Job: A Tapestry of Faith

Life is too complicated for simple answers.

Job is “the greatest poem, whether of ancient or modern literature,” wrote Tennyson. It is considered the greatest piece of Hebrew wisdom literature, and of the supreme literary creations of the world. It held a position in the Hebrew Canon of uncontestable high estimation.

The Book of Job is unique because of its depth and thoroughness in dealing with the subject of human suffering and theodicy (the justice of God and why do the innocent suffer). Job is “an artistic masterpiece put together skillfully by a great poet.” It breathes an atmosphere of human reality—sin, sorrow and a frightening silence. The central character is deprived of everything. His circumstances are the actual, down to earth, ordinary circumstances of human life stripped and standing naked before God. Everything that man leans on for help, strength and security are removed from his life.  God alone was left.

Job is the main character of the book that bears his name. He is a real person because Hebrew writers did not evolve literary heroes from pure imagination. He is distinguished far and wide as the greatest and richest of the sons of the East. He is a wealthy and pious landowner who lived in patriarchal times or at least in similar conditions in the land of Uz, on the border of Idumaea. Job was a man “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and turned away from evil.” The typical Hebrew blessings of life were his to the fullest: wealth, honor, health, and family.

AUTHOR: is anonymous. Job, of course, could be writing of his own experiences, although the book does not claim to be written by Job. There is not sufficient reason to regard the prologue, dialogue and epilogue as the result of a complex process of editing. Other ancient writings had similar structure. The author is a believer in Yahweh. The prologue to the book is about the great man who suffered. However, the dialogues do claim to be from the lips of the same man and the integrity of the book is at fault if this is not true. Suggestions have been Job, Elihu, and Moses

DATE: Job may well be the oldest book in the Old Testament. Internal evidence points to a very early setting for the book. There are no Levitical institutions cited, and Job offers sacrifices for his family as in the days before the Tabernacle (1:5). His wealth would reflect the period of the patriarchs (1:3). The book covers about one year in the life of a man who lived to be 140 years old. The language of the book also points to an early date. Certain linguistic elements indicate more archaic forms of Hebrew. It seems likely that Job lived in the second millennium B.C. (2000-1000) and shared a tradition not far removed from the patriarchs. Late dating has been dealt a fatal blow by the discovery of the fragments of Job written in paleo-Hebrew script among the Dead Sea materials.

PURPOSE: At the outset the author raises the question, “Will Job’s faith endure in spite of trial?” Satan asked, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” (1:9). The implication was that “Job only serves You for what he can get out of You.” The dialogues heighten the suspense, and the epilogue resolves it. In the process, we learn that Job’s faith is genuine.

The Book of Job is an excellent “treatise on faith and the role that suffering plays on faith.” In Job, trials provide the test of faith. At the end of the book, we see a humbler, wiser, faithful Job. The book explains God’s relation to trial, doubt, faith and reward, but it does not attempt to give rational solution to the problem of evil. Job does not know why God afflicts the righteous; he only knows it is a fact by experience.

Job’s counselors teach a defective view of suffering. Their premise is that all the wicked suffer, Job suffers, and therefore Job is wicked.

Job calls on God to vindicate him because he has not committed great sins for which he is being punished. God will rebuke Job for his ignorance (38:2, 13) and presumption (42:2), but not because of grievous sins. His friends simply do not have the full knowledge of God, and in the end are severely rebuked (v. 7). God is sovereign in Job’s universe (vv. 2-6). Job’s rebellious attitude dissolves and his resentment disappears when God speaks out of the whirlwind. God refutes the idea of suffering as a proof that the man is a sinner.

DEUTERONOMIC THEORY OF SUFFERING: Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar held this view. These Jewish views on suffering were still the teachings in Jesus’ day. The Scribes did not know their Scriptures, especially Job. (1) Sin brings suffering in proportion to it. (2) Only the righteous are rewarded. (3) The rewarded are righteous. (4) Those who suffer are sinners. When you see a man suffering, they said, then you are to find out what sin he has committed. Another way of stating it: (1) SIN=SUFFERING. (2) SUFFERING=SIN. (3) RIGHTEOUSNESS=PROSPERITY. (4) PROSPERITY=RIGHTEOUSNESS. They have some kin in our day, too. This is proved wrong in Job, and Jesus in John chapter nine.

KEY VERSES: 1:9; 13:15

STYLE: is poetry in the framework of prose. Job is a singular organic unity and not a composite of various authors. It was considered a book for private reading that would appeal especially to the more cultivated and thoughtful classes. It was a cherished great classic story among the ancient Hebrews.

THEME: Triumph of faith over suffering.

JOB’S UMPIRE: Job pleaded for an “umpire,” or “daysman” (9:32-33). Jesus Christ ideally fulfilled the office Job longed to see. The Old Testament did not have an intercessor (1 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 7:25; Job 31:35; Heb. 12:24). “Umpire” is one able to act as an arbitrator at an appointed day. The Hebrew word for “to act as an umpire,” or “mediator” implies one who hears two parties in a dispute and decides the merits of the case. The perfect Mediator is Emmanuel. He sets the date of arbitration, and pleads our case in the presence of God the Father.

JOB’S KINSMAN REDEEMER: “I know that my Redeemer lives” (19:25-26). Job’s Goel or nearest of kin had the responsibility of redeeming his lost opportunities. No man comes to redeem Job, but his plea is that Yahweh will provide His Goel. “And at last He will take His stand on the earth” (v. 25). Job’s faith is in his Redeemer who will come to the earth. His hope looks to the coming Messiah (Hebrews 7:25).

CRISES IN THE EXPERIENCE OF JOB: J. W. Watts listed twelve events in his introduction to the Old Testament. (1) Loss of the dearest of earthly things (1:21); (2) loss of health (2:10); (3) loss of friend’s confidence (ch. 3); (4) longing for a mediator (9:32-35); (5) determination to argue his cause with God (13:13-19); (6) question concerning future life (14:13-15); (7) faith in a heavenly witness (16:19); (8) faith in the coming of his Redeemer (19:25); (9) frustration due to the prosperity of the wicked (21:4-34); (10) suffering of the innocent (chs. 23-24); (11) man’s inability to judge the works of God (38:1-40:5); (12) repentance of any reflections upon the justice of God (40:6-41:34; 42:1-6).

LEVELS OF SUFFERING IN THE OLD TESTAMENT: (1) All sufferers are sinners (Job’s friends). (2) Some suffers are saints (Job, Jeremiah, the Messiah). (3) Some suffers are saviors (Isaiah 53).

SPIRITUAL GROWTH IN JOB: (1) God will seek him (7:21). (2) Saint and sinner both suffer (9:22). (3) He needs an umpire, a go between, or mediator (9:32, 33). (4) He begins to think of the after-life (14:7-14). (5) He has a witness in heaven (16:18ff). (6) He knows that his Redeemer lives (19:25-27). (7) He learns humility (42:2).

SOME ABIDING PRINCIPLES IN JOB:

1.      Suffering is not always a punishment for sin.

2.      Jesus Christ was the world's most righteous man, and the world's greatest sufferer. Righteous persons do suffer, and not because of some sin they have committed.

3.      Justice is not always expressed in individual lives because the wicked do enjoy prosperity, die in ripe old age, receive honors after death, and the righteous suffer misfortune, and die young in poverty.

4.      Job’s cry for a mediator foreshadows the work of the Messiah as one Mediator between God and man.

5.      In God’s grace and mercy there is the final preservation of the saints.

6.      The suffering of the righteous leads to richer, fuller, more mature faith in God.

7.      Ultimately righteousness triumphs over wickedness. Job defeated Satan.

8.      Suffering should not produce a spirit of rebellion, but a stronger faith in God.

9.      God limits Satan (1:11-12), and he cannot defeat the person who trusts in God.

10.  God uses the evil assaults of Satan to bless the faithful servant of God.

11.  Suffering should not produce a spirit of rebellion, but an increased faith. "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

Series of studies on A Look at the Book


Title: Introduction to Job
Series: A Look at the Book

Introduction to Job by Wil Pounds (c) 2006. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.

Unless otherwise noted “Scripture quotations taken from the NASB." "Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://www.bible.org/. All rights reserved.

Wil is a graduate of William Carey College, B. A.; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Th. M.; and Azusa Pacific University, M. A. He has pastored in Panama, Ecuador and the U. S, and served for over 20 years as missionary in Ecuador and Honduras. He had a daily expository Bible teaching ministry head in over 100 countries for ten years. He continues to seek opportunities to be personally involved in world missions. Wil and his wife Ann have three grown daughters. He currently serves as a Baptist pastor and teaches seminary extension courses in Honduras.

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