Last week we looked at 1:6-22 and saw the first two scenes in the initial narrative of the book of Job. Tonight as we turn our attention to 2:1-13 we’ll see two final scenes put before us. In v1-6 we see another scene in heaven, and in v7-10 we see another scene on earth, followed by the introduction to Job’s friends.

Scene 3: Heaven (v1-6)

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And 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, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will qcurse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”

In v1-3a we see the exact same details given to us as we saw before in 1:6-8. No time reference is given to let us know how much time has come and gone between this new ‘day’ and the previous two specific days of chapter 1. We’re simply told of another heavenly court or divine council meeting where the angelic host comes to present themselves before God. Satan is present again at this meeting just as before and God’s words to him are the same “From where have you come?” The answer is also the same, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” Of course we know there is much more to the story than Satan’s answer reveals because he had just executed all his plans against Job to remove all his greatness. God, knowing this full well, again responds with the exact same recommendation here in v3a as He did back in 1:8, “Have you considered My servant Job, there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Three times now we have heard this same language about Job (1:1, 1:8, 2:3), once from the author and twice from God. Again, this repetition is purposefully done in order to cement it in us as the reader, that Job is truly a godly man.

But this time God adds more to his response to Satan in v3b, “He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to destroy him without reason.” In this little addition God reminds Satan of two things. First, that in spite of his best efforts Job is still a godly man even though he is now no longer a great man. Second, that his destructive motive toward Job was illogical, unreasonable, and undeserved. This statement from God concerning Satan’s destructive intentions is the Old Testament equivalent of Jesus’ statement about the thieves and robbers of His own day in John 10:10, “The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy…”[1] Satan responds in an angry outburst at this in v4-5, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” We get this don’t we? Of course Satan is angry. His prior attempts at ruining Job’s supposed godliness and defaming God’s glory publicly have failed miserably. We could even say that Satan’s actions have done nothing but add to these things instead of taking away from them. So now, having lost round one, he attempts to destroy Job and defame God even deeper by attacking not just what Job has but who Job is. What he’s getting at here is that there is a distinction between what a person has and what a person is.[2] Attack what someone has and they may get angry, depressed, and sorrowful…but attack who the person is (health, body, and soul) and they’ll be brought down to the deepest levels of misery.

After his initial efforts failed this is what Satan wants. To him, this is the way to expose Job for the fraud that he thinks he is. And God in v6 gives it to him saying, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” Perhaps at this point we as the readers want to say[3] “Enough! Hasn’t he suffered enough already? Everything he has is now gone. He may have been the greatest man in all the east but now he is the least of all men in the east.” Yet, God allows more suffering to come to Job. Why? Because God wants to not only drive it home to us that His glory really is more important than our comfort, He also wants it to be publicly seen, without a shadow of a doubt, that He is worthy of worship on His own.

Scene 4: Earth (v7-10)

“So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

Last time as we saw the transition from heaven to earth in chapter 1 we’re not sure of how much time took place in that transition. Here, as we see this next transition from heaven to earth it’s a different story.[4] We’re not told of a time frame, just like last time, but do you notice what is not repeated this time? There is no repetition of the phrase ‘Now there was a day…’ So, here in v7 the sense is that Satan in his furious rage immediately leaves the presence of God to carry out his next attack on Job. Also, notice while last time all of Job’s suffering was caused by secondary causes. Two terror attacks (from the Sabeans and Chaldeans) and two natural disasters (lightning and gale force winds). Here there is no secondary cause. Notice “So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job…” This was a personal, fury filled, intimate attack, not on Job’s possessions but on Job himself. The entirety of his physical health is taken from him, such that his whole body is covered in loathsome sores. We do not know exactly what this is, but we do know for sure that these sores were disagreeable.[5]

As bad as this scene is it gets worse. Satan’s personal attack is over, and while the effect of the sores lingers as he scrapes himself with a piece of broken pottery we see another kind of attack come from his own wife. The only time we meet her in the entire book is right here in v9-10, and what we see of her is terrible. Yet, we must try to resist a pronouncement of judgment on her. Grief truly does hit people in very different ways but one thing that is common to most all people in grief is anger. When we see her in v9 it seems that we’ve met her during her angry grief. Her deplorable counsel to Job is, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” This counsel is so awful it prompted St. Augustine to call her ‘the devil’s assistant’, and Calvin to call her ‘Satan’s tool’ because she was asking Job to do the very thing Satan was trying to get him to do.[6] But, even though she is his wife Job responds in correction, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” He doesn’t call her a fool but does say her counsel is what foolish women say. Which implies that he does not believe her to be like such fools. He then tells her they should not only accept the easy things that come from God’s hand but the hard things as well. I find it interesting that while many today would disagree with Job’s words here saying evil doesn’t come to us from God but rather from free will or some kind of chance, v10 confirms that Job’s response is correct. “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Clearly this does not only refer to Job’s response but how he has responded from the whole of this second attack from Satan. He has passed trial number two, and now it is publicly known that Job is a man who worships God because He is worthy of worship and not for any other reason.

Before we move on to meet his friends let me say this. These first two chapters of Job are scary and terrible. Job isn’t merely among the greatest men of the east, he is the greatest in the east. And Job doesn’t slowly decline into poverty, he plunges from riches to destitution all in one day. I think we see this as scary and terrible because deep down we know that if God permits it to be so Job’s story can quickly become our story. But be reminded. No mere human has ever suffered like this. Job’s suffering is extreme, and very rare even in the most tragic of cases. I’d even say his extreme suffering is intentionally rare. Why? It all points to a deeper reality than you or I. In his commentary Christopher Ash says it like this, “Job in his extremity is actually a shadow of a reality more extreme still, of a Man who was not just blameless but sinless, who was, not just the greatest Man in a region, but the greatest human being in history, greater even than merely human, who emptied Himself of all His glory, became incarnate, and went all the way down to a degrading, naked, shameful death on the cross, whose journey took Him from eternal fellowship with the Father to utter aloneness on the cross. The story of Job is a shadow of the greater story of Jesus Christ.”[7]

Yes, even in our day after the cross Satan can still accuse us and attack us but because of the cross his accusations and attacks are answered. Indeed, Satan himself and all his destructive intentions are now crushed, put to an open shame on the cross, and stripped of their power. He may have been allowed to enter these heavenly councils but he is no longer welcome because our advocate reigns on high! Sin may still have a grip and power on us, but now because of the cross the only sin we struggle with is a canceled sin! And the only foe we battle is a defeated foe! In all our suffering we must remember this.

Enter the Friends (v11-13)

Before the poetics interchanges begin between Job and his friends, the narrative of chapter one and two ends with an introduction to those friends. v11-13 say, “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”

It must have taken some time for these friends to have heard of Job’s suffering and then some more time to travel and get to Job because Job himself later speaks of months and months of emptiness and isolation (7:3). But when they hear of it, they come. They are from the great cities of Teman, Shuauh, and Naamah. The way these cities are spoken of elsewhere in Scripture leads us to believe these cities were places of renown in that time, full of the wisdom of the world. So in a true sense, that they come to him leads us to ask, ‘Can the world in all its wisdom give this innocent, godly, sufferer help in time of grief or will they in all of their wisdom be shown to be foolish?’[8] No doubt you have heard many say their initial silence was the best thing they did, and at first it was. But it does seem that they were silent too long, which reveals their silence isn’t aiming at being helpful, it was aiming at accusations, which is made clear in all their words to him.[9]

So what do we do with this? What are we to make of his friends presence, if their presence is a bad one from the very beginning? Jean Danielou, a French theologian said this, “Suffering encloses a man in solitude…Between Job and his friends an abyss was cleft. They regarded him with astonishment as a strange being…and they could no longer get to him. Only Jesus could cross this abyss, descend into the abyss of misery, plunge into the deepest hell.”[10]

So we are left with a realistic view of life. It can sometimes be dreadfully hard and lonely. But we’re also left with gospel hope. Job’s suffering and isolation is only a taste of what Jesus Christ suffered. And because of His greater suffering we can have hope in ours, that no pain is too great, no grief can take us too far, and no pit is too black for Christ to bring life and light into our sorrow and despair.

 

 

Citations:

[1] In it’s context Jesus is speaking of the thieves and robbers who would try to sneak into the pen and steal the sheep. This text isn’t explicitly aimed at Satan, though it can be applied to him implicitly as the ultimate thief and robber.

[2] Christopher Ash, Job – The Wisdom of the Cross, Preaching the Word Commentary, page 51.

[3] Ash, page 51-52.

[4] Ash, page 52.

[5] The Hebrew word for ‘loathsome’ means literally ‘disagreeable.’

[6] Ash, page 53.

[7] Ash, page 54.

[8] Ash, page 60.

[9] Ash, on page 62 he argues from 1 Samuel 31:13 that silence for 7 days was called for only after someone died. Job is not dead, therefore the silence is too long and perhaps isn’t quite as good as seems as first. He also cites Ecclesiasticus 22:12 which says the same.

[10] Quoted in Ash, page 64.

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