And the LORD said unto Satan,
Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a blameless and an upright man, one that fears God, and turns away from evil?
All Commentaries on Job 1:8 Go To Job 1
Gregory The Dialogist
8. This point, viz, that blessed Job is by the voice of God called a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil, having explained above minutely and particularly, we forbear to rehearse what we have said, lest while we go over points that have been already examined, we should be slow in coming to those which have not. This then requires our discreet consideration, how it is either that the Lord is said to speak to Satan, or that Satan is said to answer the Lord, for we must make out what this speaking means. For neither by the Lord Who is the supreme and unbounded Spirit, nor by Satan, who is invested with no fleshly nature, is the breath of air inhaled by the bellows of the lungs, after the manner of human beings, so that by the organ of the throat it should be given back in the articulation of the voice; but when the Incomprehensible Nature speaks to an invisible nature, it behoves that our imagination rising above the properties of our corporeal speech should be lifted to the sublime and unknown methods of interior speech. For we, that we may express outwardly the things which we are inwardly sensible of, deliver these through the organ of the throat, by the sounds of the voice, since to the eyes of others we stand as it were behind the partition of the body, within the secret dwelling place of the mind; but when we desire to make ourselves manifest, we go forth as though through the door of the tongue, that we may shew what kind of persons we are within. But it is not so with a spiritual nature, which is not a twofold compound of mind and body. But again we must understand that even when incorporeal nature itself is said to speak, its speech is by no means characterized by one and the same form. For it is after one method that God speaks to the Angels, and after another that the Angels speak to God; in one manner that God speaks to the souls of Saints, in another that the souls of Saints speak to God; in one way God speaks to the devil, ill another the devil speaks to God.
9. For because no corporeal obstacle is in the way of a spiritual being, God speaks to the holy Angels in the very act of His revealing to their hearts His inscrutable secrets, that whatsoever they ought to do they may read it in the simple contemplation of truth, and that the very delights of contemplation should be like a kind of vocal precepts, for that is as it were spoken to them as hearers which is inspired into them as beholders. Whence when God was imparting to their hearts His visitation of vengeance upon the pride of man, He said, Come, let us go down, and there confound their language. [Gen. 11, 7] He saith to those who are close about Him, Come, doubtless because this very circumstance of never decreasing from the contemplation of God, is to be always increasing in the contemplation of Him, and never to depart from Him in heart, is as it were to be always coming to Him by a kind of steady motion. To them He also says, Let us go down, and there confound their language. The Angels ascend in that they behold their Creator; the Angels descend in that by a strict examination they put down that which exalts itself in unlawful measure. So then for God to say, Let us go down, and confound their speech, is to exhibit to them in Himself that which would be rightly done, and by the power of interior vision to inspire into their minds, by secret influences, the judgments which are fit to be set forth.
10. It is after another manner that the Angels speak to God, as in the Revelation of John also they say, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom; for the voice of the Angels in the praises of God is the very admiration itself of inward contemplation. To be struck dumb at the marvels of Divine goodness is to utter a voice, for the emotion of the heart excited with a feeling of awe is a mighty utterance of voice to the ears of a Spirit that is not circumscribed. This voice unfolds itself as it were in distinct words, while it moulds itself in the innumerable modes of admiration. God then speaks to the Angels when His inner will is revealed to them as the object of their perception; but the Angels speak to the Lord when by means of this, which they contemplate above themselves, they rise to emotions of admiration.
11. In one way God speaks to the souls of Saints, in another the souls of Saints speak to God; whence too it is again said in the Apocalypse of John, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word if God, and for the testimony which. they held: and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? [Rev. 6, 9. 10.] Where in the same place it is added, And white robes were given unto every one of them, and it was said unto them that they should rest for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren that should be killed as they were should be fulfilled; [Rev. 6, 11] for what else is it for souls to utter the prayer for vengeance, but to long for the day of final Judgment, and the resurrection of their lifeless bodies? For their great cry is their great longing; for everyone cries the less, the less he desires; and he utters the louder voice in the ears of an uncircumscribed Spirit in proportion as he more entirely pours himself out in desire of Him, and so the words of souls are their very desires. For if the desire were not speech, the Prophet would not say, Thine ear hath heard the desire of their heart; [Ps. 10, 17] but as the mind which beseeches is usually affected one way and the mind which is besought another, and yet the souls of the Saints so cleave to God in the bosom of their inmost secresy, that in cleaving they find rest, how are those said to beseech, who it appears are in no degree at variance with His interior will? How are they said to beseech, who, we are assured, are not ignorant, either of God's will or of those things which shall be? Yet whilst fixed on Himself they are said to beseech any thing of Him, not in desiring aught that is at variance with the will of Him, Whom they behold, but in proportion as they cleave to Him with the greater ardour of mind, they also obtain from Him to beseech that of Him, which they know it is His will to do; so that they drink from Him that which they thirst after from Him. And in a manner to us incomprehensible as yet, what they hunger for in begging, they are filled withal in foreknowing; and so they would be at variance with their Creator's will, if they did not pray for that which they see to be His will, and they would cleave less closely to Him, if when He is willing to give, they knocked with less lively longing. These receive the answer spoken from God, Rest yet for a little season, till your fellowservants and your brethren be fulfilled. To say to those longing souls, rest yet for a little season, is to breathe upon them amid their burning desires, by the very foreknowledge, the soothings of consolation; so that both the voice of the souls is that desire which through love they entertain, and God's address in answer is this, that He reassures them in their desires with the certainty of retribution. For Him then to answer that they should await the gathering of their brethren to their number, is to infuse into their minds the delays of a glad awaiting, that while they long after the resurrection of the flesh, they may be further gladdened by the accession of their brethren who remain to be gathered to them.
12. It is in one way that God speaks to the devil, and in another that the devil speaks to God, For God's speaking to the devil is His rebuking his ways and dealings with the visitation of a secret scrutiny, as it is here said, Whence comest thou? But the devil's answering Him, is his being unable to conceal any thing from His Omnipotent Majesty; whence he says, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. For it is as it were for him to say what he had been doing, that he knows that he cannot hide his doings from the eyes of That Being. But we must understand that, as we learn in this place, God has four ways of speaking to the devil, and the devil has three ways of speaking to God, God speaks to the devil in four modes, for He both reprehends his unjust ways, and urges against him the righteousness of His Saints, and lets him by permission try their innocence, and sometimes stops him that he dare not tempt them, Thus he rebukes his unjust ways, as has been just now said, Whence camnest thou? He urges against him the righteousness of His own elect, as He saith, Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in all the earth? [Job 1, 8] He allows him by permission to put their innocence to the test, as when He says, All that he hath is in thy power. [ver. 12] And again He prevents him from tempting, when He says, But upon himself put not forth thy hand. But the devil speaks to God in three ways, either when he communicates to Him his dealing, or when he calumniates the innocence of the elect with false charges, or when he demands the same innocence to put it to trial. For he communicates his ways who says, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. [ver. 7] He calumniates the innocence of the elect, when he says, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not Thou made an hedge about him, and about all his house, and about all that he hath on every side? [ver. 9, 10] He demands the same innocence to be subjected to trial, when he says, But put forth Thine hand now and touch all that he hath and he will curse Thee to Thy face. But God's saying, Whence comest thou? is His rebuking by virtue of His own goodness that one's paths of wickedness. His saying, Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in all the earth? is His making the elect, by justifying them, such as a rebel angel might envy. God's saying, All that he hath is in thy power, is, for the probation of the Saints, His letting loose upon them that assault of the wicked one, by the secret exercise of His power. God's saying, Only upon himself put not forth thine hand, is His restraining him from an excessive assault of temptation, even in giving him permission. But the devil's saying, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it, signifies His inability to conceal from His unseen eyes the cunning of his wickedness. The devil's saying, Doth Job fear God for nought? is his complaining against the just within the hiding places of his own thoughts, his envying their gains, and from envy searching out flaws for their condemnation. The devil's saying, Put forth Thine hand now and touch all that he hath, is his panting with the fever of wickedness to afflict the just. For in that through envy he longs to tempt the just, he seeks as it were by entreaty to put them to the test. Now then, as we have briefly described the methods of inward speaking, let us return to the thread of interpretation, which has been slightly interrupted.
13. The point has been already discussed in the foregoing discourse, that the devil proposed a contest not with Job but with God, blessed Job being set between them as the subject of the contest; and if we say that Job amid the blows erred in his speech, we assert what it is impious to imagine, that God was the loser in His pledge. For, lo, here also it is to be remarked, that the devil did not first beg the blessed Job of the Lord, but the Lord commended him to the contempt of the devil; and unless He had known that he would continue in his uprightness, He would not assuredly have undertaken for him. Nor would He give him up to perish in the temptation, against whom, before the temptation was sent, those firebrands of envy were kindled in the tempter's mind from God's own commendations.
14. But the old adversary, when he fails to discover any evil of which he might accuse us, seeks to turn our very good points into evil, and being beaten upon works, looks through our words for a subject of accusation; and when he finds not in our words either ground of accusation, he strives to blacken the purpose of the heart, as though our good deeds did not come of a good mind, and ought not on that account to be reckoned good in the eyes of the Judge. For because he sees the fruit of the tree to be green even in the heat, he seeks as it were to set a worm at its root. For he says,