The King James Version of Job 2:2 reads:

And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. (KJV)

Translations in the King James family generally keep the "in", and it is also supported by, for example, Young's Literal Translation:

... And the Adversary answereth Jehovah and saith, 'From going to and fro in the land, and from walking up and down in it.' (YLT)

However, other translations have "on", for example:

... Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it." (NIV)

Does this verse suggest that Satan went below the surface of the Earth ("in") or only that walked about the surface ("on")?

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  • The earth isn't just the globe in scriptures. Ezekiel 31:16 indicates that sheol is in the earth. It includes the underworld! Ref; Isaiah 42:5. Men are on earth, other spirits are 'in' it. They are not limited by physical elements as we are. When 'in' is used it denotes all this realm created in Genesis 1:10, whereas 'on' alludes to affairs of humans and other spirits on it for man's sake. – Witness Aug 11 '16 at 22:32

I think this is basically a question about English usage. The Hebrew original has בָּאָרֶץ which you could translate in modern English either as “on the earth” or as “in the land”. It depends really on how you want to understand the word אָרֶץ . In pre-modern English the preposition “in” is not rarely used where in modern English you would have to say “on”. The OED (unabridged Oxford English Dictionary) has lots of examples in the entry “in”, meaning 2a, for example “he kneled downe in the floore” from ca. 1500, or “the Rider must lay the raines in his (=the horse’s) necke” from 1607. So in this passage, “in the earth” of the KJV does not need to mean “inside the earth”, it could also mean “on the surface of the earth”.


If you would have quotes the specific Bible version then it would have helped. For instance I always prefer NKJV, Job 2:2 NKJV reads as 'And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?" Satan answered the Lord and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it."'

Other few common versions may read Satan's reply as: "... walking around on it." "...walking up and down in it." "...going back and forth on it." "...walking back and forth across it." "...and from walking up and down in it"

As I understand, When Satan refers Earth, he is actually mentioning about his constant movement all across Earth. It includes the deepest part of Earth and the whole earth across its borders or shores. What I also understand from this passage is that Enemy is trying to let God know that he is aware of everything happening all across the earth and even in the lives of people. That's why he could dare to Blame an innocent man Job with false allegations before The Almighty God. Another interesting fact that matches his way of walking is that he is always on move seeking to devour the righteous. (1 Peter 5:8 "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:")

  • Welcome to the Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange. If you haven't done so already, check out the site tour. In particular, be sure to read the section on what constitutes a good answer and revise your post to either cite references that back your position or to more thoroughly explain how you get this interpretation from the text itself. Please note that "showing your work" is required on this Stack Exchange. – ThaddeusB Aug 24 '15 at 15:26
  • According to Numbers 22:22 (i.e. if you read the original Hebrew text) the satan is a good godly person. Satan [שטן] in Hebrew is a verb / participle / gerund that means obstruct, obstruction. And that is what "the obstructor/satan" did - obstruct Balaam. – Cynthia Avishegnath Aug 26 '15 at 10:38

Separate and distinct prepositions like 'in' and 'on' are a specialty of very few languages like English. In many languages, those two prepositions are understood by implication. For example, the English usages 'in the chair' and 'on the chair' refer to chair with arms and without arms respectively. Most other languages do not have such definitive usages. In order to get an answer to your question, you would have to know what exactly was written in the original text , and the nuances of the language used.

  • You are correct that one would need "to know what exactly was written in the original text" to determine usage here. However, just telling someone how to answer their own question is not an answer. You are expected to actually do the work. – ThaddeusB Aug 24 '15 at 14:05
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