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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Job 1

Verse 1




We have read twenty commentaries on this chapter and find no help in any of them; nor have we seen any other chapter in the whole Bible where we are any more certain that the interpretation of a chapter of God's Word by current scholars is any more erroneous and absolutely unacceptable than is the case here. Apparently, none of the scholars whose writings we have consulted thus far on Job have been reading the same Bible that we read.

They all say that the scene here is "laid in heaven." Ridiculous! Satan does not have access to heaven. Revelation 12:7-9 declares, regarding Satan and his angels, that, "Their place was found no more in heaven," and that, "Satan was cast down to earth," and this epoch event is revealed as taking place before the creation of Adam. That is why Satan had access to the Garden of Eden. Throughout the period of human history, Satan's theater of operations has been the earth, where Satan now is, along with his fallen angels, "Reserved in chains (pits) of darkness to the day of judgment" (2 Peter 2:7). See more on this under verse 12, below.

Regarding Revelation 12:7-9, I have written half a dozen pages regarding that key passage in Vol. 12 of my New Testament Series, pp. 265-271.

In this light, therefore, how can a score of Biblical scholars write that, "We have here a scene in heaven where Satan questions Job's motives"?[1] To explain such opinions, we must suppose (1) that they are made by men who never read the New Testament, (or if they had read it, did not understand it), or (2) that they accept this whole chapter of Job as merely a fanciful folk tale, invented by some unknown person as an allegory, or for the purpose of teaching some kind of a lesson. Some commentators, of course, freely admit holding such a position. We reject that notion out of hand.


(1) The word "heaven" is not in this chapter. However, it does state that the sons of God were there; and, of course, by falsely interpreting that expression as a reference to angels, advocates of the current error may exclaim, "And, certainly angels are in heaven." That's how they do it; and it sounds convincing until it is considered that the ordinary meaning of sons of God is simply, men who worship God. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God" (Romans 8:14). Likewise Hebrews 12:7,8 speaks of all Christians on earth as "sons" of God. Oh yes, but Job used the same expression in Job 38:7 in what is admittedly a reference to angels, not because the expression means angels (for it doesn't), but because the context requires a different meaning; and that is a condition that does not exist in chapter 1. Are there then two meanings of the expression sons of God? Certainly! There are dozens of words in the Bible that have more than one meaning. Note:

And the captain fell on his knees BEFORE Elijah (1 Kings 1:13).

And Haran died BEFORE ... Terah in Ur (Genesis 10:28).

In the passage in Kings, the word "before" means "in the presence of"; and in the passage from Genesis it means "prior to." We could cite dozens of other examples of the same word standing in the Bible with diverse meanings.

Therefore, the use of the expression "sons of God" in Job 38:7 where the context forces a meaning different from its ordinary denotation, is no excuse whatever for forcing that meaning upon the expression in this chapter.

We are happy indeed to find one scholar who admits the dual meaning of the expression sons of God, and who gave it the proper interpretation in Genesis 6:2. pointing out that there, "The meaning of this phrase is men who worship God, for angels and men alike are, `sons of God,' as created in his image, to obey and serve him."[2] We have thoroughly researched the meaning of that passage in Genesis, which has no reference whatever to angels. (See my commentary on Genesis, Vol. 1, of the Pentateuchal Series, pp. 102,103.)

When the sons of God came to present themselves before Jehovah, Satan also came among them (Job 1:6). Before Jehovah! Ah, there it is, doesn't that refer to heaven? No! The words before Jehovah generally refer to what men do on earth. "Nimrod was a mighty hunter before the Lord" (Genesis 10:9). In heaven? Of course not. Where do men usually hunt? This morning at church, the deacon who led the prayer at the Lord's table began, "Father in heaven, we are assembled in thy presence ... etc."; nobody jumped to the conclusion that all of us had suddenly been transported into glory. That is, unless some of those Bible scholars who think God's presence is limited to heaven happened to be in the audience.

Note that this assembly of God's worshippers (that's what sons of God means) probably included Job; and the presence of Satan should also cause no surprise. There has hardly ever been an assembly of the saints when Satan was absent!

Let it be observed also that Satan's theater of operations in this passage was restricted absolutely to the earth. That is where Satan went up and down and to and fro, "seeking whom he may devour," (1 Peter 5:8); and, of course, that is his present occupation also.

What is revealed in this chapter is a typical gathering of God's people, with Satan usually, if not indeed always, present, ever looking for sins and shortcomings of God's people. Oh no, today we can not see the kind of repartee that took place between God and Satan in this chapter; but, without any doubt, the same thing is going on upon every occasion when the sons of God come before the Lord in worship; and it is the glory of this chapter that the inspired author, whom we believe to have been Moses, pulls aside the curtain of those hidden things that belong to God, enabling us to behold the merciless hatred of our cruel enemy (Satan) as he continually accuses the brethren "before God"; but absolutely not in heaven. Satan is not in heaven, but on earth; and God sees, hears and understands everything Satan does, for everything on earth is done BEFORE THE LORD.

Paul admonished Christians to, "Draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy" (Hebrews 4:16). Of course, "the throne" here is God's throne, which is in heaven; but Paul did not mean that we must go to heaven in order to pray. We come before God and his throne (in heaven) every time we pray right here on earth!

What an incredibly beneficial revelation is this inspired account! When we suffer unjustly, when life is cruel and merciless in what falls upon God's saints, when evil men are honored and promoted and the righteous reduced to poverty, disease, and dishonor, our Father in heaven is not to blame; our enemy, Satan, is the hidden cause of it.

Job 1:1

"There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and turned away from evil."

"There was a man." Yes, Job is historical. See our introduction. We are not dealing with some folk tale.

How blind was that scholar who wrote, "The Book of Job should begin with, "Once upon a time," (like any other fairy tale)! One of the ancestors of Job was a son of Aram and the grandson of Shem (Genesis 10:23); and, from this connection, some believe that. "The land of Uz is that settled by the sons of Aram."[3]

"In the land of Uz." This place is unknown; but, "It lay somewhere east of Canaan near the borders of the desert that separates the eastern and western arms of the Fertile Crescent. It was an area of farms, towns and migrating herds."[4]

"That man was perfect and upright." This cannot mean that he was sinless, but that he was perfect in his generation, as was Noah. Sinless perfection is an attainment that does not lie within the perimeter of mortal man's ability. Only the blessed Saviour lived and died as a mortal man without sin.

Verse 2


"And there were born to him seven sons and three daughters. His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the children of the east. And his sons went and held a feast in the house of each one upon his day; and they went and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. And it was so that when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and renounced God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually."

"Each one upon his day" (Job 1:4). It is not known if this means each one upon his birthday, or if it means that they took turn-about in hosting the feasts according to some other assignment of the days.

"Job ... offered burnt offerings" (Job 1:5). The revelation of this verse is extensive. (1) It places the scene in the patriarchal age before the giving of the Law, during which the patriarch was the priest for his family. (2) Job recognized that the seat of human sin is in the heart, as Jesus said (Matthew 15:19). (3) It shows that Job recognized that, "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins" (Hebrews 9:22), and (4) that, "Job was mindful of God upon good days as well as evil, and that he faithfully discharged his duty as God's priest within his family."[5]

Verse 6


"Now it came to pass on the day when the sons of God came to present themselves before Jehovah, that Satan also came among them. And Jehovah said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered Jehovah, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And Jehovah said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job? for there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God, and turneth away from evil. Then Satan answered Jehovah, and said, Doth Job fear God for naught? Hast not thou made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath, on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thy hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will renounce thee to thy face. And Jehovah said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power: only upon himself put not forth thy hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of Jehovah."

See our chapter introduction for the location of this scene, not in heaven, but upon earth when God's people were assembled for worship.

"Jehovah ... Jehovah ... Jehovah ... Jehovah ... Jehovah ... Jehovah ... Jehovah" (Job 1:6-12). Seven times in six verses, the covenant name of God appears in this passage, thundering the message that the "sons of God" here are those in covenant relationship with the Eternal. Note that [~'Elohiym] (God) is used twice in the preceding paragraph. Are the holy angels within any such covenant relationship? Absolutely, NO! How blind the critics are to this passage! Dummelow noted that the use of the Tetragrammaton here is thought by some, "To be a slip on the part of the author![6] How could anybody make "a slip" seven times in six verses? Our own opinion is that we have proof here, as Dummelow wrote, that, "The Tetragrammaton (Jehovah) may have been much older than Moses."[7] This writer fully believes that the name Jehovah is indeed much older than Moses. (See my excursus on the Tetragrammaton (Y-H-W-H), beginning on p. 32 of my commentary on Exodus.)

"Satan here has ready access to heaven."[8] See chapter introduction for many reasons why such a comment is erroneous.

"The sons of God ... are divine beings who shared in the nature of divinity."[9] Rowley enunciated the same error, "Sons of God means superhuman, or celestial beings."[10] "To interpret these words thus is to suppose that the very same words in Genesis 6:1-3 teach that angels intermarried with men producing a race of giants, despite the fact that the Christ himself declared that angels "Neither marry nor are given in marriage" (Matthew 22:30). The true meaning of Sons of God is found in Romans 8:14. How are they sons of God? "They are born of God, born of water and the Spirit". In short, they are followers and worshippers of God; and so were those mentioned in Genesis 6:1-3, and in this passage before us. To suppose that the Holy Spirit in this passage was speaking of angels is ridiculous. Did He not know the word angels? If that is what he meant, why did not the Holy Spirit write angels? This student of God's Word has had his fill, and more, of the speculations of commentators who presume to tell us what the Holy Spirit meant, instead of what he said.

Rawlinson, usually quite accurate, misses it here, stating that, " Job 1:7 teaches that Satan, therefore, is not, like most of his fallen angels, "reserved in chains under darkness to the judgment of the last day (Jude 1:1:6)."[11] However, this very passage teaches that Satan is chained. (See more on the chaining of Satan under Job 1:12). He could not even touch Job, without God's permission; and, even after the Lord gave him permission to destroy Job's possessions, he was not allowed to touch the person of Job (Job 1:12).

"Doth Job fear God for naught?" (Job 1:9). Satan's implication here is that Job's motive for serving God was purely selfish. Atkinson raises the question, "Why do we serve God? Is it merely for what we can get out of it"?[12] Some of the comments on this are quite inadequate. It is true that genuine faith does not serve God merely for the temporal blessings that most certainly do accompany it, and which Satan himself freely admitted in the next verse. But in spite of this, it is a profound fact that the ultimate reward in heaven, after the present life is ended, is a valid motive for serving God. Christ himself admonished righteousness, saying, "For great is your reward in heaven" (Matthew 5:12). Yet, even the hope of heaven is not the highest motive. The Lord revealed that there are three basic motives for serving God, namely, (1) The love of God, (2) the hope of heaven, and (3) the fear of hell. Quite understandably, Satan was careful not to mention the other two motives! But we wonder why so many writers do not mention them.

"Hast thou not made a hedge about him?" (Job 1:10). Oh yes, even the devil admitted in this instance that serving God is certainly rewarded in this life also, at least, in the vast majority of instances; and it would doubtless be true invariably, if mankind had not chosen to become servants of the devil. In this verse, for once, the devil was speaking the truth. How mighty is God's protection and blessing of the faithful, even in this life; and even though Satan's interference brought great calamity and grief upon Job, read the rest of the story! "Job did not serve God for something he could gain by it."[13] This is typical of the comments on Job which appear to us as totally inadequate. This comment would have been true if the author of it had said that, "Job did not serve God merely for what he can gain by it in this life." Job had the eye of faith upon the eternal world, confident in the resurrection of the dead and the appearance of the blessed Redeemer (Job 19:25). To leave this consideration out of the Book of Job is to miss the point of it completely.

"In Eden, Satan disparaged God to man; but here he disparages man to God."[14]

"All that he hath is in thy power" (Job 1:12). Some scholars have even taken the position that it was really a very mean and inconsiderate old God who would thus have turned Job over to the devil. Such an attitude is merely the blindness of unbelief. It was not God who gave Satan dominion over Adam and his posterity, making him, in fact, "The god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4); but it was Adam himself. The human family in the person of their great progenitors rejected the benign and glorious government of heaven and willfully became the servants of Satan. Thus Satan's implied request for power to afflict Job was, in a sense, within his prerogative as mankind's chosen ruler.

Could not God have prevented it? Indeed, he could have. Why then, did he allow it? "God allowed it; because Job's sufferings, unknown to him, would stand forever before men and angels, as a trophy of the saving might of God, and an exhibition of that divine wisdom (and faithfulness) which is the archetype and foundation of human wisdom."[15]

"Against himself put forth not thy hand" (Job 1:12). Note also that Satan could not even touch Job's property without God's permission. Yes, indeed, Satan is bound. That does not mean that Satan is inactive, but merely that his activity is limited to the earth, where he awaits the judgment; and, even upon earth, he is by no means free to act without God's permission.


(1) The proof that Satan is bound is resident in the fact of each and every person who is saved by obeying the gospel. "How can one enter into the house (the earth) of the strong man (Satan) and spoil his goods (save a sinner from hell), except he first bind the strong man (Satan)? and then he will spoil his goods" (Matthew 12:29). No person whomsoever would ever be saved if Satan were not bound.

(2) Satan cannot tempt even the weakest child of God beyond that which he is able to bear (1 Corinthians 10:12). This reveals a definite limitation (or binding) of Satan's activity.

(3) In this passage, Satan was definitely chained (a) to the extent that he had been unable to touch Job in all the days of his prosperity, (b) in the fact that he could never have destroyed Job's wealth without God's permission, (c) to the extent that in this first test, he was not permitted to touch the person of Job, and (d) to the extent that, even after God allowed him to afflict Job's body, in the second test, Satan was, even then, forbidden to take Job's life. The same limitation of Satan's hatred of any and all of God's children is indicated by the fact that Satan was not allowed to sift (test) the apostle Peter without Jesus' specific permission (Luke 22:31). What is the chain that restrains Satan? It is the Word of God.

(4) It is revealed in Revelation 20:1-3 that Satan is bound "for a thousand years," the same being only another designation of the current dispensation of the love of Christ. (See our extensive comments on this passage in Vol. 12 of my New Testament series, pp. 454-460.)

Verse 13


"And it fell on a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house, that there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them; and the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain thy servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. 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 to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have taken them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house; and behold there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped to tell thee."

The malignant nature of Satan appears vividly in this passage; and it is fully harmonious with all that is written elsewhere in the Holy Scriptures concerning the evil one. (1) His deception of Eve was designed to accomplish her utter destruction, and to drown all of her posterity for ages to come in oceans of blood and tears. (2) Look what happened to the herd of swine (Matthew 8:32). (3) Look what happened to Judas Iscariot. John 13:27 states that, "After the sop, Satan entered into Judas"; and before the night ended Judas was dead by his own hand. This passage in Job probably was given unto God's people as an accurate portrayal of the deadly purpose of Satan in his activities among the sons of Adam.


A dramatic summary of these is as follows:

* The Sabeans have fallen upon your oxen and asses, killed your servants, and carried away the herds.

* A stroke of lightning has killed all your sheep and the servants that guarded them.

* The Chaldeans have raided your camels, taken them, and murdered your servants.

* A tornado has struck the house where your children were feasting and killed them all.

"What power there is in this passage! If Shakespeare had dramatized it, what a play he would have had."[16] This outdoes the old proverb that, "When it rains, it pours."

Verse 20


"Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped; and he said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: Jehovah gave, and Jehovah hath taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah. In all this, Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly."

"Naked shall I return thither" (Job 1:21). Job did not mean that he would return to his mother's womb, but that he would return to "mother earth."[17] This analogy is expressed in Psalms 139:15, making it quite clear that man has two mothers, his fleshly mother, and the earth itself.

Here is revealed the manner in which a righteous person should accept disaster. He accepted it as coming from the hand of God. Everything that occurs on earth or in heaven may happen only with God's permission.

He worshipped God. Whatever misfortunes, disasters or calamities may overwhelm us, prostrating us with grief and tears, the right answer is always and forever, "Worship God."

He did not blame God, nor charge him foolishly. One of the saddest things ever witnessed by this minister of the gospel in some sixty-six years of preaching is the reaction, now and then, on the part of some bereaved or distressed Christian that resulted in the very sins Job here avoided. In my memory, there still stands the angry and belligerent couple who, having lost a beloved child in death, loudly condemned God for allowing it, vowing never to worship him again!

"The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away! Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). How priceless are these ringing words of faith! Christians of all ages have stood by the cold bodies of their beloved dead and repeated through falling tears these holy words. What a victory over his malicious enemy, Satan, did Job register in these words of sorrowful resignation! There are indeed righteous and holy men who love God and who serve him honorably and faithfully, regardless of their earthly circumstances, even in poverty, distress and bereavement. Such persons find the moral strength to do this because, like Job, they know that, "My Redeemer liveth," ... and that the God of all grace will, in the resurrection, reward the faithful with eternal life and glory.

The primary focus of the true Christian is not upon this world, but upon that which is to come. "If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable" (1 Corinthians 15:19).

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 1". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.