This past week, as we walked through the story of Job, I noted that a common question people have while reading the very first chapter concerns the character named Satan. While never taking a position in the foreground during the rest of the book, this angelic being is active behind the scenes & definitely begs the question, “Who is he? Where does he come from? Why is he in the presence of God?”
So, let’s start with the name. When scholars set out to translate the text of Scripture from the original language (Hebrew in this case) into the target language, there are certain words that they translate directly & certain words that they simply “transliterate.” Transliteration is the process of writing “a word using the closest corresponding letters of a different alphabet or language.” So, in Hebrew, the actual name Satan, with a definite article “the” in front of it. This is why the name is capitalized as a title because it literally reads “THE Satan.” You would think that this clearly defines this being as the definitive demonic being in the Bible, but it’s not that conclusive.
It is helpful to think of this angelic being in terms of the Hebrew translation of “Satan,” which is “adversary” or “accuser.” In Genesis 1 & 2, God is not necessarily having some council meeting with Lucifer himself, as a friend sitting around playing cards & shooting the bull. God is enthroned & an angel, not particularly the same king of demons thrown in to the Lake of Fire in Revelation, makes an accusation that Job is just playing the game & is only seeking God because God has blessed him.
This word “Satan” is used 14 times in the Old Testament, mostly in the Book of Job. The only other times are once in 1st Chronicles regarding David taking a census & twice in Zechariah regarding a time when he was accusing Israel. In the New Testament, we see Satan is a very real figure appearing at the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, motivating Judas to betray Jesus, & even the instance where Peter speaks against Jesus’ proclamation of His crucifixion in Matthew 16:23.
We believe that Satan is a very real figure in our understanding of the spiritual realm. the Bible describes him as being stripped of his power through the death & resurrection of Jesus, yet is still actively opposing the church & individual Christians on a daily basis (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; 1 Peter 5:8). His final destination is the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-10) & being crushed under the feet those who have entrusted themselves to our victorious Savior (Romans 16:20).
The Bible is never clear about where Satan comes from & we need to understand that this is not necessarily important. The intent of the Holy Spirit is different than explaining all the details of the spiritual realm. Author John Walton writes,
“The scene in heaven is not trying to explain why Job or any of us suffer. Job is never told about that scene, nor would he have derived any comfort from it…The scene in heaven, like the speeches of Job’s friends, is part of the literary design of a thought experiment to generate discussion about how God runs the cosmos. The prologue is not trying to teach us how Job got into such a difficult situation, or what angelic beings do or do not have access to God’s presence. The message of the book is offered at the end, in the speeches of God, not in the opening scenario, which only sets up the thought experiment. The book is focusing on how God works in the world, not teaching us about how things work in heaven.”
So, in summary, while Satan is a real figure whose age-old strategies are sowing doubt & deception in the hearts & minds of believers about what God has said, there is no reason to fear him, there is no reason to overly analyze the interaction between God & Satan in the prologue, & there is no reason to doubt the strong admonition to be on guard against him. However, notice that God never mentions him to Job & Job never fixes his mind on Satan as a cause. This is applicable to us & our perspective on life as well. Let’s rejoice instead in our sovereign God & the fact that whatever Satan might design for evil, God will use for our good & His glory. & if you want the perfect example of this, don’t look any farther than the Cross of Jesus Christ.