*Firstly, let it be said that Job is a book that must be understood in its entirety. It is best to read it all at once even and to recognize that some things—for instance what the friends say—may not be true but serve the book in highlighting what is ultimately true. For a good overview watch this video from the Bible Project.
Was Job real?
Some have suggested that Job never existed, that Job is merely a fictitious story about a man meant to convey eternal truths that are real. If this were the case, Satan’s presence in the story wouldn’t raise so many questions—it would be hypothetical.
However, the rest of the Bible interprets the story as being real. This is the case with Ezekiel (Ezk 14:14) and also James the brother of Jesus (Ja 5:11). So, this doesn’t provide an answer.
It wasn’t Satan but the Satan.
The Hebrew word here means accuser or adversary and is generally used in these ways, not speaking of a person. It could be that this is not Satan but an angel whose role it is to accuse those on earth in the heavenly courtroom—“the accuser.” However the presence of the definitive article, along with other contexts in which it refers to a specific person make it more likely it is to be understood not as a role but a name—THE accuser. Thus, this is Satan as seen in 1 Chr 21:1 and Rev 12:9. That his appearance is out of place and his role fits that of Satan’s generally further supports this.
Did the episode take place in heaven?
Maybe the way around the natural uncomfortableness of seeing God’s arch enemy appear in heaven—a place of holiness—can be resolved by seeing the location of this court as somewhere other than heaven. This is possible. The scene is of a king’s court, where in years past the executive, legislative and judicial aspects of governance were executed through one man, the king. Usually this took place in the throne room of the castle or palace, however, it was also common for there to be an assize, a travelling court throughout the kingdom. Could this be a cosmic assize where the LORD is executing governance in one specific location other than in heaven? After all He is omnipresent.
Two things suggest otherwise. The first is that the courtroom of heaven is the normative location for such events described in the Bible. The second is that when Satan is asked where he has come from his reply is “earth.” This world clearly conveys that the LORD must in fact be holding court in heaven.
Before we decide, two other important details can be noted:
Still, what on earth was Satan doing in heaven? Satan is the head of the rebellion against the LORD. Satan stands for evil and yet Ps 5:4 says “You allow no evil in your presence.” Here lies the dilemma, Satan is there as the epitome of evil, yet God has said this cannot be, yet both are recorded in the Bible—what now?
I would suggest we need to understand “your presence” in the language of the courtroom as meaning—at least one possibility—seriously entertaining. God cannot and will not seriously entertain Satan in his courtroom. He is the Rebel of rebels. He does not belong there as his awkward entrance makes clear. Yet God permits his entrance and between the LORD and his fallen angel a higher battle plays out, one in which God will triumph over Satan through His servant Job. I would suggest this episode may be likened to a good employer who fires a troublesome employee. One day, the employer is having a board meeting or a meeting with supervisors on the workplace floor, and in struts the ex-employee, full of no good. The good employer’s character and wisdom is so great that he is not threatened by this ex-employee who stoops so low. The man is out of place, even permitted to enter by the employers discretion, yet for the manifold declaration of the employers justice and control, he allows even this worthless ex-employee to enter, even scheme, so that in the end it may be shown how utterly foolish he is, and how wonderful the employer is. The employer is not threatened or his goodness impinged and it is clear the incident is not normative.
There are other questions from this passage that remain, but this at least provides an answer to the question “what Satan may have been up to in heaven and how it was possible.”
 We also need to remember this happened quite early in Creation, I dare say things have change a bit since then in the dynamic between heaven and hell. Since Satan is part of the created the role that he presently has has not always been that way, so their relationship could have still been evolving.
 Can Satan, as the prince of this world, influence the weather, I thought that was God’s prerogative?; How is it that God wills Job harm?
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.
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