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by Mark Dunagan
The Book of Job with it's 42 chapters can intimidate people. Some view it as too large and difficult to study. Many know the details of the first two chapters and the last chapter, but those chapters in between are a mystery. I hope that this series will provide insight, understanding, and practical application from the Book of Job.
The Influence of this book
"There are numerous literary documents of great antiquity that portray a content and style similar to Job. The literary motif of the problem of the righteous sufferer was treated in Sumerian literature at least as early as 2000 B.C."
Among many famous writers, it is argued that the book of Job is the greatest poem in the world's great literature. Victor Hugo declared, "Tomorrow, if all literature was to be destroyed and it was left to me to retain one work only, I should save Job". Tennyson called this book, "the greatest poem, whether of ancient or modern literature". "The book of Job", said Daniel Webster, "taken as a mere work of literary genius, is one of the most wonderful productions of any age or of any language".
The Time in which Job lived
While the book itself provides no date, it does give us some reference points.
· No mention of the Levitical Priesthood:
In fact Job offers the sacrifices for his offspring himself (Job 1:5). At the end of the book God uses Job as a priest in making atonement for his three friends (Job 42:8). The phrase, "and my servant Job shall pray for you", reminds us of when God told Abimelech that Abraham would pray for him (Genesis 20:7). There is no mention of "go, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded" (Matthew 8:4). Evidently Job lived prior to the Law of Moses and the Priesthood that was connected to it. In fact, the book does not mention any Israelite institutions, such as the tabernacle, temple, Sabbath, feast days, etc.
· Job's Longevity:
Job 42:16 "And after this Job lived a hundred and forty years", that is after his trial and affliction were over, he lived another 140 years. Job already had grown children when his affliction came upon him, Job 1:18 "in their eldest brother's house". At least one of the brothers was old enough to have his own residence. A very conservative estimate would still place the total lifetime of Job at around 200 years. This fits very well with the life spans recorded in the Book of Genesis following the Flood (Genesis 11:10-32). Not only are Moses and the "Law" absent from the book and all the arguments that are made by both Job and his friends, but there is also no appeal or mention of Abraham and the promises made to him, as well. The indications are that Job lived sometime around or prior to Abraham.
The Book of Job and Ancient Man
The Book of Job would be one of, if not the, oldest book in the Bible. What was life like then? What was man like? And has man changed? James notes that man has not changed (James 5:17) and that is certainly borne out in this book as well.
The Jews of the intertestamental period developed an exaggerated opinion of Elijah, making him a mysterious heavenly figure, as they did Enoch and Melchizedek. In the same way, people today fall into the trap of thinking that Job and the other characters of the Bible were "Superhuman", and not at all like us. The feeling is that they could resist sin and temptation easier, that being faithful to God came easy to them. This is one reason why people do not consider the Bible relevant today. "Those people could serve God, because they were different from us". Yet look at what this book says about ancient man:
· Man had domesticated animals (1:3)
· Job had to work for a living (39:9-10)
· People liked to celebrate, they had leisure time (1:4;18; 42:11)
· Parents were concerned for the spiritual well-being of their children (1:5)
· The concept of right and wrong existed (1:1).
· Miscarriages happened (3:16).
· War and slavery were realities of life (3:18)
Job's generation had oppression, criminals, slaves, which demands "war between different groups and nations". Some are under the mistaken impression that the patriarchal times were times of paradise. To the contrary, man had not had paradise since Eden, and the reason for this is sin. It is clear from the speeches of Job and his friends that their generation had it's share of sinners and human cruelty. Even from the very first chapters of Genesis man is a speaking and thinking man (2:19-20),very different from the animals (2:20), a man that could feel alone (a man with emotions) (2:18), a monogamous man (2:24), a skilled man (2:15), man that possessed fire (4:3-4), an agricultural man (4:2), a religious man (4:3), a social man (4:17), and an entertainment minded man (4:21). It is interesting what one finds in this ancient book:
The Poor (5:15) (John 12:8), Precious metals, Famine and war (5:20), Salt and eggs (6:6), Caravans (6:19), Hired hands (7:2), Wind-bags (8:2). The appeal to tradition (8:8),
Man had a knowledge of the heavens (9:9), Communications (9:25), Ships (9:26 "reed boats", that is boats made from Papyrus reeds, Milk and cheese (10:10), Irony (12:2), Laughing-stocks (12:4), Kings (12:18), Drunks (12:25), and Physicians (13:4).
The early chapters in the book reflect what we find during the times of the patriarchs, like Abraham. Job's wealth consists of cattle and slaves (1:3; 42:12; compare with Genesis 12:16; 32:5). He acts as the priest for the family (1:5; 42:8). There is no mention of a central place for worship or an official priesthood as we noted above. "Both the Chaldeans and Sabeans are pictured as nomadic raiders which antedates their later, more developed political and economic order (1:15,17). The money unit mentioned in 42:11 is found elsewhere in the Old Testament, but only in Genesis 33:19 and Joshua 24:32. The antiquity of Job is already assumed in Ezekiel 14:14,20" (Strauss p. xxiii).
Job a real historical person
Job was not a mythical person and neither is the book an allegory and figurative work. Job was a real person and in Ezekiel 14:14, he is mentioned along with Noah and Daniel, hence, he is considered as historical as they. In the book of James, not only is Job mentioned, but also his trial, and Job is set forth as an example of patiently enduring (James 5:11). Thus the New Testament endorses the historical accuracy of the entire story.
"The Hebrew word for Job probably comes from the root system meaning 'come back' or 'repent'. The name Job appears in Akkadian inscriptions, in the Mari documents of the eighteenth century B.C., and in the Tel el Amarna Letters" (Strauss p. xxi). The name "Job" was a common name in the second millennium B.C.
We know that God is the true author behind the book (2 Timothy 3:16), but we are not told who was the human instrument through whom God composed the book (2 Peter 1:20-21). Suggestions include Elihu, the fourth friend who spoke toward the end of the book (chapters 32-37). Jewish tradition says that Moses wrote the book. Others argue for Solomon as the author because of his interest in poetic literature (i.e. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs). The details of the lengthy conversations in the book suggest that the author might have been an actual eyewitness, in fact, Job himself. "In Old Testament times a person sometimes recorded events about himself in the third person" (Bible Knowledge Comm. p. 716).
Job 1:1 "There was a man in the land of Uz"
The land of Uz is a region mentioned elsewhere twice by Jeremiah (25:20; Lamentations 4:21). "The appendix of the LXX (Greek translation of the Old Testament) rightly places the land of Uz on the border of Idumea and Arabia. Some details of the book suggest some relation to the Egyptian world, the mines of Sinai (28:1-11); boats made of reeds (9:26); papyrus (8:11); the lotus plant (40:11-12)"
Many would say that the theme of the book is "Why do good people suffer?" For Job is a righteous man who is suffering. "Job is indeed our contemporary. The significance of this great work of art for the weary pilgrim who walks in a world filled with injustice and violence cannot be over-estimated" (Strauss p. xxix).
"Job's intense suffering was financial, emotional, physical, and spiritual. Everyone was against him including, it seemed, even God, whom he had served faithfully. Yet Job was a spiritually and morally upright man (1:1,8; 2:3). Could any such suffering be more undeserved? Should not such a righteous person be blessed, not badgered, by God? The fact that Job, an outstanding citizen and upright person, had so much and then lost so much makes him a supreme example of affliction that defies human explanation. The book of Job addresses the mystery of unmerited misery, showing that in adversity God may have other purposes besides retribution for wrongdoing" (Bible Knowledge Comm. p. 715).
Myths about Suffering Shattered
· We will learn that not all suffering is linked to the fact that one has done something evil and they are being punished.
· We will learn that suffering, even intense and seemingly unjust suffering, never gives man the right to curse or blame God.
· We will learn that God does not owe us an answer for why something happen to us.
· We will learn that we do not have the right or wisdom to question God's moral governance of this world.
"The book of Job also teaches that to ask why, as Job did (3:11-12,16,20), is not wrong. But to demand that God answer why, as Job also did (13:22; 19:7; 31:15), is wrong. To insist that God explain one's adversities is inappropriate, for it places man above God and challenges God's sovereignty"
· This life is fragile, in a matter of minutes Job will lose everything of earthly value.
· Even though Job was virtually abandoned by all human associations, God did not abandon him.
· The devil has no respect for man, even for the faithful. The devil cannot believe that any man would serve God simply because they love God. The devil thinks that everyone has an angle, and every believer is only a believer because of the fringe benefits (Job 1:9-12).
· Satan's power is limited (1:12), and so is his wisdom and estimation of men like Job.
· Human suffering is real and the Bible does not downplay or ignore this reality.
· The book contains a lot of pre-scientific foreknowledge that only the Creator would know (chapters 38-40).
General Outline of the Book
Job is tested: chapters 1-2
The conversations between Job and his friends: chapters 3-31
Elihu's presentation: chapters 32-37
God speaks to Job and rebukes him: chapters 38-41
Job repents and is blessed: chapter 42
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