1–3 Job was a very wealthy man who lived in Uz, a large area east of Canaan. He was not a mythical character; he was an actual person who, according to the writer, was the greatest man among all the people of the East (verse 3). He lived in the second millennium B.C., a period extending from the time of ABRAHAM to the time of David; but it is likely he lived very early in that period, because in his dialogues he makes no reference to ISRAEL and he does not use the name of Israel's God, that is, Yahweh, the LORD5 (see Exodus 3:13–15 and comment). Thus we can understand that Job was not an Israelite.
In the prologue and epilogue, however, the writer of Job does use the name LORD many times, thus letting the reader know that he(the writer) was an Israelite(see Job: Introduction). And by using the name LORD in the prologue and epilogue, the writer clearly indicates that Job's God and Israel's LORD were one and the same.
The writer tells us something else about Job: he was blameless and upright—though not completely sinless (Job 7:21; 14:16–17)—and he feared God,6 that is, he worshiped God (verse 1). It's important that we the readers know that Job was basically a righteous man; otherwise we wouldn't believe his claims of innocence stated many times throughout the book.
4–5 Job also acted as his family's priest. After family feasts, he made sure his children were purified—that is, consecrated7—and he sacrificed burnt offerings to make ATONEMENT for any hidden sins they might have committed, such as cursing God in their hearts (see Leviticus 1:1–4 and comment). The cursing of God is an important theme in the book of Job; it means the opposite of fearing God. Job's refusal to curse God, even in the face of suffering, would be the final proof of his RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Job's First Test (1:6–22)
6–7 The writer now introduces us to Satan, the accuser. We first learned about Satan when he appeared as a serpent in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1–6). But, in fact, Satan is an ANGEL, an angel who once rebelled against God and who ever since has been trying to destroy the fellowship between God and mankind. When God asks Satan where he has come from,8 Satan answers in verse 7 that he has been roaming through the earth (see 1 Peter 5:8–9).
8 God then offered Satan a challenge: “Have you considered my servant Job?”9 God told Satan there was no one on earth like him, and He described Job in the same terms the writer used in verse 1. Clearly the writer had received a divine revelation of what was taking place between God and Satan.
9–11 Then Satan made his accusation. He accused Job of being a hypocrite, of acting righteously only for the benefits he got out of it—fame, a big family, much livestock. But let God take away the hedge of protection He had placed around Job (verse 10), let Him take away Job's blessings, and then God would see that Job wasn't righteous at all; to the contrary, he would surely curse God to His face (verse 11).
In addition to accusing Job of hypocrisy, Satan was also mocking God. God had set His heart on Job; He delighted in Job. And now Satan was saying Job was just a fake!
12 We should keep in mind certain things about Satan. First, he is not all-powerful; God could have destroyed him right back in the Garden of Eden.10 Second, Satan is not all-knowing; Satan didn't know Job's heart, but God did. Third, although Satan continues to be in rebellion against God, God is still able to use him for His purposes—one of which is to test the FAITH of men and women. So God agreed to let Satan take away all the blessings that Job had been enjoying, except for one: his health. “. . . on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Satan is like a lion on a leash; he can do great harm, but only within the limits God sets for him. God will never let Satan test us beyond what we can bear (see 1 Corinthians 10:13).
If God knew that Job was righteous, why did He need to test him? He didn't test Job for His own sake, but for ours. How else could we—and the angels (verse 6)—really know Job's character without its being tested? How can we know our own character without being tested? (see Matthew 7:24–27). Satan had attacked Job's character; only Job could prove that Satan's attack was false. Far from abandoning Job, God was in fact giving him the highest honor possible: the honor of suffering for God's sake (Acts 5:41; 1 Peter 4:12–13). God had total confidence in Job and knew that he would triumph in the end.
But for this great test to work, Job could not be allowed to know the reason for it. We, the readers, have been let in on the secret, but not Job. If Job had known the reason for the test, he could easily have passed it; it would have been no test at all. And this is why the book of Job has such value for us: when we ourselves face suffering, we are like Job; we don't understand the reason for it. Job, in a sense, represents all of us. As Job was tested, so shall we be tested—though hopefully less so! As Job wrestled with God, so shall we “wrestle” with God. And as Job prevailed, so shall we prevail. The book of Job is written for our encouragement. Let us never think that this book is just an ancient myth; it is a living and vital word from God that is applicable to every one of us today.
13–19 In these verses, the writer describes how Satan took away Job's blessings, one after another: his oxen (verses 14–15), his sheep (verse 16), his camels (verse 17), and finally his sons and daughters (verses 18–19). Satan used both human beings—Sabeans and Chaldeans—and also elements of nature—fire of God (lightning) and wind—to carry out his destructive work.
We can understand from this that Satan is behind most of the evils in our world; he even uses morally neutral occurrences like bad weather to carry out his plans. Many people today scoff at the idea of a devil; they keep trying to make the world better through education and political reform. But these things, while good in themselves, can never overcome the spiritual power of Satan, which is behind the world's ills. Only through faith in Christ can the evil in the world be finally overcome.
20–22 When Job heard about the loss of his children and his livestock—not to mention his servants—he tore his robe and shaved his head in mourning (verse 20). Then Job uttered one of the most important statements in all of Scripture: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised”11 (verse 21).
Job was right: it was indeed the Lord who had “taken away.” There was no use blaming the Sabeans or the wind; there was no use blaming Satan. God is ultimately responsible for our suffering—He allows it, He ordains it—and so we need to take the matter up with Him. And we should do so the way Job did, with resignation, trust and praise. Job may have lost almost everything, but He had not lost God; and God is to be cherished more than all His gifts.
Thus, so far, Job had triumphed over Satan. Instead of cursing God, as Satan had expected, Job praised God! When suffering comes our way, let us pray for grace to do the same.
Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (verse 22). To charge God with wrongdoing is, in effect, to curse Him. God is never unjust and never wrong. We can question God; we can even argue with Him, as Job later did; but we must never charge Him with wrongdoing.