Studies In Job. Presentation 01. Introduction. Presentation 01. Introduction.
There is very little substantial agreement among scholars about, the authorship of the book of Job or, its date. Ancient Jewish tradition attributed, the authorship of the book to Moses. There is a considerable Christian tradition beginning with the early Fathers. This view is also held by some of the Reformers and more modern scholars such as
Keil and Delitzsch and E. J. Young, who
regard the work to have been written
during the time of Solomon.
It certainly bears the stamp of wisdom literature,
which was produced at that time. The time of
which the book speaks, certainly seems to
belong to the period of the Patriarchs.
Some scholars have argued, that Job is not a real historical character. They consider, that he was invented by the writer, in order to teach a number of lessons on the subject of suffering. But this position is hard to sustain and that for two reasons;
First of all the rest of scripture treats him as a historical
Secondly, if he is reduced to the mere figment of a
writers imagination, then the didactic thrust of the
book is greatly weakened. It is easier to identify
with a real experience, than with that of some
The purpose of the book is to open our eyes to the secret of Job’s sufferings. They are not random sufferings. They are neither punitive nor disciplinary. The book of Job establishes that there is such a thing as innocent suffering. Job's suffering was a means of rendering honour and service to God.
“The author's purpose was to widen man's
view of God's providence and to set before
him a new view of suffering. With great skill,
he employs Job as his instrument to clear the
ground of the old theories and he himself
brings forward in their place, the new truth,
that suffering may befall the innocent and
not as a chastisement for their sins but a
trial of their righteousness.”
If we can eliminate from our thinking, the possibility, that God has brought suffering, pain or distress upon us as a chastisement for our sin as believers; if we are satisfied, that it is not a disciplinary measure in the sense of purging, purifying and sanctifying us; then we need to be open to this possibility, that God has brought suffering upon us in order, to advance his mission. Does Paul have this in mind in Col.1v24, “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of the body”.
Paul was not saying, that he contributed to the unique, atoning death of Christ but nevertheless, his cup of suffering was contributing to the overall redemptive purpose of God in the world cf2 Cor. 4v11f.
The book of Job is a debate, an enquiry, nine-tenths of which consist of a groping in the dark. The questions, raised by Job, are not in fact answered in the book of Job but in the N.T. Dr. Campbell Morgan has written a book entitled “The answers of Jesus to Job”.
In this sense, the book is a preparation for the gospel. Think of some of the questions Job asks: "What is man?", "If I sin will I be forgiven?", "If a man die shall he live again?" The book of Job does not answer all these questions. It does however, dent man's pride. It shows, that life is not simple and that there are no simple solutions to the mysteries of life.
This book shakes the kind of person who, like Job's friends, believes that he has all truth neatly pigeon-holed in his mind. It exposes the glib, facile, stock in trade answers, of such folk. It is often not answers to questions, that people need but a revelation of the living God in their hearts.
There are times, when even as Christians, in the
light of Christian revelation, we must be content
not to know the answers. It is not until the
second coming of Christ, that final answers
will be given and it is from this perspective
that we must understand the great
questionings in the book.
The book consists of three parts, very unequal in size:
A Prologue comprising of ch.1-2
A Dialogue, made up of ch.3-41
An Epilogue in ch.42.
The prologue and epilogue are of supreme importance. The prologue, gives the reader insights into Job's suffering, which Job himself does not possess. It draws aside the veil between heaven and earth enabling us to see an earthly situation from a divine standpoint. The following analysis should help :
Job's Complaint 3:1-26
First Cycle Of Discourses 4:1-14:22
a. 4:1-5:27 Eliphaz' First Speech
b. 6:1-7:21 Job's reply
c. 8:1-22 Bildad'sFirst Speech
d. 9:1-10:22 Job's reply
e. 11:1-20 Zophar's First Speech
f. 12:1-14:22 Job's reply
Second Cycle Of Discourses 15:1-21:34
a.15:1-35 Eliphaz' Second Speech
b.16:1-17:16 Job's reply
c.18:1-21 Bildad's Second Speech
d.19:1-29 Job's reply
e.20:1-29 Zophar's Second Speech
f.21:1-34 Job's reply
Third Cycle Of Discourses 22:1-31:40
a.22:1-30 Eliphaz's Third Speech
b.23:1-24:25 Job's reply
c.25:1-6 Bildad's Third Speech
d.26:1-14 Job's reply
e.27:1-31:40 Job's final reply to his friends
The Speeches Of Elihu 32:1-37:24
The Lord Speaks 38:1-41v34
The Epilogue 42:1-17
The introductory description of Job is quite remarkable. He is a “righteous, blameless [not sinless], God-fearing man”. The “greatest man among all the people of the East”. The town of ‘Uz’ v1 is thought to be somewhere in Arabia.
The prosperity of Job's home and circumstances are apparent. However, there is the suggestion, that his family may not have shared his devotion to God cfv4-5. Job was not the kind of parent, who would turn a blind eye to the possible faults of his family. He was no starry eyed idealist.
Job took his duties as patriarchal priest seriously! This rigorous approach to potential sin provides us with an all important window upon his character. This will prove invaluable in later chapters, when his friends attempt to explain his suffering as the product of his own careless sinful conduct.
But Job did not treat sin lightly! Nor was he the kind of parent, who perpetually nagged at his family, "to be good“. Rather he saw his primary responsibility to be one of prayer and realistic prayer at that! This is how we are to understand the significance of the burnt offerings he made on their behalf.
We have a rare view of what happens in the spiritual realm
in v6-12. They provide the key for understanding the rest of
the book. Before God’s throne we overhear God and Satan
talking about Job. It seems that God periodically convenes
a council of angels “Sons of God”, to apportion to them
various tasks and have them give account of their work
[cf. Matt 18v10. cf also 1 Kings 22v18-23].
Why is Satan allowed into the presence of God? His right
to be there was not disputed. Although fallen, Satan,
exercises his power only by God's permission - he is not
a free agent. He too is accountable to God and
restrained in his activities by God.
Satan came from “roaming through the earth…” v7, words, that describe the inherent restlessness of evil. Cf. 1Pet.5v8 “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” God requires Satan to give an account of his activity! Job, is a battle-ground between God and Satan. Job is God's protégé v8. God is not trying to prove something about Job to himself but to others [1 Cor 4:9]. Satan disparages Job's loyalty to God in v8-10,
“it's easy for him to be godly, your ministering angels are round
about him.” Satan is at work as "the accuser of the brethren".
Clearly, Satan has been goaded by Job's behaviour and
has been prowling around the hedge encircling his
life, looking for an opening, which would let
him spoil Job and hurt God.
In v12, we have the first indication that, what is going to happen to Job, while engineered by Satan has been permitted by God. God is not being forced into a corner but is determined to prove Satan wrong.
The permissiveness of God is one of the most daring things in human experience. Job, without realising it, was being called into the service of suffering.
This truth is at the same time very wonderful, very profound, very frightening and comforting. Notice,
that within the framework of divine permission,
it is God, who sets the boundaries, builds the
“but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
In one morning, the bottom was knocked out of Job's world v13ff. Loss after loss, blow after blow fell on this dear man! The unusual severity of these blows is an indication of the demonic. Evil bludgeon's
this man's life mercilessly going to the very limit of
the power permitted it by God. Clearly, Job did not
know about the heavenly conference and he was
numbed by his experience! But it is his reaction
in v20-22, which is all important.
Here is a worshipping spirit, devastated, but
not weak in faith,
“cast down but not destroyed” 2 Cor.4v9.
We return to the throne room in heaven in chap.2. God is delighted with his servant who, despite all that Satan had thrown at him, had “maintained his integrity” v3. God is being incited against Job to ruin him without any reason. God knew, that by allowing Satan to test Job in this way, Satan’s defeat would be all the more decisive.
The greatest example of victory through suffering is surely
seen at the cross. For there is in operation, what
C. S. Lewis, in “The Lion the Witch
and the Wardrobe,” described
as “deeper magic”!
Evil regularly thinks that it is in control and yet, incredibly, its’ own destructive purposes have within them the seeds of self- destruction.
The words, “without any reason” in v3 are important because, Job's friends’ apologetic for his suffering would argue, there was reason for it. They did not recognise, that Job's life was a spiritual battleground.
Satan is unabashed by his first failure and asks for a wider remit, “stretch out your hands and strike his flesh and bones and he will surely curse you to your face”. There is a measure of truth in the reasoning which Satan employs. People are often prepared to suffer a great deal in terms of loss and misfortune provided that they themselves are not harmed. God does not take orders from the devil but gives him permission to do his own dirty work. Again, God lays down the boundaries of Satan's activity, “you must spare his life”v6.
The result was Job's personal affliction in v8. It is thought to have been some form of elephantiasis, a loathsome sort of leprosy, which hardened, blackened and cracked the skin giving it the appearance of an elephant's hide. It resulted in excruciating pain and itching.
This was a crowning blow to Job in his path of humiliation, impoverishment and suffering.
It reduces him to a man who becomes
unrecognisable to this friends.
Satan did not touch Job's wife? He could have removed her but didn't. Why? Satan saw that she would be more use to him alive than dead. Satan instruments spring up in the most unlikely places cfMat.16:23.
In bitterness of soul, Job's wife urges him to curse God and die. Her conclusion, ‘godliness doesn't pay!’ How could it if Job was reduced from a prince to an unrecognisable pile of humanity and for no apparent reason. She was Satan’s mouthpiece. It is dangerous to love ones partner with a love that is deep but not deep enough i.e. with mere natural love. N. B. Job’s remarkable reply, v10 "Shall we receive good from the hand of God and not evil?" No wonder God was proud of him.
Job's friends arrive from Teman, a place noted for its wisdom v11ff. We must not misrepresent these friends for they are often set up as a set of straw men who are easily knocked down. So easily, that people fail to identify their own behaviour too closely with theirs. But they were sincere in their attempt to comfort their friend. But more than sincerity is needed to bring comfort.
The friends' reaction in v12-13 is a typical
Oriental reaction to grief.
Today, in the Indian sub continent,
in the mourning process called
“afsos”, you are expected to do
no more, than sit in silence in
the courtyard of the suffering
A ministry of silence from a loving heart can often be strangely comforting.
We should never hesitate to go to a sorrowing home just because we do not know what to say. Our presence gives comfort, as can the expression of love in the comforter's eyes. However, a second interpretation can be placed upon the silence of those, who meet us in our agony, though this is not necessarily applicable to Job's friends. In a letter written by C. S. Lewis to a colleague at Oxford, who had just lost his wife, he wrote:
“I have learned now that those who usually speak
about one's miseries usually hurt one, those who
keep silence hurt more. They help to increase
the sense of general isolation which makes a
sort of fringe to the sorrow itself”.
We need discernment to know when to
speak and when to keep silent!