Main Themes of Job
If God is good and just, why do people suffer?
The glory of God
The fear of God is the wisdom of man (Job 28:28)
The sovereignty and governance of God
Ancient Jewish tradition ascribed the book to Moses. Moses potentially heart about the story of Job and inspired by the Holy Spirit to write this book while he was in the wilderness of Midian for 40 years.
Another possible author is Job or Elihu.
Background of Job
Job in Hebrew means “the afflicted ones”, “the persecuted one”.
Job is a real historic man. He was mention in Ezekiel 14:14,20 and James 5:11. He lived in Uz (1:1).
Let’s try to find Job in other OT scriptures.
In a postscript of the book of Job, the Septuagint, following the ancient tradition, identified Job with Jobab, the second king of Edom (Gene 36:33).
Since Job came from Uz, and in OT time, it was common to name a place after the person who live there. In OT there are three persons named Uz:
- Grandson of Shem (Gen 10:23)
- son of Nahor, the brother of Abraham (Gen 22:21)
- descendent of Esau (Gen 36:28)
One theory is Job was one of the sons of Nahor, because Nahor has another son named Buz (Gen 22:21), and Elihu was a Buzite (Job 32:2). So it is possible that Elihu was one of the sons or grandsons of Buz.
Job was the greatest man among all the people of the East (1:3). East is defined as the land between Egypt and Euphrates River. He was a rich man, owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 5,00 oxen, and 500 donkeys, and large number of servants.
He was blessed by God with 7 sons and 3 daughters (1:2)
He was a person that feared God, as a result he was blameless and upright, and away from evils (1:1).
God called Job His servant at least twice (1:8;2:3). So we know Job was a person that knows about God and served God.
The history of Israel with God, as well as Mosaic’s laws, sacrifices and tabernacle is not mentioned at all in this book. Thus the time frame of Job is probably before Moses time.
Job lived over 180 years (140 + 60) (Job 42:16). Based on Genesis, people in Abraham time lived this long age, so Job was probably lived a couple of hundreds years before or after Abraham.
Significant in the bible
Job is the first of the five wisdom books in OT, along with Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Songs of Songs.
Job 3:1 – 42:6 was arranged in Hymns like manner.
These wisdom books talk about life and came to the same conclusion:
1) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10)
2) The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom (Job 28:28)
3) Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
Regardless of whether it was Job, Elihu or Moses whom wrote this book by the inspiration from Holy Spirit, this book was probably the first completed book in the bible.
Job was quoted in:
Rom 11:35: Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIMTHAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? (Job 41:11)
1 Cor 3:19: For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS” (Job 5:13)
Job was mentioned by Ezekiel is Ezekiel 14:14 and by James in James 5:11
- Tragedy of Job (Ch 1- 2)
- Three rounds of debates (Ch 4-31)
- 1st round (ch 4-14)
- 2nd round (ch 15-21)
- 3rd round (ch 22-31) (Zophar did not speak on the last round)
- Elihu (Ch 32-37)
- God speaks (Ch 38-42:6)
- Blessing of Job (Ch 42-7-16)
Suffering is one of the biggest questions concern by men. Why do people suffer if there is a loving God who created and care for His creation?
The answer is in Genesis chapter 3. There was no suffering before the fall of man. However Adam and Eve disobey God, as a result sins came into the world. Because of sins, God cursed the devil (Gen 3:14), women (Gen 3:16), earth (Gen 3:17), and men (Gen 3:19). The punishment of sin is death, and suffering is part of the process of death.
So sins was the root cause of why human experience suffering.
However our God is good and all powerful. He could and often use suffering to make man repent and turn to Him.
God is our heavenly father, He would discipline us if we disobey Him. And discipline often involves sort level of suffering. (Heb 12).
In the case of Job, there was a reason in the spiritual realm as told in chapter 1 why Job suffered.[For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.] (Ephesians 6.12).
Many people know only the battle between the spirit and the flesh; they do not perceive the conflict that rages between us believers and the evil spirits as described in the sixth chapter of Ephesians. The real spiritual battle is fought between us and Satan with his evil spirits. This battle is joined by all matured believers, for the children of God on earth are frequently attacked by evil spirits. Such attacks sometimes occur in the believers’ environment, sometimes in their physical bodies, sometimes in their thoughts, sometimes in their emotions, and sometimes in their spirits.
Too often believers are not aware of being attacked by evil spirits. They do not understand why everything seems to be against them, creating terrible confusion and trouble. They too often take these things as natural, not realizing that frequently they are being supernaturally oppressed by the evil spirits.
Sins in our life
Suffering could also be caused by sins in our life.
King David sins against Uriah and Bathsheba, although he had repent and asked for forgiveness from God, and God has forgiven him, but David still have to bear the consequences of his sins.
It is interesting that the first book of the bible (in the order of when the book was written) mentioned Satan, at the beginning of the book.
Similarly, Satan appear in the beginning of Genesis, in chapter 3.
Satan is the deceiver, the destroyer and the accuser. The is the enemy of God. But it is very clear that God has authority over Satan. Satan would not be able to touch the hair of Job if God did not allow it. Satan still needed to come to present himself before God (1:6).
Satan will do anything to get man to stop serving God. His desires is for men to curse God (1:11;2:5)
Satan accused the Job of being faithful to God only for the blessing he received from God.
The Sovereignty of God
The book of Job gives us a picture of God who is the Creator of heaven and earth (chapter 38 and 39), including every things living on earth. He is also in control of everything in this world. He is authority over angels, satan, and man.
Friends of Job
Job’s three friends were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite.
Eliphaz was possibly the son of Esau. One of his son was Amalek, which makes Eliphaz the ancestor of Amalekites (Gen 36:11-12)
Bildad was possibly descendant of Abraham and Keturah (Gen 25:2)
We do not know the background of Zophar.
They were good friends of Job. They heard about Job’s trouble and make arrangement to visit Job to sympathize and to comfort him. When they saw Job from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. They sat on the gound with him for seven days and seven nights without saying a word. (2:11-13).
Chapter 3 to Chapter 31 is a record of three rounds of debates between Job and his three friends. Three of them concluded that although Job seem like a righteous man outside, he must have sinned against God, that was the reason of Job’s suffering, it was punishment from God.
All three friends try to explain there has to be a connection between Job’s present suffering and his past life. They are looking for a logical, cause-and-effect relationship. Their arguments can all be reduced to this:
- Job is suffering
- God is just and would not allow a person to suffer without reason
- Therefore, Job must have sinnedto deserve this suffering
The three friends each base their accusations on different arguments:
- Eliphaz appeals to experience and observation:
“Remember now, who ever perished being innocent?Or where were the upright destroyed? “According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it. (Job 4:7-8)
- Bildad appeals to tradition:
“Please inquire of past generations,And consider the things searched out by their fathers.“For we are only of yesterday and know nothing,Because our days on earth are as a shadow.“Will they not teach you and tell you,And bring forth words from their minds? (Job 8:8-10)
- Zophar arrogantly speaks as if he knows exactly what God thinks. He appeals to his own view of God:
“But would that God might speak,
And open His lips against you,
And show you the secrets of wisdom!
For sound wisdom has two sides.
Know then that God forgets a part of your iniquity.” (Job 11:5-6)
How Job responded to his suffering
On Satan first attack, Job responded with praises to God.
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the LORD.”] (Job 1:10)
Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (1:22).
On Satan second attack, Job responded with trust in God.
[But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. ](Job 2:10)
But after his friends came and voiced out their opinion that Job must be suffering because of his sins against God. So Job started to defend himself. The more Job defends himself against the logic of his friends, the more he adopts their approach and builds his own argument:
- I am suffering
- I know that I have done nothing to deserve this suffering
- The logical conclusion would be that, therefore, God must be unjust. (Job 40:8)
But Job never quite draws that final conclusion; rather it is:
- Therefore, God has some explaining to do.
After Job kept silence with his friends for 7 days and 7 nights, Job finally started to speak. From Job’s words, we slowly know more about what he was thinking inside him.
Job expressed [What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.] (Job 3:25).
We see that before he experienced these tragedy, he already feared that it would happen to him. It seems to indicate that Job was afraid of God, he lived a righteous life because he wanted to avoid being disciplined from God.
On several occasions Job readily admitted to having sinned:
Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be.” (Job 7:21)
For you write bitter things against me and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth. (Job 13:26)
But Job questioned the extent of his sin as compared to the severity of his suffering.
What Job was lacking in his understanding of God is that God is our heavenly father. God wanted us to trust in Him and love Him as son loves his father.
However as Job trying to prove he was a righteous man with out sin, he slowly revealed his sinful nature: self righteousness. Job was pride of himself because he was a righteous man.
Job was so sure of him righteousness that he was willing to condemn God to defense his righteousness (Job 40:8)
At the end, Job acknowledge the power and wisdom of God. Job replied to God “I know that you can do all things, no plan of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2). And then Job continue to say “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”
Job finally repent of his sin of self righteousness. He said to God:
“My ears had heard of You,
but now my eyes have seen You.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 40:4-6)
Elihu say the the youngest among them. After everybody finished their arguments, it was time for Elihu to speak.
Chapter 32 to 37 is the record of the argument of Elihu.
Elihu explained that Job’s suffering was because God wanted to discipline him, so that Job self righteousness would die and Job would become a better person.
Elihu cautions Job against blaming God.
However when Elihu’s argument was not well accepted, he himself get mad, and revealed his own sinful nature. So he stepped back.
Then came thunder and rain, after that he saw sun rise in the north in golden color. He then describe the magnificent of God.
Chapter 38 to 42 is a record of God’s response to them. God did not actually answer Job question, why did he suffer. God did not tell him about Satan. What God did instead of asking Job a bunch of questions:
- Who is this that darkens my counsel without knowledge? (38:2)
- Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? (38:4)
- On what were its footing set, or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for job? (38:6-7)
- Have the gates of death been shown to you? (38-17)
- Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? (38:18)
- Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons? (38:32)
- Do you know the laws of the heavens (38:33)
The questions go on and on to the end of chapter 39.
And God final question on His first declaration was:
- Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” (40:2)
Job responded with these words:
“Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
“Once I have spoken, and I will not answer;
Even twice, and I will add nothing more.” (40:4-5)
Then God continued to ask Job questions in chapter 40 to the end of chapter 41.
Then Job finally repent:
[Then Job answered the LORD and said,
2 “I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
4 ‘Hear, now, and I will speak;
I will ask You, and You instruct me.’
5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
6 Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.”] (Job 42:1-6)
Job no longer question God. He acknowledge God sovereignty, wisdom, power, majesty and authority over him. Job see that the majesty of God. He no longer needed the answer to him question: why did he experience these tragedy, because God is his answer.
James in NT told us that God purpose was to test the steadfastness of Job, to reveal how compassionate and merciful God is. (James 5:11)