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9. Job 1:9-12, Talking Behind Job’s Back II

 

1:9 "Then Satan answered the Lord, 'Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.' 12 The Lord said to Satan, 'Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!' So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord."
 
As mentioned in the previous essay, the simple word chinam, “without cause” or “for no reason” or “for nothing” in 1:9 gets the entire drama going. The Satan poses the question of whether Job’s extraordinary fidelity to God stems from mixed motives and not just from what might call the pure love of God. Doesn’t Job serve God so loyally because of his favorable economic and familial situation? It’s an interesting question. From God’s perspective, the answer is probably a resounding, “No!” Job’s loyalty is irrespective of physical blessings. Yet, the Satan wants to probe that issue here. 
 
Does God really know the answer to the Satan’s question? Long acquaintance with basic Christian doctrine would lead a person to assume that the God who knows everything must also know what the results of the Satan’s testing of Job will be, but the narrative is far from clear that God would know the result of the Satan’s testing.  
 
The word chinam appears three other times in Job. In 2:3, the same prose narrative that opens the book, God uses the word in a second conversation with the Satan with a twist. “You have urged me on against him to destroy him chinam.” God is first one in recorded literature that says, ‘The Satan made me (in this case urged me) do it.’ In Job 9:17 Job accuses God of tormenting him “without cause” (chinam). Finally, in 22:6, Eliphaz accuses Job of taking pledges from his brothers chinam, and thus taking economic advantage of them.  
 
The Satan is therefore impugning Job’s motives. Does this mean, as some commentators opine, that the Satan is a despicable and mean character for doing this?  Or that the Satan is putting on an astonishing display of chutzpah or impudence towards God? There is no indication that the author considers the Satan to be despicable or impudent. In truth, it is God who has brought up Job’s remarkable faithfulness. The Satan is playing what we might call “devil’s advocate” though there is no indication that anyone thinks of him at this point as the “Devil” or “Satan” of later Christian theology.