Having finished the book of Deuteronomy, we now move to the book of Job. Although the events of Job cannot be easily dated, there is some consensus that they occurred during the period of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). Or, to put a wide range of dates on the events of Job, we can say that they probably occurred between 2000 – 1000 BC. Because we are unsure of the dating, we choose to place Job in between Deuteronomy and Joshua chronologically.
The author of Job is unknown. Christian tradition holds that Job himself was the author, but some scholars believe that Moses or Solomon were the original authors. In any case, there has never been any dispute among Jews or Christians that the book of Job is inspired by God and belongs in the canon of Scripture.
In chapter 1, verses 1-5, we are introduced to Job. We learn several important things about him: 1) he was blameless and upright, fearing God and shunning evil, 2) he had a large family consisting of 7 sons and 3 daughters, 3) he was incredibly wealthy, 4) he was known as the greatest man in his area of the world, and 5) he frequently offered sacrifices for his children for he feared they may have sinned.
The purpose of this first section is to communicate clearly to the reader that Job is a God-fearing man who has been richly blessed by God. It is critical to keep these facts in mind before proceeding to read the rest of the book of Job.
In verses 6-8, we are suddenly taken to God’s throne room in heaven where angels present themselves to God. One angel, Satan, draws the attention of God. God asks Satan what he thinks of Job, a man who fears God and shuns evil.
In verses 9-11, Satan accuses Job of only worshiping God because of all the material blessings he has received from God. Take away his blessings, Satan argues, and Job will curse God. God agrees to allow Satan to test Job, but restricts him from physically harming Job. Notice that Satan is clearly under God’s command, and there is nothing that Satan can do without God allowing it.
The central theme of the book of Job is the question of why we should fear God. John Sailhamer explains it this way:
What motivates the kind of godly living exemplified in the righteous man Job? Is it the possessions and security that God has given him? Or would a truly wise man continue to live a godly life, even in the face of material loss and suffering? Satan’s answer was ‘No! Take away his blessings and Job will not continue to live a godly life.’ God, however, knowing that true wisdom is its own reward, answered ‘yes’ in Job’s behalf. A truly wise man seeks to live a godly life regardless of the earthly rewards.
Verses 13-19 describe the disasters brought upon Job by Satan. First, Job’s oxen and donkeys are carried off by Sabean marauders, and the servants watching over them are killed. Second, Job’s sheep and more servants are killed by fire from heaven. Third, another group of marauders, the Chaldeans, steal Job’s camels and kill yet more of his servants. Fourth, Job’s children are all killed when a windstorm destroys the house they are feasting in.
It is hard to imagine what it would be like to face such loss, so how would Job respond? Would he curse God?
Not only did Job not sin, but he fell to the ground in worship, and uttered some of the most famous lines from Scripture:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”
To make the point crystal clear, the text then reads “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”
In the remainder of the book, Job is comforted by four friends who each try to explain to him how it is that such disaster could befall him. The first three friends are all convinced that Job must have sinned before God, and that Job’s catastrophic losses are punishment for his sin. Job denies this is the case, and we, the readers, know that Job is right. We know that Job is righteous and is not being punished for wrongdoing.
The fourth friend, Elihu, offers that God may be disciplining Job, not for something he had done, but to prevent foolish pride. Elihu advises Job to fear God and not question His justice.
Job, in response to his friends, never curses God, but he does accuse God of being unjust toward him. He demands that God explain himself, and Job even suggests that there needs to be a third-party mediator between himself and God to decide who is in the right. God eventually does appear to Job and answer his accusations at the end of the book. That will be covered in a later lesson.