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The Book of Job

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[Here we continue a reprint of a small portion of Joseph Caryl’s study in Job.  Mr. Caryl wrote twelve volumes on the book of Job.  His study is a great example of how deep one can dig into the truths of the Bible.]


Job 1:7-8 (part 1) - God’s Question to Satan,

by Joseph Caryl (1666)


7And the Lord said unto Satan, “Whence comest thou?” Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” 8And the Lord said unto Satan, “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (KJV)


In the former verse, we showed you that great and glorious Session, the Lord with His holy angels about Him, and Satan too, coming among them.  In the verses following to the end of the 12th, we have the business or acts of the Session recorded.  God interrogates, Satan answers; Satan moves, God grants.  This is the sum of all the business that passed in this Session.  God puts two questions to Satan, one concerning his travels or where he had been (vs. 7); the other concerning his observations or what he had done (vs. 8).

In the 7th verse, we have the first question.  The Lord begins with Satan, “And the Lord said unto Satan, ‘Whence comest thou?’” (vs. 7).

How the Lord speaks is a point almost unspeakable.  There are many disputes about it, I will not stay upon them:  only to open this, that you may take in all Scripture of the like kind wherein the Lord is said to speak.  We must know that, as in Scripture, God is said to have a mouth and a voice, alluding to man by that common figure; so likewise when the Lord speaks, we must understand it by the same figure; it is but an allusion to the manner of men.  God is said to speak, as men are said to speak:  but God does not speak as men speak, forming a voice by such organs or instruments of speech.  But when the Lord speaks, it is either by forming and creating a voice in the air.  So God is said to speak sometimes, as when Christ was baptized, there came a voice from Heaven saying, “This is my beloved son,…” etc.  So John 12:28:  “There came a voice from Heaven saying, ‘I have glorified thee,’” which all the people heard sounding in the air.

Secondly, God is said to speak when He manifests and declares Himself either to the spirits of men, or unto Angels who are spirits.  God does speak to the spirits of men, sometimes without any forming of a voice:  So the phrase is usual in the Prophets, “The word of the Lord came unto me…”, which is to be understood that the Lord did secretly reveal Himself to the spirits of His Prophets, and not by any external audible voice; it was an inward, not an outward word.

So when the Lord speaks to Spirits or Angels, be they good or evil Angels, you must not understand it of a voice formed or fashioned into audible words and syllables, but it is a manifestation or a declaration of God’s will and mind unto the Angel’s mind, good or bad as God wills.  For the will of God to declare Himself to an Angel, is the speech of God to an Angel.  So much as God intends of His mind should be known to the devil, is a speaking to the devil.  The intention of one spirit is as plain to another spirit, as the voice of one man is to another, there is the very same proportion.  So here in this place, where it is said, “The Lord said to Satan”, this was only a manifestation of God’s will, as He willed to Satan; God did manifest Himself thus far to Satan, that it was His pleasure to know of him whence he came; this will was His speech.

To pass from the manner of speaking, we will look upon the matter spoken:  “And the Lord said unto Satan, ‘Whence comest thou?’” (vs. 7).  That’s the first question.  This question is here put, not for information, as if the Lord did not know whence he came, as men usually question that they may be informed.  But questions in Scripture (especially when the Lord puts them) are to be understood in some of these senses: 

First, to exact a confession from the mouth of the party.  He said to Satan, “Whence comest thou?”  Not that He needed information, but that He might receive a confession from the mouth of Satan.  So He questioned Adam, “Where art thou?...  Who told thee that thou wast naked?  Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee thou shouldest not eat?” (Gen. 3:9,11).  These questions were not to inform God, but only that Adam might give a confession out of his own mouth concerning those things.  So He questioned Cain, “Where is Abel, thy brother?” (Gen. 4:9).  It was a question only to draw a confession from Cain of what he had done.  There is a like question of Elisha to his servant Gehazi, when he had run after Naaman and had got a reward from him.  Elisha said to him, “Whence comest thou?” (2 Kings 5:25) or “Where hast thou been?”  He asked him this only to draw  a confession from him, for said he afterward, “Went not my spirit with thee when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee?” (2 Kings 5:26). He knew before where his servant had been. God had revealed the thing to him, he only questions him to make him acknowledge it.  So here the Lord questions Satan, “Whence comest thou?”, that He might have a confession from himself.  Note well, Though the Lord knows all the actions, ways and thoughts of every creature, yet God at the last will question every man, that He may judge every man upon his own confession.

Secondly, this question may be understood as intimating a dislike of the thing or of the business that Satan had been about.  Questions are many times put, not out of ignorance of what has been done, but out of a dislike or abhorrence of the thing done.  When the man or the thing is not approved, then God carries Himself toward him and his action as if He knew not what he had been doing, and He must have it out by confession.  Thus Hiram, in I Kings 9:13, puts the question upon Solomon, “What cities are these which thou hast given me my brother?”  He saw and knew before what cities they were, but thus he questioned, “because they pleased him not” (I Kings 9:12).  In Hosea 4:8, God is said not to know that they set up kings:  “They have set up kings but not by me, they have made princes and I knew it not”; that is, I did not like them; I took no notice of them by way of approbation.  So God questions about things, as if He did not know them, when He does not like them; and we may conclude that this question holds out to us God’s dislike of the ways and works of Satan.

Thirdly, questions and this question may be understood in a way of objurgation or chiding“Satan, whence comest thou?”  You have been a tempting; you are come now from murders, and thefts, and adulteries, and blasphemies, from provoking men to all these wickedness.  Like that question, Jonah 4:4 was a chiding of Jonah:  “Doest thou well to be angry?”  So, “Whence comest thou?”  Like many times when you are angry with your children, you ask, where have you been?  There is a reprehension in the question.  So, God full of wrath toward Satan, says (in effect), Whence comest thou?  Thou hast been doing all the mischief thou canst abroad in the world, I am sure.

Lastly, for the better conceiving of the matter of this question proposed, “Whence comest thou?”  There is more to be understood than is expressed.  For God does not only inquire here concerning the places where he had been, but concerning the business and the work which he had done, all is included in it.  “Whence comest thou?”  What has thou been doing in the world?  What has thy business been abroad?  Every man, every creature, every Angel good or bad, must give an account of themselves to God.




This article is taken from:  Caryl, Joseph.  An Exposition with Practical Observations upon the Book of Job. London: G. Miller, 1644.  A PDF file of this book can be downloaded, free of charge, at