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BIBLE BOOK: The Book of Job

The answer to Suffering…..

 

The Old Testament book of Job is believed to be one of the oldest books in the Bible. Many scholars claim that Job lived at a similar time to Abraham. His name is found elsewhere in Scripture. Ezekiel refers to him alongside Noah and Daniel, so he is therefore to be regarded as a historical figure (Ezek.14:20). In the New Testament James refers briefly to “the patience of Job” which was somewhat proverbial and which his readers would have known (Jas.5:11). Issachar had a son by the name of Job, but whether this is the same person as the one whose name is associated with the Old Testament book, we cannot be entirely sure (Gen.46:13).

 

 

The book of Job is one of the poetical books of the Bible, though not all of it is written in poetical language. The first two chapters are actually written in prose and form the prologue. Part of the last chapter is also prose and forms the epilogue. Between these sections we have the main part of the book – the dialogue, which is poetical.

 

The theme of the book is suffering. Job himself was a righteous man who feared God (Job 1:1). The opening verses identify his wealth and give an inventory of his riches which exceeded those of any other person (1:3). One day Satan appeared with the angelic beings in the presence of God. The Lord asked him if he had observed Job. There could not have been a finer man in all the earth than he for fearing God and avoiding evil like the plague (1:8). Satan objected to the Lord’s assessment of His servant and made the preposterous claim that Job feared God only for his own selfish ends. Indeed, Satan claimed that God was unjustly favouring Job and affording him preferential protection. Remove that special immunity, Satan claimed, and Job would curse the Almighty to His face (1:10,11).

 

The Lord countered the accusation by giving Satan permission to attack Job’s possessions, and Satan set about his destructive work. His vast possessions and his ten children were all taken from him. When Job heard the tragic news he refused to blame God for what had taken place. His perspective on life was that he had been born with nothing and would die taking nothing with him. He declared, “The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (1:21).

 

Not content with the cruelty of his campaign thus far, Satan returned to the presence of the Lord determined to catch Job out. If God inflicted pain upon Job physically, Satan declared, the righteous man would display his true colours by cursing the Almighty to His face (2:5). Satan was allowed to do this callous work himself, afflicting Job with an awful plague of boils. Even Job’s wife now encouraged him to “curse God and die” (2:9), but the godly man adamantly refused and maintained his integrity though suffering intensely.

 

JOB’S COMFORTERS

Hearing of the tragic events, three friends came to sympathize with Job. Overwhelmed by what had happened the three of them spent a whole week with him in complete silence (2:13). Sometimes it can be more helpful not to talk to a grieving soul. At last Job broke the silence by ruing the day of his birth (Ch.3). Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar responded in turn, with Job replying to each one (Ch.4-14). The cycle was repeated (Ch.15-21) with further arguments being advanced to account for what had befallen Job. Eliphaz and Bildad then spoke for a third time, but Zophar evidently had nothing further to say. Bildad’s third speech was extremely brief, but Job’s response was lengthy (Ch.22-31).

 

After this a younger man called Elihu spoke up. He was angry because he thought Job was justifying himself while the three “friends” had condemned Job without having good reason for doing so (32:1-3). After listening to so much, Elihu was hardly short of words – his speech occupying six chapters (32-37). Job offered no reply. The Lord responded next with searching questions addressed to Job which made him very aware of his limitations. God spoke about His power and wisdom in creation (Chapters 38-41). Job came to see how little he knew and briefly responded in the midst of the Lord’s declaration (40:3-5) before humbly admitting his true condition before the Almighty (42:1-6). The closing verses of the book are a fitting conclusion. We are shown how the Lord first reprimanded Job’s three older friends for their indiscretion before restoring Job’s losses after he had prayed for his friends (42:10).

 

There are some profound statements in the book of Job. Job himself declared the sublime truth that God hangeth the earth upon nothing (26:7). Bildad raised the vital question, “How then can man be justified with God?” (25:4) which is answered clearly in Romans 3:24. Redemption is found alone in Christ Jesus, and long before He came into this world Job could say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth” (19:25). What insight and conviction are expressed here!

 

The problem of suffering is ancient – like the book of Job. Divine mysteries cannot be unlocked by human reasoning. We must humbly bow before the great Creator, acknowledging that He knows best. What Job discovered through his unique experiences can give teach us lessons today.