What does “skin for skin” mean in Job 2:4?


by Shawn Brasseaux

“And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life” (Job 2:4). What exactly was the Devil communicating here?

To begin, it helps to establish some background, as found in chapter 1 of Job. Job is a righteous and prosperous Jew, living in the time between the Books of Genesis and Exodus. Satan desires to attack him, and does so after obtaining the LORD’S permission. Although Job cannot be harmed physically, he loses his family and possessions: his oxen and asses are stolen, the fire of God comes down and kills his sheep, his camels are stolen, and even all seven of his sons and all three of his daughters die. Only a handful of his hundreds of servants remain alive. Job does not curse or slander God, but rather blesses Him (Job 1:20-22).

In chapter 2, Satan again stands before God. Read verses 3-5: “[3] And 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? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. [4] And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. [5] But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.” According to Satan, Job should suffer more so the “real” him can be exposed. While Job has not railed against God, if he himself should experience bodily pain, then God’s “righteous” man will be shown to be a hypocrite. (Satan’s mind is perverted, but what else do we expect?!)

At this point, we have encountered that unique expression again, “skin for skin” (Job 2:4). The entire verse is, “And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.” Paraphrased, Satan replies to the LORD, “The only reason Job has not yet cursed You yet is because he himself is still alive and healthy. He is willing to give up the skin of his children, animals, and servants, that he perish not.” In other words, Job is allegedly insensitive or callous. To say it yet another way, “Job’s children, servants, and animals died, but he himself remains untouched, which is why he does not curse You, God! Those are unsubstantial losses to him, so they do not move him to the point of revealing his ‘true’ self. However, let his physical body suffer—then he will blaspheme against You and You will finally see the ‘real’ Job!”

Even today, we use English phrases such as, “He will save his own skin” or “She saved his skin.” These are descriptions of rescues from dangers or difficulties concerning the physical (flesh and blood) body, the syntactical structure being related to Satan’s wording.

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Also see:
» Does God chasten us when we sin?
» Is God chastening me?
» Why does God let Satan exist?
» Where in the Bible did God give Satan domain over the Earth?