posted on Nov, 18 2013 @ 01:31 AM
(Job Chapter 1, verse 8)
Satan answers God with a challenge, saying that Job is only upright because of his material wealth. Satan asks God to let him take away Job’s
goods, and God gives Job’s wealth into Satan’s hands. This Satan achieves with the aid of those pesky Sabeans and Chaldeans, the Jews’ eternal
curse, foreign tribes. Job deals with his losses in the following often quoted and beautiful passage:
Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the
(Job Chapter 1, verse 21)
Job does not sin or “charge God foolishly,” and so God has won the first hand.
Satan is persistent and is ready to play another hand, however, so he ups the ante. He has been going to and fro in the earth again, you see, and
has been disappointed by his loss of the first bet. He tries another argument:
And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his
bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.
(Job Chapter 2, verses 4-5)
God is willing to proceed with the game and gives Satan power once again. I am not sure what exactly is meant by “sore boils,” but they sound
pretty bad. I would hate to be covered with them from head to toe and have to scrape myself with a potsherd. The interjection at this point by
Job’s wife is interesting-she tells Job to “curse God and die.” Sometimes the Old Testament seems to have it in for women, and this reminds me
of how certain analysts throughout the ages have blamed Eve for the fall of man. Job doesn’t scold her too harshly, but merely calls her foolish
and commiserates with his male friends.
This is enough, however, to make Job curse the day he was born, and he does it with a high degree of hyperbole. This seems to be the end of
Satan’s chances to challenge God over Job. Twice is enough-Job, covered with those boils and speaking with his friends about the wisdom and justice
of God while being reproached by certain of them, such as Zophar, as he was by his wife, goes on in his meditations for quite some time. We are left
to assume that after Satan’s exit he simply goes to and fro in the earth once more to find new potential victims to challenge God over. I told you
it was a hard job! When Bildad speaks of the justice of God, Job answers:
I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand. He is wise in
heart, and mighty in strength…(etc.)
(Job Chapter 9, verses 2-4)
Satan’s wager with God is over, and Job’s trust is still intact. We may trust that it is intact even though those boils are still there. This
strange but seminal book of the Bible continues with Job “reproving” both his own life and his friend’s reproofs until the next passage that I
would like to quote, which shows an almost childlike trust of God. It is, quite simply, beautiful:
Man that is born of a woman is of but a few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow,
and continueth not. And dost thou open thine eyes upon such a one, and bringest me into judgment with thee? Who can bring a clean thing out of an
unclean? Not one.
(Job Chapter 14, verses 1-4)
In Chapter 31, Job finally requests God’s presence:
Oh, that one would hear me! Behold, my desire is, that the almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book.
(Job, Chapter 31, verse 35)
God answers the prayer in person this time later on in Chapter 38, “out of the whirlwind.”
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest?
Or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the corner stone thereof;
(God likes to measure things and is always willing to talk about His creation.)
When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had
issued out of the womb?
(Job Chapter 38, verses 4-8)
God is willing to spend a lot of time with Job, while Satan had tired of God’s presence quickly. For all God’s seeming chiding in testing Job’s
faith and wisdom, the wager is complete at the end of the book when God gives back to Job “more than his beginning.”
God is a stern taskmaster but his tasks have a purpose. So do Satan’s, but it is significant that though Satan causes the actual losses to
Job’s property and well-being, he is in and out of the story quickly. The long middle of the book of Job is poetic and revealing, and God appears
to Job only in the end after much discussion among Job and his friends about the hardships caused by “the adversary.” God needs to establish
trust, and it is only because Job was so upright to begin with that his hardships are so many. The reward to both God and Job at the end is so much
greater because of this.
For a much later version of the same encounter between Satan and God in heaven, I now turn to the Prologue in Heaven from Goethe’s Faust. I am
using the translation by Philip Wayne. Faust is a character much different than Job in his intellectual questing and moral overreaching, but as a
representative of the human condition he is similar. The Prologue in Heaven is a masterpiece of poetry, as is the entire play. Mephistopheles is
clearly indicated in several lines throughout the play as the devil himself, though in Christopher Marlowe’s beautiful The Tragical History of the
Life and Death of Dr. Faustus he is a mere underling to Lucifer. Listen to Goethe’s Job-recalling lines as, after the three archangels’
introduction, Mephistopheles appears:
Since You, O Lord, are with us here once more,
To ask how we are going on at large,
And since you viewed me kindly heretofore,
I thought I’d make one, too, in the menage.
Your pardon, if my idiom is lowly,
My eloquence up here would meet with scorn,
Pathos from me would cause you laughter solely,
If laughter weren’t a thing you have forsworn.
Your suns and worlds are not within my ken,
I merely watch the plaguey state of men. (etc.)
The direct and simple Satan of the book of Job has almost been reversed with God in that he is the one, despite his protestation that his “idiom is
lowly,” who is using the most eloquence. The Lord’s answers are more direct:
Have you no more to say to me?
Is plaint your one necessity?
Will nothing please you upon earth?