The book of Job tells the story of how a “blameless and upright man [who] feared God and turned away from evil” was afflicted by Satan (chapters 1-2), of how he and his friends reacted to his affliction (chapters 3-37), and of how God responded to Job and his friends’ reactions to his affliction and restored him (chapters 38-42). In this post I’ll consider what chapters 1-2 suggests about the problem of evil, and next week I’ll consider what chapters 38-42 suggests about the problem of evil. Quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
The Source of Job’s Afflictions
Job 1:1-5 describes Job’s character and wealth.
Job 1:6-12 describes God’s asking Satan if in his going to and fro on the earth he’d considered “my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil.” Satan responded by attributing Job’s righteousness to God’s protecting and prospering him and asserting that if God would quit doing so he would curse God. God answered Satan’s challenge by telling him, “Behold all that [Job] has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch your hand.”
Thus the afflictions that happened to Job were brought about by Satan with God’s permission. This suggests that at least some of the evils that happen to God’s people (and others) today are brought about by Satan with God’s permission.
The Kinds of Afflictions That Happened to Job
Job 1:13-19 describes messengers coming to Job and telling him of these things happening:
1. The Sabeans took Job’s oxen and donkeys, killing his servants who were with them.
2. Fire from heaven burned up Job’s sheep and his servants who were with them.
3. The Chaldeans took Job’s camels, killing his servants who were with them.
4. A great wind killed all of Job’s children by causing the collapse of his oldest son’s house where they had been eating and drinking together.
Job 1:20-22 describes describes Job’s distress and his blessing instead of cursing God.
Job 2:1-6 describes God’s pointing out to Satan that Job “still holds his integrity” despite all that had happened to him. Satan responded by claiming that if God would afflict Job’s body he would curse God. God answered Satan’s challenge by telling him, “Behold [Job] is in your hand; only spare his life.”
Job 2:7-10 describes Satan’s afflicting Job with loathsome sores from head to toe, Job’s wife encouraging him to curse God, and Job’s refusing to do so.
Thus the afflictions that happened to Job included evil done by people (the Sabeans and the Chaldeans), evil done by nature (the fire and the wind), and even physical ailments (loathsome sores). This suggests that the evils that God allows Satan to inflict upon God’s people (and others) today can come through other people or through nature and can even include physical ailments.
The Evils That Happen to Us
Job 1-2 suggests to me that although God may protect and prosper His people, He may also allow Satan to test them by using other people, natural events, and even physical ailments to afflict them. Let us pray to God and trust Him that He will enable us to respond to such afflictions as Job did, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord,” and “Shall we not receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”
In my next post I’ll consider what the closing chapters of the book of Job reveal about the problem of evil.