An Introduction to the Book of Job
The story of Job is one of the best-known in the entire Bible yet, strangely enough, one of the least understood. It is a profoundly provocative book that is a journey into the inscrutable ways of God. The book addresses such confounding issues as:
- Why do the righteous suffer?
- Where is God when tragedy strikes?
- Why does God allow tragedy to come to his children?
- If God is all loving, how can he allow human suffering?
- Does he not care?
- Is God worthy of worship in tough times?
- Must God buy worshipers with blessings?
These are tough questions.
Job it is the account of a godly man, prominent and influential, who in a matter of minutes lost all his material possessions, children, and health. His wife, who is obviously experiencing great distress of her own, tells her husband to curse God and die. Compounding his pain, his friends use the ordeal to condemn him rather than comfort him. Still worse, God remains silent throughout this nightmare, refusing to answer Job until the very end.
Throughout this entire trial, Job never did understand why he was suffering. There are was no explanation from God. There is no behind the scene story to bolster his faith. Job is forced to persevere with no answers, and his faith is stretched to the very limits. In the midst of all of his difficulties Job is forced to simply trust God.
Job It Is a Divine Manual on Human Suffering
Job is the inspired record of a man who was taken to the depths of despair and, by the grace of God, came forth refined as pure gold. His life offers encouragement for all Saints who are facing extreme difficulty and despair. Contained in the account of Job is hope for all who trust God to patiently endure the storm tossed trials of the soul.
As we examine the trials of Job over the next month we will gain new insight into life's oldest enigmas - those dealing with sovereignty, Satan, and suffering. Recorded in this ancient account of God appointed tragedies are eternal insights that will equip us to patiently endure whatever trials God calls you to endure. The person who trusts God in the furnace of life's afflictions will, inevitably, come forth as Job did-refined as pure gold.
Job Is a Unique Book
Job is truly a distinctive piece of inspired literature. Some of its unique items include:
- Job contains the longest place (for lengthy chapters) in the Bible where God himself speaks (Job 38-41).
- Job contains the longest place in the Bible were Satan speaks (Job 1-2).
- Job provides a rare insight into heaven, revealing a conversation between God and Satan before the Angels around the divine throne.
- Job is probably the oldest book in the Bible.
- Job uses more Hebrew words not found anywhere else in the Bible, providing a rich diversity of language.
- Job is a unique piece of literature. It mixes prose and poetry, monologue and dialogue.
!Job Was a Real Person
Job is not a fictitious character or the figment of a playwrights imagination. Job was a real person. He was an actual historical figure, a real-life man who is married, father of 10, and a prominent businessman. He suffered one of the most devastating trials anyone has ever been called to face.
Reasons for Job's Historicity
The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel spoke of Job as a historical figure.
- "even if these three men-Noah, Daniel and Job-were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign LORD." (Ezekiel 14:14, NIV84)
- "as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save neither son nor daughter. They would save only themselves by their righteousness." (Ezekiel 14:20, NIV84)
The New Testament writers speak of Job as a real person.
- James-'"As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy."/ (James 5:11, NIV84)
- Paul-"Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" (Romans 11:35, NIV84) quoting Job 41:11.
- "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "He catches the wise in their craftiness";" (1 Corinthians 3:19, NIV84), quoting Job 5:13.
The historical details of this book gives every reason to believe that Job was a real individual. He lived in the land of Uz, a real place, and suffered real losses in his family, wealth, and health. The losses were carried out by a real foe, Satan, using real forces, the Sabeans and Chaldeans. Job was comforted by three real people from real places and real, identifiable tribes.
Job Lived in a Real Place
Most of biblical scholars believe that Job lived in the desert lands of modern-day northern Arabia. The first verse of the book identifies the home of Job in the Land of Uz, a large territory east of the Jordan River which included Edom in the South (Gen. 36:28) and the Aramaean lands in the North (Gen. 10:23). In the book of the Lamentations 4:21, Uz is referred to as the same territory as Edom. The land is very near Midian where Moses spent the second 40 years of his life.
Job Lived a Long Time Ago
Many biblical scholars believe that Job is the oldest book in the Bible. He most likely lived during the patriarchal age around 2000 B.C. and would have been a contemporary with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There are eight or nine internal clues that lead us to this conclusion. These clues to range from, how Job measured his wealth (in livestock), to Job serving as the family's priest, and even to the divine name used for God throughout the book-Shaddai, or God Almighty.
While the book itself is named after its central character, it cannot be determined with certainty who actually wrote this inspired piece of Scripture. Over the centuries scholars have offered three primary possibilities:
Job. Job himself may have been the author. After all, the one who wrote this book seems to be intimately involved in the many details recorded in the book. Were told that Job lived 140 years after the actual events recorded in the book (Job 42:16), which is more than sufficient time to write the entire book. If true, it means that at some point God revealed to Job the background behind his suffering. If Job recorded his own experience shortly after they happened, then the Book of Job may be 4000 years old.
Elihu. Elihu is the fourth friend who spoke to Job in chapters 32 - 37. The lengthy, detailed conversations recorded in this book suggest they may have been written by an eyewitness to all that transpires. Since Elihu offered wise counsel to Job, if the book was written by one of his counselors, Elihu is the best choice. Again, if Elihu wrote the book of Job, it is around 4000 years old.
Moses. This is the position taken by Jewish tradition. The land of Uz is adjacent to Midian, where Moses lived for 40 years. It is conceivable that Moses obtained a record of the dialogue left by Job or Elihu. If Moses wrote the book of Job, it still retains its title as the oldest book in the Bible since it would be approximately 3500 years old.
Job Is about Sovereignty, Satan, Suffering, and Submission
Sovereignty. The Sovereignty of God Is the Most Prominent Theme of This Book. In the opening chapters, the reader is allowed to see into heaven's throne room where divine decisions affecting both heaven and earth are made. God controls Satan's power and man's circumstances. The book ends with God querying Job about the nature of his own right to rule his creation. This is the primary lesson learned by Job as taught in this book. God is God. He will do as he pleases, when he pleases, with whom he pleases, without consulting his creatures, and he will do so for his own glory and the ultimate good of his people.
Satan. In a most revealing way, Satan, the implacable foe of God and his people, is unmasked in the opening chapters of this book. In the Book of Job the great adversary of Believers is shown to be who he truly is - the evil perpetrator behind the devastating disasters that strike Job's life. Satan accuses Job of not serving God with pure motives. Job's relationship with God is a sham because, according to Satan, Job only worships God for the blessings he receives. Remove the blessings, bring affliction upon him and Job will curse God to His face. Satan is portrayed as a powerful enemy - a roaring lion stalking his prey - but all under God's sovereignty. He has to request divine permission to strike Job. Satan is revealed as a real adversary to God's people armed with great power, who deeply hates God and his people.
Suffering. Suffering is front and center in the book of Job. The book deals with the question: Why do the righteous suffer? The righteous may ask why, yet God is not obligated to explain his ways to his creatures. The truth is, God's ways are above our ways. Yet he always has a purpose behind all suffering, often unrevealed. Job never knew why he suffered. The oversimplified Council of Job's friends provides no answers for the tragedies that strike the lives of the righteous.
Submission. Job serves as an example for all believers as he humbly submits to the sovereign rule of God over his life. Job's reaction to the rapid-fire tragedies is one of reverent submission as he acknowledges God's divine discretion over all the possessions and persons in his life. This submission is best seen in Job 13:15 when the patriarch says "Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him," (Job 13:15).
Principles We Learned from the Book of Job
- There are matters going on in heaven with God that believers know nothing about; yet, they affect our lives.
- Even the best effort at explaining the issue of life can be useless.
- God's people do suffer. Bad things happen all the time to good people, so one cannot judge a person's spirituality by his painful circumstances or successes.
- Even though God seems far away at times, Christians must persevere in the faith since God is good and one can safely leave his life in God's hands.
- In the midst of suffering, believers must not abandon God, because God does not abandon them.
- Suffering may be intense, but it will ultimately end for the righteous and God will bless abundantly.