The book of Job is often considered to be independent among the books of the Old Testament. Nowhere does the author mention the Abrahamic covenant, Moses, the Promised Land or the nation of Israel. Further, the central theme of Job is that of the righteous sufferer. On the surface, the idea of a righteous sufferer does not square with the idea found in Deuteronomy and Proverbs that God gives people what they deserve, blessing for righteousness and suffering for unrighteousness. Yet, like the book of Job, the Psalms and the later portion of Isaiah describe the suffering of the righteous. Job’s unique contribution to the Old Testament is the extended length of Job’s suffering, anticipating the Lord’s answer in Job 42. Perhaps the best track for understanding the book is to look at it as a poetic judicial drama where the interactions climactically conclude in a courtroom. While the book of Job is lengthy, it is nonetheless best to view it holistically, woven around the central theme of God’s vindication of His glory and justice through the righteous sufferer.
The first several scenes of the drama, Job 1-3, unfold quickly. The author first established Job’s righteous character (Job 1:1-5). Job’s status made him an exemplar for Satan’s schemes to defame God (Job 1:6-19). Satan argued that Job feared God only as God blessed Job with good things and a happy existence. When the Lord allowed Satan to take Job’s family and property, Job maintained his steadfastness, saying to his wife, “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (Job 2:10). Job would not charge God with wrongdoing. When Job’s three friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) came to comfort him, they were silent and mourned with Job for all he had lost (Job 2:11-13). Job could not understand why God had allowed such hardship to come upon him and cursed the day he was born (Job 3).
The rest of the poetic narrative of Job is God’s slow-but-glorious refutation. In the end, Job worshiped God because his eyes saw Him, and Him alone (Job 42:5). Thus, when Satan organized a succession of calamities upon Job, Satan hoped that Job’s affection for God would cease. Satan’s motive was to prove God unworthy of worship. The book of Job is couched in a cosmic war. The enemy of God and goodness sought to defame God by bringing calamity on one who had experienced His goodness. God granted Satan the opportunity, in the end displaying that He is worthy to be feared, even if the blessings of family, wealth, and health would be taken away. The presentation of Satan in the book of Job should be considered in light of Satan’s role in the broader storyline of Scripture.
(1) Satan tempts people to disobey God and divide from one another. Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3; 1 Tim 2:8-15), leading to the fall and the spread of sin to all humanity (Rom 5:12-14). Paul wrote that Satan works in those who disobey God (Eph 2:2) and John noted that the whole world lies under Satan’s power (1 John 5:19). Jesus told the Jewish leadership, who refused His claims to be God in the flesh, that they were of their father, the Devil (John 8:43-44). Satan attacks the church by seeking to divide believers from one another (Eph 4:27) or pull them away from the fellowship of the church (1 Pet 5:8-9).
(2) Satan has been and will be defeated. God’s triumph over Satan did not occur in the book of Job but in the person of His Son, Jesus. Jesus was victorious over Satan’s slanderous temptations in the desert (Matt 4:1-11//Mark 1:12-13//Luke 4:1-13) and presented His ministry of exorcism and healing as attacks on Satan’s kingdom (Matt 12:22-30//Mark 3:22-27//Luke 11:14-23). How could Satan’s accusations against God’s people finally be mitigated (Zech 3:1-5)? Through forgiveness of their sin. As Jesus turned toward the cross He said, “Now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31). Paul wrote that through Christ’s death on the cross, God rendered powerless the forces of Satan that would seek to accuse God’s people (Col 2:15). The author of Hebrews wrote that through Christ’s death, He destroyed the Devil and freed those held captive by fear of death (Heb 2:14-15). Since Jesus destroyed the Devil’s works, believers are freed from sin’s dominion and practice righteousness (1 John 3:7-10). John wrote that Satan will finally be destroyed at the judgement when God throws him into the lake of fire forever (Rev 20:10).