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Sermon : Sodom and Gomorrah


Now, some have argued that because the text states that he is simply 'among them,' he could not actually have belonged to their ranks, and it is due to his displacement that he is asked his business; however, to be among them would, in fact, signify membership, and the satan may be singled out simply for the sake of the narrative.28 It is most likely that God asked each angel the same question, and that on any other day the satan would have simply been another face in the crowd. Since the satan comes into the presence of God with the angels, it is safe to say that it was his duty to do so.29 His role, however, is not clearly made known. H. L. Ellison hypothesises that the satan may simply go through the world finding people to accuse - still, retaining that he is a servant of God.30 Others expound this a little further, stating that his job title could be that of 'roving intelligence,' much like a secret police, perhaps searching for signs of disloyalty among the people.31 The verb used for the satan's roaming is one applied to that of having a purpose for such meandering: other occasions of the verb used are in Numbers 11:8 where the people would search for manna; 2 Samuel 24:8 where the census was taken; and Jeremiah 5:1 where the call is given to search for those who are righteous - thus, this verb has no implications of the wandering being aimless.32 Nevertheless, the satan is far from the fallen angel of modern theological mythology, and is simply some kind of adversary or opponent.33 Despite what modern thinkers will argue, the Book of Job clearly portrays the satan as Job's adversary, and not God's - indeed, the satan is powerless to act without God's authorisation, and can respond only to God's initiative.34 Yahweh boasts of His loyal subject, Job, and the satan rises to challenge his piety. Interestingly, it is God who instigates the conversation - God who brings up this Job - and not the satan. This spirit before God simply is playing the devil's advocate - not 'the Devil' himself - questioning the link between Godliness and prosperity: that Job's piety is simply a result of God's goodness to him.35 The satan seemingly introduces the argument against the notion of reward theology, as Job's story ends up being, and this is not at all an evil thing.

So, the angel is proven to be essentially subservient, being disregarded as unimportant as the story unfolds - God, ultimately, is the one responsible for Job's affliction and suffering.36 The satan has no power over Job or his possessions until God grants it to him, and even so follows the confines that Yahweh has laid out - the satan is being used as an instrument. Job is put in the hands of the satan through a delegation of power, therefore, the delegator has the ultimate responsibility.37 This confrontation between God and the satan is not one between two rivals, or conspirators, and although they are not equals, they can converse freely with each other, the tension only being a part of the narrative.38 Therefore, the underlying principle is that the satan, despite what 'evil' he does to humanity - in this case specifically, Job - "remains an angel", and obedient servant of Yahweh.39 1 Kings 22:19-22 has Micaiah recount a vision of Yahweh on His throne with the hosts of heaven on His right and on His left. There He asks who will entice Ahab to attack and fall at Ramoth Gilead. After suggestions between the angels are made, one spirit comes forward to volunteer. God subsequently sends him out to do the work. This scene is reminiscent to that of Job's prologue - the mal'ak parallels quite closely the satan God sends to afflict Job - yet, God's intent to do harm is made clear.40 The angel may be a devious character, but is ostensibly a necessary one, whose primary function may possibly be that of judgement.41 Take, for example, Zechariah 3:1-5, where Joshua is seen before the angel of the Lord, along with the satan at His right hand, ready to accuse. Yahweh rebukes the satan, who here is simply "the accuser". This scene leads to a ceremony of purification - presumably, therefore, Joshua has been absolved of the charges laid in the trial before the heavenly court, of which the satan was the prosecutor.42 The Hebrew hints to the fact that the satan may merely be punishing Joshua for his sins - without any malicious intent, but only failing to realise that God intended to show mercy.43 Thus, not even this passage can deny that the satan is an angel of Yahweh - after all, he is allowed to be before God, and speak with Him still. 2 Samuel 24:13-16 describes another scene in which God rebukes His angel after doing the work assigned to Him. Here David is asked to choose between three ways to remove the iniquity of his sins against the people - which God, Himself, had incited. King David selects three days of pestilence, as opposed to 3 years of famine, or 3 months of flight with the enemy at his heels. Thus, God sends an angel to strike His people, and seventy thousand die. Yet, as the mal'ak stretches its hand to strike Jerusalem, God repents and commands the angel to cease. Still, God is both the cause and the punishment of David's sin.44

  1. Ibid., p.19.
  2. H. L. Ellison, From Tragedy to Triumph: The Message of the Book of Job (London: The Paternoster Press, 1958), p.24.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Pagels, The Origin of Satan, p.41.
  5. Clines, Word Biblical Commentary, p.23.
  6. Ibid., p.20.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., p.25.
  9. Ellison, From Tragedy to Triumph, p.25.
  10. Clines, Word Biblical Commentary, p.29.
  11. Ibid., p.22.
  12. Pagels, The Origin of Satan, p.42.
  13. Russell, The Devil, p.203.
  14. Forsyth, The Old Enemy, p.112.
  15. Ibid., p.117.
  16. Russell, The Devil, p.191.
  17. Forsyth, The Old Enemy, p.120.