26 July, 2016
Search The Scriptures —Study 0 — The introduction of Job
Study 0 From the Book of Job is: The introduction of the book of Job
Outside the book itself, the chief character, is mentioned only in Ezk. 14:14, 20 and Jas. 5:11. We know very little about him therefore, and the date and the placing of the story are matters of surmise. All absence of clear links with the patriarchal or post-conquest. Israel point to an early date, and it is reasonable to take the descriptions of scenery and climate as referring to a country on the western edge of the desert. The book is written in Hebrew by a Hebrew.
We are given a portrait of a good man suddenly overtaken by extraordinary disasters. The main action of the book lies in a series of speeches between Job, his three friends, the young man Elihu, and, in the end, God Himself. In these speeches interest is sustained throughout by the presentation of opposing ideas about Job's misfortunes. Sharp divergences temperament and belief reveal themselves. The friends insist that suffering comes only when a man has sinned. So let Job knows that he has not sinned, at least not so greatly as to deserve so devastating a punishment. The principal agony lies, not in his diseased body, but in his bewildered mind. His cry to God to explain Himself is maintained with growing impatience. Job's real trial is theological. For he, like his friends, had once believed that men suffer here for their sins.
At last his desire is granted. God speaks to him, but very differently from his expectation. The sole divine answer consists of a vision of God's great power. Job, seeing his small concerns against this vast back-cloth, is humbled and silenced. Then God commends him, and he is restored.
The book is usually considered to be an enquiry into the reasons for innocent sufferings, with Elihu seeing furthest into its meaning, and purpose. Suffering is a merciful deterrent, aimed at reforming. Yet, from the standpoint of the Prologue, it is disinterested goodness which is under discussion. Satan asks, 'Does Job fear God for nought?' Implying that he fears God because he has been weighed down with wealth and possessions. Job then, by divine permission, becomes a test case, to see whether he does fear God for the inducements to do so which he gets from it. Stripped of family, wealth, health, reputation and friends, he emerges at last from the experiment unscathed and believing God when all comforting proofs of His presence has been withdrawn.
Perhaps this book also teaches in a limited way how God justifies a man who hash faith. He does it, not by explaining to him why life is as it is, still less by vindicating his alleged sinlessness. He does it by a personal showing of Himself to the man who cries for Him to hear, and clings to the hope of a revelation. And in that marvelous vision of power with which the book ends, totally unexpected, yet coherent and convincing as it is, Job like Thomas before the risen Christ, is delivered from his doubt, and bows in worship. God, in showing Himself to a faithful man, in the very act justifies him. Revelation in response to faith is justification. Job was 'right', but not for the reasons he supposed.
The study of the subordinate themes in the book is well worth the time. Job's preoccupation with death, for example, and his hopes of an after-life; his certainty that somewhere a mediator will be found; his irony, his reactions to his suffering, and his character; the characters, too, of his friends, so full of truths, so far from the truth. To these, and other matters, attention is drawn in the Notes and the Questions.