Reading 1,34 - 42 Chapters -1,070 verses - 10,102 words
Although most of the book consists of the words of Job and his friends, Job himself was not the author. We may be sure that the author was an Israelite, since he (not Job or his friends) frequently uses the Israelite covenant name for God (Yahweh; NIV "the Lord"). In the prologue (chs 1-2), divine discourses (38:1- 42:6) and epilogue (42:7-17) "Lord" occurs a total of 25 times, while in the rest of the book (chs. 3-37) it appears only once (12:9).
This unknown author probably had access to a tradition (oral or written) about an ancient righteous man who endured great suffering with remarkable "perseverance" (Jas 5:11) and without turning against God (Eze 14:14,20), a tradition he put to use for his own purpose. While the author preserves much of the archaic and non-Israelite flavor in the language of Job and his friends, he also reveals his own style as a writer of wisdom literature. The book's profound insights, it literary structures and the quality of his rhetoric display the author's genius.
Two dates are involved: (1) that of Job himself and (2) that of the composition of the book. The latter could be dated anytime from the reign of Solomon to the time of Israel's exiles in Babylonia. Although the author was a Israelite, he mentions nothing of Israel's history. He had an account of a non-Israelite sage Job (1:1) who probably lived in the second millennium B.C. (2000-1000). Like the Hebrew patriarchs, Job lived more than 100 years (42:16). Like them, his wealth was measured in livestock and servants (1:3), and like them he acted as priest for his family (1:5). The raiding of Sabean (1:15) and Chaldean (1:17) tribes fits the second millennium, as does the mention of the kesitah, "a piece of silver," in 42:11 (see Ge 33:19; Jos 24:32). The discovery of a Targum (Aramaic paraphrase) on Job dating to the first or second century B.C. (the earliest written Targum yet discovered) makes a very late date for composition highly unlikely.
Language and Text
In many places Job is difficult to translate because of its many unusual words and its style. For that reason, modern translations frequently differ widely. Even the pre-Christian translator(s) of Job into Greek (the Septuagint) seems often to have been perplexed. The Septuagint of Job is about 400 lines shorter than the accepted Hebrew text, and it may be that the translator(s) simply omitted lines he (they) did not understand. The early Syriac (Peshitta), Aramaic (Targum) and Latin (Vulgata) translators had similar difficulties.
Setting and Perspective
While it may be that the author intended his book to be a contribution to an ongoing high level discussion of major theological issues in an exclusive company of learned men, it seems more likely that he intended his story to be told to godly sufferers who like Job were struggling with the crisis of faith brought on by prolonged bitter suffering. He seems to sit too close to the suffering - to be more the sympathetic and compassionate pastor than the detached theologian or philosopher. He has heard what the learned theologians of his day have been saying about the ways of God and what brings on suffering, and he lets their voices be heard. Ad he knows that the godly sufferers of his day have also heard the "wisdom" of the learned and have internalized it as the wisdom of the ages. But he also knows what "miserable confort" (16:2) that so-called wisdom gives - that it only rubs salt in the wounds and creates a stumbling-block for faith. Against that wisdom he has no rational arguments to marshal. But he has a story to tell that challenges it at its very roots and speaks to the struggling faith of the sufferer. In effect he says to the godly sufferer, "Forget the logical arguments spun out by those who sit together at their ease and discuss the ways of God, and forget those voices in your own heart that are little more than echoes of their pronouncements. Let me tell you a story."
Literary Form and Structure
Like some other ancient compositions, the book of Job has a sandwich literary structure: prologue (prose), main body (poetry), and epilogue (poetry), and epilogue (prose), revealing a creative composition, not an arbitrary compilation. Some of Job's words are lament (cf. ch. 3 and many shorter poems in his speeches), but the form of laments is unique to Job and often unlike the regular format of most lament psalms (except Ps 88). Much of the book takes the form of legal disputation. Although the friends come to console him, they end up arguing over the reason for Job's suffering. The argument breaks down in ch. 27, and Job then proceeds to make his final appeal to God for vindication (chs. 29-31).
The wisdom poem in ch. 28 appears to be the words of the author who sees the failure of the dispute as evidence of a lack of wisdom. So in praise of true wisdom he centers his structural apex between the three cycles of dialogue-dispute (chs. 3-27) and the three monologues: Job's (chs. 29-31), Elihu's (chs. 32-37) and God's (38:1-42:6). Job's monologue turns directly to God for a legal decision: that he is innocent of the charges his counselors have leveled against him. Elihu's monologue - another human perspective on why people suffer - rebukes Job but moves beyond the punishment theme to the value of divine chastening and God's redemptive purpose in it. God's monologue gives the divine perspective: Job is not condemned, but neither is a logical or legal answer given to why Jod has suffered. That remains a mystery to Job, though the readers are ready for Job's restoration in the epilogue because they have had the heavenly vantage point of the prologue all along. So the literary structure and the theological significance of the book are beautifully tied together.
Job Interpretive Challenges
The most critical interpretive challenge involves the book’s primary message. Although often thought to be the pressing issue of the book, the question of why Job suffers is never revealed to job, though the reader knows that it involves God’s proving a point to Satan— a matter which completely transcends Job’ ability to understand. James’ commentary on job’s case (5:11) draws the conclusión that it was to show God’s compassion and mercy, but without apology, offers no explanation for Job’s specific ordeal. Readers find themselves putting their proverbial hands over their mouths, with no right to question or accuse the all-wise and all powerful Creator, who will do as He please, and in so doing, both proves his points in the spiritual realm to angels and demons and defines His compassion and mercy. Engaging in “theodicy” i.e., man’s attempt to defend God’s involvement in calamity and suffering, is shown to be appropriate in these circumstances, though in the end, it is apparent that God does not need nor want a human advocate. The book of Job poignantly illustrates Dt 29:29. “The secret things belongs to the Lord our God…”
The nature of job’s guilt and innocence raises perplexing questions. God declared Job blameless, upright fearing God, and shunning evil (1:1). But Job’s comforters raised a critical question based on Job’s ordeal: Had not job sinned? On several occasions Job readily admitted to having sinned (7:21; 13:26). But Job questioned the extent of his sin as compared to the severity of his suffering. God rebuked Job in the end for his demands to be vindicated of the comforters’ accusations (chap.38-41). But He also declared that what job said was correct and what the comforter said was wrong (42:7)
Another challenge comes in keeping separate the pre-understanding that Job and his comforters brought to Job’s ordeal. At the outset, all agreed that God punishes evil, rewards obedience, and no exceptions are possible. Job, due to his suffering innocently, was forced to conclude that exceptions are possible in that the righteous also suffer. He also observed that the wicked prosper. These are more than small exceptions to the rule, thus forcing Job to rethink his simple understanding about God’s sovereign interaction with His people. The type of wisdom Job comes to embrace was not dependent merely on the promise of reward or punishment. The long, peevish, disputes between Job and his accusers were attempts to reconcile the perceived inequities of God’s retribution in Job’s experiences. Such an empirical method is dangerous. In the end, God offered no explanation to Job, but rather called all parties to deeper level of trust in the Creator, who rules over a sin-confused world with power and authority directed by perfect wisdom and mercy. (Ps 73).
Understanding this book requires:
Understanding the nature of wisdom, particularly the difference between man’s wisdom and God’s.
Admitting that Job and his friends lacked the divine wisdom to interpret Job’s circumstances accurately, though his friends kept trying while Job learned to be content in God’s sovereignty and mercy. The turning point or resolution for this matter is found in job 28 where the character of divine wisdom is explained: divine wisdom is rare and priceless; man cannot hope to purchase it; and God possesses it all. We may not know what is going on in heaven or what God’s purpose are, but we must trust Him. Because of this, the matter of believers suffering takes a backseat to the matter of divine wisdom.
God's character in Job
God is delivering - 33:27, 28
God is glorious - 37:22
God is invisible - 23:8, 9
God is just - 4:17; 8:3; 34:12; 37:23
God is loving - 7:17
God is powerful - 5:9; 9:4, 10; 26:4; 36:22; 40:9
God is provident - 1:21; 26:10; 37:9-13
God is righteous - 36:3
God is unsearchable - 11:7; 37:23
God is wise - 9:4; 11:11; 21:22; 23:10; 28:24; 34:21; 36:4, 5; 37:16
God is wrathful - 9:13; 14:13; 21:17
Christ in Job
The book of Job raises many questions over the purpose of suffering. While durect answers are difficult to find in Job, our hope rests in Christ who identifies with our suffering (Heb 4:15). Ultimately, Job cries out to Christ, the Mediator between God and man (933; 25:4; 33:23).