In the Book of Job, we get a glimpse of how God’s Divine Council works. Somewhere in the beginning, God created the heavenly host. Whether this was before the account of creation that we read about in Genesis or during, we don’t know. Since Scripture is silent about God creating His divine family, it’s likely the sons of God came prior to our understanding of the Biblical narrative. We simply know that they’re present during those amazing seven days. Job 38:4-7 (ESV) definitively shows us this reality in a passage where God is questioning Job about his human wisdom:
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Morning stars are a reference to divine beings as are, obviously, the sons of God. They were present when all these creation events took place. At that time, it appears they were of one accord in that they were joyous at what they saw.
The Divine Council scene first takes shape in Job 1:6-12:
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 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.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
We see a similar scene immediately following in Job 2:1-6:
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. And 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.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
These passages contain much fodder for discussion but we’ll limit that to an extent. Here we see the sons of God coming before Him in what seems to be a regular occurrence. Naturally God has a purpose. Even though He is omniscient, He gets input from His divine family. One of those is Satan.
Much scholarship has been done on this in relation to other Ancient Near Eastern literature. In this case, where Bible translations attribute a proper name to Satan, the actual Hebrew doesn’t. It is a description—the satan (with an adjective)—which as we know means the accuser. It’s only later translations that make the satan into the person of Satan. Interestingly, the Hebrew shows this particular being in Job isn’t the devil, as much as we’ve been led to believe that he is. He’s one of God’s servants doing what he’s supposed to do, i.e. check out activity on the earth and report back in an accusatory manner.
The question also arises as to whether this divine being is part of the council or simply one who had access because of his job description. Additionally, had he already fallen, or does this particular being eventually fall at all?
In any case, God listened to him and took what he said under advisement. That’s the other important piece to see in this scene. God says, “Hey, what do think of my boy, Job?” Satan (we’ll continue propagating that misunderstanding) responds according to the purpose of his name—he accuses—and tells God that this human God thinks is so special really isn’t. It’s only because God protects Job that nothing bad ever befalls him. Of course, because Job is so blessed, he’s not going to curse God. Just wait, however, until the sky falls in on him. Then watch him fall away.
Surprisingly God is amenable to this challenge. He knows Job’s heart, and He has the benefit of seeing the end from the beginning. “Go ahead, Satan,” God orders. “Do your thing. Job is faithful and will remain that way.”
We know the story. Satan literally brings everything plus the kitchen sink against Job. But here’s the thing: God had given Satan the authority to do this. In the council, God listened to those who came before Him, then He commanded that they—Satan in this case—carry out what He had decreed. Only upon God’s order could any of this occur. And it had to be within the parameters He laid out. Initially this was: don’t lay a finger on Job. Subsequently, it was: you must spare his life.
Undoubtedly there are many other purposes for God’s Divine Council, but He has determined that these members of His family in heaven will have access to Him, provide input as to the affairs with which they’re charged, and they must carry out their orders exactly as God has specified. And that’s the thing: the heavenly host works at God’s pleasure to do those things He wants done. There is a hierarchy within heaven starting with God at the top. He’s the CEO. What He says must be accomplished by His executives, managers, and various employees—who are all family.
In other Biblical passages (e.g. Psalm 82) we see that in times past, because of the free will God gave these divine beings, some number of them fell into sin and rebelled just like His human family. Here in Job that’s not necessarily in view. Satan, after all, did what God told him to do.
The Divine Council is a fascinating concept. The sons of God, the morning stars, the heavenly host, the courts of God, the thrones, the rulers, the authorities, are all integral to God’s workings throughout history seen in the Biblical narrative. Gaining a perspective on His divine family is intriguing. It informs us more as to how God works. We have a much bigger picture of what’s happening throughout Scripture when we begin to see the many references to the Divine Council. More importantly, we gain a greater appreciation as to God’s redemptive purpose through Jesus Christ for mankind.