Job Observation


A. The book is named after its chief character. Job (BDB 33, KB 36) is a very common name in the ANE. Its meaning has been interpreted as

1. "where is Father" (northwestern Semitic name, W. F. Albright)

2. "an enemy" (Hebrew root, cf. Job 13:24; 33:10)

3. "one who repents" (Arabic root, cf. Job 42:6)

B. This book is powerful, artistic, and theologically significant.

1. Luther said it is "magnificent and sublime as no other book of Scripture."

2. Tennyson said it is "the greatest poem whether ancient or modern."

3. Carlyle said, "There is nothing written in the Bible or out of it of equal merit."


A. It is in the Writings section of the Hebrew canon, which contains all Wisdom Literature (see Special Topic: The Hebrew Canon (Hebrew) and Special Topic: Wisdom Literature.

B. It appears in some Hebrew MSS after the book of Deuteronomy because both Job and Abraham fit into the same historical period (i.e., the second millennium b.c.).

C. The current placement of Job among the poetic books of the Bible began in the Vulgate and was fixed by the Council of Trent (i.e., the twenty-five sessions took place between a.d. 1545-1563).


A. Job has more textual issues than any other OT book.

B. There are several issues.

1. The MT, compared to the oldest Septuagint (the 4th century a.d. LXX, MSS א, A, and B have about the same number of verses), has about 400 fewer poetic lines (according to Origen and Jerome). The two Targums of Job found in the DSS are a combination of both the MT and LXX (but closer to the MT).

2. The apparent structure

a. the threefold cycle between Job and his three friends breaks down in the last cycle (chapters 22-27)

b. the contextual disjointedness of chapter 28 (which may be the author/editor/compiler's addition)

3. The use of over 100 hapax legomena (i.e., words used only once in the OT) and far more rare words than any other OT book

4. The use of Aramaic words, especially in Elihu's speeches (chapters 32-37)

5. The use of unusual Hebrew grammar which seems to reflect Ugarit usage (Ras Shamra Texts)

6. There are 18 places where the Talmud's rabbinical authors purposefully change the MT (i.e., the Massora notes).

7. In this commentary I will try to deal with some of the textual and lexical issues. However, it must be remembered that the overall message is more significant than the poetic details or unusual grammatical features. In this book, like Ecclesiastes, one must not turn the details into doctrines!


A. Job is part of a literary genre very common in the Ancient Near East called "wisdom literature." See the Special Topic: Wisdom Literature and Special Topic: Hebrew Poetry in II. A. above.

B. Because the book is primarily poetry with a prose introduction (Job 1-2) and ending (Job 42:7-17), there has been much discussion among scholars about its genre.

1. historical narrative (see Special Topic: OT Historical Narrative)

2. a dramatic presentation of a philosophical/theological theme (see Intro. to Jonah online)

3. a parable (the Talmud and some rabbis)

C. Job has some literary (but not theological) similarity to:

1. a Babylonian writing called "I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom." It is sometimes called the "Babylonian Job."

2. a Babylonian writing called "Dialogue About Human Misery." It is sometimes called a "Babylonian Theodicy."

3. an Egyptian writing called "Protest of the Eloquent Peasant."

4. an Egyptian writing called "Dispute with His Soul of One Who is Tired of Life." It is also called "Dispute Over Suicide."

For a good brief discussion of the similarities and differences see John H. Walton, NIV Application Commentary, Job, pp. 31-38.

D. The book contains several types of genres. It does not fit into any one category.

V. Authorship

A. The book is anonymous, like most OT books.

B. Baba Bathra 14b (Talmud) asserts that Moses wrote the book. Some Hebrew manuscripts and the Peshitta place it after Deuteronomy.

C. It is possible that a Jewish philosopher (Judean court sage) took the historical life of Job and modified it to teach a philosophical, theological truth (the same is true of Jonah). The prose sections use the covenant name (i.e., YHWH) for God, but Job and his friends, in their speeches, always use the general names for God (i.e., El and Eloah, see Special Topic: Names for Deity). This option is my best guess.

D. Some scholars would assert that the poetic section, Job 3:1-42:6, was written by an ancient author, while the prose prologue (Job 1-2) and epilogue (Job 42:7-17) were added by a later editor.

However, it needs to be remembered that we, in our modern, western culture, do not fully understand the writing patterns and techniques of the ANE. The Code of Hammurabi opens and closes in poetry with prose in between.

The editorial process which has produced our modern Hebrew Bible (i.e., OT) is unknown. I assume that initial authors, later editors, and compilers are equally inspired. God wants to communicate with us. The Bible is that communication!

E. Job the man

1. Job is an early historical person because

a. he is mentioned in Ezek. 14:14,20 and James 5:11

b. the name (not the man of the biblical book) appears in the Amarna texts; the Egyptian Execration texts; Mari texts; and Ugaritic texts

c. the monetary unit found in Job 42:11, kesitah, occurs elsewhere only in Gen. 33:19 and Jos. 24:32

d. Job's three new daughters are named in Job 42:14, which surely implies a historical person

2. Job, the man, is apparently not Jewish

a. use of general names for God (see Special Topic: Names for Deity) by Job and his friends in their conversations

(1) Elohim, Job 1:1 and 10 more times in chapters 1-2, but only 6 times in the rest of the book

(2) El, many times

(3) Shaddai (Almighty), many times

(4) Eloah, many times

(5) YHWH is found 18 times in Job 1-2, but only 1 time in the dialogues (Job 3-37)

b. he seems to be a wise man/sage from Edom

(1) Uz (Gen. 36:28; Jer. 25:20; Lam. 4:21)

(2) Teman (Gen 36:11)

(3) compared to "the men (lit. "sons") of the east" (Job 1:3; Jdgs. 6:3,33; Isa. 11:14; Ezek. 25:4,10)

3. It is surprising that Job is characterized with such faith in prose sections (Job 1-2; 42:7-17), but is so disparaging of God's justice and righteousness in the poetic section (Job 3:1-42:6).

4. Job is tested by

a. Satan, but unknown to him, before the heavenly council

b. on earth by

(1) his physical well being taken

(2) his emotional well being destroyed

(3) his children taken

(4) his wife suggesting suicide (i.e., Job 2:9)

(5) his friends impugning his righteousness

(6) Elihu condemning his theology

c. YHWH from the whirlwind rejects his arrogant attitude


A. The historical setting of the book fits the patriarchal period (i.e., Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) of the second millennium b.c. Some examples would be

1. Job acts as a priest for his family (Job 1:5)

2. the long life of Job, 140 years (Job 42:16)

3. the semi-nomadic lifestyle of herding domestic animals

4. roving bands of Sabean and Chaldean raiders (Job 1:15,17)

5. Job lived in a city part of the year and with his herds part of the year

B. The genre dates the book during the period of the production of Wisdom Literature. This would be from the time of David through the Kings of Judah, particularly Hezekiah. So, Job lived long before the book by his name was organized and written. His character, life, tragedy, and restoration were a cultural proverb.

VII. HISTORICAL SETTING (the location of Uz is uncertain; there have been three major theories):

A. In the land of Edom

1. known for its wise men/sages, Jer. 49:7

2. one of the three friends is from Teman, a city in Edom; it was named after a descendant of Esau, Gen. 36:15

3. Uz is mentioned as a descendant of Seir the Horite (cf. Gen. 36:20-30); these people are related to the area of Edom

4. Uz is identified with Edom in Lam. 4:21

B. In the area of Aram

1. Aramaic literary style and terms are prevalent in Job

2. the presence of Chaldean raiders (Job 1:17)

3. Gen. 10:23 ties Uz with Aram (Gen. 22:20-22)

C. It is possible that the name Uz encompassed several tribes east of Palestine from Aram in the north to Edom in the south.


A. Prose prologue (the heavenly council), Job 1-2

B. Job's friends, Job 3-37

1. Job laments his birth, Job 3

2. three cycles of dialogue, Job 4-31

a. first cycle, Job 4-14

(1) Eliphaz, Job 4-5

(2) Job, Job 6-7

(3) Bildad, Job 8

(4) Job, Job 9-10

(5) Zophar, Job 11

(6) Job, Job 12-14

b. second cycle, Job 15-21

(1) Eliphaz, Job 15

(2) Job, Job 16-17

(3) Bildad, Job 18

(4) Job, Job 19

(5) Zophar, Job 20

(6) Job, Job 21

c. third cycle, Job 22-31

(1) Eliphaz, Job 22

(2) Job, Job 23-24

(3) Bildad, Job 25

(4) Job, Job 26

(5) Job's summary conclusion, Job 27

3. the author's comment (praise of and mystery of wisdom), Job 28

4. Job's monologues, Job 29-31

5. Elihu's monologues, Job 32-37

a. prose, Job 32:1-5

b. poetry, Job 32:6-37:24

C. God responds to Job, Job 38:1-42:6

1. God responds as Creator, Job 38-39

2. God responds as Judge, Job 40:1-2,6-41:34

3. Job repents of his ignorance and arrogance, but not of sin, Job 40:3-5 and 42:1-6

D. Prose epilogue (fellowship restored by the true wisdom of God), Job 42:7-17

IX. Why is the book of Job in the canon? What truth does it reveal or purpose does it serve? This is not an easy question to answer. The book does not have a clear and obvious purpose. The following are some suggestions.

A. to show how a knowledge of God existed and flourished outside of the spiritual community of Israel (i.e., Edom)

B. to reveal and explicate the justice and fairness of God in His dealings with fallen humanity

C. to show the nature of ANE "wisdom literature"; that is, that it expresses a general truth but not always a definitive truth for every circumstance (i.e., Job's life does not fit the typical "two ways" theological pattern, cf. Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1)

D. as an example of and precedent for innocent suffering in the purposes of God (later developed and expanded into vicarious suffering in Isaiah 53; Psalm 22)

E. the sovereignty and mystery of God. Job is theologically parallel to Romans 9; trust is superior to knowledge; intimacy with God is ultimate!

F. the silence and seeming hiddenness of God does not denote rejection and displeasure; there is an unrevealed spiritual dimension (i.e., heavenly counsel) to life (i.e., both individually and nationally) and existence unknown to humanity (e.g., Job 1-2; 1 Kings 22:19-23; Daniel 10)

1. the angelic accuser

2. the heavenly advocate

G. the human search for "true" wisdom; where is it found?

1. the dreams and visions (Job 4:12-21; 33:14-16)

2. the traditional wisdom (Job 8:8; 15:18; 20:4)

3. the experiential wisdom (Job 15:17)

4. the revelational wisdom claimed by Elihu (Job 32:8; 33:4)

5. the life of faith wisdom of Job

Personal faith is crucial and foundational. Personal relationship is more valuable than knowledge! It is better to know (Hebrew sense) Him than to know truths about Him (i.e., Job 42:1-6). All human knowledge is temporal and incomplete, but faith and faithfulness transcend time. Job is never informed about the dialogue between God and the accuser in Job 1-2.

H. mystery, cf. Eccl. 11:5.

I. See my Contextual Insights, A and B at Job 38 for my struggle with the purpose of the book of Job!


A. This book is really about the character of God. The discussion is addressed through the mysterious nexus of

1. a good, all-powerful God

2. the consequences of a fallen world (i.e., all people sin)

3. the Mosaic performance-based covenant which is described as "the two ways" (i.e., Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1; Gal. 6:7) but the concept is also common in the ANE

The real issue is, "Can we trust YHWH in the midst of life's crooked path (human suffering)?"

1. the three friends give the traditional answers

2. Job says they do not fit his case

3. Job 28 is the author's (a Judean sage) answer

4. Elihu gives an answer (Job 32-37)

5. God gives His answer (Job 38:1-42:6)

B. Notice the protagonists.

1. in heaven

a. God

b. Satan

c. an advocate

2. on earth

a. Job

b. his friends

c. Elihu

Each has a significant role in the literary structure and development of the theme of the book. We must remember

1. the fall of Genesis 3 (this is not the world God intended it to be; however, this NT theme is not developed in the OT or the rabbis)

2. the contrast and progressive aspect of the performance-based Mosaic Covenant versus the New Covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34) in Jesus (NT, i.e., Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 8:13; 9:15)

3. Wisdom Literature's origin in the cultures of the ANE

C. Possible reasons this book was written.

1. three theological issues collide in Job

a. God's goodness and fairness

b. Job's innocence

c. The Two Ways doctrine (cf. Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1)

The opening prose section highlights Job's exemplary life and his terrible sufferings. The best man suffered the most severe tragedies! In light of this, one of the three issues must be true and the others false or at least, half true. Which one? In light of this I think the main issue of the book is "a."

2. To clarify the traditional covenantal theology (i.e., the Two Ways, Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-29) that the righteous are blessed in this life and the wicked are punished in this life (cf. Psalm 1; Pro. 4:10-18). Traditional Jewish theology is communicated by the dialogue with Job's three friends (Job 3-27). It is also interesting to note the challenge to traditional thought in the fact that a young man like Elihu publicly refutes and corrects both Job and his three older friends.

3. The issue of human suffering is surely an important aspect of this philosophical drama/epic. This is not the world God intended it to be. The Fall has consequences. Many moderns struggle with natural disasters, human wickedness, and the diseases of this world. How do these fit into a revelation of a good, all powerful, all knowing God? The best modern book on this issue that has helped me is John Wenham, The Goodness of God in a World of Evil and Suffering.

Job deals with part of the issue from an OT perspective with hints toward a NT redeemer (i.e., a heavenly advocate). Like so many critical theological issues the OT starts the conversation, but thank God for the progressive and fuller revelation of the NT.

D. This book asserts that God is just and will finally set things straight, either in this life (Job's restoration, Job 42:10-17) or the next (Job 14:7-17; 19:23-27).

E. All suffering is not a result of personal sin (cf. Luke 13:1-5; John 9:1-3). This is what the three friends asserted (cf. Job 4:7-11; 8:3-7; 11:13-15; 15:12-16; 22:21-30). This is an unfair, fallen world. Sometimes the wicked prosper (Psalms 37; 73). Often the righteous suffer (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; Rom. 8:17; 2 Cor. 1:5,7; 1 Pet. 4:12-16). Satan accused Job of faith for favors (cf. Job 1:9-10).

F. This book gives us insight into the spiritual realm. Satan (see Special Topic: Satan) is a servant of God, a prosecuting angel in the OT (cf. A. B. Davidson, An OT Theology, published by T. T. Clark, pp. 300-306). Surprisingly he is not mentioned after Job 1-2.

Satan uses the three friends' traditional theology to test Job, in a way, similar to his quoting Scripture to Jesus in Matthew 4. The isolated quotes and truths are, in reality, half-truths that must be balanced with other Scriptures. Isolating texts or doctrines often causes undue emphasis and lack of balance. Doctrine and truth are like a constellation of stars, not just one star. The message of all Scripture must be sought!

G. God never reveals to Job the reason behind his sufferings. Life is a mystery. Trust in God is more important than information! The longer I live and study both life and the Scriptures the more I am forced to affirm "mystery" as a valid theological category. My hope and answer to questions like

1. what about those who have never heard?

2. what about those who die young?

3. what about those who cannot understand?

4. what about evil and suffering in the world?

5. what about violence in nature and disease?

For me, knowing the character of the God of the Bible gives me peace that He will deal fairly and graciously with His creation!

H. The thought of M. Tsevay, "The Meaning of the Book of Job," Hebrew Union College Annual, 37 (1966), pp. 73-106, is that Job can best be viewed as the tension between these assumed truths:

1. God's justice and goodness

2. Job's righteousness

3. "the Two Ways" principle of covenant blessing and cursing (i.e., Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1; Pro. 4:10-19)

He asserts all three cannot be true. Satan attacks not Job, but God's character and ways with fallen mankind. Even Job seems willing to sacrifice God's character to establish his own innocence.

While "the two ways" are true to God's larger intent (i.e., drawing and reconciling the nations through blessing His covenant people),

1. the reality of Israel's continuing disobedience

2. the reality that "the two ways" does not fit every situation (i.e., the suffering of blameless Job or the NT revelation, John 9; 1 Pet. 4:12-19)

I. The interesting foreshadowing of a special heavenly advocate. Notice the texts that seem to admit that even a blameless Job needs an advocate.

1. Job 9:30-35 – Job faces the Heavenly Judge and asks for an "umpire"

2. Job 16:19,21 – Job affirms he has a "witness" or "advocate" in heaven who pleads his case

3. Job 19:25 – Job knows he has a "redeemer" who will come to his aid in life or death (cf. Job 14:14-15)

4. Job 34:23 – possible allusion to an angelic mediator

J. I am surprised how many people are helped by Job because the suffering of a "blameless" man does not fit many people's lives.

However, the questions of "Why me?" "Why this?" "Why now?" are part of everyone's life. As Job never knew "why," so people must face an unsure life! For those who believe there is a God, a good God, who created this world and each of us for a purpose, the questions about Him and His ways with humans are central (God is the main character of every Bible book). This is the issue that calls to each of us. Job does not answer this question but fellowship is possible.

K. The mysteries of Job are clarified in the NT. Thank God for Jesus and the NT! See Special Topic: Suffering.


A. Terms and/or Phrases

1. blameless, 1:1; 2:3 (NASB & NIV)

2. sons of God, 1:6; 2:1 (NIV, "angels")

3. potsherd, 2:8 (NIV, "piece of broken pottery")

4. Sheol, 7:9; 11:8 (NIV, "the grave")

5. papyrus, 8:11 (NASB & NIV)

6. Rahab, 9:13; 26:12-13 (NASB & NIV)

7. Abaddon, 26:6; 28:22; 31:12 (NIV, "Destruction")

8. ransom, 33:24; 36:18 (NASB & NIV)

9. leviathan, 3:8; 41:1 (NASB & NIV)

10. behemoth, 40:15 (NASB & NIV)

11. theodicy

B. Persons

1. "the men of the east," NASB, (NIV, "all the people of the east"), 1:3

2. Satan, 1:6

3. Sabeans, 1:15

4. Chaldeans, 1:17

5. the Almighty (Shaddai), 6:4,14; 13:3; 22:3,26

6. Elihu, 32:2


1. Uz, 1:1

2. Teman, 4:1

3. Edom


1. What does it mean to fear God? 1:1,9; 28:28

2. Was Job sinless (blameless)? 1:1,8,22

3. Who are "the men of the east?" 1:1

4. How does the fact that Job acted as priest for his family date the book? 1:5

5. What is the implication of Satan being in heaven before God? 1:6-12

6. In what ways does Satan accuse Job before God? 1:6-12; 2:1-6 (1:10-11; 2:4)

7. Do 14:7-17 and 19:23-29 teach a bodily resurrection, why or why not?

8. Does God ever answer Job’s questions?

9. Does Job ever admit he sinned? 40:3-5; 42:1-6

10. How does Job asserting his innocence affect the character of God? 40:8

11. What does God tell Job’s three friends to do? (42)