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Bible Commentaries
Job 1

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes



The writer composed the prologue and epilogue of this book in prose narrative and the main body (Job 3:1 to Job 42:6) in poetry. The prologue and epilogue form a frame around the main emphasis of the revelation, the poetic section, and provide information that helps the reader put the central dialogue in context. This chiastic A-B-A pattern recurs throughout the book.

In the prologue, events proceed rapidly, in contrast to the slow-paced poetic section. The writer’s purpose here was quite clearly to set the stage for what follows.

Verses 1-5

A. Job’s Character 1:1-5

Uz (Job 1:1) was probably southeast of the Dead Sea (cf. Job 1:3; Job 1:14; Job 1:19; Job 42:12). [Note: See Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, s.v. "Uz," by G. Frederick Owen.] Some scholars place it in Bashan south of Damascus, but the writer of Lamentations (probably Jeremiah) associated the land of Uz with Edom (Lamentations 4:21). References to customs, geography, and natural history elsewhere in the book support this general location (cf. Jeremiah 25:20). All possible locations are outside Palestine, suggesting that the message of this book is universal and not related exclusively to the Israelites. [Note: Charles W. Carter, "The Book of Job," in Wesleyan Bible Commentary, 2:14.] Another indication of the same thing is that the writer did not identify when Job lived.

Job was no ordinary man. He was not even an ordinary good man (cf. Job 1:8; Job 2:3). He was an exceptionally admirable person because of his character and conduct (Job 1:1). "Blameless" (Heb. tam) means complete. The word usually describes integrity and spiritual maturity. When Job sinned, he dealt with his sin appropriately, an evidence of his blamelessness. Job was not sinless (cf. Job 13:26; Job 14:16-17). "Upright" (Heb. yasar) refers to behavior that is in harmony with God’s ways.

"He is not Everyman; he is unique." [Note: Andersen, p. 79.]

"The fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, was the hallmark of Job." [Note: Kline, p. 461.]

Job was wealthy as well as godly (Job 1:2-3). Evidently there were several other great (wealthy) men in that part of the world in his day, but Job surpassed them all.

". . . the meaning is apparently that the seven brothers took it in turn to entertain on the seven days of every week, so that every day was a feast day. This is more natural than the view that the reference is to birthdays, when there would be seven feasts a year. This is all part of the artistry of the story, to build up the picture of the ideal happiness of Job and his family." [Note: Rowley, p. 29.]

Job demonstrated the proper spiritual concern for his own family members, as well as interest in their physical and social welfare (Job 1:3-4). Evidently he offered sacrifices each week for his children in case they had committed sins in their merriment. The phrase "rising up early in the morning" (Job 1:5) is a common Hebrew idiom for conscientious activity (cf. Genesis 22:3; et al.); it does not necessarily limit the time of Job’s sacrifice. [Note: Andersen, p. 81.]

"The author uses the numbers three, seven, and ten, all symbolic of completeness, to demonstrate that Job’s wealth was staggering." [Note: Hartley, p. 68.]

Job’s character is important because this book reveals that the basis of the relationship between God and people is essentially God’s sovereign grace and our response of trust and obedience. The basic problem the Book of Job sets forth seems to be the relationship between God and man. [Note: Gregory W. Parsons, "The Structure and Purpose of the Book of Job," Bibliotheca Sacra 138:550 (April-June 1981):143. See also Henry L. Rowold, "The Theology of Creation in the Yahweh Speeches as a Solution to the Problem Posed by the Book of Job," pp. 11, 19; John W. Wevers, The Way of the Righteous, p. 75; Robert W. E. Forrest, "The Creation Motif in the Book of Job," p. 20; Edwin M. Good, Irony in the Old Testament, pp. 197-98; Roy B. Zuck, Job, p. 189; and Alfred von Rohr Sauer, "Salvation by Grace: The Heart of Job’s Theology," Concordia Theological Monthly 37 (May 1966):259-70.]

"The book of Job deals essentially with man’s relationship with God, centering on two questions. The first question is, Why does man worship God? . . .

"The second question is, How will man react to God when God seems unconcerned about his problems?" [Note: Roy B. Zuck, "A Theology of the Wisdom Books and the Song of Songs," in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, p. 219.]

God chose to test an extremely righteous man so all of us could see that it was not Job’s personal goodness that formed the basis for his relationship with God. If Job suffered, being righteous, righteousness must not preclude suffering or guarantee God’s protection. [Note: See Larry J. Waters, "Reflections on Suffering from the Book of Job," Bibliotheca Sacra 154:616 (October-December 1997):436-51.]

Job was righteous in God’s estimate as well as in the eyes of his fellowmen (Job 1:1; Job 1:8). Evidently he was a believer in Yahweh. He had apparently heard about Yahweh and placed his trust in Him, as did other Old Testament saints similar to him (e.g., Adam, Noah, Abraham, Melchizedek, et al.). The fact that Job confessed to being self-righteous (Job 42:5-6) does not preclude his having a proper standing with God by faith. Many believers become self-righteous in their thinking.

Verses 6-10

B. Job’s Calamities 1:6-2:10

God permitted Satan to test Job twice. [Note: For a summary of what the Book of Job teaches about God, see Zuck, A Theology . . ., pp. 219-26.] The first test touched his possessions, including his children (Job 1:6-22), and the second his person (Job 2:1-10). God permitted Satan to afflict Job to demonstrate and to purify Job’s motives for worshipping God and for living a godly life (cf. James 1:2-4). The writer takes us behind the scenes in this pericope (Job 1:6 to Job 2:10) so we can know why Job’s calamities befell him, the very question that Job and his friends debated hereafter. In each test, we first see Satan accusing Job in heaven, and then attacking him on earth.

The Scriptures consistently affirm that God tempts no one (James 1:13). That is, He is not the source of temptation and, therefore, the author of evil. He does not seduce people, trying to get them to sin. However, it is equally clear that God allows us to experience temptation from other sources for our welfare (James 1:2-18). The primary sources of our temptation are the world (1 John 2:15-16), the flesh (James 1:14), and the devil (Job 1-2).

Verses 6-22

1. The first test 1:6-22

These verses reveal that angels ("sons of God," Job 1:6), including Satan, periodically report to God on their activities. Satan was doing then what he did in the Garden of Eden and still does today, namely, "seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8). [Note: For a summary of what the Book of Job teaches about angels, see ibid., p. 232. See too Sydney H. T. Page, "Satan: God’s Servant," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50:3 (September 2007):449-65.] In Eden, Satan disparaged God to Eve. Here he disparaged Job to God. [Note: Kline, p. 462.]

Satan accused God of bribing Job so he would act piously (Job 1:9-11). This charge articulates one of the main questions of this book: Why do righteous people such as Job live upright lives? Satan said Job did so because Job had learned that there is an inevitable connection between deed and state of being (i.e., godliness results in prosperity). This idea, that the relationship between God and man rests on retribution-we always reap in kind during our lifetime what we sow-is one that Job held. However, his fear (reverential trust) of God ran deeper than Satan realized.

Satan determined to prove that Job would not obey God if he got no blessing in return. He believed selfishness prompted Job’s obedience rather than love. Satan also believed that God would not get worship from Job if He stopped blessing him.

"Cynicism is the essence of the satanic. The Satan believes nothing to be genuinely good-neither Job in his disinterested piety nor God in His disinterested generosity." [Note: Andersen, p. 84. ]

Since the English word "satan" is a transliteration of the Hebrew satan, meaning adversary, it is not uncommon for writers to refer to Satan as "the Satan," namely, the ultimate adversary. Why does God allow Satan to test believers? He allowed Satan to test Job to silence Satan and to strengthen Job’s character (cf. James 1:2-18).

"The primary purpose of Job’s suffering, unknown to him, was that he should stand before men and angels as a trophy of the saving might of God . . ." [Note: Kline, p. 461.]

"From the outset, the writer reminds us that, no matter what happens in this world and in our lives, God is on the throne and has everything under control." [Note: Warren W. Wiersbe, "Job," in The Bible Exposition Commentary/Wisdom and Poetry, p. 11.]

The fact that the oxen were plowing (Job 1:14) indicates that these events probably happened in the winter. The Sabeans (Job 1:15) may have come from a region in southwest Arabia called Sheba or from the town of Sheba located in upper Arabia (cf. Genesis 10:7; Genesis 25:3). The Chaldeans (Job 1:17) came from Mesopotamia to the north and were at this time nomadic marauders, assuming a patriarchal period setting of the events. [Note: Kline, p. 462.]

Tearing one’s robe (Job 1:20) typically expressed great grief in the ancient Near East. It symbolized the rending of one’s heart (cf. Joel 2:13). Shaving the head (Job 1:20) evidently symbolized the loss of personal glory. When a person mourned, he or she put off all personal adornments, including what nature provided (cf. Jeremiah 7:29; Micah 1:16). Hair in the ancient world was a symbol of one’s glory (cf. 2 Samuel 14:26). Job apparently fell to the ground to worship God (Job 1:20). A mother’s womb is a figure used elsewhere to describe the earth (Job 1:21; cf. Psalms 139:15; Ecclesiastes 5:15; Ecclesiastes 12:7).

Job’s recognition of Yahweh’s sovereignty (Job 1:21) was a key to his passing his test (cf. 1 Timothy 6:7). In some respects he regarded God as an equal (cf. Job 9:33), but underneath he knew God was his sovereign. This conception of God is one that Job never lost, though many people who go through trials do.

"Job’s exclamation is the noblest expression to be found anywhere of a man’s joyful acceptance of the will of God as his only good. A man may stand before God stripped of everything that life has given him, and still lack nothing." [Note: Andersen, p. 88.]

"Anybody can say, ’The Lord gave’ or ’The Lord hath taken away’; but it takes real faith to say in the midst of sorrow and suffering, ’Blessed be the name of the Lord.’" [Note: Wiersbe, p. 12.]

Job grieved but worshipped. These two activities are not incompatible. He saw God’s hand in the events of his life. Moreover he had a proper perspective on his possessions. His faith did not relieve his agony; it caused it. Many people believe that if one has enough faith, he or she will always be happy. Job’s experience does not bear this out. We should have a deep-seated joy no matter what happens to us, knowing that we are in the Lord’s hands and that He has permitted whatever happens to us (Philippians 4:4). But we may not always be happy, namely, enjoying our circumstances.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Job 1". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/job-1.html. 2012.
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