Introduction to Job
The book of Job is named after the central character and speaker. The narrative deals with a man who lost everything and the subsequent discussions he had about the reason for his suffering. God alone had the final word and eventually restored all that Job had lost.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF WRITING
AUTHOR: The author of Job is unknown, but he was a learned man whose knowledge embraced the heavens (22:12; 38:32-33) and earth (26:7-8; 28:9-11; 37:11,16). His knowledge touched on foreign lands (28:16,19), various products (6:19), and human professions (7:6; 9:26; 18:8-10; 28:1-11). He was familiar with plants (14:7-9) and animals (4:10-11; 38:39-39:30; 40:15-41:34). He was a wise man, familiar with traditional wisdom (6:5-6; 17:5; 28:12,28), but was above all a man of spiritual sensitivity (1:1,5,8; 2:3; 14:14-15; 16:11-21; 19:23-27; 23:10; 34:26-28; 40:1-5; 42:1-6). He was doubtless an Israelite as confirmed by his frequent use of God’s covenant name (Yahweh, usually rendered as the Lord).
BACKGROUND: The story of Job is set in the patriarchal period. In that era wealth consisted of the possession of cattle and servants. Like other Old Testament patriarchal family heads, Job performed priestly duties, including offering sacrifices for his family. Like the patriarchs, Job lived to be more than a hundred years old. Geographically, the action took place in the northern Arabian Peninsula, in the land of Uz (1:1), often associated with Edom. Job’s three friends also had Edomite or southern associations, as did the young Elihu (see notes at 2:11; 32:2-3).
Although Job is set in the patriarchal period, its date of writing is unknown. Jewish tradition places the authorship of Job in the time of Moses.
MESSAGE AND PURPOSE
The book of Job demonstrates that a sovereign, righteous God is sufficient and trustworthy for every situation in life, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Along with this truth, Job carries several messages.
CHARACTER: A major portion of the book’s discussion revolves around conduct that reflects correct ethical values. Job is introduced as a man of character (1:1), and God testified to his consistently blameless character (1:8; 2:3). In discussing Job’s situation, Eliphaz initially suggested that Job’s blameless character could prove to be to his benefit (4:7). Bildad, however, was not so sure (8:6,20). Both men later stated that no one can be totally pure (15:14-15; 25:4-5). Job consistently maintained that his conduct was above reproach (27:5; see chap. 31), and he was willing to take his stand before God to prove it (23:7). As Job saw it, in God’s dealings with man, he does not appear always to reward a blameless and pure life (9:23; 10:14).
RIGHTEOUSNESS: Job stated that his righteousness was the central issue in his situation (6:29), yet he wondered how he could convince God of this (9:2,15,20; 10:15). All three of Job’s friends condemned Job’s attitude as self-righteous (32:1). For Elihu, Job’s fault was failing to see God’s essential righteousness while maintaining his own (32:2; 34:5,17). In this Elihu anticipated God’s own words to Job (40:8).
JUSTICE: Job wanted to receive justice in his situation (19:7; 23:4). He renounced injustice (27:4) and modeled justice in his dealings with others (29:14; 31:13-15) but felt that God had not always dealt justly with him (14:3; 16:10-14; 23:10-16; 27:2-6; 34:5-6; 35:2). Job wanted to present his case before God (13:18), but he wondered whether he could get a hearing (9:32). Little is said about justice and injustice in the divine speeches, but the conclusion is evident. God’s justice is seen in his administration of the physical universe and animal world as well as in human relationships. Only God has the wisdom and power to govern all of this with perfect harmony and justice. Rather than championing his own righteousness, Job should understand God’s essential righteousness by which he justly administers the universe (40:7-14). When Job finally came to understand this (42:4-6), he experienced the justice he had sought and found his sufficiency in God.
CONTRIBUTION TO THE BIBLE
The book of Job teaches that suffering comes to everyone, the righteous and unrighteous alike. God does not always keep the righteous from danger or suffering. Ultimately God controls all of life’s situations, including limiting the power of Satan. God’s comfort and strength are always available to the trusting soul.
Although the book of Job does take note of the problem of suffering, it focuses more on the nature of human conduct before a sovereign and holy God. In harmony with the rest of Scripture, the book teaches that even a consistent practice of religion is insufficient without a genuine heart relationship with God (Dt 6:4-6; Ps 86:11-12; Mt 22:37). The answer to life’s problems and goals lies in a proper reverence for him who is perfect in all his being and actions. Man needs not just to confess God but to surrender everything to him. By letting him truly be God in every area of life, a person will find him sufficient.
The writer was a skilled storyteller, artistically characterizing the distinctions between the protagonist (Job), antagonist (Satan), and literary foils (the three friends and Elihu). The characterization demonstrates that God himself is the ultimate protagonist (or “hero”) of the story. Satan was as much challenging God as Job’s piety. Although Job’s three “comforters” applied traditional wisdom to Job’s situation, each did it in a different way. Eliphaz, the rationalist, reasoned with Job (15:17-18); Bildad, the apologist, sought to defend God (25:1-6); and Zophar acted much like a prosecutor (11:1-6). The youthful Elihu served as a mediating influence in order to prepare for the divine speeches that follow (33:23-26). The writer constructed a well-developed plot built around dramatic dialogue. The fact that he related the account of Job’s test in story form does not mean that Job was not a real person who underwent a real test.
I.Prologue: The Setting of the Test (1:1-2:13)
A.Job’s life before the test (1:1-5)
B.Satan’s first accusation and proposed test (1:6-12)
C.Job’s response to the first test (1:13-22)
D.Satan’s second accusation and proposed test (2:1-7)
E.Job’s response to the second test (2:8-10)
F.The arrival of Job’s comforters (2:11-13)
II.Development: Examining Job’s Condition (3:1-27:23)
A.Job’s lament over his condition (3:1-26)
B.Dialogues about Job’s condition (4:1-27:23)
III.DÃ©nouement: Explaining Job’s Condition (28:1-37:24)
A.Job’s speeches about his condition (28:1-31:40)
B.Elihu’s speeches about Job’s condition (32:1-37:24)
IV.Resolution: Job’s Condition and God’s Greatness (38:1-42:6)
A.God’s first speech: his sovereign power (38:1-40:2)
B.Job’s response: his self-renunciation (40:3-5)
C.God’s second speech: Job’s impotence (40:6-41:34)
D.Job’s response: his repentance (42:1-6)
V.The Scene after the Test (42:7-17)
A.Job and his three comforters (42:7-9)
B.Job and his family (42:10-17)
Eheduanna, the daughter of Sargon of Akkad, is the world’s oldest known author whose works are written in cuneiform. 2285-2250
The Dispute Between a Man and His Ba, Egyptian parallel to Job 2280-2050
The Great Ziggurat at Ur 2200
|Abraham 2166-1991||Isaac 2066-1866|
Death in combat of Ur-nammu (king of Sumer, Ur, and Akkad) who standardized the weights and measures, and formulated a system of law that tried to establish justice for the underprivileged 2095
The Protests of the Eloquent Peasant, Egyptian parallel to Job 2000
Man and His God, Sumerian parallel to Job 2000
|Joseph 1915-1805||Moses 1826-1406|
Potter’s wheel introduced to Crete 1900
Egyptian town of El Lahun gives evidence of town planning with streets at right angles. 1900
Mesopotamian mathematicians discover what later came to be called the “Pythagorean theorem.” 1900
Multiplication tables appear in Mesopotamia. 1900
Khnumhotep II, an architect of Pharaoh Amenemhet II, develops encryption. 1900
The Admonition of Ipu-wer, Egyptian parallel of Job 1850-1600
Ludlul Bel Nemeqi, Tabu-utul-Bel, Babylonian parallel to Job 1700
Epic of Keret, Canaanite, extant copy 1360. Original date unknown
I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom, Mesopotamian 1290
The Babylonian Theodicy, Mesopotamian 1100