ויהי היום ויבאו בני האלהים להתיצב על־יהוה ויבוא גם־השטן בתוכם׃
ויאמר יהוה אל־השטן מאין תבא ויען השטן את־יהוה ויאמר משוט בארץ ומהתהלך בה׃
ויאמר יהוה אל־השטן השמת לבך על־עבדי איוב כי אין כמהו בארץ איש תם וישר ירא אלהים וסר מרע׃
And the day came when the sons of God came and presented themselves to YHWH and the satan came also in their midst. And YHWH said to the satan, “From where have you come?” And the satan answered YHWH and he said, “From going about in the land and from continually walking in it.”
And YHWH said to the satan, “Have you placed your heart on my servant Job? For there is none like him in all the land–a complete man, and he is upright, and he fears God, and he turns away from evil.”
At this juncture the narrative moves across the binary of the cosmos. The narrator provides the reader with an apocalyptic vision of reality showing that while on earth Job goes about his daily business in heaven there is a gathering of beings before YHWH God known as “the sons of God.” This is likely angelic beings or lower deities (see Psalm 82).
As they enter what appears to be a heavenly royal court of sorts one particular son of God known as “the satan” or “the accuser” (השטן) enters in “their midst” (בתוכם). It appears that this son of God has a particular role. He finds people whom he can prosecute before the Cosmic King. YHWH asks the satan where he has been. He replies that he has been going “about in the land” and “continually walking in it.” מהתהלך is the hithpael form of הלך which means to “walk” and this form can suggest repeated activity (which is why I translated it “continually walking”). The satan is active and he remains active in the world.
It is the next part of the discourse which I find to be the most brilliant and perplexing. This work addresses the question of theodicy–why does evil happen if God rules the world (maybe more specifically why does evil happen to good people since I think the worldview that this book addresses has secure assumptions regarding why evil happens to perceived bad people). It does not attempt to remove God from the picture as if he is a purely benevolent deity who would prevent evil if he was able. Rather, God provokes the satan!
Now there is no way to know if the author intends for us to think that the satan had Job on his mind and YHWH cuts to the chase or whether the satan had not planned on mentioning Job but YHWH felt like boasting about his “servant”. All we know is that YHWH makes the first move of the chess match. He presents Job and most importantly YHWH describes Job in the same language of the narrator in v. 1. This is the narrator’s way of divinely approving of his depiction of Job. The narrator is of one mind with YHWH. YHWH affirms that Job is complete, upright, God-fearing, and one who turns from evil. What we cannot say about Job (at this juncture) is that he deserves what is coming to him. According to the narrator and YHWH Job is very good man.