Why did God ask Satan if he had considered His servant, Job? And did Satan choose to obey God in not killing Job?

Email Received:

God and Satan had an interesting interaction, as recorded in the book of Job. For one thing, God asked Satan, "Have you considered my servant, Job?" Why did God say this? Also, God told Satan that he could bring various disasters upon Job but could not kill him. Did Satan obey God (in not killing Job) because he chose to, or would God have forced Satan to comply?

Ted's Response:

Job was one of God's chosen people, who revered and had high esteem for God. Evidently, he was one of the most righteous men who ever lived, and he followed God's commands "religiously" and consistently. Job was a "servant" of God, and God pointed this out to Satan.

One of Satan's primary activities is to find fault with and accuse those who follow God. ("Satan" means "accuser.") Satan wants to expose any defects that he possibly can find in those that God considers to be His "chosen" or "elect." In Satan's eyes, being able to do this discredits God for being "dumb" enough to have chosen them. Satan is very "legalistic" and points out even the most minute imperfections and character flaws in human beings so he can criticize, denounce, and vilify them.

Another of Satan's main tasks is to turn as many people away from God as he possibly can. In actuality, he is unable to turn any of the "chosen elect" permanently away from God. I believe there is a one-to-one correspondence between those that God chooses to be His and those who will choose the true God to be their God, with no chance of being lost. (More about this can be read in another of my email responses here: Which do you feel is true, God's predestination or our free will?)

If Satan were to be able to turn away (permanently) anyone who has been chosen by God to be His throughout eternity, it would be a gigantic and momentous victory for Satan, which is why he "pulled out all the stops" with Job. In fact, though, I do not believe that it is possible for Satan to steal away any of God's true elect.

Satan believed that he could get Job so angry and disillusioned with God that Job would curse God and turn completely away from Him. But it did not work. As usual, Satan was proven to be wrong by God, because God knew Job's steadfast, resolute character better than Satan did. After all, God had created and molded Job.

Even Satan, God's arch-enemy, knows that he is limited by God in everything he does. God created Satan, and Satan has to submit to God's authority and will. Even if Satan does not want to, he has no choice; he must yield to God's sovereignty and supremecy and cannot step beyond the bounds that God has set for him (which is true of all that God has created).

Satan can "push the envelope" and cause only as much suffering, destruction, and death as God will permit him to bring about. Satan probably tries to go beyond what God tells him that He will allow; but it is like trying to penetrate an impenetrable barrier. Satan always will fail at this.

Moreover, there is another level to this. Note that in Job 1:11, Satan says, "But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." Later, in 2:5, he says, "But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face."

It is true that the text also says that it was Satan who directly was responsible for Job's afflictions (Job 2:7). However, notice that the Lord Himself, speaking to Satan, stated that Job "maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason" (2:3). This seems to indicate, then, that God Himself was behind Job's afflictions.

This is how I interpret this seeming paradox. God is behind everything that happens. That is, I believe everything is predetermined or predestined, by God, to happen. In that sense, Satan merely is a very powerful "pawn" or "tool" that God utilizes to carry out many of His undertakings. It is sort of like how a judge decrees a punishment upon someone, but he does not personally administer the punishment; law enforcement and the penal system do this.

So, considering it this way, Satan could do to Job only as much as God Himself had determined would be done to Job, using Satan as the means to do it. One might feel that it was "mean" and "cruel" for God to do this. However, as we find out later in the account of Job, God rewarded Job tremendously for undergoing the suffering that God had planned for him to endure.

This suggests to us that enduring distress and affliction, if brought upon us directly or indirectly by God, can result in enormous rewards, if we are able to accept it as coming from God and not find fault with God for doing it. This especially is true if it is for God's glory, which it was in the case of Jobósince Satan was proven wrong, but God was proven right.

Finally, it is not our place to question anything that God does, even if it seems terrible and horrific in our eyes. Our knowledge and understanding are finite, while His is infinite. There is a valid reason and purpose behind everything that God does, even if it does not conform to our perception and comprehension of Him as a "good" and "loving" God. One day, when God reveals to us the great and awesome reasons for everything that He has done throughout the ages, all of it will make sense to us; and we will long to give Him all the praise, worship, and honor that He deserves for all eternity.

Return to Email Questions and Tedís Responses

Go to Tedís Bible Commentaries and Other Links

View the New International Version of the Bible

Go to Tedís Homepage