Has vs. Is: Comparing Dialogue in the Prologue of the Book of Job

The prologue to the book of Job contains two similar scenes where the sons of God, the LORD, and Satan carry out similar, yet unique conversations. These interactions result in two wagers between the LORD and Satan. The first scene is found in Job 1:6-12. The second scene is recorded in Job 2:1-6. The first wager between the LORD and Satan focuses on all that Job possessed (Job 1:12). The second wager focuses on Job’s person, his bone and flesh (Job 2:6). The significance of these two scenes is important in understanding the drama that plays out in the rest of the book of Job. The struggle that ensues is between what Job has and who Job is. The overarching wager can be seen in the subtle question from the LORD as Satan is asked twice in the prologue, “Have you considered my servant Job?” God was perhaps also asking the question, “Has my servant Job considered ME?”

In the first scene recorded in the opening prologue, the sons of God come before the LORD. Satan tags along to stand among them. This implies that the pretender Satan wants to be part of the group that truly did belong as one who stands before the LORD in identity with him. Although the LORD initiates the challenge with Satan to consider Job (1:7), Satan returns the challenge to focus on Job’s livelihood. The resulting wager focuses on all that Job has as the basis for his loyalty to the LORD.

The second scene begins in similar dialog between the LORD and Satan. Yet, the LORD adds insult to Satan reminding him that Job’s integrity remains intact as Satan’s first challenge failed (Job 2:3). The tension of the second wager builds to a climax from the first wager that leads into the rest of the book of Job. The unfairness that Satan declares in 2:4 is the same declaration of Job throughout the drama. What transpires out of these first two scenes is a stage set for Job to wrestle with what is fair and what is not.

The evil that befalls Job after each scene between the LORD and Satan is worthy of comparison. All that Job has is destroyed by God himself. This is evidenced by the nature of the destruction detailed in 1:13-19. Two invading armies kill servants and take cattle, Job’s possessions. Job’s flock of sheep and their tenders are consumed by the fire of God from heaven. Job’s family faces death due to a strong wind, a natural force controlled by God. The evil and destruction that comes first is given to Satan to carry out, but God’s hand is clearly evident in the control of nature and nations. Although Job grieves, he does so in worship (Job 1:20). Job’s response to his tragic loss shows God as the victor in the wager.

In comparison, the evil that comes upon Job after the second scene is more personal. Whereas God is mentioned as the initiator of fire from heaven and wind in the first scene, Satan is specifically credited with the physical sores on Job in 2:7. Rather than taking Job’s wealth, Satan takes Job himself. Evil comes upon Job intimately and emotionally. Depression overcomes Job as strongly as the physical sores overcome his body. What remains consistent with Job in the prologue is his refusal to go against the LORD. He admits that both good and evil come from God and he receives both as granted. (Job 2:10).

Lastly, the arrival of Job’s friends in the prologue indicate an honorable intention in comparison to the resulting dialogue throughout the rest of the book. As Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar arrive in the scene, Job is wracked with pain and depression. These three friends are motivated to show compassion to Job as they respected him greatly. (Job 2:11). What begins in the prologue between the friends and Job as sincerity and compassion (2:13), quickly turns to confrontation (Chapters 3-31). “So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.” (Job 32:1). A fourth character, Elihu, interjects in the confrontations between Job, his friends, and God. (Job 32:2-3). Elihu’s anger revealed to all four men their sin of pride in the eyes of the LORD. Elihu’s rebuke in chapters 32-37 introduces in like-kind the rebuke of God toward Job that come in chapters 38-41.

Job rehearses his knowledge of God throughout his lament (Job 3 – 31) as do his three friends as they ‘comfort’ Job. The dialog between these men show the opposing purposes of the wagers between the LORD and Satan. Satan’s wager is that Job (or man) cannot trust God. God’s wager is that Job (man) needs God in order to fully trust him.

Job’s confession in 42:5-6 reveals God’s overarching purpose in the evil that comes upon him. Although Job sought God’s forgiveness and favor, perhaps Job did not realize that he merely knew God through what he heard or was taught. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6). The worldview of Job and his friends centered on reward and obedience. Never had Job truly considered God. Never had Job fully “seen” God.

God’s wager with Satan was for the purpose of shaping Job into the servant he desired. God does not want men to merely hear good things about their Maker. Rather, God desires man to be the full imago dei and will allow evil circumstances to reshape man into his image. To be fully in the image of God is to see God and know the LORD as he truly is, rather than merely gaining good knowledge about God. Repentance is necessary to return to the LORD. Removal of all idolatry must occur in order to experience God personally and to call him LORD. All that one has must be cast aside so that who someone is emerges as the person the LORD desires. Man needs the LORD more than a solution to the problems facing him from day to day. Good times come and bad times replace them. But regardless of the circumstance, the LORD is.

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