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by Arno Clemens Gaebelein
THE BOOK OF JOB
The book of Job belongs to the poetical books of the Old Testament. The other poetical books are: The Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomon and Lamentations. In the Hebrew Bible they are found in the third section, called Kethubim (the Writings, Hagiographa). The arrangement in the Hebrew Bible differs from that in our English version. It is as follows--Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Lamentations and Ecclesiastes.
It needs to be explained that Hebrew poetry is different from the poetry of Occidental languages. It knows nothing of rhymed verses, though a rhythmical arrangement is quite often noticeable. The fundamental law of Hebrew poetry is parallelism, which is also very frequently found in the other books which ar not classed as poetical. This parallelism has been divided in a threefold form. The synonymous, in which the same sentiment is repeated in different but equivalent words, as in Psalms 25:4 , “Show me Thy ways O LORD, Teach me Thy paths”; the antithetical, in which the parallel members express the opposite sides of the same thought as in Psalms 20:8 .
They are brought down and fallen,
But we are risen and stand upright.
The synthetical or constructive, in which the two members contain two disparate ideas, which, however, are connected by a certain affinity between them, as in Proverbs 1:7 :
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The book of Job is in the form of a great dramatic poem, in which we have the following actors: Job of the land of Uz and his wife; his three friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar; Elihu the son of Barachel, and Jehovah and the accuser, Satan. The question arises at once, since this book is cast in the form of a drama, is it romantic fiction or history? The critical school declares that it must not be regarded as history at all, though it is claimed that the author may have had some traditional material of a righteous man who was a great sufferer and then the poet worked out the drama, adding fictitious matter. To show the mode of the reasoning of the critical school we quote from Dr. A.S. Peake, who says in his expository work on Job: “That this book must not be regarded as historical is shown by the account of the heavenly councils, by the symbolic numbers of Job’s family and flocks, by the escape of one messenger and one only from each catastrophe, by the exact doubling of his possessions at the end of the trial. And even more obvious is that the speeches of Job and his friends cannot be literal reports of actual speeches, since they mark the highest point attained by Hebrew poetical genius, and since no such debate could be imagined in the patriarchal age.” But if we believe that this book, like all the other books of the Bible, is given by inspiration, all these objections fall to the ground. Man knew not what was going on in heaven, but the Lord can reveal these unseen things and make known what happens in His own presence. If the record of the scenes in heaven in chapters 1 and 2 are not historical, not revelation, then they are mere human inventions, unworthy of our confidence. And why is it impossible that a controversy such as this book records could not have taken place in the patriarchal age? Evidently the author believes that the patriarchal age was too unenlightened to produce such brilliant speeches. Such reasoning is the natural offspring of evolution.
The book of Job is real history. Job is not the creation of a great, unknown poetic genius, some ancient playwright, he was a real person, who lived; the book gives the great and remarkable experience of his life. The first statement with which the book opens is sufficient to show the historicity of Job. “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job.” Two other books in the Bible speak of him also as a historic person. Twice in the fourteenth chapter of Ezekiel we find him mentioned alongside of Noah and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14 ; Ezekiel 14:20 ). He is therefore not any more fictitious than Noah and the prophet Daniel. In the New Testament the apostle James mentions his name and calls attention to his patience.
Who Was Job?
Who was Job, when and where did he live? These questions cannot be definitely answered. According to rabbinical tradition he lived in Abraham’s times, or, according to another tradition, he lived when Jacob’s sons were grown up. If the latter view is true then he might be the Job who is mentioned as Issachar’s son in Genesis 46:13 . But there are also many other traditions which are very fanciful and mostly legendary. The land of Uz has been located somewhat east of Palestine, in the great fertile lands of North-eastern Idumea. That he must have lived in patriarchal days is proven by the contents of the book itself. We have no mention in this book of the law, nor of the levitical institutions, priesthood and sacrifices. (Sacrifices are mentioned in the beginning and the end of the book. But no priest is indicated. It is the primitive way of approaching God by a sacrifice.) Nothing is said of the history of Israel, nor is there a quotation from the writings of the prophets. We move evidently in this book in a time before the law was given and before Abraham’s seed constituted a nation.
The Author and Date of the Book
Who wrote the book of Job cannot be determined. Some think it was Job himself to whom God by His Spirit dictated the book after he had passed through the suffering. Some suggest Elihu as the chosen instrument to preserve this experience of Job. Not a few believe that Moses wrote the book. It matters but little who the penman was; we know that behind that pen stood the Spirit of God, who after all is the real author of this and every other Bible book.
The critics have made havoc with the probable date when the book was written. We quote again Dr. Peake, who in discussing the date of Job weaves in a piece of pernicious Bible exegesis which strikes deeper than a late date for Job. “The problem (of the date when Job was written) is no longer in its elementary stage. It has been long pondered and discussed, and this agrees best with a date considerably later than that of Jeremiah. Several scholars have placed it towards the close of the Exile, contemporary with Isa_40:1-31; Isa_41:1-29; Isa_42:1-25; Isa_43:1-28; Isa_44:1-28; Isa_45:1-25; Isa_46:1-13; Isa_47:1-15; Isa_48:1-22; Isa_49:1-26; Isa_50:1-11; Isa_51:1-23; Isa_52:1-15; Isa_53:1-12; Isa_54:1-17; Isa_55:1-13. A comparison of the two writers discloses correspondence which cannot be accidental. There are especially close points of contact between the figure of Job and that of the suffering servant of Jehovah. The servant is to be identified with the historical Israel, which had died in the Exile and was to be restored to life by a return from captivity and re-establishment in its old home. The meaning of its suffering and death is closely connected with its mission to the world. That mission was to bring to the Gentiles the knowledge of the true God.... The sufferings of Israel are accordingly interpreted as vicarious; by its stripes the nations are healed.” Isaiah 53:1-12 , that sublime prophecy of Christ the sin-bearer, is thus interpreted as meaning the nation and then by an involved argument the authorship of Job is put into the time when the imagined “Deutero-Isaiah” wrote his part, which the ancient Jews and the Church of the past always believed to have been the work of the one Isaiah, and being the divine prediction of the suffering Christ. In their antagonism to the Bible as the infallible Word of God, the critics declare also that Job must have been written in post-exilic times, on account of Satan being mentioned and “Satan (they say) occurs in no early literature, but only in Zechariah and Chronicles.”
And this is called scholarship! The fact, however, is that the Hebrew of the book of Job is in style not the Hebrew of a later, but of very early times. Traces of the Chaldee language are found in the Hebrew of Job. Yet these peculiarities which are antagonistic to a pure Hebrew style are really an evidence to the very oldest date in which this book must have been written. They are not in reality Chaldeisms, but rather Arabicisms, and are proof of a very great antiquity of the book, and show that its composition was made when Hebrew and Arabic had not diverged. That is why one of the greatest oriental scholars, Gensenius, wrote: “There is in this book much that is analogous to the Arabic language, or that may be explained by it.” Inasmuch then as the book exhibits a fine picture of patriarchal times and its language also bears witness to a very early date all the objections of the critics are void.
The Story of the Book
The book begins with a prologue in which we are introduced to the central figure, Job. We hear of him as an excellent, God-fearing man, surrounded with great prosperity. Then the scene changes and the veil is drawn aside from the unseen world. We see what is going on in heaven and how Satan, the accuser of the brethren, when the Lord mentions His servant Job, sneers in Jehovah’s face “Doth Job serve God for nought?” and then challenges God to put forth His hand and to touch all that he hath. Satan is confident that Job would curse Him to His face. How Satan is permitted to carry out his own suggestion, we read in the first chapter. Yet after Job is stripped of all, he did not sin nor did he charge God foolishly.
Again we are in heaven and the same scene is before us. Satan, defeated in his first attempt, demands that the Lord touch the body of Job, his bone and his flesh, and he is confident Job would curse God. The Lord again permits Satan to do what he demanded with one restriction, Satan cannot touch Job’s life. And soon we see Job covered from head to foot with sore boils scraping himself with a potsherd, sitting among the ashes. Only once does his wife appear upon the scene. She said to him, what Satan put into her heart: “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God and die.” Job answered her and in all this did not Job sin with his lips. After that the dark shadow disappears. He has lost the battle. God is victor.
Then begins the main portion of the book when the three friends of Job, having heard of his affliction, come to comfort him. Three times each delivers himself of an address, except Zophar who speaks only twice. And eight times Job answers. The subject of the controversy is the mystery of suffering. The result of this lengthy controversy is tersely stated in chapter 32:2-3. Job through it all justified himself rather than God; the three friends with all their fine orations had not found an answer and yet had condemned Job. Then comes the great testimony of Elihu; this is followed by the words which Jehovah speaks. Then after Job is in the dust and cries out “Behold I am vile, I abhor myself!” comes an epilogue. The storm is gone; the sun breaks through the receding storm clouds and the book ends with the Lord blessing the latter end of Job more than his beginning.
The Message of the Book
The message of the book of Job is concerning the suffering of the righteous. Why do the godly suffer? How can their suffering be harmonized with the righteousness of God? if God is love and He loveth His saints why have they afflictions? In one word the theme of the book is the mystery of suffering. The answer to these questions concerning the suffering of the godly is twofold. God permits their suffering for His own glory. This we learn in the first two chapters. God received glory to Himself when Job, enabled by His grace and by His power, sinned not in the midst of the fiery trials through which he passed. Then God permits the righteous to suffer for their own good. It was a wholesome experience for Job; the sufferings chastened him and he received great blessing. This is the double answer in the book of Job as to the suffering of God’s people. And yet there is a mystery of suffering which will only be fully bared when God’s saints are in His presence and “know as we are known.” Till then we walk in faith, trusting Him who has told us “that all things must work together for good to them that love God.”
The Division of the Book of Job
The division of the book of Job is not difficult to make. There is first a prologue, that is followed by the main portion of the book, and in conclusion we have an epilogue. We divide the book into seven parts which we shall follow in a closer analysis with the annotations on the most important truths.
I. THE INTRODUCTION (Job 1:1-5 )
II. THE CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JEHOVAH AND SATAN AND THE RESULTS (Job 1:6-22 ; Job 2:1-10 )
III. THE CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS
1. First Series of Controversies The Friend’s Arrival (Job 2:11-13 )
Job’s Lament (Job 3:1-26 )
Eliphaz’s Address (Job 4:1-21 ; Job 5:1-27 )
Job’s Answer (Job 6:1-30 ; Job 7:1-21 )
Bildad’s Address (Job 8:1-22 )
Job’s Answer (Job 9:1-35 ; Job 10:1-22 )
Zophar’s Address (Job 11:1-20 )
Job’s Answer (Job 12:1-25 ; Job 13:1-28 ; Job 14:1-22 )
2. Second Series of ControversiesEliphaz’s Address (Job 15:1-35 )
Job’s Answer (Job 16:1-22 ; Job 17:1-16 )
Bildad’s Address (Job 18:1-21 )
Job’s Answer (Job 19:1-29 )
Zophar’s Address (Job 20:1-29 )
Job’s Answer (Job 21:1-34 )
3. Third Series of Controversies Eliphaz’s Address (Job 22:1-30 )
Job’s Answer (Job 23:1-17 ; Job 24:1-25 )
Bildad’s Address (Job 25:1-6 )
Job’s Answer (Job 26:1-14 ; Job 27:1-23 ; Job 28:1-28 ; Job 29:1-25 ; Job 30:1-31 ; Job 31:1-40 )
IV. THE TESTIMONY OF ELIHU (Job 32:1-22 ; Job 33:1-33 ; Job 34:1-37 ; Job 35:1-16 ; Job 36:1-33 ; Job 37:1-24 )
V. JEHOVAH’S TESTIMONY AND CONTROVERSY WITH JOB (Job 38:1-41 ; Job 39:1-30 ; Job 40:1-24 ; Job 41:1-34 )
VI. THE CONFESSION OF JOB (Job 42:1-6 )
VII. THE EPILOGUE AND JOB’S RESTORATION AND BLESSING (Job 42:7-17 )
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27