In the Book of Job, after Job has went through his first test from Satan there is another gathering in Heaven and, once again, Satan is there (Job 2:1-3). The result of this gathering is that Job will have to endure another test. This is explained in Job 2:4-6. In verse 4, Satan replies to God with the following statement.

Job 2:4 (NIV):

"Skin for skin!" Satan replied." A man will give all he has for his own life.
But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones,
and he will surely curse you to your face."

What is the meaning of "skin for skin"? It would appear that Satan has "sealed the deal" by skin in exchange for skin.

In Job 19:20 the word skin is recorded twice, although in a different context:

I am nothing but skin and bones;
I have escaped by only the skin of my teeth.

Interestingly, the above verse implies that Job has escaped "death" only by the skin of his teeth. This is after Satan was told by God.

Job 2:6:

The Lord said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life."

Nine verses with reference to "skin" are recorded in the Book of Job (scroll down to view).

5 Answers 5


Since Satan, the accuser, does not want to believe in Job's blamelessness, he seeks to depreciate or impugn Job's character by saying in effect,

"Job's so-called blamelessness is attributable to a bargain he made with you, God. It's an even exchange: He'll be blameless if you give him the lifestyle to which he's become accustomed."

In other words, Satan is suggesting Job's enviable lifestyle is simply a case of quid pro quo (i.e., something for something else; an even trade; "You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours"; that type of thing). Put differently, God prospers Job, and in turn Job pays God back by maintaining a blameless lifestyle. An analogy might be the soldier in a foxhole who promises to serve God the rest of his life if God will spare his life. Of course, once God spares the soldier's life, the soldier immediately forgets his promise to God.

I do not know if the trading of skins was common in Job's day, as it was in the days of the Old West in America, when a fur trader might trade, say, a bearskin for six beaver pelts, in an "even-Steven" barter. (I assume, perhaps wrongly, that a bear skin and six beaver pelts were of equal worth.)

If that is not the case, then the word skin could be the figure of speech called a synecdoche, which indicates a part-for-whole relationship. "Skin," therefore, would stand for a person's entire life. Satan, then, is implying that--like the soldier, above--Job will gladly give up his charmed lifestyle ("skin"), if God will get him out of a jam and save his "skin" (i.e., his physical life), even if that life includes pain and suffering, which of course it did!

  • 2
    You refer to an "even-Steven" barter, in relation to "skin for skin." In Job's day, the scripture in Job:16-15 informs us that Job wore sackcloth,which is manufactured from "goatskin." This is a good indication that people did trade skins in Job's day, in the same way as thy did in the Old West.When i researched my question,i found that people in the Old West dealt in buckskin (deer), and as time went by,the dollar was used in exchange for buckskin.This is where the slang word "buck," which is now used for dollar,has its root.One might say "buck for buck," like Satan said "skin for skin."
    – Bagpipes
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 9:27
  • Job: 30:28 informs us that Job goes about "blackened,"but not by the sun,and in 30:30 the scripture says, "my skin grows black and peels,and my body burns with fever.Here skin takes on a different meaning, as in "human skin," and not animal skin.Any thoughts on this?
    – Bagpipes
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 9:48
  • @Bagpipes: Offhand, I'd say that the skin condition with which Job was afflicted may have caused his skin to turn black. After all, Satan "smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head" (2:7). Evidently, Job got some relief by scraping the boils with a fragment of broken pottery (2:8). Not a pretty sight, by any means! Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 1:08
  • @Bagpipes I enjoyed reading your comments. You asked for more meaning on 'human skin'. I have answered another question here: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/75478/49416 It is on Job 2:8 and deals with the boils in his skin. It my be of further help to you because I certainly found the comments here further enlightening to the perspective of my answer in the link.
    – user49416
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 3:50
  • Andries Stander- Thank you sir.
    – Bagpipes
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 17:26

The first test to which Job is submitted takes everything from Job that is his property. This is the initial challenge posed by Satan: that Job only loves God because of the intelligence and wealth that God has provided Job. After God allows Satan to take Job's property, Job humbly accepts this in stating that God both gives and takes away.

Satan then returns to God and states that any man would give their property if only to save their own life. Put in another way, if you are held up at gunpoint and told "your money or your life" you will gladly give up your money, otherwise you lose both. Satan's accusation, being the accuser, is that Job was presented with a similar problem: that while God took his money, Job submitted only to spare his life or flesh. "Skin for skin" is Satan's way of saying that if Job were held to the prospect of losing his life then he would surely curse God. This is the second test to which God permits Satan to submit Job to, which is why God says to Satan that he may do anything to Job BUT take his life. The idea is that Satan may inflict disease on Job's skin to the point that the disease makes Job feel as though he has lost more than his property but the very flesh that carries his soul is doomed. The test posed by Satan is: "if Job gives up his money in your name, would he actually be willing to give up his life without condemning you."

The Satanic function in scripture is always aimed at undermining such faith, and Job's story does reappear in that of Jesus in which Jesus does give up his life willfully to the point of loving the other who crucifies him and praising his Father (God) in the process (Why have you forsaken me/It has been accomplished). While Job does not lose his life, the wager of Satan is that men only worship God so long as they receive something in return. However, both Job and Christ have no reservations about what happens to them and prove that it is possible to worship the Name of God to the very end and beyond. This is the significance of "Skin for Skin."

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    – enegue
    Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 5:59

It suggests that Job was only tolerating the skin of his servants, family and animals being shed, and staying faithful to God after all of that, to "save his own skin" from being judged by God.


Seems to me that while surely skin means skin (hides and pelts) skin is his heart. We have all felt a darkened heart, then it becomes white as we purify ourselves once again by being faithful through the challenge.

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    – agarza
    Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 17:56

Skin For Skin perhaps the fragile gentle vunerable nature of mankind "SAVE HIS SKIN" that regardless of GOD ALL MIGHTYS wisdom or intentions Job is executing wise trade, "I DO THIS FOR GOD AND GOD WILL ALLOW SUCH AND SUCH TO HAPPEN TO ME AND I AVOID PAIN AND DISCOMFORT" giving "reason" for tolerance servitude when Satan the daunting accuser probably is convinced that believers should tolerate what LORDS hand of EVIL/TRIBULATION inflicts with no expectations in return not even that of personal safety. Anyway tears in my eyes for JOB

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