As mentioned, Messiah: Biblical Retellings is here. Daughters of Zion: Biblical Retellings is here. Covenants: Biblical Retellings is coming soon.
I put the story of Job in a book about covenants, even though God never makes a covenant with Job, because I believe the only way to properly interpret the events in the story is within the context of the covenants that did (and did not) exist at the time. Most scholars place the story of Job after the flood and before Abraham’s covenant with God in Genesis 12. This means that the only covenant Job had with God are those of Adam and Noah. When Adam sinned and obeyed Satan, God was left on the outside of the world He had made, looking in—like a landlord whose tenants had turned Him out. Satan was now the god (little g) of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). While God had promised to bring the promised Seed of Eve (Genesis 3:15), He would need a people willing to more or less play by His rules in order to do so, and then the cooperation of generations of prophets to speak Him into existence. He hadn’t gotten that far yet.
Job is a righteous man, and so clearly favored by God that Satan takes notice. It’s actually God’s blessings that paint a target on Job’s back. While Satan of course comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), in this story he does so not for the sheer pleasure of it, but to prove his point to God, almost as if in a courtroom drama. He aims to establish that our love for God is contingent upon God’s blessings. If Satan can establish this for the most righteous man on earth at the time, it would follow that the same is true for all the rest of us.
In Job 1, God brings up Job to Satan before Satan mentions him, which seems to indicate that it was God who placed Job in Satan’s crosshairs. But God is omniscient, and Satan’s immediate rejoinder showed that Satan was already thinking about Job. I suspect God just knew what Satan was thinking and cut to the chase. Many translations of Job have it that God “allowed” Satan’s attack against Job, which would seem to make God complicit in Job’s misery. But the context of the covenants in place at the time indicates that God allowed it only in the loosest sense of the word. Job lived at a time when God had not yet established a reciprocal covenantal protection for His people. God had to allow Satan’s request, even though He hated it. Did He have the power to refuse Satan? Technically yes, but He did not have the authority to do so—because He had given that authority to man in the garden. Man, in turn, had given it to Satan. At that point, Satan became the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). By nature, all of Adam’s descendants were slaves of Satan (Ephesians 2:3). So legally, Satan had the authority to do what he asked to do to Job. Had God refused, He would have violated the integrity of His word. The writer of Hebrews tells us that it is the integrity of God’s word that holds the very universe together (Hebrews 1:3). While in Job 2:3, God said to Satan, “You moved Me against him,” God only moved against Job in the sense that He withdrew the “hedge of protection” (Job 1:10) that He had placed around Job when Satan complained about it. Ecclesiastes 10:8 says, “whoso breaks a hedge, a serpent will bite him.” Without the hedge, the serpent had access to bite.
Satan’s challenge put God in a very difficult position. Satan (meaning adversary in Hebrew) is only mentioned by name 18 times in the Old Testament, 14 of which are in the book of Job. He isn’t even mentioned as Satan in Genesis (maybe because he wasn’t the adversary yet—this was the story of how he became the adversary), or in Isaiah 14, where the story of his fall appears (there he is called Lucifer, meaning “Light Bringer”—his angelic name). As mentioned in the story, I suspect God did not warn mankind about Satan and his angels because there was nothing they could have done about them at this point in history anyway. Why tell someone they have a terrible, bloodthirsty enemy if they are powerless to avoid him? Would that not produce only terrible fear and paranoia, with no benefit? Yet because Job had no doctrine of Satan, that meant he had no context to explain his tragedy. He, and his three friends, believed calamity was a punishment for evil (which sometimes it is, according to the writers of Proverbs and Psalms). Since Job knew he had done nothing specifically wrong to warrant all of this, the only logical alternative in his paradigm was that God did this to him unjustly. Satan was counting on this, and counting on Job to curse God because of it, even though God was innocent. In Genesis, Satan essentially told Adam and Eve that God was holding out on them—that He didn’t truly love them. Job was the story of Satan doing the same thing to God: telling God that Job didn’t truly love Him. The adversary was busily trying to convince each side that they were not loved.
It isn’t until the fourth friend Elihu finally speaks in Job 32 that Job (and the reader) learns there is a third option. Andrew Wommack argues that Elihu was the writer of the book of Job, because the rest of the book is written in the third person until Elihu begins to speak in Job 32:15, when he transitions to the first person. This is important for context, because it tells us which chapters we can rely upon as divinely inspired, and which are mere opinions of the speaker. God later rebukes most of what Job and his three friends say, so that leaves only Job 1, 2, and 32-42 as accurate theological representations, at least of what was happening at the time.
Elihu informs Job in 33:12 that Job is not righteous. From the perspective of the New Covenant, we understand that “there is none righteous; no, not one” (Romans 3:10). While Job’s specific sin may not have occasioned this attack, the general sin of Adam, the covenant head of mankind, had rendered all of mankind unrighteous. But then comes the bombshell verse: Elihu prophesies that God is working to provide the savior! “If there is a messenger for him, a mediator, one among a thousand, to show man His uprightness, then He is gracious to him, and says, ‘Deliver him from going down to the Pit; I have found a ransom’… He will redeem his soul from going down to the Pit, and his life shall see the light” (33:23-28).
Today, with the benefit of hindsight and the entire Bible, we have some ability to conceptualize what Job went through, but Job himself did not. He couldn’t read the first two chapters of Job, to learn that he had an enemy who was using him as a pawn to prove a cosmic point. He had no context to understand what God was doing behind the scenes. I think this is why God responded to Job the way He did. Explaining to a man in Job’s day about sin and the need for a savior to be born a man and die as a substitutionary sacrifice for all mankind would have been like trying to explain calculus to an ant. So instead, God’s approach was to remind Job of how much bigger He was than Job, and how little Job truly understood. Even though we can comprehend God’s predicament better than Job could have done, there is still much we don’t and cannot know. The message God gave Job—to magnify His glory and to trust His greater wisdom when He cannot give us a direct explanation—still applies to us today.
Job’s initial responses to his tragedy in chapters 1 and 2 are often quoted by believers today as a godly response. He says, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21), and then the writer of the book says, “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22). A popular worship song actually quotes this verse, holding it up as an example of how believers should respond to tragedy. But while Job did not sin in what he said, he was still incorrect. God was not the one who had taken from Job; that was Satan. God did remove the hedge of protection from Job, but only because He had no choice: Job had no covenant which would have given God a legal excuse to protect him. We do. The Law of Moses made provision for blessings and protection from the enemy for God’s people, so long as they followed His law. God warned them that He could not protect them if they ceased to follow His law and uphold their half of the covenant, though. Disobedience would allow Satan access to them in order to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). These blessings and curses are all laid out in Deuteronomy 28. In most of the Old Testament, there is no distinction between the curses God inflicts and those inflicted by Satan due to God removing the protection of the covenant from His people—but again, I suspect this was because in the Old Testament, there was essentially no doctrine of Satan at all. That’s part of why Job is so fascinating: it gives us insight into the real chain of causality in Heaven. God was “responsible” only insofar as He withdrew His protection and blessing, and He did that much only when His hand was forced. It was never what He wanted to do. He is a good God!
Even the curses of the law of Moses no longer apply to us today. Jesus followed the law perfectly, fulfilling it on our behalf (Matthew 5:17). He became a curse for us, redeeming us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). Now all that is left are the blessings for those who are in Christ Jesus. Accordingly, Satan’s name changed from the Old Testament to the New. Satan meant accuser, but in the New Testament Greek, he is referred to as diabolos, meaning false accuser. He could legally accuse us to God before Jesus came, but no more! There are no modern day Jobs. God can now protect and bless those of us who have accepted His New Covenant, ratified by the blood of Jesus. Praise the Lord!
Even in this time before covenantal protection, it’s helpful to place in Job’s tragedy in context. Job 3-42 takes place all in one day. The whole book covers a little over a week in Job’s life. He still lost his children and his servants, a lasting tragedy—but after this trial, God restored everything to Job so that he was twice as great as he had been to begin with (Job 42:10-17). He had the same number of children (seven sons and three daughters) restored, his daughters were known as beauties throughout the land (Job 42:15), and he lived another 140 years afterwards. God restored the years the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25).
(Side note: what are the behemoth and the leviathan mentioned by God in Job 40 and 41? To me, the former sounds like an herbivorous dinosaur, such as a brontosaurus (Job 40:15-24) while the latter sounds like a mythical dragon. It even apparently breathed fire (Job 41:18-21). This is why I had Noah take some of the dinosaurs onto the ark with him in my retelling: it appears they did survive the flood, at least. Also, particularly in Revelation, Satan is referred to as a dragon. I decided to give him the idea of taking that form as he listened to God wax poetic about how magnificent a creature it was.)
Fictionalized Retelling, from Satan's POV:
This was Round Three: me against God.
My first strategy was a raging success. Adam simply handed me his authority on the earth—it was almost too easy. God cursed the serpent for it, but what was that to me? I wasn’t the serpent; I’d just borrowed its body for awhile.
The only part that bothered me was that Seed of Eve business. I didn’t understand what that meant, but I felt like it was important somehow. Presumably it required a human descendant of the line of Eve, though, whatever else it meant. So in Round Two, using the proverbial carrot of Adam’s authority, I enticed a third of God’s angel army to follow me to earth. My once glorious beauty had become shriveled and warped since my expulsion from the garden, but they crossed over into earth in all their godlike majesty. The daughters of men were helpless before them. So the earth swelled with their demigod progeny, perpetuating down through the generations until contamination of God’s original bloodline was almost complete.
Until that damn flood. I never saw that coming.
Since the flood waters had receded and repopulation of the earth had commenced, I’d prowled the earth, gnashing my teeth and looking for another opportunity to strike. I corrupted Ham’s progeny with my fallen angels once again, but it was halfhearted this time. I already knew God would not allow me to pollute the entire human race with defiled blood, so what was the point? There was some inherent value in corrupting, maiming, and killing those He loved, though, because it hurt Him. That was always the real goal; they didn’t matter to me one way or the other. I’d have completely ignored them, except for the fact that He loved them.
But what I needed now was another master stroke that would enable me to win the whole human race; not just pick them off one at a time.
As I prowled the earth in my own dimension, a curious flaming hedge drew my attention. It would have been strange enough to see a self-perpetuating wall of flame in the earthly dimension, but what in the world could it be doing in mine? I crept up close, and tested it with my finger, crying out as it singed my withered flesh. Instinctively I shoved my fingers in my mouth to tend the burn. Then I peered through the wall as best I could, ignoring the heat and trying to understand its purpose. It reminded me of the two angels God had placed on every side of the Tree of Life, with their flaming swords. They, too, were in the spiritual dimension. God clearly sent this wall—but why?
Inside the hedge, I saw a man, his household, and the houses of presumably his progeny. The man, whom the servants called Job, seemed middle-aged by the standards of the day, around sixty years old. He also appeared to be fabulously wealthy: I crept around the perimeter of the wall of flame and counted seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a large retinue of servants. He also had seven grown sons and three grown daughters—who, I noted, took turns holding feasts in their homes daily for all their other siblings. They indulged themselves, and worked very little, as children of wealthy men are wont to do. Their behavior seemed to bother Job, who daily offered ten burnt sacrifices, one for each of his children, after each feast.
Huh, I thought to myself, tapping my fingers against my chin and narrowing my eyes as I peered through the hedge. Then a slow smile curled my lips as I understood several things at once.
Job was a righteous man. God loved him. God loved all his ridiculous creatures, of course, but He prized Job, because Job loved Him back, unlike most of them. Because of this, God had blessed Job hand over fist, on every side. The hedge of fire was in my dimension because God was protecting Job—from me.
But that was illegal. By God’s own decree, He gave the earth to Adam, and all of Adam’s progeny after him. Adam obeyed me, and therefore, it was mine. I had the authority to afflict any man I chose, yet God saw fit to use His power to prevent me from doing so!
I saw my strategy.
God’s angels, those who still served Him, presented themselves before His throne in Heaven daily to receive their assignments. That day, I joined the queue. I went there as little as possible, as the sight of Heaven’s bounty, God’s glory, and the beauty of those who still served Him made me writhe inwardly.
At last I got to the front of the line. Since I had received my new form after my expulsion from the garden, I could no longer look directly at God—He was too radiant. Instead I was forced to slink forward, bent double, with my head down. It was humiliating.
“From where do you come?” boomed the voice of the one on the throne.
“From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it,” I answered. Even my voice, once so resonant and lovely, now came out like a snivel—particularly in the massive and spectacular halls of the throne room.
I could feel God’s penetrating gaze piercing through my thoughts, though I could not look directly into His face. He already knew exactly why I was here.
“Have you set your heart against My servant Job?” He demanded. Then His voice softened, like a lover waxing poetic about His beloved. “There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man. One who fears Me and shuns evil.”
I sneered, “Does Job fear You for nothing? Have you not made a hedge around him, around his household and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. Stretch out Your hand and remove the wall of fire, that I might touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”
God was silent for a long moment. I risked a glance up at Him, and immediately regretted it, as the sight of Him seared. Then He heaved a great sigh, and said, “Behold, all that Job has is already in your power. Only do not lay a hand on his person.”
“Ha!” I gloated, clapping my hands together and vanishing at once. I was eager to get out of Heaven anyway.
I went straight to Job’s estate, and laughed and danced when I saw that indeed, the hedge of protection was gone. I had free reign! I prowled closer, to the home of one of Job’s children. It was the middle of the day, and all ten of them were in there eating and drinking like lazy gluttons. I tapped my chin with my fingers, musing how I might go about this. I could personally appear and wipe out everything Job owned… but if Job knew that I was responsible for his misfortune, that would defeat my whole purpose. He would be miserable, yes, but what did I care about that? I wanted Job to blame God for his tragedies, and to curse Him to His face. I wanted to prove to God that Job only loved Him for His gifts, not for Himself. So I needed to be crafty. Fortunately, that was my specialty.
I roamed a short distance away and found a band of Sabean warriors. I could always use them to my advantage with little prompting. They were greedy, vicious, and bored, and I had trained them well to consider plunder and murder as the only antidote to boredom. So I whispered in the ears of the leaders, and led them straight to Job’s property, where the oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them. I watched with glee as they stole the animals, and relished the screams of Job’s servants as the Sabeans put them to the sword. This wasn’t even necessary—the servants feared the Sabeans and would not have fought them. The Sabeans slaughtered for the rush of it. It was utterly delicious. I caused the Sabean’s eyes to pass over one of the servants in the group, and whispered into that servant’s ear, “Go and tell your master what you have seen.” It was all the incentive he needed; he ran off in wild terror, as if I myself ran after him.
But would a human raid cause Job to blame God? I mused. No. I needed something more supernatural. Humans called natural disasters ‘acts of God,’ which I thought was just fantastic—they didn’t know who was actually in charge here.
Maybe more than one type of disaster, I decided, just in case he might otherwise think it was a coincidence.
Even though Job had sheep and camels and more servants, I whispered in the Sabean chief’s ear that they were satisfied, and they rode off with their spoils.
Next, I observed the hills where the sheep roamed. I sauntered over to them, and spooked them so that they all ran in the direction of the barn where the servants were. I needed them all in one place. Then I snapped my fingers. A bolt of lightning fell from the sky, setting the barn ablaze. The sheep and servants who had not been hit or already consumed began to flee, so I summoned another bolt and another, until only one servant ran helter-skelter down the hill to tell Job what he had witnessed.
Perfect, I thought, rubbing my hands together. Job would have to blame God for that… but quite frankly, lightning wasn’t as fun as watching humans murder each other. What was it about murder? Was it the betrayal? That moment of utter hatred in the victim before the slaughter? Hmm…
The Sabeans had already taken off, but the Chaldeans weren’t far away. I whispered in their ears that there was a cache of camels nearby, if they would only follow me. The leader separated his men into three bands, to sneak up on the remaining servants. Then with a war cry, swords drawn, they descended en masse, capturing the beasts and spilling every drop of human blood, save one. Once more, I protected a single servant, who set out at a run for his master, to share yet more awful news.
“So,” I mused aloud once all was silent again, “Job is a pauper now, and it’s not even mid-afternoon. Now for the last and best blow…” I roamed back to the house where I had seen his gluttonous children. They had conveniently all gathered in the same place. One more ‘act of God,’ I thought—though not lightning again. I wanted to make very sure Job knew this was intentional. I prowled around the structure, observing its foundations. They weren’t particularly strong. A normal storm wouldn’t take them out, but if I sent a wind against each wall from all four directions, that should do it. Also, it had the added benefit of peculiarity. Normal wind blew in one direction or another, or at most, in a cyclone. A perfect hit on all four sides, though—that could only be God. In Job’s mind, at least.
I called upon three of my demonic allies, and stationed one on each side of the house. With the gust of our mouths, the four walls collapsed, killing the revelers within—all except one servant from inside. He crept terrified but unharmed from the rubble, and ran to his master to tell him of the tragedy.
My three demons were too busy cackling with enjoyment at their destruction to notice my disappearance. I enjoyed the death of Job’s children—but I wanted to be there when all four messengers reached Job. I wanted to hear and relish that moment when he cursed God.
I appeared, brimful of delighted anticipation, beside the unsuspecting Job right at the moment that the first messenger reached him. Breathless, he burst out, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabean raided them and took them away—indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
I watched Job eagerly, my grin stretching wide at the look of horror on his face. He barely had time to process this before the second servant arrived. “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
I hooted at his choice of words. The fire of God! Job let out a cry of anguish and clamped his hand over his mouth. But it wasn’t over yet… the third messenger right right on his heels.
“The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
Job groaned and fell to his knees. I danced in place, so eager was I for the master stroke—here was the fourth messenger! He looked bedraggled, covered with soot from the rubble, and he gasped out, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
Job gave an indiscernible wail, and tore his robe in his grief. He lay there in a heap, weeping for some time. My anticipation waned, and I grew irritated.
“Curse God, you fool!” I whispered in his ear. “Come on!”
My whisper did seem to rouse him, and he staggered to his feet, finding a knife. I raised my eyebrows. This might be interesting… but no, he just used it to shave his head, wailing all the more as he did so. Where his hair fell to the ground, he then knelt—and worshipped God!
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,” he whispered, “and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
My jaw hung open. I could hardly process this. I’d succeeded in making Job think God had done this to him… yet he worshipped Him anyway?
I let out a shriek of fury, and ran at Job, prepared to tear him limb from limb. But as I got close, I saw the wall of fire spring forth all around him—the same one I had seen around his property in the beginning.
Lay not a hand on his person, God had said.
I shrieked again. “That’s not fair!” I raged at the sky, “he’s mine by right!”
For the next human day, I rampaged, inflicting wanton destruction on any creatures that came in my path, since I could not afflict the one I truly wished to harm. I could have demanded God remove the hedge around Job’s person, but even in my fury, I recognized that killing him would be pointless. Satisfying for a moment, but I’d have ultimately lost the challenge.
But then in a sudden stroke of insight, I realized what I’d missed.
“A-ha!” I cried aloud, and vanished.
I reappeared in Heaven, doing my best to ignore the envy gnawing at me as I beheld all the beauty I had lost. I was here on a mission. I merged in the queue to enter God’s throne room, annoyed that I was forced to wait my turn.
“From where do you come?” God asked when I reached the front of the line.
Bent double, not looking at him, I slunk forward, my voice coming out in the whine I hated, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”
God’s next words practically radiated with pride. “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears Me and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.”
I snarled, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and remove the hedge from around him. Let me touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”
The One on the throne heaved a heavy sigh. “Behold, he is in your hand—”
“I know he is, Your hedge is illegal! He’s mine!”
“—but, spare his life,” God added.
I was just about to tell God that He had no right to withhold even Job’s life from me—he was of the line of Adam and therefore he was mine if I wanted him, and we both knew it. But I bit my tongue. I reminded myself that taking Job’s life would not win me the contest. In fact, it would rather be an admission of defeat. I needed him to live, and fester in his misery, until he railed against God for his misfortune.
“Very well,” I sniveled, and vanished.
Job was right where I found him: robe torn, head shaved, mourning on the ground. I crept up as close to him as I had been before when the hedge of fire popped up around him—but there was none.
“Ha!” I gloated, and poked Job in the cheek. Where I touched him, a deep, angry red boil appeared. Job gasped with the pain of it, and his hand flew to his cheek.
“Yes!” I cried, and planted my hands all over his body, from head to toe. Job cried out in agony. But I afflicted him everywhere, across the backs of his legs and buttocks, to the soles of his feet. He could not sit, stand, kneel, sit, or lie down without pain. He would have no relief.
“Curse Him!” I taunted Job. “Curse God!”
Job rose to his feet, crying out with each step. His hands too were afflicted, but he managed to grab a piece of pottery. It was filled with ashes. He poured them on the ground, and then dashed the pot against the ground where it shattered. He took one of the shards, scraping the boils on his hands and arms to lance the pus and relieve the pressure. This, I knew, would create a new kind of burning pain, particularly as he was now sitting in a heap of ashes. Job scraped and wept—but no curse did he utter!
I let out another howl of frustration. But then I turned around and saw Job’s wife approaching. I’d forgotten all about her. Her face was tear-stained, but I saw that her expression was hardened. I grinned, and slunk up behind her.
“Tell Job to curse God,” I whispered.
As if it had been her own idea, the shrew put her hands on her hips and demanded with scorn, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity?” Job said nothing, scraping and sniffling in the ash heap.
“He ignores you, how dare he!” I whispered in her ear.
“Job!” she snapped, now shrill. “Give it up! Curse God and die!”
“Yes!” I crowed, pumping my fists in the air, as I watched Job, holding my breath.
At last, as if in a dream, Job turned his disfigured face to her, and managed through infected lips, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”
I stared at Job, dumbfounded.
“NoooOOO!” I shrieked, grabbing fistfuls of my hair. I fell to the ground and began beating it with my fists.
When I’d spent my rage, I regrouped. I needed to step up my game.
Job had been the greatest of the men of the East, so word of his sudden misfortune spread fast. I made sure word got to three of his friends whom I knew well: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Job respected them and would therefore be likely to listen to them. Yet while they considered themselves religious, they didn’t truly know God at all. Moreover, they were were haughty, judgmental, and could not bear contradiction.
This made them perfect for my purposes.
Within a day of Job’s affliction, the three of them connected with one another, and together made the rest of the journey to his estate. But unfortunately I could not stop a fourth from joining them from a neighboring city: a much younger man named Elihu. I frowned. I did not like Elihu. I couldn’t use him at all; in fact, he might be a problem. But, perhaps I could use his humility to get him to keep his mouth shut, and let his elders do all the talking.
When the four friends saw Job from a distance, with his head shaved, robe torn, disfigured with boils and sitting in a pile of ashes, they all cried out.
“Is that him?” asked Bildad.
“It can’t be,” gasped Eliphaz. “I hadn’t heard he was diseased too, had you?”
But when they got close enough to realize it was their friend after all, they tore their robes also. Each of them took of the dust at his feet and sprinkled it upon his own head as they came.
Tentatively they approached Job, kneeling in the ashes beside him.
“Tell him this is God’s punishment,” I whispered to Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar in turn. “Tell him he must have committed some great sin to have deserved all this. Tell him!”
But they said nothing at all. All four of them sat with Job in silence. For an entire week! Seven days and seven nights! Nothing I could do could entice them to speak. I paced. I whispered. I screamed. I ranted.
On the seventh day, I shook Job by the shoulders and cried out, “Don’t you have anything to say? How do you feel about everything that has happened to you? Speak it out, damn you!”
At long last, the fool opened his mouth. ““Obliterate the day I was born. Blank out the night I was conceived! Let it be a black hole in space. May God above forget it ever happened. Erase it from the books! May the day of my birth be buried in deep darkness, shrouded by the fog, swallowed by the night.” He waxed poetic about his misery, which was gratifying at first, but I quickly grew impatient. I made a reeling motion at him with my withered hands as he went on and on about the stars and the grave and the light and all such nonsense.
“Curse God, come on!” I snarled.
But he didn’t. He finished as he had begun, bemoaning his terrible lot in life, but casting no blame. I looked at the friends, and demanded, “Are you going to stand for this? He’s making it out like he’s a victim here! He must be guilty; tell him so!”
Eliphaz obliged. “Think! Has a truly innocent person ever ended up on the scrap heap? Do genuinely upright people ever lose out in the end? It’s my observation that those who plow evil and sow trouble reap evil and trouble.”
“Yes, yes!” I clapped my hands, turning to Job eagerly.
Eliphaz went on, “So, what a blessing when God steps in and corrects you! Mind you, don’t despise the discipline of Almighty God! True, he wounds, but he also dresses the wound; the same hand that hurts you, heals you.”
I got up in Job’s face. “Are you going to stand for this? Defend yourself! Who’s the real villain here? It’s not you, so Who’s left? There’s only one possibility!”
Job replied with yet another long soliloquy of his sorrow, but at long last he began to get to the point. “Confront me with the truth and I’ll shut up, show me where I’ve gone off the track!” he demanded of his friend. “You pretend to tell me what’s wrong with my life, but treat my words of anguish as so much hot air!”
“God is to blame!” I shouted at him, shaking my fists.
At long, long last, he got there, and started to shout up at Heaven. “What are mortals anyway, that You bother with them, that You even give them the time of day?” he demanded. “Let up on me, will you? Can’t you even let me spit in peace? Even suppose I’d sinned—how would that hurt You? You’re responsible for every human being. Don’t You have better things to do than pick on me? The way things are going, I’ll soon be dead!”
“Finally!” I roared, triumphant for a moment—until I realized that he had not actually cursed God, though he had blamed Him. That was a start.
“Goad him,” I whispered to Bildad next. I was sure that if the others doubled down on blaming Job for his troubles, that Job would eventually do what I wanted in order to clear his own name. But I jabbed a finger in Elihu’s face. “You stay quiet in the presence of your elders, boy!”
What followed was a long, exasperating afternoon of high tempers, and no actual progress. I succeeded in getting Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to accuse and even yell in Job’s face. Job persisted in swearing to his own innocence, and in blaming God—even demanding that God explain Himself. Elihu, meanwhile, grew angrier by the minute, and I suspected I wouldn’t be able to shut him up forever. But if I could just get Job to curse God before Elihu opened his mouth…
Suddenly Job declared, “I know that God lives—the One who gives me back my life—and eventually He’ll take His stand on earth. And I’ll see Him—even though I get skinned alive!—see God myself, with my very own eyes. Oh, how I long for that day!”
“Whaaaat is wrong with you?” I shrieked at him, yanking on the tufts of my hair, “why do you want to see the God responsible for all your misery?”
The sun rose higher in the sky, peaked, and then began its descent. Just before sunset, Job declared, “Oh, if only someone would give me a hearing! I’ve signed my name to my defense—let the Almighty One answer! I want to see my indictment in writing. I’m prepared to account for every move I’ve ever made!”
At last, Elihu could stand it no more. “I’m a young man, and you are all old and experienced. That’s why I kept quiet and held back from joining the discussion. I kept thinking, ‘Experience will tell. The longer you live, the wiser you become.’ But I see I was wrong—it’s God’s Spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty One, that makes wise human insight possible. The experts have no corner on wisdom; getting old doesn’t guarantee good sense. So I’ve decided to speak up. Listen well! I’m going to tell you exactly what I think.”
I swore and hissed, “Shut up, shut up, shut up—” though I knew it was useless. I had no influence over this kid at all.
Elihu declared, “It’s impossible for God to do anything evil; no way can the Mighty One do wrong.” He held the floor as sunset streaked across the sky, declaring God’s power and majesty, and rebuking Job for asserting his own righteousness at God’s expense. I cringed away from him as he finally declared, “Mighty God! Far beyond our reach! Unsurpassable in power and justice! It’s unthinkable that he’d treat anyone unfairly. So bow to him in deep reverence, one and all! If you’re wise, you’ll most certainly worship him.”
All at once, the progressing sunset grew dark, like a snuffed candle. With it, a sound of blowing wind intensified, and condensed into a mighty whirlwind.
“Uh oh,” I muttered, knowing what the whirlwind portended. I dashed behind a corner of Job’s barn. Not that it mattered; I just didn’t like standing before God if I could possibly avoid it.
All five of the men stared in awe as the whirlwind descended from heaven, and then fell on their faces. A burnished orange glow emanated from the inside, and I cringed away as the booming voice sounded from within.
“Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” God demanded. “Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.”
Job managed a tiny squeak, understanding that God addressed him.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” God continued, His tone actually sarcastic. I raised my eyebrows at this—I’d never heard God be sarcastic before. I thought I’d invented that technique. “Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy?”
I growled under my breath at the reference. All those ‘morning stars’ he referred to were the angelic chorus—who had been under my direction. I had been their leader, the most talented, most glorious, and most respected of them all. The memory of what I had been still made me gnash my teeth.
God continued with this same line of questioning, expounding upon the wonder and majesty of creation, while all five men trembled in their pile of ashes. He really drove the point home, starting with the planet, then the animals, particularly the dragon—already the stuff of human legends. I secretly liked that beast, actually. I liked to imagine myself the way God described it to Job: “any hope of overcoming him is false. No one is so fierce that he would dare stir him up. With his terrible teeth all around… his sneezings flash forth light, out of his mouth go burning lights; sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke goes out of his nostrils and a flame goes out of his mouth.”
A dragon, I mused, stroking my pointed chin with my shriveled hands. I might adopt that image, encourage the humans to think of me as a dragon… what a beast to strike terror into the hearts of all who envision it!
Distracted with my own thoughts, I had not noticed that Job was speaking now. I had to creep out from my hiding place to hear his voice.
“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’ I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’ I admit I once lived by rumors of You; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”
I gave a snort of disgust, but then remembered myself and darted back into my hiding place before God could address me directly. God upbraided Job’s three pompous friends next, and demanded they repent and offer sacrifices for their sins, but I paid little attention to this. I knew what was coming next, and didn’t care to see it: God would forgive them all, and restore to Job all I had stolen from him and probably then some. I vanished into the wilderness, and there regrouped with a few of my demons. They watched me with baleful eyes.
“Well, it wasn’t a complete failure!” I snapped before they could say anything. “He didn’t renounce God, but he did accuse Him of being unjust.”
“That’s only because Job doesn’t know we exist,” Abaddon pointed out. “I don’t know why God didn’t just tell him…”
I shook my head. “He can’t tell him. He knows if humans understood that nothing restrains us from stealing, killing, and destroying from them, and they have no power to stop us, they’ll be consumed with fear and thus, useless to Him. It’ll be just as if we’d already won the war.”
“We could just steal whatever God restores to Job again?” Abaddon suggested.
“I don’t care about Job! Job’s not the point!” I roared.
No one spoke for a long moment, and I paced. We were all thinking the same thing, but no one wanted to say it. God made these wretched creatures with free will because He wanted them to love Him. To choose Him freely—for Himself, and not just what He could give them. I wanted to prove to Him that the whole exercise was pointless. They would never love Him the way He wanted them to. So I chose the best, holiest, most righteous human on earth, the one specimen He and I both agreed upon as fulfilling that role, as a type of all the rest. If Job would renounce God, it would prove there was no hope for the rest of humanity. God might as well give up now.
But he didn’t. In Job’s logic, the only possible cause for suffering was the sin of the individual, or the wanton cruelty of God, and he knew he hadn’t sinned. He had no understanding of the spiritual world, no reason to think that a third option even existed. Even so, even as he railed against God, he did not ultimately renounce his love for Him.
I had lost.
“All right boys,” I muttered, looking at each of my demonic generals. “That was just a battle, not the war. On to Round Four.”