Introduction to Job

 By James M. Rochford

Authorship

Both the OT (Ezek. 14:14; 20) and NT (Jas. 5:11) affirm that Job was a historical person. Archer writes, “The text of this book does not indicate its author, and there is no consistent tradition even in rabbinic circles as to who the composer of this work might have been… The Talmud ventures only to suggest that the writer must have been someone who lived prior to the time of Moses.”[1]

Date

Job may be the earliest book in the canon. The book of Job is difficult to date. There are a number of reasons for believing that this should be dated before the time of Moses:

First, it contains no datable historical events or knowledge of Hebraic culture or religion. Of course, the book takes place in the land of Uz, which is in northern Arabia, which could explain this absence.

Second, Job is the patriarch of his family-clan, which fits with the time of Abraham—not Moses.

Third, Job offers a sacrifice for his family, rather than taking it to the priest. This is pre-Mosaic, where one would normally bring the sacrifice to a priest.

Fourth, Job mentions qesita (Job 42:11), which places the book at least as early as Joshua (Josh. 24:32) or earlier (Gen. 33:19). While Job does refer to “iron” (Job 19:24), which was not created until the 12th century B.C., this could be a case of a later redactor updating the text to fit with the contemporaneous culture (cf. Objection #3 under “Authorship of the Pentateuch”).

Historical setting for Job

The setting for the book is a cosmic debate. Satan—frustrated in his attempts to attack God—has moved to Earth to attack those whom God loves: humanity. Like a mafia crime boss, he knows that if he can’t get to God, then he should try to get to his family, his children. Satan accuses the humans of being righteous for self-service. “Take away the blessings,” says Satan, “and these humans will hate you.” If loving God for his blessings is wrong, then even the godliest of men will be the most sinful! Once this accusation is raised, it needs to be defeated, not destroyed.

His friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) are “orthodox” theologians, who end up arguing with Job about the nature of his suffering, rather than comforting him. They argue so vehemently, because they want to press a confession out of him. If they can get him to confess some secret sin, then they will be able to go home knowing that suffering won’t afflict them. If a righteous man like Job is suffering, what will happen to them? They won’t quit until they get a confession.

This books dialogues through the most important question of why bad things happen to good people. The dialogue goes on forever. Everyone has an opinion. But in the end, God gets the last word. In chapter 38, God speaks to Job, silencing Satan, his friends, and Job himself. He concludes the book by saying that we are too limited to know what we’re talking about. God sharply rebukes the three friends (42:7-9), saying that they misrepresented him in their speculations. And, he gently (but sarcastically?) brings Job through a series of questions to demonstrate that he is too limited to know what he’s talking about, too. He doesn’t mention what he’s going to do to Satan, which is strange; it sparks the imagination.

Conclusions to be reached through Job

There are a couple of conclusions to this book that we should consider (spoiler alert!):

First, we are too limited to understand God’s purpose for us, while we suffer. Instead, we need to trust that he is in the privileged position of being all-knowing, and he will work all things for the good for those who love him (Rom. 8:28). We know that God will get the last word, and he will take care of us in the end. As Chuck Smith would say in counseling sessions with the grieving, “Don’t forfeit what you don’t know for what you do know. You don’t know what God allowed your suffering… But you do know that God is good, he loves us, he is giving us eternal life, and he will eventually get the last word.” If Job could learn to trust God in his suffering before the Cross, how much more should we learn to trust him after the Cross?

Second, God is worthy of love even apart from his blessings. And yet, even though this is the case, God (being a “Blesser” by nature) still gives Job blessings. At the end of the book, Job gets double the blessings than he had at the beginning. He doesn’t give him the blessings up front, because he wants Job to know him better than he knows his blessings. So, he holds out on them temporarily, so that Job can get the supreme blessing—knowing God (42:5).

Third, Job is never told why he was suffering. This is odd, isn’t it? His life was the battleground for a cosmic battle between God and Satan, but he is never told this. And yet, he still trusts God after seeing him. God is most likely telling us that there is much more going on surrounding our suffering than we can possibly fathom.

Fourth, we need to enjoy God more than his blessings. God was fully justified in letting Job suffer in his squalor, and he lets him suffer in order to teach Job that he should enjoy the presence of God more than the presents of God. After he learns this, God lavishes him with blessing. He wasn’t required to do this, but he does it because he is a Giver; this is in his nature.

Job 1 (Job’s Test)

Job lived in Uz (v.1) with his large family, servants, and estate (vv.2-3). He had it all. He was also a God-fearer (v.5), making sacrifices just in case his children sinned.

We flash from this earthly story to a heavenly one. Satan is in charge of the Earth (1 Jn. 5:19), but he comes into God’s throne room. In verses 8-11, we need to see the subtext of Satan’s accusation against God.

What is Satan saying? He is saying that Job is a prostitute. Job doesn’t really love God, but rather, he is just loving God’s stuff. Satan is saying, “Would a prostitute spend the night with someone, if he wasn’t paying? Take that money away from Job, and we’ll see what he does then!”

Why would Satan feel this way? Satan is in it for himself, and so he thinks everyone else is this way too—even God himself. He is cynical of altruism and sacrificial love.

Why doesn’t God just blow Satan away?! This occurs in the presence of the angels (“myriads and myriads” according to Rev. 5:11). A myriad is 10,000. Thus this is 100 million angels at least. God could destroy Satan, but he chose to defeat him instead. At the Cross, Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him” (Col. 2:15). Forster and Marston,

We may indeed accept that he had the sheer power to stop or even destroy Satan. The problem is that in this case, even as Satan sank under God’s wrath and destruction, he would have gone with a sneer on his lips as though to say, ‘I told you so.’ Such a ‘solution’ would have left forever unanswered Satan’s accusation that God’s kingdom was based (like his own) on force and expediency. It was not lack of power that prevented God from crushing Satan—it was a matter of principle. It is, perhaps, comparable to the moral restraint that makes it impossible for God to lie. Satan’s accusations must be answered, and they cannot be truly answered by a force that simply crushes the accuser.[2]

God allows Satan to make his charge, and he moves history into motion to allow it (v.12). Of course, God put limitations on what Satan could and couldn’t do. Here, we see the permissive will of God.

Satan can use people to execute his will (vv.13-15). He uses the Sabeans (who were Arabs) to kill Job’s family, and he also uses the Chaldean raiders (v.17).

Satan can use supernatural events to execute his will (v.16). He uses a supernatural fire from heaven to kill Job’s estate and servants.

Satan can use natural events to execute his will. He uses a “great wind” to destroy Job’s house and family (v.19). Satan can manipulate the natural order.

What is Job’s response to all of this? He falls down, mourns, and worships God (v.20). He blesses God’s name (v.21).

Application

There is a lot going on in this chapter:

1. This gives a robust perspective on the problem of evil. Behind our view, there is a battle for truth going on in the heavenly realm, which we can’t see.

2. We learn a lot about Satan and spiritual warfare from this chapter.

3. We learn a lot about how to persevere through suffering in this chapter.

Job 2 (Job’s Second Test)

Satan comes back to throw a charge against God (v.1). Satan charges that Job was willing to sacrifice another person’s life for his own (“skin for skin”). He calls on God to hurt Job himself (v.5). God permits it, but he calls on Satan not to kill him (v.6). There are certain rules that need to be followed. Satan covered Job’s body with sores (v.7). He scraped his sores with a broken piece of pottery (v.8). This sounds gory!

His wife tried to wear him down and get him to curse God (v.9). She seems like a real villain in this story, but she’s really like one of us in this situation. Job argues that we should accept both blessing and suffering from God. Job’s three friends appear—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar (v.11). They mourned with him for a full week (vv.12-13).

Application

1. I can relate a lot more with Job’s wife than with Job, can’t you??

2. Are you willing to accept the suffering that God has for you, as well as the blessings?

3. Job’s three friends just sit with him for a week without theologizing. If only they had not said anything at all! The rest of the book explains how they try to find out Job’s sin.

Job 3 (Job Curses his Birth)

Job doesn’t curse God, but he curses his own birth. He wonders why God gives life to people at all who suffer (v.23).

Job 4 (Eliphaz)

He builds him up by saying that he has helped others (v.1). He says that Job must be guilty of some sin; otherwise, he wouldn’t be suffering (v.7). A spirit spoke to him questioning the righteousness of humans (v.17ff).

Job 5 (Eliphaz)

Job must be being punished because he’s a fool (v.2). God could be discipling Job (v.17).

Job 6 (Job Replies)

He blames his sorrow on God (v.4), when really it is Satan. He asks why he should still be faithful (v.11). He asks what his arguments prove (v.27). He defends his character (v.30).

Job 7 (Job Replies)

Aren’t all people in a state of suffering (v.1)? He doesn’t find meaning in his life (v.16). He wonders why God spends so much time thinking about humans. What does it all matter? What’s the point? Why not just let him die?

Job 8 (Bildad)

God isn’t unjust, is he (v.3). Job must be a sinner (v.6). God wouldn’t reject an innocent person (v.20).

Job 9 (Job’s Reply)

How can mortals be righteous before God (v.1)? Even the innocent need mercy (v.15). He has a high view of God’s power, but a low view of God’s mercy. He needs a mediator (v.33).

Job 10 (Job’s Reply)

He pleads his innocence (vv.1-7). Why would God take care of him—only to make him suffer (v.8)?

Job 11 (Zophar)

He rebukes Job’s mockery (v.3). He blames him for being a sinner (v.14).

Job 12 (Job’s Reply)

God is wiser than rulers.

Job 13 (Job Rebukes his Counselors)

Job was angry that the men were trying to argue with him (vv.4-6). We shouldn’t speak in God’s place on these issues (v.8). He reaffirms his faith (v.15). He asks for the men to show him his sin (v.23).

Job 14 (Job Questions the Afterlife)

Human life is transitory (v.1). Humans will not rise (v.12). He trusts in God’s forgiveness (vv.16-17).

Job 15 (Eliphaz)

He directly accuses Job of being in sin (vv.5-6). He argues that all humans are immoral (vv.15-16)—thus so is Job. He emphasizes God’s judgment on the evil.

Job 16 (Job Replies)

Job gets upset at his comforters, telling him that he’d be kind to them (v.5).

Job 18 (Bildad)

Bildad responds with explaining the plight of the wicked.

Job 19 (Job’s reply)

Job explains that there is no justice or help from God. He hopes that there would be a written code to forgive him (vv.23-24).

Job 20 (Zophar)

Zophar claims that the wicked only prosper temporarily. His wealth won’t save him (v.20). It’s a really vivid and powerful image of what will happen to those who love money and do not love God.

Job 21 (Job Replies)

Job makes the point that often the wicked are not judged. Why do they live long, while the righteous die (v.7)? The wicked live good lives and don’t see a need for God (v.15).

Job 22 (Eliphaz)

Eliphaz is convinced that while Job may not have sinned through commission, he must have sinned through omission. He is convinced that God will restore him if he repents (v.23).

Job 23 (Job Replies)

Job laments that he was righteous, and yet, he is still experiencing judgment from God.

Job 24 (Job Replies)

On the flip side, those who are unrighteous—those who “know Him not” still get to “see His days” (24:1).

Job 25 (Bildad)

Bildad refers to man as a “maggot” and the son of man as a “worm” (25:6). And yet, God in his great love on the Cross died for these maggots and worms.

Job 26-31 (Job Replies)

(Ch. 26) Job sarcastically thanks Bildad, and then, he talks about the greatness of God’s power and awe.

(Ch. 27) Job gets a second wind. He realizes the plight of the unbeliever, and he refuses to snap.

(Ch. 28) Job compares mining for gold with mining for wisdom. Wisdom is even harder to find. Job concludes by saying that fearing God is wisdom and separating from evil is understanding (Proverbs 1:7).

(Ch. 29) Job reflects on his history. It was a great history before this calamity.

(Ch. 30) This is contrasted with his current state of humiliation. He viciously blames God for abusing his power (v.20-23).

(Ch. 31) Job tries to defend how righteous he is. He says, “Have I covered my transgressions like Adam, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom?” Job must have had some knowledge of the Hebrew Bible (specifically Genesis 3). I like how he says that Adam hid his iniquity in his bosom or his heart. The problem with Adam was internal. This chapter ends the words of Job (31:40). He only makes little comments of contrition after God speaks (40:4-5; 42:2-6).

Job (32-37 ELIHU’S SPEECH)

(Ch. 32) His three friends stop arguing with Job, because “he was righteous in his own eyes” (32:1). This angers Elihu, because Job was trying to justify “himself before God” (32:2). Elihu has been waiting up until now, because the other men were much older. He has been sitting here listening, hoping that the older men will set Job straight. Now, he chimes in. He has authority to speak, as a young man. He says, “I thought age should speak, and increased years should teach wisdom, but it is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding. The abundant in years may not be wise, nor may elders understand justice” (32:7-9). Elihu is not a man-pleaser (32:20-22).

(Ch. 33) Elihu talks about being created, and then, he talks about being redeemed.

(Ch. 34) God sees everything, and his justice is always right. Job is speaking like a wicked man.

(Ch. 35) He rebukes Job for talking back to God.

(Ch. 36) Who can ask God, “You have done wrong?” (36:23)

(Ch. 37) God is absolutely sovereign over even the tiny details of life like natural forces. 37:18 speaks of there being a “molten mirror” over the Earth. The Hebrew word raqia is also translated as “expanse” as in Gen. 1:20 (NOTE: This is where the birds fly and exist. It would make no sense to say that this expanse is a metal surface, because birds are flying through it). Also, this is only saying that it is only “like” a molten mirror. He is not make a statement of fact; it is a simile.

Job 38-42 (God finally speaks!)

Job gets this answer, because it establishes the sovereignty of God (the Creator). He “answers” Job with a series of 64 rhetorical questions. He asks him a lot of cosmological questions. The Lord rebukes Job’s lack of knowledge (38:2). They weren’t there at creation (38:4ff). He sarcastically calls him old and wise (38:21). God speaks about his own intimate knowledge of even the animals.

God calls on Job to answer and correct Him (40:2). Job realizes that he is too finite to correct God (40:4). Job realizes how incredible God is and repents (42:4-6).

God rebukes the three counselors (42:7-8).

 

[1] Archer, Gleason. A survey of Old Testament introduction (3rd. ed.). Chicago: Moody Press. 1994. 505.

[2] Forster, Roger T., and V. Paul Marston. God’s Strategy in Human History. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1974. 8.