Taken from Nelson's New Illustrated Bibkle Dictionary
The book of Job is written in the form of a dramatic poem, that deals with several age old questions, among them the question of why the righteous suffer. The book takes its name from the main character in the poem, the patriarch Job. Because Job deals with a number of universal questions, it is classified as one of the Wisdom Books of the Old Testament. Other books of this type are Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.
Structure of the Book
Job begins with two introductory chapters, in the form of a narrative or prologue, that sets the stage for the rest of the book. Chapters 3 through 37 form the main body of the book. These chapters are poems in the form of dramatic dialogues between Job and his friends. Four additional chapters containing God's response to their arguments are also written in poetic form. The book ends with a final narrative or epilogue (42:7-17) that tells what happened to Job after these discussions had ended.
This prologue-body-epilogue format was often used in writings in the ancient world. The author of Job was a literary craftsman who knew how to bring words together in dramatic fashion to drive home his message.
The story of Job opens with a brief description of the man, his possessions, and his family. "Blameless and upright (1:1), he owned thousands of sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys. He also has seven sons and three daughters. In simple terms, Job was considered a wealthy man in the tribal culture of the ancient world. But Satan insists that the integrity of this upright man has never been tested. He accuses Job of serving God only because God has protected him and made him wealthy. God grants permission for the testing to begin.
In rapid fashion, Job's sons and daughters are killed and all his flocks are driven away by his enemies. Finally, Job himself is stricken with a terrible skin disease. In his sorrow he sits mourning on an ash heap, scraping his sores with a piece of pottery while he laments his misfortune. This is when Job's three friends -Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar -arrive to mourn with him and to offer comfort.
But instead of comforting Job, these friends launch into long lectures and philosophical debates to show Job the reason for his suffering. Their line of reasoning follows the generally accepted view of their time -that misfortune is always sent by God as punishment for sin. Job argues just as strongly that he is a righteous man who has done nothing to deserve such treatment at the hand of God. The truth revealed is that God had nothing to do with Job's suffering and that it was all done by the hand of Satan. It further reveals the deceptive character of man by exposing through the dialogue of Job's friends. Their conversation ranges from truthful to mistaken, but even when they speak a truth they speak falsely because a truth spoken out of context is a lie. In this manor does man deceive himself and others. Furthermore, after Job's three friends are finished speaking, Elihu, a young man, furthers the conversation against Job. He begins with wisdom, but quickly moves to twisting the words of Job to bear witness against him. He concludes by judging Job, who is righteous in the eyes of God, as a hypocrite. Thus Elihu stands in place of God and falsely speaks for the Almighty a treacherous sin.
Finally, after job and his friends have debated this question at length and have failed to arrive at a satisfactory solution, God Himself speaks from a whirlwind. He does not enter their discussion about why the righteous suffer; He reveals Himself as the all-powerful, all-knowing God. God's message to Job is that He does not have to justify or explain His actions. He is the sovereign, all-powerful God who always does what is right, although His ways may be beyond human understanding.
Job is humbled by this outpouring of God's power, and he learns to trust where he cannot understand. This leads to his great affirmation of faith, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye seeth Thee" (42:5). God so orders Job to pray for the misgivings of his three friends, but not one such as Elihu whom falsely spoke for the Lord (42:9). Then the book closes with the birth of more sons and daughters and Job's rise to a position of even greater wealth and prominence. Job lived out his additional years as a happy, contented man: "So Job died, being old and full of days" (42:17).
Authorship and Date
No one knows who wrote the Book of Job. A few scholars have taken the position that it may have been written by Moses. Others have suggested that the patriarch Job himself may have written this account of his experiences. But these theories have no solid evidence to support them. The only thing we can say for certain is that the book was written by an unknown author.
The exact date of the book's writing is still a mystery. Some believe its unknown author put it in writing as late as the second century B.C. Others insist it must have been written about 450 B.C., long after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylonia. But many conservative scholars assign the writing of the book to the time of king Solomon, about 950 B.C. Historical evidence favors this date, since this was the golden age of biblical Wisdom Literature.
The events described in the Book of Job must have occurred many centuries before they were finally written. Job may have lived during the time of the patriarch Abraham, about 2000 B.C. like Abraham, Job's wealth was measured in flocks and herds. In patriarchal fashion, Job's married children were a part of his household, living in separate tents but subject to his rule as leader of the family clan.
This story of Job and his misfortunes was probably passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation for several hundred years. Finally, it was put in writing by an unknown author probably during Solomon's time -thus assuring its preservation for all future generations.
The Book of Job teaches us to trust in God for all circumstances. When we suffer, it usually is a fruitless effort to try to understand the reasons for the difficulty. Sometimes the righteous must suffer without knowing the reason why; that is why it is important to learn to trust God in everything.
This masterful book also shows very clearly that God is not captive to His world, His people, or our views of His nature. God is free; he is subject to no will but His own. He is not bound by our understanding or by our lack of it. Job also discovered that God is a God of great power and majesty. When we see how great He is, we realize just how little we are. Like Job, we want to bow down in humble submission.
The book of Job also teaches us that God is good, just, and fair in His dealings. He restored Job's fortunes and gave him more than he had ever enjoyed. God always replaces the darkness of our existence with light of His presence when we remain faithful to Him.
The dialogue sections of the book are written in poetry. Great truths are often expressed in such poetic language. These great truths are worth the slow, reflective reading it sometimes takes to grasp their meaning. Great art like that in this book often challenges our understanding. That is why we need to come back to it again and again.
Part One: The Dilemma
of Job (1:1-2:13)
A Study and Teaching Outline
I. The Circumstances of Job.............................................1:1-5
I. The First Cycle of Debate.......................................3:1-14:22
II. The Second Cycle of Debate................................15:1-21:34
III. The Third Cycle of Debate..................................22:1-26:14
IV. The Final Defense of Job....................................27:1-31:40
V. The solution of Elihu............................................32:1-37:24
I. The First Controversy of God with Job..................38:1-40:5
II. The Second Controversy of God with Job.............40:6-42:6
III. The Deliverance of Job and His Friends..................42:7-17
Part Two: The Debates
of Job (3:1-37:24)
Part Three: The
Deliverance of Job
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