My notes are not that detailed, and my exegesis certainly could have been deeper, but my main intention is to provide a firm overview of the book in a devotional style.
With that in mind, as I was reviewing my material recently, I thought my notes would provide good blog fodder, so I hope to reproduce them on a weekly, or every other weekly basis, as a brief post. I don’t plan to have full manuscripts, but I would like to sketch out my notes in a profitable fashion for others to benefit.
A Treatise on God Honoring Suffering
An introduction to Job
I wanted to study Job for a few reasons:
1) The book is often neglected, at least the middle portions of the book. Most people are familiar with the first three chapters where the Lord permits the devil to bring devastating trial about Job. There are many sermons on those events. Or, they choose to talk about the last four or five chapters in which God reveals Himself to Job and his friends. Rarely do people take the time to study the middle portions of Job because the dialogs are confusing and hard to follow. God has seen fit to preserve the story for our learning; thus it would be good to grapple with the difficult portions of the book as well.
2) The book is a divine treatise on theodicy. Basically the book deals with the time aged criticism of God’s dealings with humanity. That being, how can an all powerful God be said to be good when there is evil in the world?
3) The book shows forth a godly response in the midst of suffering. Though Job suffered severe trial, trials most people have never, or ever will experience, learning from his response and his dialogs with his three friends provide an example for us who will eventually suffer trials in our own lives.
4) The book is a demonstration of the perseverance of true, saving faith. Real faith, when tried under the most severe circumstances, will persevere and not fall away. The entire book is a massive tome of the 5th point of Calvinism.
Turning to Job 1:1-5. These opening five verses provide us with a enough material insight to lay a good introduction to the book. Allow me to organize my introduction around three questions.
Who is this Job?
Job is often viewed as a fictitious character, a made up persona to tell the story of how to keep a stiff upper lip when a person is battered by the toils of the world. However, a handful of clues indicate he was a real, historical person who experienced real, historical trials.
He lived in the land of Uz (vs 1). Uz is mentioned a couple of times in the OT. For example, Uz is listed along side Edom in Lamentations 4:21. Genesis 10:23, the Table of Nations, identifies Uz as the grandson of Shem, the son of Noah. It is understood that the land of Uz was an area south east of the Dead Sea region in Northern Arabia near Midian. The Sabeans and the Chaldeans, who destroy Job’s live stock, were historical people groups in this region. More over, his friends came from cities in that area.
He is identified as a prominent business man (vs 2,3). He had large herds of animals like sheep and camels, which would indicate a man who perhaps gained his wealth by making wool products and shipped them around his immediate area of the world. He also had many servants at his disposal. Additionally, he is said by the writer to be one of the greatest of all the people of the east: a person known by many, many individuals. He also is said to have a large, prosperous family of seven sons and three daughters.
He is identified as a real person elsewhere in the Bible. Three other biblical passages mention Job. In Ezekiel 14:14, 20, Job is mentioned along side Noah and Daniel (a contemporary of Ezekiel) as a righteous man. James 5:11 speaks of the steadfastness or the patience of Job as an example for Christians in the midst of suffering. James also lists Elijah as an example of faithful praying (James 5:17,18). Naming Job among individuals who are certainly known as being real, historical people only affirms the reality that Job was also a real, historical person.
When did Job live?
There is debate as to when Job lived. Some suggest that because Job is beside the Wisdom literature in scripture that he was a man who lived during the time of Solomon (or was a literary character created by Solomon). Others suggest he lived during the time of Ezra (and again, that Ezra made him up). The most biblical conclusion is that Job lived during the early portions of the Patriarchal age in Genesis around the time of Abraham.
The book provides us with some more clues to reach this conclusion.
He lived 140 years after his trial (Job 42:16), which may put him around 200 years of age at his death. This is similar in age to other Patriarchs like Terah who lived to be 205 and Abraham who lived 175 years.
His wealth and prominence is reckoned in terms of live stock. Hence, he may had lived during the time of the Patriarchs in Genesis 12 and following.
There is no mention of any of the Mosaic law, the People of Israel, the Exodus, or the theocratic Kingdom of Israel. That indicates the events took place in the time of Genesis, before the time of Israel in servitude in Egypt.
Job acted as the priest of his family (1:5), which was a common function of the father during the time of the Patriarchs in Genesis.
What are the Themes?
Borrowed and adapted from Steve Lawson’s commentary on Job in the Holman Old Testament commentary series, volume 10. Each one of these themes will be developed as I move along in my study.
Sovereignty. Though Job’s difficulties are played out before us, we know God was orchestrating the events.
Satan. The book of Job is unique in that more is revealed about our adversary, the Devil, than anywhere else in scripture. We learn he is a ruthless, uncaring enemy of God’s people.
Suffering. As we will see, the key theme is dealing with suffering in a righteous way in spite of false accusations and difficult questions of “why?” Job’s friends accuse Job of some secret, unconfessed sin he is hiding and refuses to acknowledge, but we know this is not true.
Submission. After all is done, Job humbly submits to the Lord’s hand in these matters.