Book Of Job: Accusing Angel And The Serpent Essay, Research Paper
The Accusing Angel and the Serpent: One in the Same?
The Book of Job is a very complex translation in which two images of evil are presented. Steven Mitchell calls them the Accusing Angel (Accuser) and the Serpent. They are both very powerful and portrayed as supernatural beings. His first reference to the Accusing Angel appears early on, however references throughout the story do not exist. Unlike the Accusing Angel, the Serpent is mentioned throughout the book. Disturbing imagery and ideas from the unnamable voice from the whirlwind help to give the reader an accurate perception of the Serpent. Although the context in which they are presented is different, the way that both are talked about, and defined, are very similar and lead the reader to believe that the two may be the same entity.
The Accusing Angel, one of the aforementioned evils, is first mentioned in The Book of Job on ?the day when angels [come] to testify before the lord.? The Accusing Angel came with the other angels and God made it a point to mention his faithful servant, Job, to him. In this context, the Accusing Angel is described as a fallen angel, which could define the Accusing Angel as Lucifer or Satan. Mitchell mentions in his translation that the Accusing Angel ?came too,? on the day when the other angels had to make an appearance before the Lord. The connotation of the phrase ?came too,? in this context, leads one to believe that the Accusing Angel was not invited, or does not regularly attend. If the Accusing Angel was not invited, or does not regularly attend this meeting, he must be a fallen angel, or an angel who has fallen from the graces of God. Then, the Accusing Angel, when asked ?Where have you come from?? by the Lord, responds that he was walking around on earth, looking here and there. The mention of earth as the place of wandering points again to the definition of Satan, who was the angel banished to earth.
Even though Satan and Lucifer may seem like synonyms, there is a slight difference in their definitions. Satan is defined as ?the adversary of God and lord of evil? while Lucifer is defined as ?a fallen rebel archangel, the Devil.? By these definitions it is possible to give either name to the Accusing Angel. The Accusing Angel fits the description of ?the adversary of God? because he is sent to torment Job and test his faith. The Accusing Angel could also be depicted as an adversary because of the way he tempts God into allowing him to test Job. The Accusing Angel says that Job must be protected by some kind of divine power and that if he was to fall into hard times, he would ?curse [God] to [His] face.? The Accusing Angel also fits the definition of Lucifer because of the idea that the Accusing Angel is a fallen angel. Thus, the definition of Accusing Angel is a combination of Satan and Lucifer.
Mitchell also uses the image of a Serpent to portray evil in his rendering of The Book of Job. The Serpent is not described in great detail until later in the story, but the description given is extensive. The first mention of the Serpent is by Job when he issues his ?curse.? Job says, ?Let the sorcerers wake the Serpent to blast [the day I was born] with eternal blight.? Job introduces the Serpent as extremely powerful, but does not give the reader any information regarding where it came from or what purpose it serves. However, by mentioning sorcerers in the same sentence, Job creates the idea of mystical power and magical strength. The second mention of the Serpent comes when Bildad the Shuhite says that ?[God] shattered the Ocean with his breath and pierced the primeval Serpent.? This comparison, of God to the Serpent, brings the power of the Serpent into context. If God was needed, or is one of the only ones who can pierce the Serpent, it can be assumed that the Serpent is a formidable opponent and being. The use of the word primeval is interesting because it brings a new understanding to the Serpent?s character. ?Primeval? is defined as ?of or relating to the earliest ages, existing in or persisting from the beginning.? This definition means that the Serpent is not only a formidable opponent, but one who has lasted throughout the ages, and existed in the beginning. The third and most descriptive mention of the Serpent comes from the Unnamable. The voice from the whirlwind describes to Job the awesome power of the Serpent and relates the idea that ?hope is a lie.? God tells Job that the Serpent is so strong that hope alone is not enough. The unnamable also offers a description of the Serpent which portrays it as indestructible and overpowering. The voice says that ?no one on earth is [the Serpent?s] equal, a creature without fear.?
The Serpent, or ?primeval Serpent,? is defined as ?the Devil, a treacherous person.? This definition relates to the definitions of both Satan and Lucifer because they commonly correspond to the idea of the Devil or a character that is ?the tempter of mankind.? Unfortunately a problem exists because of the fact that The Book of Job is a rendering and a translation by Steven Mitchell. In The New Open Bible, New American Standard, the passage where the unnamable tells Job of the Serpent, the Serpent is replaced with the word Leviathan which is defined as ?a sea monster represented as an adversary defeated by Yahweh in various scriptural accounts.? This is a comparable definition to that of the serpent, and in some respects it is even more descriptive because of the way that it deals with the Serpent being a ?sea monster? and an ?adversary.? The New Open Bible also contains a description of the word Leviathan and it?s relation to the rest of the Bible, as well as the image of the crocodile. ?Leviathan,? according top to The New Open Bible, appears only six time in the Old Testament, however it has become a source of controversy. ?Leviathan? is a word for anything large and powerful and is ?thought to be derived from a verb meaning ?to twist.?? Some scholars believe that the description of the Serpent is really a poetic description of the Nile crocodile, however the passage ?no one earth is his equal? seems to describe a being more powerful than a crocodile.
Another idea of a Serpent appears in the first book of the bible which might help make the comparison between the Serpent and the Devil. In Genesis, the serpent, who is commonly known as evil, and possibly as the devil or the tempter, tempts man into eating fruit from the forbidden tree. It ends up that God punishes all three, Adam, Eve and the Serpent. The Serpent receives a harsh punishment for his role as God condemns the serpent to moving about on his belly and makes his the most cursed of all animals. This story from the bible is very well known and can help display the idea that serpents can be used to represent evil.
The idea of the serpent in Genesis provides us with an addition to the definition of the Serpent in The Book of Job. Not only is a serpent a symbol for the devil and treachery, but it can also be seen as a symbol of temptation. This addition to the definition completes the idea of the Accusing Angel. Not only does the Accusing Angel contain parts of the definitions of Satan and Lucifer, but of the Serpent as well. The Accusing Angel is ?the accuser,? is a ?fallen angel,? and can be seen as a ?tempter.? A scene where the Accusing Angels tempting is recognizable is when the Serpent talks to God and gets His approval to attack Job and test Job?s faith.
Mitchell?s translation, or rendering, is interesting because of the words he chose to use. Many different meanings can be drawn from each individual passage because of the fact that it is a translation, and many other texts, including most bibles, chose other words than those chosen by Mitchell. The words he chose to describe evil in his story, to describe two beings, are very similar and one could conclude that the two are the same being. The only problem with this assumption are the visual associations that already exist in people?s minds. It seems impossible that an angel, something noted for its winged physique and angelic appearance, or a fallen angel, namely Satan, who is characterized as a red demon, could be the same as the Serpent, which is described as a sea monster. Although modern conceptions of the devil have changed, and the devil has become more monster like, it can still be hard to imagine the devil, who was an angel, to look like a sea monster. Once visual connotations are put aside, it is possible to interchange the two characters.
Mitchell, Steven.”The Book Of Job” New York, New York 1937