the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the Bible Kretzmann's Commentary
by Paul E. Kretzmann
The Book of Job
The Book of Job bears the name of the patient sufferer whose history is rightly regarded as the great example of ready submission to the will of God. The purpose of the book is to discuss the question, the great and perplexing problem, why the righteous God inflicts suffering on a good man while many a godless person seems to be enjoying nothing but the greatest good fortune. The question is answered in such a manner as to show that Job is a righteous man, that his faith and patience are exemplary, that his sufferings were sent upon him not as a punishment, but as a wholesome chastisement, to prove, test, and purify his faith, and that they, in the last analysis, served for the glorification of God. It was not because Job had committed some extraordinary sin that he was afflicted with such extraordinary suffering, but because the Lord, in His sovereign majesty, chose to apply such measures for the highest spiritual welfare of His servant.
Although the Book of Job, with the exception of the introduction, is a poem, one of the grandest productions, not only of Hebrew poetry, but of the literature of all ages and all nations, it is nevertheless founded on historical fact and contains actual historical material. The prophet Ezekiel, Ezekiel 4:14-17, as well as James, the brother of the Lord, James 5:11, refer to Job as a historical person. The land of Uz, in which Job lived, was probably a district of Northern Arabia. He himself seems to have lived in the age of the patriarchs, to whom he may have been remotely related. His story, however, occurred just before the children of Israel were delivered from the bondage of Egypt.
The Book of Job is obviously divided into three parts. After the prolog, which tells of Job's piety and good fortune, of his subsequent misfortune, and how he bore up under it, there follows the main part of the narrative, altogether in poetical form. We have here the dispute between Job and his friends concerning the cause of his calamities, followed by the vindication of God's righteousness in His government of the world, and finally by the intervention of God Himself, who reproves Job and gives the solution of the problem which was challenging the faith of Job.
The author and the date of the book cannot be fixed with certainty. It has been ascribed to Moses, to Job himself, to Solomon, and to some prophet at the time of Israel's greatest glory. It cannot be dated before Moses nor later than about the eighth century before Christ. The Book of Job is so obviously a unit, as the entire outline and form indicate, that its integrity cannot be questioned with any degree of plausibility.