The name “Satan” means “adversary.” We know he’s the enemy of God, a fallen angel, and an impetus behind much evil in human history. Scripture hints that he saw himself as God’s equal and was cast out of heaven for blasphemy and pride (Isa. 14:12–15). We know he played a key role in the Fall and was included in God’s curse (Gen. 3:14–15).
In today’s reading, God allowed Satan to bring an accusation against a righteous man named Job. This conversation in heaven tells the truth about the spiritual background of the narrative. Interestingly, God initiated the conversation, drawing Satan’s attention to Job as a man of integrity, the very sort of person Satan scorned. Sure enough, the “accuser”—a title suggesting someone who roams about and looks for trouble or tries to harm others—reacted with hostility, suggesting that Job had mercenary motives. That is, Satan charged Job with obeying God only because God blessed and protected him. Change his circumstances, Satan hinted, and Job would change his faith.
God gave Satan permission to test Job and see if his faith was genuine. This was His divine purpose, although Satan seemed to think he was being given a chance to score points on God. The Lord also set boundaries to the test, as Satan was not allowed to injure the man himself, only his goods, animals, and family. After Satan destroyed all this, however, Job’s heart stayed true: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (v. 21). Satan’s plans were thwarted—not only did Job remain faithful, he recognized God as sovereign even over the calamities he had experienced.