OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF JOB AND THE BOOK OF JOB OVERVIEW
Who was Job?
This wealthy landowner and father is one of the best-known biblical heroes. But we know little more than that he was stripped of everything, without warning, and that his faith was severely tested.
Job is the first Old Testament book of poetry (the others are Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations). Although the book of Job is best known for its story, only three of the 42 chapters are narrative. The rest are poetic discourses from Job, his friends, a young bystander, and God Himself.
A few features make Job especially unique in the Bible:
1. Job is not said to be Hebrew. All other times the Bible mentions a place called Uz, it is not in the land of Israel (Lamentations 4:21; Jeremiah 25:20). Job makes sacrifices on behalf of others (Job 1:5)—there is no mention of Levitical priests nor God’s covenant law with Israel.
Though the text does not directly identify its setting, internal clues indicate that Job lived during the time of the patriarchs, approximately 2100 to 1900 BC. According to Job 42:16, Job lived an additional 140 years after his tragedies occurred, perhaps to around 210 years total. His long lifespan generally corresponds to that of Terah (Abraham’s father), Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Also, Job’s wealth was measured in livestock (Job 1:3; 42:12), as was Abraham’s (Genesis 12:16). Like the patriarchs, Job used God’s unique title “El Shaddai” (God Almighty). The book of Job does not mention the Mosaic Law; indeed, Job’s daughters were equal heirs with his sons, and Job himself, though not a priest, offered sacrifices—things not possible under the Law (Leviticus 4:10; Numbers 27:8). Though we cannot be certain, Job may have lived during the time of Jacob or shortly thereafter.
2. Job focuses on God’s role as sovereign creator. When God answers Job, He asks a series of “Where were you when . . .” questions. The book of Job attests to God’s creative power, wisdom, and authority. Because God made the universe, we can trust that He knows how to rule it. Job is considered wisdom literature because the book helps us understand God, His creation, our relationship with Him, and how we should respond.
3. Job pulls back the curtain on Satan’s activities. Until the book of Job, we’ve only seen Satan influence David for Israel’s harm (1 Chronicles 21:1), but in Job, we see the enemy in full-on attack against God’s servant. We see that Satan can manipulate the weather (Job 1:16, 19), a person’s health (Job 2:7), and even groups of people (Job 1:15, 17). But we also see God setting Satan’s limits (Job 1:12; 2:6).
The Book of Job helps us to understand the following: Satan cannot bring financial and physical destruction upon us unless it is by God’s permission. God has power over what Satan can and cannot do. It is beyond our human ability to understand the “why’s” behind all the suffering in the world. The wicked will receive their just dues. We cannot always blame suffering and sin on our lifestyles. Suffering may sometimes be allowed in our lives to purify, test, teach or strengthen the soul. God remains enough, and He deserves and requests our love and praise in all circumstances of life.
AUTHOR: The Book of Job does not specifically name its author. The most likely candidates are Job, Elihu, Moses and Solomon.
DATE OF WRITING: The date of the authorship of the Book of Job would be determined by the author of the Book of Job. If Moses was the author, the date would be around 1440 B.C. If Solomon was the author, the date would be around 950 B.C. Because we don’t know the author, we can’t know the date of writing.
BRIEF SUMMARY: The book of Job opens with a scene in heaven where Satan comes to accuse Job before God. He insists Job only serves God because God protects him and seeks God’s permission to test Job’s faith and loyalty. God grants His permission, only within certain boundaries.
The book of Job delves into issues near to the heart of every human who experiences suffering. Then, through a series of dialogues and monologues arranged in a pattern of threes, human wisdom attempts to explain the unexplainable; Why do the righteous suffer? This is the question raised after Job loses his family, his wealth, and his health. Job’s three friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, come to “comfort” him and to discuss his crushing series of tragedies. In the next three rounds of speeches they insist his suffering is punishment for sin in his life. Job, though, remains devoted to God through all of this and contends that his life has not been one of sin. Then a fourth man, Elihu, tells Job he needs to humble himself and submit to God’s use of trials to purify his life. Finally, Job questions God Himself and learns valuable lessons about the sovereignty of God and his need to totally trust in the Lord.
The final chapters of Job record God’s masterful defense of His majesty and unique “otherness”— His eternal transcendence above creation—in contrast to Job’s humble and ignorant mortality. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? / Tell Me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:4). Job is then restored to health, happiness and prosperity beyond his earlier state.
KEY VERSE: Job 42:2 “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.”
HOW THE STORY UNFOLDS:
Prologue introducing Job: (Job 1:1-5) Job lives as a good rich man from Uz. He has seven sons and three daughters. Job makes offerings when his sons feast, in case they sinned.
The first test (striking Job’s family and wealth): (Job 1:6–22) Satan meets with God, and obtains permission to test him by making him suffer. A string of servants come to tell Job that his property has been destroyed by fire, his livestock taken away, and his children when a wind collapses the house they were in. At the end of each servant’s news, there is the refrain, ‘and I alone have escaped to tell you.’ Job says that the Lord gives, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
The second test (striking his body): (Job 2:1 – 10) Satan and the Lord discuss Job. The Lord notes that Job did not lose his integrity. Satan replies that Job will curse God if he is afflicted in the body. Job is afflicted with boils from head to toe. Job’s wife tells him to curse God and die, but Job says he must accept adversity as well as prosperity from the Lord.
Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite visit Job, and stay with him seven days in silence while he is afflicted. (Job 2:11 – 13)
Job curses the day of his birth, wishing it to be consumed in darkness. Job wishes he had died that day, so he could have lain at rest with the kings and counselors of the earth. Why is light given to him that is in misery?
THE FIRST ROUND OF SPEECHES: (CHAPTERS 4 – 14)
In this first round of speeches, the friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar speak in turn and become increasingly scolding: Job answers each of their speeches directly before the next friend starts.
Eliphaz only implies Job is a sinner, but Bildad proposes that Job’s children died for their sins, and Zophar says that Job suffers less than he deserves.
Job’s friends stress man’s worthlessness before God, man’s ignorance, the need to turn to God in penitence, praise of God, the disciplinary power of misfortune, the happiness of the penitent and the claim to possess a wisdom greater than Job’s.
ELIPHAZ SPEAKS: (CHAPTERS 4 – 5)
(4) Eliphaz says that Job may be guilty of some sin, because the upright do not suffer. He talks of an angel who visited him in a vision and talked about man’s frailty, unholiness and mortality: ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God?’
(5) Eliphaz adds that people bring trouble on themselves. He encourages Job to turn to God, listing examples of his goodness and willingness to help people. Happy is the man whom God corrects, for He bruises, but He binds up.
JOB SPEAKS: (CHAPTERS 6 – 7)
(6) Job speaks to his friends: he says his grief cannot be weighed, and he laments his weakness. Job’s friends are not helping him; he challenges them to point out his unrighteousness to him.
(7) Job continues: his present suffering is like the futile, discouraging work of a servant or a hired man, with no hope or reward, only weariness. ‘My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle.’ Job wishes God to leave him alone, and that he has been made God’s target inexplicably.
BILDAD SPEAKS: (CHAPTER 8)
Bildad rebukes Job: Job and his children must have sinned to cause Job’s trouble. Man without God withers like a papyrus without a marsh. God will bless the blameless.
JOB SPEAKS: (CHAPTERS 9 – 10)
(9) Job expresses frustration with the unknowable power and majesty of God. Such a mighty God who can crush him with a tempest cannot be answered, or argued with. Because Job despises his life, he feels that there is nothing to fear in accusing God of destroying the innocent. Job’s days are swifter than a runner. There is no point in him defending himself. There can be no legal mediator between Job and God.
(10) What Job would say to God if he could: Show me why You contend with me. Is it good that you should oppress me in this way? Why are you afflicting me if I am your creation? (This is exactly the sort of speech Job says in chapter 9 is not worth making!) Job wishes to go to the land of darkness.
ZOPHAR SPEAKS: (CHAPTER 11)
Zophar: God exacts less from you than your iniquity deserves. Can you search out the deep things of God? Repent and stretch out your hands to God. The eyes of the wicked shall fail.
JOB SPEAKS: (CHAPTERS 12 – 14)
(12) Job dismisses his friends’ wisdom. All creation understands God’s power. God overthrows the mighty, and His judgment is irrevocable.
(13) Job tells his friends that they are worthless physicians. Their proverbs and platitudes are but ashes. Job asks why God hides from him, and does not reveal his sins.
(14) Job laments man’s frailty, which comes forth and fades like a flower. God has appointed the length of man’s days. Man lies down and does not rise. Job considers the limitless power of God and despairs.
THE SECOND ROUND OF SPEECHES: (CHAPTERS 15 – 21)
In the second round of speeches, goaded by Job’s refusal to withdraw his arraignment of God, the friends describe in detail the punishment of the wicked. In response to their generalized comments, Job speaks of his own suffering, stressing the success of the wicked and arguing that he is not one of them.
ELIPHAZ SPEAKS: (CHAPTER 15)
Eliphaz argues that Job is accused by his own words. Job is arrogant: ‘were you born before the hills?’ Man is universally impure. The wicked man writhes with pain all his days, despite his transient life of wealth and luxury.
JOB SPEAKS: (CHAPTERS 16 – 17)
(16) Job reproaches his friends: shall words of wind have an end? God has delivered me to the ungodly (which seems to be a satirical swipe at his friends as well as a more general lament about his misfortunes). He wishes that a man might plead with God.
(17) Job’s spirit is broken. ‘If I say to corruption, ‘You are my father,’ and to the worm, ‘You are my mother,’ where then is my hope?’
BILDAD SPEAKS: (CHAPTER 18)
Bildad is offended by Job’s criticism. The wicked suffer and their memory perishes from the earth.
JOB SPEAKS: (CHAPTER 19)
Job again complains about his friends, and describes how God has attacked and estranged him. I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped with only the skin of my teeth. Then, there is a flash of faith in the otherwise unremittingly dark language: I know that my redeemer lives, and shall stand at last on the earth.
ZOPHAR SPEAKS: (CHAPTER 20)
Zophar: the triumph of the wicked is short-lived. Wickedness and injustice is described using the imagery of venom (particularly of snakes). A violent death awaits the wicked man.
JOB SPEAKS: (CHAPTER 21)
Job’s complaint: the wicked prosper and become old.
THE THIRD ROUND OF SPEECHES: (CHAPTERS 22 – 31)
ELIPHAZ SPEAKS: (CHAPTER 22)
In the third round of speeches, Eliphaz begins, by describing Job’s wickedness: he has not given the weary water to drink, and has withheld bread from the hungry .He encourages Job that if he returns to the Almighty, he will be built up.
JOB SPEAKS: (CHAPTERS 23 – 24)
(23) Job replies that he would present his case to God if he could find Him. Job asserts his own righteousness. But no one can compel God to change the way He acts.
(24) The wicked oppress the poor. The wicked perform their deeds in darkness, in apparent security.
BILDAD SPEAKS: (CHAPTER 25)
Bildad accuses Job of oppressing the poor, and gives a short doxology asking how man can be righteous before God. How can he be pure who is born of a woman? If even the moon and stars are not pure, how much less so is man?
JOB SPEAKS: (CHAPTERS 26 – 31)
(26) Job describes God’s power over all creation. How small a whisper we hear of Him!
(27) Job is committed to righteous behavior despite the fact that God has made his soul bitter. The wicked do not prosper in the long term.
(28) A poem concerning wisdom: The earth is a treasure house of value and riches for those who are willing to work hard and search for them. Wisdom, however, cannot be found out in the same way. Only God understands its place, and knows its way.
(29) Job’s final speech, challenging God with a declaration of innocence: Job wistfully remembers more prosperous days when he was surrounded by family. He was righteous and had authority.
(30) Now men younger than Job mock him. He suffers both physically and spiritually, and is ignored by God. His suffering is undeserved.
(31) Job proclaims his innocence: he is not guilty of lust, falsehood, adultery, cruel treatment of servants, callous indifference to the poor, greed or idolatrous worship of the sun or moon. He has no means of making his case to God, however. Job curses himself if he has not always acted righteously.
ELIHU SPEAKS: (CHAPTERS 32 – 37)
(32) Elihu (not previously mentioned) speaks: he stresses his youth, but then criticizes Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar as ineffective. Elihu is now compelled to speak. He is rhetorically florid, repeating to some extent the arguments of Job’s other friends. Nonetheless, Elihu does say that God does speak to man, that not all suffering is punitive, and that contemplation of nature’s greatness opens the mind to God’s greatness – a line of apology for God that does not involve blackening Job’s character.
(33) Elihu continues: Job thinks himself without sin. God is not accountable, and may have spoken to you in a dream. Job must receive God’s messenger.
(34) Elihu (inaccurately) says that Job has accused God of injustice. He asserts that God is just and impartial. Sinners may not hide from God, who does not operate on the same terms as men. Elihu insists that Job is adding rebellion to his sin.
(35) Elihu adds: Do you think you are more righteous than God? God is further above you than you can imagine. God does not answer the proud, even if they are oppressed. God does not want to hear your empty talk.
(36) Elihu maintains that God rewards the obedient, while the disobedient perish. God would have helped you had you not been full of the judgment of the wicked. God has an unsearchable greatness – who can understand the works of nature, such as clouds, thunder and lightening?
(37) Elihu concludes: God is transcendent, and His voice is like thunder. He controls the rain and the clouds. You do not understand how God works through nature. Stop trying to speak to God, and simply fear Him instead.
GOD SPEAKS: (CHAPTERS 38 – 41)
(38) The Lord Yahweh answers Job from the whirlwind. He speaks disapprovingly of words without knowledge. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Where were you when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Do you understand the nature of the earth? God asks a series of rhetorical questions about all the things Job can have no knowledge of. Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you hunt the prey for the lion? Only one who comprehends the vastness and complexity of God’s work can pass judgment on Him. God’s governance cannot be judged by its manifestations in human society alone. Human notions of reason and justice are simply too limited to apply to a God whose very creation is fathomless. For mankind, wisdom consists in fearing God and shunning evil. More than that he cannot know.
(39) More rhetorical questions follow about the mountain goats, the wild donkey, the wild oxen, ostriches, horses and hawks.
(40) God adds: Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? Job: behold, I am vile. God: Would you condemn me that you may be justified? God mentions the Behemoth, an example of His might.
(41) God concludes: Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook? Everything under heaven is Mine. Leviathan’s awesome might and appearance is described in detail: he is king over all the children of pride.
JOB’S FINAL REPLY, SUBMISSION, and VINDICATION: (CHAPTER 42)
Job confesses his presumption and lack of knowledge, and repents. God rebukes Job’s friends, and vindicates Job. Job’s friends sought to teach him traditional wisdom, but we should neither infer sin from suffering (the error of the friends), nor the enmity of God towards the sufferer (the error of Job). Job’s losses are restored; he is blessed and received by friends again. He has seven more sons and three more daughters, and dies at a ripe old age.
APPLICATION: The Book of Job reminds us that there is a “cosmic conflict” going on behind the scenes that we usually know nothing about. Often we wonder why God allows something, and we question or doubt God’s goodness, without seeing the full picture. The Book of Job teaches us to trust God under all circumstances. We must trust God, not only WHEN we do not understand, but BECAUSE we do not understand. The psalmist tells us, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). If God’s ways are “perfect,” then we can trust that whatever He does—and whatever He allows—is also perfect. This may not seem possible to us, but our minds are not God’s mind. It is true that we can’t expect to understand His mind perfectly, as He reminds us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
As Job was pondering the cause of his misery, three questions came to his mind, all of which are answered only in our Lord Jesus Christ. These questions occur in chapter 14. First, in verse 4, Job asks, “Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one!?” Job’s question comes from a heart that recognizes it cannot possibly please God or become justified in His sight. God is holy; we are not. Therefore, a great gulf exists between man and God, caused by sin. But the answer to Job’s anguished question is found in Jesus Christ. He has paid the penalty for our sin and has exchanged it for His righteousness, thereby making us acceptable in God’s sight (Hebrews 10:14; Colossians 1:21-23; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Job’s second question, “But man dies and lies prostrate; Man expires, and where is he?” (vs. 10), is another question about eternity and life and death that is answered only in Christ. With Christ, the answer to ‘where is he?’ is eternal life in heaven. Without Christ, the answer is an eternity in “outer darkness” where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).
Job’s third question, found in verse 14, is “If a man dies, will he live again?” Once again, the answer is found in Christ. We do indeed live again if we are in Him. “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).
“My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:10—11)
James cites Job in this verse as an example to Christians who suffer. Job serves as an example of how the righteous are not immune to suffering. Nevertheless, our responsibility to God is to obey Him, to trust Him and to submit to His will, whether we understand it or not.
And like Job, we are Satan’s targets now. Peter warns us about the devil: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” (1 Peter 5:8–9).
“Book of Job”
“Job” and “Job Overview Chart”
“Job: faith under fire”
“Job Chapter Summary”
source Jesus Is The Lamb