In one instance it seems like God is afflicting Job

Job 1:11 (KJV)

11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.

Job 1:16 (KJV)

16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Job 1:21 (KJV)

21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. 22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Even Job seems to believe his afflictions are from God

But on the other hand

Job 2:6 (KJV)

6 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.

Job 2:7 (KJV)

7 So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. 8 And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.

It seems there is an adversary lurking in the shadows

Who afflicted Job?


As Martin Luther opined, the Devil is God's devil. God was and is sovereign, although not culpable for the evil that occurs. God brings up Job's righteousness to Satan in a clear challenge. And it is also clear that Satan's actions are limited by God as to the extent to which he can torment Job.

It is clear that Job rightly knows that the source of his trouble is God. Psalm 39 addresses this similar to Psa 39:9 "I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it." David in that Psalm expresses the same recognition as to God's sovereignty over all events.

Yes, there is an adversary in Satan, but Job's struggle is not with Satan--it is with God. Satan is used, in the end, to glorify God in Job's response to the trials laid upon him.


The other answer is correct in not taking a Christian notion of "Devil" and "Satan" and applying it to the text. The satan is not to be understood as "the Devil", a deity of similar power as YHWH. From the text speaks a different kind of theology. In particular, "Satan" is not a personal name, since it also was has the definite article ה. It should rather be understood as "the adversary". Furthermore, the satan seems to be one of the "sons of God", a common metaphor for the Canaanite pantheon.

What is very visible in the book of Job is a struggle of the author as to what can(not) be ascribed to God. Yahwism grew out of polytheistic Canaanite religion. In this religion, many deities had their own realm, similar to the Greco-Roman pantheon. The Hebrews eventually became strongly monotheistic, something especially enforced during the Babylonian exile during which they had to distinguish themselves from other peoples. But strict monotheism has the issue that bad things must ascribe negative things to the principal deity as well, eventually yielding to questions like Is God the creator / bringer of evil according to Isaiah 45:7 and 2 Kings 22:20? In Job, the issue is resolved by having a lesser heavenly being do the actual damage, whereas YHWH actually appears as protecting Job ("only upon himself put not forth thine hand" 1:12 KJV; "he is in thine hand; but save his life" 2:6 KJV).

Lastly I would like to draw your attention to a few textual issues:

  • Job 1:16, "the fire of God": at least according to some scholars, אלהים "God" can also be understood as "mighty", yielding "mighty fire".
  • Job 1:19, "there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house": ויגע "smote" is a masculine form whereas רוח "wind" is feminine. Thus, רוח cannot be the subject. Instead, this verb refers back to either the satan or YHWH. In favour of the latter, it may refer back to וגע in 1:11, "touch all that he hath", which is the same root.
  • Job 1:21, "YHWH has given and YHWH has taken" seems very formulaic, so this need not indicate that Job ascribes his afflictions to YHWH.

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