“There was a man…” are words found in ANE (Ancient Near-Eastern) parables—discussions about theodicy.1 This shows this story is something beyond Israel’s history. Usually, OT books in the OT narrative, begin with a Wayyiqtol (A Hebrew verb form which continues the narrative). But, this doesn’t continue any narrative. It is timeless, and thus poised to be more universal. This story carries weight for all people, not just Israelites.
“…in the land of Uz…” This is in the region of Edom.2 Again, this emphasizes the story as outside of Israel—bigger than what meets the eye.
“…whose name is Job…” This is a historical individual, and his name hints at the theme of the book. Job means “enemy.” “Oyve, oyve!” (Yiddish for “oh no! oh no!”) is like saying “enemy.” Same root. The issue is: Who is the enemy? Is Job the bad guy (awkward, considering the end of this verse), or is God, then? The book wants you to be confused about this.
“…blameless and upright…” and “…fearing God and turning away from evil…” 2 Lines. The first deals with the horizontal, the whole of Job’s life, the overarching perspective. “Upright” means straight, level, not crooked or bending or swerving. We see Job as on the “straight and narrow” in every way. This begins to establish Job’s innocence and even presumption of righteousness. The second line is vertical, dealing with his relationship with God. “Fearing God” is more than reverence. The referent is about reverence, but the sense is about fear—it’s like fearing a King who can put you to death.3 “Fear is the recognition that there’s somebody greater, and that means they deserve all your attention and you better respond appropriately.” Therefore, turning away from evil is the only response you can have if you fear God—the same way your only response is to run when you see a bear.
Since fearing God is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 1:7), the core issue here is not just the fairness of suffering (does Job deserve to suffer or doesn’t he?) but about wisdom. Does Job have wisdom? Later you will see Job’s fear of God is small, and the suffering draws that out. In the dialogues to come, he loses wisdom because he loses the fear of God.4
Job’s family is of utmost importance to him. The fronting of this is clear—everything else comes later in the chapter. Cultures perceive families as perfect in different ways (Americans say the perfect family is one boy and one girl), and Job has that. In the ANE 7 + 3 equals fullness. He has the perfect family. He is the perfect candidate for suffering because the higher they are, the further they fall.
Side-note: There is no cause-and-effect relationship in Job 1:1-2. The narrative just gives us facts. Job isn’t blessed because of his uprightness. Those two issues are unattached.
Job owns his own clothing line and grocery store. He’s Walmart. His wealth is so great, people would want to do business with him, personally. Camels are used for trade, and he has 3k of them. He’s Enterprise rent-a-car; except it’s rent-a-camel. Female donkeys are only mentioned for the sake of female breeding. So he’s also a breeder. The final phrase isn’t incidental, it’s logical. He’s The Man of the ANE. He is the focal point of society, thus the best candidate for this situation, because everyone will see and understand. In argument of greater to lesser; if Job can go through this and learn, how much more can we “normal” people?
Job’s family actually get along. The “day” issue is probably that each son had one day per week to host—7 sons, 7 days. This is perfect luxury and familial joy, and Job loves them.
Job wants to make sure his children are guarded from sin. His primary fear is that his kids would curse God in their heart. 1) curse is the word to “bless.” Just like the English word “dust” can be “dirt” or to remove the dirt. This use of blessing is not rare (cf. 1 Kgs 21:10; Ps 10:3). This is a word-play in the whole book.
Job’s friends accuse Job of cursing God in his heart. What he feared would happen, happened. Job will soon be tempted to curse God, but Job, as a person, detests that precise practice. He will fight against those things; so he is a great candidate because when Job melts down, we know he’s not the one to turn on God. Job isn’t like that… or is he?
Camera angle shifts from earth to heaven. Everything is swell, but… then…
“…sons of God…” are angelic beings. They come to “…present themselves to the Lord…”5 You don’t just show up in God’s heavenly court-room for fun; you must be summoned. God is the one who called this meeting. He started it all. That’s important to note.
“…Satan also came among them…” Hebrew emphasizes not Satan’s name, but his office. “A Satan”, an opposer, an accuser, an enemy. A Satan is one who gets up in court and accuses. He is brought in to challenge the rightness of someone. Job is nowhere in sight; it’s just angels, God, and Satan; and the angels aren’t involved in the Job drama. The purpose of the court is thus to put God on trial, and the question is one of rightness: who is right and who is wrong—God, or Job?…(or maybe, hopefully, both?)
“…YHWH…” here references the Covenant God by using His Covenant name. This links God to the patriarchs with whom He has covenanted.
“…said…” God is the one talking first. He chooses the topic of conversation, and what He says is about the earth and about Job. Satan, on the other hand, “answered.” He never does anything of his own initiative. He is always a responder. God is Sovereign, completely in control—nothing is left to chance. Everything is due to him and therefore is a reflection of Him.
“…roaming…around on it…” Satan isn’t just meandering around; He is searching (cf. 2 Sam 24:2). It’s a purposeful stroll. He’s hunting for something, and God knows that, so He asks the question to get Satan to talk about it, to draw him out.
Again, the LORD “said.”
“Have you considered…” God is the one who brings up Job—not Satan. God highlights Job because He has sovereignly appointed Job for this task: to be a contention point between Him and Satan. This question is rhetorical; it’s a command. To “set your heart” means to put full focus on. It’s God who wants Satan to do this.
“…None like him…” Job is the perfect candidate in both social status (wealth, prosperity, family, etc) and righteousness.
“…blameless and upright man…” (same wording from Job 1:1). These are the attributes the text pulls out because these are the ones God intends to test. It’s Job’s righteousness that’s about to be tested.
Again, Satan answers.
“Have you considered…” This is the question central to the book. As we saw in Job 1:1 and Job 1:2, Job’s righteousness doesn’t cause him to be rich and happy, but Satan assumes that there is a reason (cause) behind Job’s righteousness. Satan argues there is a causality here, that God’s work in raising up a righteous individual is suspect.
Satan is essentially accusing God of bribing his kids to do right. Satan’s worldview is inline with the Divine Retribution Principle (DR Principle in future), just like Job’s friends. And this accusation is deeper than Job’s own life. It stretches into redemptive history. Job, arguably, is in line with the “seed” of Gen 3:15, and so Satan is also attacking that line of the righteous seed, essentially saying that God is manipulating history and people to be right by bribing them. He accuses God of hoisting a fake “remnant” by manipulation—that He bribed people to love Him and be faithful to Him.
The DR Principle will appear throughout the book. It is the contrasting worldview to the Truth, the Truth which Job exists to unpack (more on that later). The DR Principle is inherently Satanic—it is anti-God and contrary to His plan.
Satan is arguing several things that God has done in order to coerce Job to fear Him.
- Protection (God controls harm)
- Blessing (God makes him abundantly rich. The land can’t even contain all of Job’s earnings)
“stretch out your hand…” is a wordplay on Job’s “sending” for his kids, sending them good things, and Satan tells God to “send” his hand out to Job with a bomb in it. Satan is very deliberate in the wording to make this contrast.
Satan trash-talks—it is really bold—saying he will “bless” God. (The Hebrew word for curse here is “bless”.) It’s sarcastic. Satan mocks Job’s reaction to what God is about to do—“Oh, yeah, he’ll bless you God! No doubt!” Satan is making fun.
Again, the LORD “said.”
“Put forth (send) your hand on him…” In Job 1:11 Satan tells God to “send” his hand out to Job, but now God flips it on Satan, telling him to “send” his own hand out. God says it’s not His job to do anything like that. God never does wrong by His own hand, and yet, He is sovereign over the evil. He disassociates Himself from the evil about to happen to Job—both from doing it and from planning it. (Implications: God is innocent from Job, but the entire book tries to figure out how God could not be involved, which sets up for the need for Divine Revelation to show forth the truth which human wisdom can’t grasp.)
“only…” God limits and restrains Satan to what is only legitimate. He doesn’t give Satan free reign, only reign to do what is permissible.
God limits Satan from touching Job’s person. God is sovereign in what he allows but also in what he doesn’t allow.
“Satan departed…” He doesn’t respond and negotiate. Satan just obeys.
“Now on the day…” This scene is happening simultaneous to the heavenly scene (which begins in Job 1:6), so that it is all one day here.
“Sons and daughters…” he loves his family the most.
“Oldest brother…” This is the best party. It’s not only family; it’s the top of the family. Satan’s design is to strike while Job is at the tip-top.
The oxen and donkeys are not the top of Job’s food chain, they are the bottom—but they still mean something to him. The point is Satan is attacking from the bottom and working his way up.
The Sabeans “fell upon” them. They are from the South.
“I alone have escaped to tell you…” This is a common refrain you must follow.
“While…” The timing of this is impeccable. Satan has timed it perfectly. It all is coming down at the same time, and more than that, there is an ordering of these things. Who can have this control over providence? God. This is an opportunity for Satan to act like God. “Satan is framing God. He’s trying to make it look like God did this.” And he has the right to—God gave it to him.
“The fire of God…from heaven” Again, Satan is framing God. The servant interprets the disaster to be from God.
“fell…” Just like the Sabeans.
The sheep is the next step from the oxen. They are totally destroyed.
“I alone have escaped to tell you…” “Is this some kind of sick joke?” No it isn’t a human prank, it must be some kind of divine prank.
Chaldeans are from the North. Job is sandwiched; the whole world is out to get him. Satan has turned the world against Job at this moment. This is a deliberate military attack.
Camels, again, are a next step up. At this point, Job has nothing left. He is financially devastated in a matter of seconds.
“I alone have escaped to tell you…” What a joke!
At this point, when the servant says “sons and daughters” the emotion hits Job. He knows. Satan has saved the best for last, and this destroys Job. This is the moment of maximum pain—the crushing blow of all—because Job loves his family the most (cf. Job 1:5).
“Great wind…” this is divine. It strikes four corners. Usually wind blows in just one direction. Yes, tornados can swirl, hitting one corner after another, but this wind comes from four angles at once. It was a bright summer day, nice and hot wind from the East, and then BOOM.
“…fell…” The Sabeans fell, fire from heaven fell, and now the house falls.
“I alone have escaped to tell you…”: the 4th repeat.
The question now is Will Job curse God? If he does, Satan is right about the way the world works. He is right about God bribing the faithful. In one word, Job can overturn everything and discredit God, who is on trial. Satan has done his best to frame God for Job’s demise, so we are wondering what in the world Job will do.
The answer comes way at the end of the verse. It’s suspense built in through the rhetoric.
“arose” signifies immediate action. He is moving, immediately.
“tore his robe” A robe is a sign of status, so when you tear it, you are saying you have no pleasure in life anymore. You are revoking your privilege. This is reasonable for Job to do.
“shaves his head” This gets a little more unnerving because shaving the head is a pagan act. The Levites in Leviticus are forbidden to shave their heads—and tear their garments for that matter because they can’t revoke their privilege.6 When you shave your head, you are trying to make yourself look like a corpse and disassociate your personhood. I’m no longer “me.” It’s unnerving, but Job hasn’t crossed any lines yet.
“fell” After all that has fallen, Job does too. If you are reading closely, this causes you great worry. The Hebrew idiom is to “fall and weep.”7 But Job doesn’t. He worships. He falls and worships. Shocking! What just happened? God won, that’s what happened. God just won.
At this point God has destroyed Job but kept him alive to hear what Job will say—and Job vindicates the glory of God with his actions and his mouth. Satan was wrong about Job, about God, about the way the world works, everything.
Nakedness denotes having nothing. At this moment Job recognizes who he is. He expresses not just who he is but also who God is. God blesses and takes away. This shows Job’s view of man and God—there is a categorical difference between man and God, and this expression is his words describing the fear of God (Job 1:1). Job is asserting he has no rights, no entitlement to anything. Therefore, God is right. He alone has prerogative. This is the first and profound declaration of God’s rightness. God can do what He wants because He has the right. He can give; He can take away; He can do whatever he wants.
“…Blessed be the name of YHWH…” At this point the word “curse” hasn’t occurred. Satan uses the word “bless” ironically, mocking Job’s response, and yet here, Job truly does bless God. Satan gets owned. The construction in Hebrew is distinct, too. It’s a paraphrastic construction which emphasizes the enduring state of God’s blessedness; it’s even stronger than using just the verb “bless.” So Satan wants Job to curse God with the normal verb, but instead, Job blesses God with an even stronger expression than Satan could anticipate. It heightens the irony and the defeat of Satan. He’s wrong about everything—even the semantics.
“nor did he blame (utter any tastelessness about) God…” Job didn’t utter any unkind word against God. The Hebrew word for “tasteless” here is “tiphal” (which sounds like “naphal”, which means to “fall”—the word used over and over in Job 1). Satan wanted job to fall, but Job didn’t fall for it. The last comment of the chapter is showing the irony of Job’s response. He didn’t fall, and he didn’t fault God either. Satan loses in dramatic style.
You can be honest in your expression of pain. Job’s suffering and expressions of suffering don’t disqualify God from winning. You don’t have to hide your hurt. In the end, what makes God win is that you still worship. That is the vindication of God.
Americans think that whatever is nice is right—that’s our morality. It’s nice to give your kids candy, but that isn’t always right. It’s nice to sweep sin under the rug, but it isn’t right.
This spiritual activity still goes on. Ephesians 3 tells us this spiritual warfare still goes on. But this doesn’t mean we should go slinging Bibles at demons (like Frank Perreti). Paul understands there is a supernatural element to his ministry (Eph 3:10). Ephesians 3 draws on Eph 1:20-22, saying that we are the extension of Christ’s efforts on the earth so that when we war, we point to Him. Paul takes this further in Eph 6 into the armor of God with which we fight this battle. This connects us to Job because we too suffer but God gets the glory; He is highlighted.
Job 1:21 is carried forward into 1 Tim 6:7. The false teachers were infatuated with stuff, but Timothy shouldn’t be. He should be like Job.
- This is what makes some think Job is a parable (meaning a fictional story). But that isn’t the right implication of this line. ↩
- cf. Lam 4:21; Jer 25:20. ↩
- Hermeneutics delineates the meaning of words into the sense and the referent. Referent is the meaning the word stands for, and the sense is the fuller meaning and feeling from that word. ↩
- This gets back to the reason we need revelation. The moment we know that we don’t know is when we realize how much we need Him and must fear Him. The whole book of Job serves to prove that you don’t know anything. ↩
- cf. Deut 31:14; Judges 20:19 ↩
- Which is why at the trial of Jesus the high priest tears his garment when Jesus “blasphemes” and it’s like What?? Jesus didn’t blaspheme; you just did, buddy! ↩
- cf. Gen 33:4, 45:14, 46:29, 50:1, etc. ↩