“Doubts of Conventional Structures of Piety in Yhwh’s Court: A Study on the Function of śāṭān in Job 1-2”
This study is focused on illuminating the ideological significance of the śāṭān from the prologue of the book of Job. Scholarly characterizations of this figure vary wildly with appeals to legal, investigative, and hypostatic functions serving as the broader categories in which the śāṭān is typically approached. Studying these scholarly characterizations introduces some of the main features involved in the formation of modern scholarship (1905-1989). These features are indispensable for approaching the śāṭān in a contemporary context. After an assessment of the major issues in the scholarly discourse, this study engages with the occurrences of the root śṭn as it appears in the Hebrew Bible. This will form the basis from which the major śāṭān-texts can be interpreted (1 Chr 21:1; Zech 3:1-5; Job 1-2). The focus throughout this study will be to build a foundation for an exegetical analysis of the way the śāṭān participates in Job 1-2.
The śāṭān of Job 1-2 is a servant of Yhwh in the heavenly court who is tasked with determining the piety of human beings. A crucial part of this characterization is that the śāṭān signals a challenge to the retributive theological tradition embedded in books like Deuteronomy in Proverbs. The śāṭān points out that because Yhwh offers a moral system that dispenses weal and woe based on human piety, it is unknowable as to whether Job’s righteousness belongs to him or to Yhwh. It is the task of the Joban prologue to offer a provocative portrait of the heavenly court so that the reader can truly assess the various applications of retributive theology. One aspect of Job 1-2 that needs to be observed is that the dialogue between Yhwh and the śāṭān can easily be read with Wisdom and Psalmic language regarding the dichotomous behavior of the wicked and the righteous. Noting the broader appeals to this language helps show that the śāṭān is intimately tied to the theological message of the prologue. Through its imagery and well-placed ambiguity, the prologue constantly raises the reader’s doubt about the motives of Job and the heavenly council. Indeed, the doubts that are raised regarding Yhwh’s introspection in Job 2:3 continue to be unsettled.