Things were going on well for Job. He had a great family, ten kids that got along well with each other, lots of wealth and health. He had just about everything one could ask for. He’s a good man and is noted as such in the text. But then the “accuser” of the brethren shows up before God to cause trouble. The exchange between God and Satan begins in Job 1, verse 7. It says, “The Lord said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’”

 Why does God ask Satan a question? The question could be looked at as a pointed question to Satan asking about his origin. What brought you into the world? Or maybe it was a question prodding Satan to consider how he’d become the adversary that he was. God’s question might be something like, “Where did you come from?” If the emphasis in that question is on “you,” it would indicate some kind of surprise. I don’t think we would understand that God was surprised to see Satan. If we believe God is omniscient, He knows that Satan would appear in his court of heavenly beings. It has been suggested that Satan was a regular attendee at the heavenly court. Neither does the question indicate that God did not know where Satan had been. According to the book of Genesis, God asked Adam, “Where are you?” It wasn’t asked because God didn’t know already. It was asked to push Adam to consider his situation himself. It appears that the question was asked to reveal both to the character and the readers of the story the nature of the person being questioned. Jesus once asked his followers, “Why do you call me Lord and don’t do what I say?” Most of the interpreters I’ve read on this verse see it as a question designed to shame a person into better behavior. We have all heard questions motivated by this from our parents, teachers, and others in authority. But I’m inclined to think that Jesus asks that question because he wishes his readers to think about the question. When contemplated as a legitimate question, one must ask himself why he keeps sinning even though he believes in Jesus. The truth is that God wants us to recognize the reality of our sinfulness. God does not want us to raise our heads to heaven, thanking Him for not being like other sinners as the Pharisees did. He wants us to bow our heads before him and recognize our sinfulness as the tax collector did.

The question is not asked of Satan so that God would be informed of Satan’s activity. It was asked of Satan so that we would be informed of Satan’s activity. We hear it in his own words. He goes “to and fro” throughout the whole earth. He not only goes “to and fro” but also walks “up and down.” There’s no place he hasn’t visited. David Allen writes, “Satan is a world traveler. He could sing the Johnny Cash song, ‘I’ve Been Everywhere.’ You can almost picture Satan as he saunters into the heavenly council from his recent random world tour, one hand in his pocket, the other picking his teeth, disdainful of all the other angels, waiting for an opportunity to stir up trouble. Satan’s job description includes inspection and examination. He’s an unspiritual detective, we might say, who hurries up and down the earth with a clipboard in hand. Like an emperor’s spy, Satan has been looking for any secret disloyalty to the crown.”[1] God’s clever question to Satan might be worded, “What have you been up to?” Satan answers God’s question pridefully, not realizing he is giving himself away to us all. Peter takes Satan’s answer and turns it into a lesson for you and me. Knowing Satan’s tactics helps us prepare for his attacks. He says in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

[1] Allen, David L. 2022. Exalting Jesus in Job. Edited by David Platt, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida. Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary. Nashville, TN: Holman Reference.