Why did God allow Job to suffer at Satan’s hand?
The book of Job starts out with information that only the reader is given. In Job 1:6-12, Satan comes from the earth to heaven to be evaluated by God. Like a proud papa, God brings up his faithful servant Job. Satan is upset because he thinks Job worships God for the fringe benefits of wealth and protection.
But God knows better. So he decides to prove a point to the devil. He allows Satan to take Job’s wealth and family away from him. But he keeps Satan from touching Job or harming him personally. God allowed Satan only to go so far. He has limits to what he can do. His power and authority is limited by God.
Satan goes down to earth, destroys Job’s herds and kills all of his children. He makes it look like God did it, operating the same way God would if he were bringing judgment. In a way, Satan is trying to frame God for what he does to Job.
Then in Job 2:1-6 opens almost the same way as the first episode where Satan presents himself before the Lord. The Lord mentions that Job still hasn’t turned away from him even after Satan destroyed his wealth and family.
Satan complains that Job did not turn away from God because he still has his life and his health. He tells God if Job lost his health he would turn away from God. God allows Satan to do whatever he wishes to Job, except for one thing. Satan may not and his life. Once again we see that Satan is limited by God. So Satan goes down to the earth and strikes Job with boils and extreme pain.
Job’s Reaction to Satan’s Harassment
When Satan destroys Job’s wealth and kills his children, Job reacts like anyone would. Job 2:20-22 tells us that he mourned the loss of his children. He knows that he came into the world with nothing and he’ll take nothing with him when he dies. So he says, “The Lord gives and he takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
The Lord gave him great wealth and a large family. He stewarded them well. But then he believes the Lord took them away. Satan successfully framed God. But then, he still blesses the Lord because the Lord is sovereign.
Job 1:22 tells us that Job did not sin against God or charge him with the evil. He spoke out of faith in who he knew God was. He accepted God’s sovereignty even in the midst of his loss.
In Job 2:9-10, even Job’s wife cannot handle losing so much. She tells Job to curse God and die. Job tells her that she is speaking foolishly. And then he says something quite interesting. He asks if humans should accept only the good things from God. But they should also accept the evil things from God.
This is a different theology that we are used to seeing in the New Testament, where, for example, James tells us that only good gifts come from the Father (James 1:17). The word “evil” here should not be understood as wickedness. God does not act in wicked ways.
This word should be understood as “bad,” or the things we don’t really enjoy in life. It doesn’t have a moral attachment. It is simply the things that are bad from our perspective. Then we are told that Job did not sin and what he said about God.
From here in the middle of Job 2 through the rest of the book, the reader must realize that Joe was not privileged to know what we know. He doesn’t know that Satan is the one who did these things to him and his family. He has no idea that Satan even exists at this point.
This is why he attributes the things that Satan does to him to God. He speaks out of his limited knowledge and understanding of who God is. So when you are reading Job, you are given information he is not. He reacts from his limited knowledge of God. And so do his frenemies.
A quick word about prophecy: the prophets spoke to their time and culture. But in the way they spoke to the things they faced, their prophecies had several frames of meaning. The first was to their times. But almost all prophecy telescopes into larger times and settings, even cosmic ones. Isaiah and Ezekiel can speak about kings of their day and yet set up the call and archetype, a characterization, of something much larger. In this case, they spoke about kings and their day but were also describing Satan in a more cosmic setting. The prophecy applies to both.
In Isaiah 14:12-15, Isaiah speaks of the king of Babylon that anyone who reads it notices that it seems much better than just one man’s arrogance. Especially the names Day Star and Son of the Dawn are cosmic in their scope.
As a side note, Day Star in the Vulgate is a quite familiar name for Satan, Lucifer. It refers to Venus, the Morning Star, a name also given to Jesus in Revelation 22:16. This shows Satan’s attempts to usurp God’s throne and name. This is why he is called an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). He is always trying to counterfeit the things of God.
The rest of Isaiah 14:12-15 explains how he attempted to ascend to God’s throne and yet found himself descending into Sheol, the pit. This is why he was cast down to the earth and forced to be bound there until his time to be completely destroyed.
Ezekiel 28:11-17 is a prophecy against the King of Tyre that also sounds like it refers to Satan. It talks about him being in the garden of Eden and being the beautiful Signet of God’s perfection. From this we might suggest the serpent that deceived Eve and many scholars suggest that Satan may have been the worship angel in heaven before he fell.
Satan frames God in the way that he afflicts Job. He takes advantage of the fact that Job has no idea he exists or that he is the reason Job suffers. In Job 1:16, “the fire of God fell from heaven” to burn up the sheep as part of Job’s wealth. And in Job 1:19 it is a great wind that strikes the four corners of the house to kill his children. God is one controls heaven and the winds of the earth. Satan always takes advantage to try to turn us against God.
Satan is restricted to the earth. Both times he presents himself before the Lord for evaluation, he comes from the earth. He was sent there and bound there because he lost the battle to usurp God’s throne in heaven. There are a few references to Satan’s downfall and being cast out of heaven throughout Scripture ().
A Major Theme of Job
The sovereignty of God. The book of Job places a high premium on God is the King of the universe. Everything that happens is in his hand or permitted by him. He holds absolute power and authority over all things.
This is the understanding not only of Job but of his three friends and even the fourth younger friend who finally speaks up toward the end of the book. Even when God visits Job and has friends and speaks to them, he does not reveal Satan or their conversation.
He commands Job and his friends to remember the place as finite humans who have no understanding of his plan. God allows Job to speak out of his finite knowledge. He does not charge him with sin because Job does the best he can with what he understands. But he understands very little of how things really are.
We don’t always understand God or what he does and why he does it. We do our best to try to understand but we will fall short. God doesn’t charge us for not understanding everything in the world or his larger plan. This is a good thing for us. God is gracious in our ignorance of him and his greatness.
So to answer the question after all this background, God allows Job to suffer at Satan’s hand to show that Job’s allegiances and faithfulness belong solely to God. Nothing that will ever happen to Job, no suffering or trial or affliction, will ever turn his faithfulness from God. Saints of God remain faithful no matter what happens to them. He proved to Satan Job’s faithfulness and allegiance to God. Job was an example of the faithful saint and servant of God.