Satan: God’s Servant -- By: Sydney H. T. Page
JETS 50:3 (September 2007) p. 449
Satan: God’s Servant
Sidney Page is professor of New Testament at Taylor Seminary, 11525 23 Avenue, Edmonton, AB T6J 4T3.
Satan is usually understood primarily as the archenemy of God, a supernatural being who opposes the will of God and seeks to lead people into sin. There are good grounds for this understanding in the Bible. However, there is another side to the biblical portrayal of Satan. While many texts emphasize the hostility between God and Satan, there is also abundant evidence that the biblical authors believed that Satan was subject to God’s control and was used by God to accomplish his purposes.1 They represent Satan, not only as God’s adversary, but also as God’s servant.2 The subordination of Satan to God is most explicit in the prologue of the book of Job, but the Joban conception of Satan exercised significant influence on the rest of the biblical canon. We will look at how Satan is portrayed as a servant of God in Job, then explore how later biblical texts pick up and use the Joban ideas.
As is well known, the concept of Satan is not well developed in the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew word from which we get “Satan,” שָׂטָן (śātān), is a common noun that designates an adversary or opponent and is used both of an enemy in a military context and of a legal opponent in a judicial context. There are only three places in the Hebrew Bible where the term is used of a supernatural being who opposes God: the prologue of Job; Zech 3:1–2; and 1 Chr 21:1.
I. The Prologue Of Job
Job contains what may be the earliest reference to a celestial Satan figure in the Hebrew Bible.3 The opening chapters of this book include two scenes
JETS 50:3 (September 2007) p. 450
in which heavenly beings, including the Satan, appear before Yahweh.4 In Job 1:6–12, the Satan disputes the blamelessness of Job and receives Yahweh’s permission to test his integrity by attacking his possessions. In Job 2:1–6, the Satan repeats his charge and receives permission to launch a second attack on Job, this time an attack upon his person. In both narratives, there is a pronounced emphasis on the subordination of the Satan to Yahweh.
From the outset, the setting...
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