This book is part of that section of the Scriptures known by the Jews as the Kethubim (the writings) and referred to as the "Psalms". It is a poetic book which takes its place in this division of the sacred writings with the Psalms, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs. It deals with one of the most difficult subjects to address, that of suffering, its cause and consequences.
THE CHARACTER OF JOB
Who was Job?
There is no doubt that Job was a real person and that the book is not an allegory. His name is placed alongside that of Noah and Daniel in Ezekiel 14.14,20 where they are described as "these three men" who, although righteous, could not spare Israel from judgment. Note also that the patience of Job is cited by James (5.11) as an example of endurance.
When did he live?
There is no direct reference in the book to a time, but it has been assumed by most that it was of early date. It has been argued that the absence of any reference to the Law in a book which deals with the weighty matters of suffering and the dealings of God with the godly and ungodly indicates that the book predates the Exodus. Support for this is given by the age of Job mentioned at the end of the book. After the calamities, he lived for a further 140 years indicating that he lived before age was shortened to that of the time of Moses, who lived 120 years in total (Deut 34.7).
Where did he live?
The location of Uz is difficult to ascertain. Most reckon it to be not in the area which would be given to Israel by promise, but in the area to the east of Canaan.
What kind of man was he?
It is clearly stated that Job was "perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil" (1.1). He was a godly man who was exceedingly prosperous (1.3). He was a prayerful man with a deep care for his family, for when they "feasted in their houses, every one his day" Job "sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all" (1.4-5). He had instructed many, strengthened the weak, and helped the fallen and the feeble (4.3-4).
THE CONSIDERATION OF JOB
Angels, including those who are fallen, are called to give an account to the Lord. Even Satan has to do so. On one of these days the Lord asked Satan if he had considered His servant Job. The fact that this was raised shows that the Lord had considered Job carefully and had noted the life of a godly man. The response of Satan was to accuse Job of being God-fearing because of his prosperity. His motive, Satan asserted, was not pure.
THE CALAMITIES OVERWHELMING JOB
Job was then put into Satans power and on one day, in three great calamities, lost his wealth and his sons and daughters (1.13-22). Despite this, Job did not sin, and after being summonsed once more before the Lord, Satan was again given power over him, with the proviso that he could not take his life. His next attack was on Jobs health and he "smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown" (2.7). So great was the severity of the tragedies that Jobs wife cried, "Curse God, and die" (2.9).
THE CONTROVERSY WITH JOB
At this point the three friends of Job, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite come to mourn with and to comfort Job. The longest section of the book deals with the controversy that they have with Job. They seek to instruct him as to the cause of his calamities, but in so doing show that they do not have an insight into the ways of God and His character. The fundamental mistake that they made was their view that suffering was due to sin and was the punishment meted out to sinners by a righteous God. Space in these notes does not permit consideration of their arguments in detail.
Note, however, that these were well intentioned men who sat in silence with Job for seven days and nights as they mourned his losses. They wept with him, rent their garments and sprinkled dust upon their heads (2.12-13).
There were three cycles in the controversy. All three friends spoke in the first two cycles but Zophar did not in the third. To each of these addresses Job replied. The keynote verses in each address of the friends show the views that were propounded.
Eliphaz: "Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?" (4.7).
Bildad: "If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous" (8.6).
Zophar: "Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth" (11.6).
Eliphaz: "For thy mouth uttereth thine iniquity, and thou chooseth the tongue of the crafty" (15.5).
Bildad: "How long will it be ere ye make an end of words?" (18.2).
Zophar: "Knowest thou not this of old That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment" (20.4-5).
Eliphaz: "Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou are righteous? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?" (22.3).
Bildad: "How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?" (25.4).
There runs through these a recurring theme - Job justifies himself, not from a self righteous point of view, but from the fact that he had led a godly life. What can be seen, however, is the increasing hardness of the accusations of the friends. They form the conclusion that Job is a hypocrite, justifying himself.
The address by the younger man (chs. 32-37) seeks to cut through all that has been said and to get to the core of the matter. He feels that Job has, in vindicating himself, failed to vindicate God in the matter.
The issue is quite clearly beyond any of the three friends, or of the young man, to address adequately. There has been a multitude of words, as there has been on the subject through the centuries since.
At last God speaks (chs. 38-41). He has been the silent listener to all that has been said. He declares His sovereignty, seen so clearly in creation (it should be noted that this evidence of the power and sovereignty of God has been attacked by the evolutionist who denies "his eternal power and Godhead" - Rom 1.20).
The suffering through which Job has passed has borne fruit and now he understands and declares, "I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee" (42.2). He understands that what he has been through has been for a purpose. He has been taught and appreciates that in everything that He does God will be vindicated. God is sovereign and needs not to explain the reasons for His actions. This is the great lesson that Job learned. We have no right to be told by the Lord why He acts as He does. He is sovereign and need not consult His creatures. There are times when He will reveal His reasons, but we cannot demand of Him that He should do so. It is not given to us understand all that He does, it is given to us to trust Him even when the cause of His actions cannot be understood.
For the friends of Job the word of the Lord was that his wrath was kindled against them and that they should offer sacrifices. Eliphaz did so. Job prayed for his friends and the Lord restored his prosperity. The Lord blessed him with possessions that were "twice as much as he had before" (v.10). It has often been remarked that the further children that he had at this time were seven sons and three daughters, not twice as much, but the same number as he had before (1.2). The reason is that those of his family who had died had not been lost. They had passed out of time, but they still existed. He did live to see the birth of grandchildren, "even four generations (v.16).