding to the view of D.H. We can say at least that the author of the Prologue seems to be familiar with the “satans” that we have tentatively assigned to D.H.
The book starts out, after briefly introducing us to Job and his family, like this:
One day Sons of God (Bene ha-Elohim) came to present themselves before Yahweh, and the satan (ha-satan) also came among them. Yahweh said to the satan, “Where have you come from?” The satan answered Yahweh, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” Yahweh said to the satan, “Have you considered My servant Job?” (Job 1.6-8)
And so on. We all know what follows. Yahweh praises Job as a man who fears God and turns away from all that is bad. The satan advises Yahweh to test him by stretching out His hand against him. Yahweh
gives the satan power over all his goods, and the next thing we know, fire from God destroys Job’s servants and sheep, and other horrible disasters occur, but Job still blesses Yahweh.
Then, in chapter 2, there is an almost exact repetition of the text we have just quoted: “One day Sons of God came to present themselves before Yahweh, and the satan also came among them to present himself before Yahweh.” Again Yahweh asks him where he has come from, and again the satan gives the same answer: patrolling the earth. Once again Yahweh asks him, “Have you considered My servant Job?” Yahweh goes on to praise him as before, but this time He adds, “He still persists in his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him for no reason” (Job 2.3) The satan maintains that he needs more testing, and Yahweh agrees.
There is no follow-up of this Heavenly scene at the end of the book, and no hint of what the other Sons of God do when they present themselves before Yahweh. And we must remember that the actions of Yahweh and the satan have been hidden from Job and the other humans of the story.
The first sentence of this episode can be paraphrased to say, “One of the Sons of God who served as a satan came before Yahweh,” or, “One of the satans among the Sons of God reported to Yahweh.” We can speculate that this characterization is simply an extension of the sort of language and ideas that we saw in previous books of the Bible. But it may be that the author of the prose prologue took inspiration from the poetic dialogues that he was prefacing.
First, let’s look at the discourses of one of Job’s so-called friends, Eliphaz the Temanite. He notes that God charges even His Angels with error (4.18)–something that we have seen Yahweh do with the satan, telling him that he was mistaken about Job. Later on, Eliphaz says, “God puts no trust even in his Sons of God, and the Heavens are not clean in his sight” (15.15). He also tells Job, “Call now; is there anyone who will answer you? To which of the Sons of God will you turn?” (5.1), as if he can surely find no hope of aid from Angels.
Job eventually responds: “Even now, in fact, my witness is in Heaven, and he that vouches for me is on high” (16.19). As we have seen, Yahweh himself was keeping tabs on Job—and Job resents it and calls God, “you Watcher of humanity” (7.20). But Job may be referring to a Guardian Angel or Angelic spokesman of some kind. (If Job does have a Guardian Angel, he has not been able to guard him from the satan-inflicted disasters.)
The Guardian-Angel idea seems to be confirmed by the fourth friend, Elihu the Buzzite (Job comes from the land of Uz and Elihu from the land of Buz: Uz and Buz were nephews of Abraham). Elihu says that, if a person should be in dire straits and close to dying and to going into the Pit of Sheol, “if there should be for him an Angel, a mediator, one of a thousand,” who would declare him upright and find a ransom for him, God may repay him for his righteousness and bring him back from the Pit (33.22-30).
Finally, Yahweh himself responds, and, in describing His creation of the World, He says that, at that time, “the Morning Stars sang together and all the Sons of God shouted for joy” (38.7). (We will hear about another the Morning Star later.)
So, there you have the Book of Job’s indications of the various functions performed by Angels, ranging from attendants at the Court of Yahweh, singers and applauders, guardians, observers, testers, and even agents of entrapment; and there is also a hint or two that some of the Angels have sinned or have somehow offended God.
Where did the satan figure come from? We will entertain some speculations about his origin in the next section.