Job is one of my favorite books in the Bible. It touches on the ultimate question believers often struggle with: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" The book revolves around a man named Job—hence the name of the book—who loses all of his blessings for seemingly no reason. Job enlists the help of his friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—to determine the cause of his misfortune to no avail. Eventually, the younger, but more wise, Elihu sheds light on Job's situation. After a heart to heart with God, Job is blessed in even more abundance than before!
- Date and Authorship
- The Timeline of Job
- The Time of Authorship
- Purpose and Themes
- References to Messiah
- Common Sayings
- Chapter by Chapter Breakdown
- Important People
- Other Posts About Job
- Lessons Learned: Sometimes We Have to Suffer
- Trouble Reading Job
- References & Footnotes
Date and Authorship
Like most books of the Bible, this book is written anonymously with no clues as to who penned the text. To begin narrowing down who wrote the book of Job, we also need to estimate when it was written. The Books of History are ordered chronologically (for the most part), and follow the Books of Law chronologically. Job doesn't fit this pattern. Job is the first of the Books of Wisdom and immediately follows the Books of History, yet Job doesn't seem to be set after the exile.
The Timeline of Job
Job is not referred to as an Israelite, nor does he reference the priesthood or Temple. Nothing from the Exodus is referenced either. This implies that Job was born before the Israelites became a nation.
Elihu, one of the men who speaks to Job, is said to be a Buzite. Genesis 22:21 names Buz, a man who was a close relative of Abraham's. Could this man be related to Elihu? There is also a Buz spoken of in 1 Chronicles. This second Buz was from the tribe of Gad, which would make Elihu from the tribe of Gad. However, the lack of reference to the Israelites, specific tribes, or the Exodus make it unlikely that that Job's story took place after the establishment of Israel.
Further, we are told that Job lives in the land of Uz. Uz is not mentioned in the Historical Books. If scholars are right, the land of Uz becomes Edom. This would place Job somewhere in time before Jacob and Esau.
Job 42:16 informs us that Job lived another 140 years after the events of the book before he died. This confirms that Job lived after the flood, but before Moses. Shem, the son of Noah, lives to be 600 years old, while Abraham only lives to 175. The life expectancy of mankind steadily decreased after the flood, marking eras by the how long people lived. We aren’t told how old Job is when the events of the book begin, but the fact that Job lives another 140 years after his ordeal, suggests he lived either before or around the time of Abraham.
The Time of Authorship
The book must have been written after the events took place. If the events of the book occurred during the time of Abraham, that would place the earliest possible date of authorship during that era as well. Some scholars suggest it was written shortly after Job's blessing were returned, while others suggest Moses authored the book, placing its date of authorship sometime after the Exodus. Personally, the poetry of the exchanges between Job and his friends causes me to think it was authored just after the events occurred. It would be difficult to remember exactly what was spoken (and by whom). Of course, with divine inspiration, anything is possible. Because there is no consensus on who penned the book, the estimated date of authorship ranges from as early as 2100 BC to as late as 100 BC.
As I mentioned earlier, some scholars believe Moses wrote the book of Job. This actually follows the Jewish tradition.
Moses' writings focus mostly on the law and the history of how the Israelites came to be. Job on the other hand, focuses on wisdom. Like the other books of wisdom, Job teaches us about how to cope with life. It seems odd, that Moses would have focused on such an issue. This is probably why scholars searched for other candidates they can attribute authorship to. Contenders for the attribution are Elihu, Ezra, Hezekiah, Solomon, and Job himself.
The low hanging fruit on that list is Job himself. Job lives for quite some time after the events of the book take place. It isn't unreasonable to believe Job would document his experience to pass on the wisdom he and his friends gleaned from the situation. Job's autobiography probably spread and was eventually merged into writings of the Israelites. If Elihu's ancestor Buz really is the relative of Abraham, it’s easy to imagine the information propagating from Uz to the Israelites.
Solomon is also a logical author. As one of the wisest men of the Bible, Solomon was focused on the type of wisdom found in Job. Also, we know that Solomon was gifted with poetry; so was the author of Job.
Purpose and Themes
Job is the go to book to explain why bad things happens to good people. Job also gives us a backstage pass to the dispute between God and the devil. We often forget that while God has ultimate authority, the devil is able to make things happen as well. Sometimes God withdraws his protection from even those who profess His name to teach the world a lesson. The devil uses these opportunities to try to steal us away from God. This is exactly what happened to Job.
Not only does Job provide us with wisdom on how to handle tragedy, Job is home to references to Yeshua/Jesus, many of our common sayings today, and examples of advanced science!
References to Messiah
One of the issues Job grabbles with the most is the need for a mediator between him and God. Throughout the book Job wants to plead his case before God but is unworthy to do so. Is that not what Jesus does for us? We approach the Son and He intercedes to the Father on our behalf. Job even coins the phrase "my Redeemer lives" (Job 19:25).
In recent years, there's been this phenomena of people referring to themselves as "cultural Christians." Usually this refers to someone who doesn't believe in or follow Jesus and God, but takes part in the traditions associated with Christianity. I don't really want to get into this concept so much as show how pervasive the Bible is in our culture. The book of Job is the origin of many of the sayings we have today, most of which people don't even associate with the Bible. Below are just a few of the common sayings from today that can be found in Job.
- "the hair on my body stood up" — Job 4:15
- "my life in my hands" — Job 13:14
- "skin of my teeth" — Job 19:20
- "the root of the matter" — Job 19:28
- "put your hand over your mouth" — Job 21:5
- "land of the living" — Job 28:13
- "eyes to the blind" — Job 29:15
Most people stick science and God on opposite sides of the spectrum. The history of the animosity between the church and science is quite interesting. When Christianity became a mainstream religion in Rome, a lot changed, and as Rome gained popularity as the epicenter of Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church somehow became "thee Christian church." Suddenly, a Roman man was claiming infallibility and ultimate authority over God's church—this ushered in the dark ages.
The major issue is that man isn't infallible. Only those chosen by God can prophesy accurately and only those inspired by God can write down His truth accurately. When the Catholic Church declared the papacy to be infallible, they opened the door to criticism. The popes are not and were not infallible. Pioneers of astronomy and other sciences were quick to discover this truth. If the masses were to discover that the papacy was not infallible, the church would lose their power. Thus science became an enemy of the church. God really is infallible, however. Science is not a threat to Him; He created it.
The book of Job is constantly reminding us that God created all things and thus is the possessor of all knowledge. God placed the sun in the center and set the Earth in rotation around it. God created hydrogen and oxygen, and bonded them together to make water. Despite many people believing the Bible teaches an Earth-centric universe or a flat Earth, it does not. Why? Because God created science. It is no surprise then, that science appears in Job.
There are 7 examples of the author of Job having knowledge of advanced science that we generally don't attribute to that time period. These 7 principles are:
- the suspension of the Earth (Job 26)
- composition of the human body (Job 33)
- evaporation-precipitation cycle (Job 36)
- wind and weather directions (Job 37)
- cloud lightening relationship (Job 37)
- ocean bottom phenomena (Job 38)
- orbits and astronomy (Job 38).
I will discuss each of these examples in detail when I come to them in the reading.
Chapter by Chapter Breakdown
Below is a list of people mentioned in Job; I will do more in depth studies on them over time.
Other Posts About Job
Lessons Learned: Sometimes We Have to Suffer
Job has always been one of my favorite books of the Bible. It’s been a theological go-to for almost everything I talk about. The overarching theme that we may suffer even when we believe we shouldn't, as well as the fact that only God has complete control and complete knowledge are two that seem to apply to everything in life. I find myself referencing Job's experience often, but I don't find myself reading the book often...
Trouble Reading Job
Reading Job reminded me of reading Beowulf. The most I remember about Beowulf is that after reading each stanza, I would have to re-read it because I didn't understand it the first time. There's no question that Job contains masterful poetry. Its beautifully written, and many of the popular phrases we say today were spawned from Job's words. But like with Beowulf, I didn't always know what I had read. It could be that I had too much on my mind while reading, but I often found it really difficult to zero in on the meaning. On top of that, I had to remind myself that Job's friends weren't always giving sound advice. This makes the book even more difficult to understand. It's also why theologically, it's still my favorite!
It's hard to know which pastors are giving us the right interpretation of scripture. Many times they mean well, they think they're right, and it sounds sort of in ball park. However, like Job's friends, they're missing a piece of the puzzle. We have to study diligently and ask the Holy Spirit to give us understanding. When I finish my journey back through the Bible, I will comeback and re-read Job, because I'm sure I missed something (or many things).
The book of job is one of the most depressing books in the Bible. It's a humbling reminder that things don't always go our way, even when we're doing all the right things. We like to comfort ourselves, and others, saying that good things come to those who serve God, but we often forget that bad visits us while we wait. It's hard to be strong in a case like Job's. I've always been the person who could take deserved punishment easily, but when I feel unjustly punished, that's another story. Like Job, it's easy to put ourselves on a pedestal and start thinking God has wronged us when things take a turn for the worst. We must remember those last chapters of Job and remind ourselves that God is just and He doesn't make mistakes.
Another takeaway is influenced by Job's friends. They may have been giving false doctrine, but they sat with Job during the storm. Job's friends could have labelled him a lost cause and gone on with their lives, but they didn't. If we are true friends, we will help our friends through their troubling times as well. Job's friends may have been perfect examples if they had prayed before spreading their opinion of the situation. We should follow their example of supporting our friends, but we should pray before offering our friends advice. Perhaps if Job's friends had been in better communication with God, they could have resolved the issue much sooner. Even if the suffering period remained the same, at the end, God would not have been angry with them. From start to finish, the Bible cautions us to beware of false doctrine. Most of us would never corrupt His word on purpose, but that doesn't mean we won't do so by accident. God doesn't want tarnished and distorted versions of His word floating around, so we should always check with Him to confirm our understanding.
References & Footnotes
- "Land of Uz". Wikipedia; visited May 2017
- William MacDonald. Believer's Bible Commentary, pg. 513-515. 1995
- Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 861-864. 2014