Using our nationwide lockdown to lock down some rusty Hebrew. A rough translation and thoughts on the way. Some of it will be familiar to friends who have journeyed through Kirk Patston’s classes. Lord willing we’ll make some progress over the next four weeks.
1:6 Now there was a day,
when the sons of God came to present themselves before Yahweh.
And the adversary also came in their midst.
- The narrator switches to a scene in heavenly courts. It’s a rare glimpse in Scripture behind the curtain, into the spiritual realm.
- What we see is not just one spiritual power, but the “sons of God” – perhaps angelic beings (see Job 2:1, 38:7). Whoever they are, they all present themselves before Yahweh in submission.
- Yet the narrator singles out one being, who is literally called הַשָּׂטָ֖ן (“the Satan”) – it’s not so much a personal name here, but more an adversary (see also 1 Chronicles 21:1, Zechariah 3:1-2).
- There is more behind the scenes in our chaotic world than we think. Our world is filled with unseen forces and adversaries, but they all must present themselves before Yahweh, our King of Kings.
1:7 And Yahweh said to the adversary, “From where have you come?”
And the adversary answered Yahweh, and he said:
“From wandering the earth, and from patrolling it.”
1:8 Then Yahweh said to the adversary, “Have you set your heart upon my servant Job? For there isn’t one like him on the earth:
a man blameless,
and God fearing,
and one who shuns evil.
- Yahweh allows the adversary to roam about the earth. Whoever this being is, He is free to patrol the earth at Yahweh’s command.
- Yahweh’s description of Job is identical to the narrator’s in 1:1 – he is someone who is wholly devoted to God. The repetition emphasises that Job is innocent of all the later accusations against him.
1:9-10 And the adversary answered Yahweh, saying:
“Does Job revere God for nothing?
Have you not put a hedge around him
and around his house
and around all that belongs to him
from all around?
You have blessed the work of his hands,
And You have expanded his estate over the earth.
- Does Job worship God because of the things he’s been given, or does he revere Him hahinnam (הַֽחִנָּ֔ם) – for no reason? That’s the key question of the book of Job for us. Will we worship God even when we have nothing left?
1:11 But now stretch out Your hand and strike all which is his.
[See] if he doesn’t “bless” You to Your face.“
1:12 And Yahweh said to the adversary:
“Look, all that belongs to him is in your hand,
Only against him you may not stretch your hand.”
Then the adversary departed from the presence (lit: the face) of Yahweh.
- There is an element of request in the adversary asking God to stretch his hand out. He knows that only God can decree this, and to what extent (v12).
- The barakh (ברך) riddle continues here in verse 11. Why does the Hebrew text say barakh (to bless) and not qalal (to curse)? In context, the adversary clearly believes that Job will not bless, but rather curse God to his face.
- In any case, this word will keep riddling us in the upcoming verses: what does it mean to ‘bless’ God?
My own reflections:
- Is our wealth a curse or a blessing? Is suffering a curse or a blessing? It’s easy to assume that if we have stuff (toilet paper, a stocked pantry, work from home) we are blessed, but this heavenly conversation reminds us not to quickly assume what “blessing” means in our lives
- For example, I think of how being in lockdown could be a blessing (time together, a simpler life, no traffic) yet also a curse (time to waste, be lazy with devotionals, become addicted to our smartphones, become bitter or selfish)
- On the flipside, suffering may not necessarily be a curse. Perhaps there’s wisdom in what J.C. Ryle observes regarding sickness: “I know the suffering and pain which sickness involves. I admit the misery and wretchedness which it often brings. But I cannot regard it as completely evil. I see in it a wise plan and purpose of God. I see in it a useful provision to reduce the ravages of sin and the devil among men’s souls. If man had never sinned I should have been at a loss to discern the benefit of sickness. But since sin is in the world, I can see that sickness is good. It is a blessing quite as much as a curse. It is a rough schoolmaster, I grant. But it is a real friend to man’s soul.”
- Re: God’s sovereignty. How powerful do I believe my King of Kings is over the chaos of this world? Job 1:6-12 paints him as Lord over all powers and adversaries. Do I believe this?
- Do I love and serve God only because He gives me benefits (respect, appreciation from others, a paycheck)? Or when there’s no benefit to doing so? When no one is watching online? In the quietness of my heart? When everything is taken away from me? Will I love and serve God “for nothing”?