Job Chapter 2
As we turn our attention to chapter two, I must reiterate an important point: Job's sufferings are not the result of Job's sins. It should be noted, however, that not everyone agrees with this. For example, Frederick K. C. Price, a popular author and spokesman for the Word of Faith / Prosperity gospel, insists that Job suffered because he sinned. It was Job, says Price, not God, who lowered the hedge around himself (1:10). "As long as Job walked in faith, the wall --- the hedge --- was up. But when he started walking in unbelief and doubt the hedge was pulled down. Job pulled it down." Response:
First, this interpretation has no basis in the text. Nothing suggests, far less asserts, that Job was living in unbelief and doubt. See esp. 1:1,8,22.
Second, since God is the one who put the protective hedge around Job, it stands to reason that only God can lower it. This is precisely what 1:12 implies.
Third, if Job was living in unbelief and doubt, Satan would have lost his reason for afflicting him. Satan's desire was to prove that Job's obedience was conditioned on the blessings God bestowed. If Job was in fact living in disobedience, what reason would Satan have had for carrying through with his scheme?
Fourth, Price's interpretation is contradicted by what God himself says in 2:3. There we are told that after Job had suffered the loss of all his possessions as well as his children he still maintained his integrity. Note well: God reaffirms the statement concerning Job's character in 1:8 as well as stating that Satan incited God to ruin him "without any reason".
In chapter two we discover that Satan, true to form, was not satisfied with Job's financial and familial deprivation. Nothing short of an all-out assault on his body, his flesh and bones, would quench his sadistic thirst.
A. Renewal of the Battle - 2:1-8
1. God's challenge - vv. 1-3
Clearly God initiated the inquiry, perhaps to taunt Satan with news of Job's persistent integrity. Several things are worthy of note: (1) God repeats and reaffirms the four-fold description of Job's moral excellency (1:1,8). This proves that Job neither sinned in such a way to deserve suffering nor sinned as a result of his suffering. (2) The word translated "incited" means to stir or to allure someone to a course of action they otherwise would not take. In other words, what God did in allowing Satan to afflict Job was not a normal course of action for Him. God's treatment of Job was the exception, not the rule. (3) Still, though, God accepts full responsibility for Job's sufferings. Whereas Satan is the immediate cause, God is the ultimate cause of what happened. (4) The phrase "without any reason" or "without a cause" (v. 3) reaffirms that Job had himself done nothing to merit such treatment. Satan certainly had a reason for afflicting him (namely, to discredit both Job and God). God also had a reason for allowing it to happen (namely, to prove Job's integrity and His own worthiness). But Job had done nothing to provoke such calamities as befell him.
2. Satan's charge - vv. 4-5
Undaunted, Satan responds without conceding God's assessment of Job. He persists in his skepticism about Job's sincerity. "It really wasn't much of a test," says Satan. "It was superficial at best. There are still too many restrictions." Satan's argument is that the experiment, cruel though it was, has not yielded a conclusive result because the terms on which it was carried out were not rigorous enough. "I still don't believe Job serves you for nothing," says Satan. "As long as you give him health and life he remains loyal. Let me touch his body and we'll see how long he loves you!"
The phrase translated "skin for skin" has been variously understood: (a) Some argue that it was a bartering term in the ancient world. Satan's point would be that Job was willing to endure the loss of his possessions, even his children, if it meant he could save his own life. As long as Job knows he can save his own neck, he'll sacrifice anything. Appeal is made to v. 4b ("a man will give all he has for his own life") which seems to be an interpretation of v. 4a. (b) Others suggest that the idea of a "double skin" is in view. I.e., only Job's "outer" skin has been touched, his material possessions. His "inner" skin, that is to say, his own body and soul, remain unscathed. (c) Some say this is equivalent to the idea behind "eye for eye, tooth for tooth." Satan says, "God, if you will strike at his skin he will strike back at yours." In other words, Satan is arguing that if God will let him go after Job's health, Job will retaliate against God. It appears to me that view (1) is most likely the correct one.
3. God's concession - v. 6
God accepts the challenge. However, he refuses to let Satan take Job's life.
4. Satan's cruelty - vv. 7-8
The enemy doesn't waste a moment's time. As Job, no doubt, sat in sorrow trying to cope with his indescribable loss, Satan strikes with vicious cruelty.
* By the way, this (v. 7) is the last time that Satan is mentioned in the book.
The extent of Satan's attack on Job is revealed not only here but elsewhere in the book. Some suggest Job suffered from leprosy. Whatever "painful sores" or "sore boils" means, you can be certain it was agonizing. The disease covered his body (2:7) and led to intolerable itching (2:8; he was probably scraping pus from the sores). His appearance was disfigured (2:12; 19:19). He suffered from loss of appetite (3:24a), depression (3:24b-26; 7:16), and sleeplessness (7:4). When he did sleep he had recurring nightmares (7:14). He suffered from festering sores and broken skin (7:5), scabs that blackened and peeled (30:30), high fevers (30:30), excessive weeping and burning of the eyes (16:16), putrid smelling breath (19:17), an emaciated body (17:7; 19:20), and chronic pain (30:17). It seems only appropriate that he would take up residence on a dung heap or ash heap where dogs scavenged for food among the corpses and refuse. Mike Mason comments:
"As the dialogue between Job and his friends unfolds, we will do well to bear in mind this horrific picture of a reeking dump as the setting in which the long and rather abstract theological debate takes place. These men are not sitting in some elaborate conference room in a multi-million dollar church complex, nor even around the kitchen table, but rather amidst heaps of ashes, smoldering fires, stench, buzzing flies, scampering rats and jackals, piles of rubble, and all the other ruins of civilization --- not least of which were the human ruins, the broken men and women gibbering like ghosts in the smoky murk. All in all, is the stage not set for an apocalyptic drama?" (44)
B. Reactions from Family and Friends - 2:9-13
1. Family - vv. 9-10
Job's wife is the first to respond. Some have named her "Dinah" because of the woman in Genesis 34:1-10 by that name who also acted foolishly.
When severe trials come, often the only thing that keeps you going is your spouse. Hard times drive you closer to one another as you cling to each other. If no one else will help, surely one's husband or wife will. But Satan succeeds in sowing discord and division between Job and his wife. You can almost here her say, "I know I said, 'For better, for worse,' but I had no idea this would happen!"
How should we evaluate Job's wife? Many have called her "the devil's assistant" or "Satan's tool". Aquinas insisted the only reason Satan didn't kill her along with the children was so that he might later use her against Job. But we must remember that, aside from the bodily diseases, she had suffered as much loss as Job had. They were her children too! They were her possessions too! They were her servants too! And it couldn't have been easy for her then to watch her husband suffer bodily as he was. Perhaps we should grieve for her as well. Few of us will ever be touched by her depth of loss.
Still, though, her response is hard to defend. It is as if she says, "I'll serve God, but only to a point." Her counsel would have been especially painful to Job. She gave voice to the temptation he no doubt struggled to resist. According to Mrs. Job, "to compromise one's faith in God in order to ease an intolerable burden is the wisest course to follow" (Hartley, 84). After all, it is always easier to lower your concept of God than it is to elevate the quality of your faith. One more point: perhaps she responded poorly when bad times came because she had taken for granted all the good times. When we presume upon God's gifts, we complain when they are taken away.
Job rejects her counsel (v.10), but is patient with her anyway. He doesn't directly call her foolish, but says she speaks "as if" she were. The implication is that under the stress of the circumstances she has reacted beneath herself.
Two important theological points are made in v. 10.
* "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"
* "In all this Job did not sin in what he said."
2. Friends - vv. 11-13
News of Job's experience would have traveled fast. He was the most well-known, wealthy, respected man in the land. However, an interval of weeks, perhaps months, passes before their arrival. We know this because: (1) there had to be time for news to reach them; (2) there had to be time for them to communicate and arrange to meet; (3) there had to be time for the journey to Uz; and (4) Job speaks of "months" of pain he has already endured (7:3).
Friends in the ANE often entered into covenant with one another to meet for comfort and support in times of trouble. Thus, they came with good intentions.
* they "weep aloud", a customary expression of mourning
* they "tore their robes", also a sign of mourning
* they "sprinkled dust on their heads", the same
* they sat with him "seven days and seven nights", a customary period for mourning; though they did not speak to him, they certainly mourned aloud and perhaps discussed among themselves his condition
First, sometimes the best approach when someone is suffering is simply to sit and weep with them. Sympathy is often a better remedy than words.
Second, try not to theologize, i.e., try not to relieve their pain by explaining all the reasons why it may have happened.
Third, avoid the peril of interpreting providence. Don't try to draw moral conclusions from physical events. In the OT, chronic illness such as boils/sores was a divine punishment for sins committed (cf. Ex. 9:8-12; Dt. 28:35). But to draw that conclusion here would be totally misguided. See esp. Eccles. 9:1b-3a; 7:14; 9:11-12.