Date: Perhaps as early as Tenth Century B.C.
Job, one of the most complex and interesting books in the Old Testament, deals with a profound human theme. Why do people suffer, if God is in control? That problem has exercised the best minds of virtually every society from the beginnings of civilization until today. The book itself, a very long and highly structured poem, is about a man named Job who lost all that he had within a short period of time. He found himself an outcast, waiting for death near the city dump, when some of his former friends came to comfort him. The hidden backdrop to the story is the will of God and the sneering challenge of the Devil. The first set of speeches made by Job’s friends has the general theme that Job is sinful. The all-wise, all- powerful God, they say, is only giving him what he deserves. All three friends speak: Eliphaz, who is a kindly mystic; Bildad, a rather unsympathetic traditionalist; and Zophar, a narrow dogmatist. These three men represent different approaches to the problem of suffering, as does Job himself. Job replies to them all, ending with a touching appeal to God (“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” 13:15), and longs wistfully for an afterlife of peace and tranquility.
The second set of speeches hammers on the theme that divine judgment is coming for the wicked. It never seems to occur to these three speakers that there might be a mystery to human life and that simple answers might not work. Job agonizingly replies, reaching a high point (some would even say the watershed of the book) in 19:23-29, where he affirms his deep personal faith in God and the future. “In my flesh shall I see God.”
The third set of speeches extols God’s wisdom and control of life, implying that Job is an ignorant fool who has no right to reply to God. Job reaffirms his position that he does not deserve what is happening to him.
A new person enters the scene, Elihu, who approaches the subject from a different angle. In essence he says that pride has entered Job’s heart and a mysterious correlation exists between that and the suffering that Job is having to endure.
Before anyone can speak, God replies to them all. Job’s friends, Elihu, and even Job are all wrong. None of them has all the facts, and consequently none of them is in a position to make a final judgment. Attempts to justify God fall short for lack of knowledge; attempts to justify oneself fall short for lack of honesty. Only God is in a position to put everything together correctly, and Job is invited to learn this lesson. When we have nothing left but God, only then do we realize that God is enough.
After Job learned that lesson, his fortunes were restored and he was comforted and consoled. “The Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” (42:12).
Theological Themes in the Book of Job
Many theological points are made in this book, but two stand out: the majesty of God and human finitude and need. If we could simply keep these two realities in their rightful place, we would need little else when crises arise in life. The solution to our problems comes when we see God for who he is.
Outline for the Book of Job
- Prologue: scene in heaven Job 1:1-2:13
- First set of speeches Job 3:1-14:22
- Second set of speeches Job 15:1-21:34
- Third set of speeches Job 22:1-31:40
- The speech of Elihu Job 32:1-37:24
- The reply of God Job 38:1-42:6
- Epilogue Job 42:7-17