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Who Is Job’s Accuser?

I began reading Tremper Longman III’s commentary on Job yesterday, and I am enjoying it very much. He writes an engaging commentary, and I have profited already from his not only scholarly but also, and more importantly, Christian treatment of Job. However, there is something that Longman has proposed in his commentary that I find perhaps overly cautious and consequently inaccurate. In his introduction to Job, Longman indicates that although”many translations give the impression that ‘the accuser’ is Satan, known as ‘the devil’ in the NT, it is best to understand,” Job’s accuser not as Satan but “as a member of God’s assembly,” i.e., a non-fallen angel (52). I have agreed with the vast majority of what Longman has written thus far in what I have read of his commentary, but on this point I must respectfully differ with him. Based on biblical evidence, Job’s accuser is none other than the devil himself.

Longman’s Argument

Longman rightly notes that what the ESV translates as “Satan” (Job 1:6 and following) is, in Hebrew, “hassatan,” literally “the adversary.” However, the presence of this identifier of Job’s accuser as the adversary does not preclude “the idea it is a proper name,” as Longman argues (82). His literal translation of hassatan as “the accuser,” while technically correct, does not rule out the possibility that Job’s accuser is none other than Satan, the devil, himself.

Longman further creates a false dichotomy when he argues, “There is also a theological issue in that it would be strange in the extreme to imagine the devil as a member of the heavenly court and God as having a conversation with his enemy in heaven, not to speak of the problem of the devil convincing God to harm Job,” which God indicates Job’s accuser has done in Job 2:3 (82, 87).

Biblical Evidence Against Longman’s Arguments

The key passage that definitively identifies Satan, the devil, in particular as “the accuser” in general is Revelation 12:1-12, which reads:

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

Despite the difficulties in interpreting Revelation, three truths relevant to identifying Job’s accuser are clear from this passage:

  1. Satan is “the accuser” of God’s people (v. 10).
  2. Before his permanent expulsion from heaven, Satan “accuses them day and night before our God” (v. 10).
  3. Satan’s final expulsion from heaven occurs sometime after Jesus’ ascension to heaven.

Together these three truths undermine Longman’s insistence that Satan cannot possibly be Job’s accuser because it is “strange in the extreme to imagine the devil as a member of the heavenly court.” Yes, at the time of Job Satan is a fallen angel and not strictly “a member of the heavenly court,” but since the events of Job occur before Christ’s ascension, the earliest possible time at which Satan was permanently expelled from heaven, it is not impossible that Satan is Job’s accuser. When Job was alive, Satan still had access to the heavenly court although he was not a member of it!

Furthermore, “the problem of the devil convincing God to harm Job” is not a problem. In 1 Thessalonians 2:4, Paul acknowledges that God “tests our hearts.” Although God “tempts no one,” it is certainly within his rights to test his followers (James 1:13). Indeed, David in Psalm 17:3 addresses God: “You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night, you have tested me, and you will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.” In another event concerning David, there is an interesting and otherwise unexplained relationship among God, Satan, and a human:

Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” (2 Sam. 24:1)

Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. (1 Chr. 21:1.

Which account is right? Both. God did not tempt David to sin. He allowed Satan to tempt David to sin by taking a census of Israel. Joseph provides a helpful perspective for understanding the relationship between God and Satan concerning sin: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it [evil] for good” (Gen. 50:20). What Satan, through Joseph’s brothers, meant for evil, God meant for good. He saved his people from extinction at the hands of a seven-year famine. What Satan meant, in inciting David to sin, God meant for good. God’s anger was justly against the Israelites for their sin (for which sins the Bible does not tell us), and God allowed David’s sin so that his people would seek him and build the temple under the leadership of David’s son, King Solomon (1 Chr. 21:17-19). There is no problem in “the devil convincing God to harm Job.” Inferring from the above evidence, this undoubtedly happened on numerous occasions.

Biblical Evidence That Satan Was Job’s Accuser

Just as Revelation 12:1-12 (especially v. 10) serves as evidence against Longman’s argument, it also serves as evidence that Satan was, in fact, Job’s accuser in Job 1-2. In Revelation 12:10, John identifies Satan as “the accuser of our brothers … day and night before our God,” which means that Satan accuses God’s people to God. In Job 1-2, Satan accuses Job, one of God’s people, to God.

Job is certainly one of God’s people. The author takes pains to present Job as one of God’s people. Job is “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (1:1). Longman rightly notes that this language presents Job as a righteous wise man in Proverbial terms (79). Furthermore, Job served as the priest of his family, much like Noah (1:5; see Gen. 8:20). In addition to hinting that Job lived probably sometime before Abraham, this paints Job in the light of later Jewish priests who interceded to God on behalf of others. Indeed, at the end of the book, Job prays over burnt offerings on behalf of his three friends, against whom God’s anger burns for not speaking of him rightly (Job 42:7-9). Since the Bible presents Job as a follower of God, and Satan accuses God’s followers to God, Satan is Job’s accuser.

Again, it is important to note that Satan accuses God’s people to God. And since God rules from heaven, these accusations must take place in heaven, in God’s presence. As noted above, the book of Job does not present Satan as one of “the sons of God”; rather, the book of Job distinguishes Satan from the sons of God. And it is as this adversary, as one who seeks to defame God’s people in a desperate attempt to defame their God, who accuses God’s people to him.

Job’s Accuser and Our Accuser

Why does it matter if Satan is Job’s accuser? What does it matter if a fallen angel or a non-fallen angel accuses God’s people to God? The identity of Job’s accuser matters not only because truth matters but also because Job’s accuser is our accuser. This is the import of Revelation 12:10. Job’s accuser is our accuser.

But this is our hope: one day, before Satan inflicts his “great wrath” on the earth, “a loud voice in heaven” will proclaim the glorious news that Satan has been conquered “by the blood of the Lamb” and by “the word of” his people’s “testimony”! Already the Christian is spiritually free from the Satan’s control because of Christ’s triumph over him at the cross, but one day all Christians’ war against Satan and his demonic hordes will finally cease because Christ himself will throw Satan “into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10).

In addition to the comfort of knowing that Satan will be finally cast out and punished forever, but we Christians have comfort now. Our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus “is at the right hand of God” even now, “interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34). Even though Satan may accuse us (perhaps rightly so, unlike in Job’s case![1]), Jesus is already at God’s right hand ready to intercede on our behalf (Heb. 7:25; 9:24).

May we strive as God’s children not to give Satan a reason to accuse us to our Father, and may we take to heart not only that when we sin we have an Advocate for us but also that if we confess sin to God he will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

[1] Although Job, like everyone, is born a sinner and sins by choice, God insists that Satan “incited me to destroy him without reason” (Job 2:3). It is not that Job is utterly without sin; rather, Satan had attacked Job’s motives for following God, which were above reproach. To put it another way, had Satan brought a specific unrepentant sin before God, God could have afflicted Job for that reason. As it was, Satan attacked Job’s motives in serving God, which God knew to be without sin (see Job 1:22; 2:9). Therefore God is able to say that Satan sought to destroy Job “without reason.”

  1. Lindsay Kennedy
    November 26, 2012 at 4:26 am

    Would you say that Satan still accuses us today in virtually the same way he did with Job? Or has something changed? I suppose it hinges on how you understand Revelation’s ‘timeline’ and whether Satan has already been cast down or not?

    • August 1, 2013 at 11:44 am

      I would say that Satan is not cast down yet in the Revelation 12 sense. I see this as a future event. I believe that Satan still accuses believers today much in the same sense as he accused Job, but his accusations come to nothing because of the blood of Christ that covers believers and has atoned for their sin at the cross. What do you think about Revelation’s timeline and when Satan was/is/will be cast out?

  1. October 3, 2012 at 1:41 pm

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