Chapter 2:1-8 (ESV) - Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.
Question to consider: What is Satan’s argument for afflicting Job with loathsome sores?
The book of Job is written in the style of Hebrew poetry. We recognize poetry through things like meter or the rhyming of words. Hebrew poetry is known for how it structures the language. One common structure is to use parallel phrases. In this, the eye puts particular emphasis on the differences between the phrases. This is effective because the written language does not have grammatical elements like punctuation or capitalization to create this emphasis. Today, we can add further emphasis through the use of bold or italicized words or even different fonts.
Job uses parallel phrases regarding God’s divine counsel and the visitation by Satan where God asked him to consider His servant, Job. The difference comes in God pointing out that Satan needlessly sought to destroy Job since it didn’t result in Job cursing God.
Satan’s response gives us insight into his malevolent nature. From the beginning, it would seem that Satan didn’t think that destroying Job’s children, servants, and possessions would be enough for him to curse God. Satan argued that it needed to be more personal because a man would give up anything in order to save his own life. Satan could have made that argument in the first meeting and spared all the lives that he took, but he was all too eager to bring about utter destruction.
The latest attack on Job was extremely personal. Having an itch is torturous enough. Having a combination of an itch and terrible pain is almost unbearable. The text described the sores as loathsome and all-encompassing. Being on the surface of his skin meant that they also made him unrecognizable as we’ll see in tomorrow’s study.
Covering oneself in ash and wearing sackcloth was a common Hebrew act of contrition. Even though Job was an Edomite, he was still a descendant of Abraham and would have been familiar with this practice. The ashes were a representation of man being dust, for Adam was made from the dust of the earth and given the breath of life by God. Sackcloth is woven from animal hair. While it can be considered humble attire because it is plain and scratchy, I believe that it points to the original clothes given to Adam and Eve after their rebellion. I believe that the combination was to identify with Adam as dust and a sinner entirely dependent on the mercy of God. Job may not have sinned against God, but he was still appealing to God’s mercy to take away his affliction. I can’t imagine the torturous effect of ashes and sackcloth on a body that is wracked with sores.
Dear heavenly father, may Your grace and mercy be sufficient for us in the midst of affliction. We look forward to the day when there will be no more death, sorrow, or pain because of the mercy You have given us through Christ Jesus. Amen.