Nothing happens to us without God permitting it, so whoever is in our lives is there because God has allowed it. But there is no evidence that anyone has to explicitly ask God’s permission to come into our lives.

The Hebrew word Satan simply means opponent or adversary. It is applied to many different people in the Bible. For example:

  • in 1 Kings 11:23, David’s enemy Rezon is called a satan (in English versions, the Hebrew word satan is translated as “adversary”);
  • in 1 Chronicles 21:1, God himself is called satan because he is opposing David (compare 2 Samuel 24:1 to see that God is called satan here);
  • in Matthew 16:23, the apostle Peter is called satan because he is trying to stop Jesus from fulfilling his role as a sacrifice for sins;
  • in 1 Thessalonians 2:18, some Jews in Thessalonica are called satan because they were preventing Paul from preaching there.

One of the few places in scripture where a satan interacts with God in any direct way is in Job. There, Satan (Job’s opponent) comes before God to discuss the man Job. Satan complains that Job is only righteous because God protects and blesses him. He says that if Job were made to suffer, he would not be so righteous. God responds by giving Satan the power to make Job suffer. Then Job suffers a series of disasters including the loss of all his possessions, the death of his ten children and a severe skin disease. We are told that it was God who brought about the series of disasters (see Job 2:3; 19:21; 30:21; 42:11; etc.); Satan himself did not have the power to do it on his own—God gave him the power.

Job is clearly a drama — it largely consists of a series of speeches by Job and his companions. No doubt it was based on real events, but it has been stylised in a particular dramatic form. Possibly, Satan in Job is a personification of human pride; specifically the jealous pride of Job’s companions.

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