Among the books of the Bible widely classified as “wisdom and poetry literature,” one would naturally think of Psalms among the poetry. But the book of Job is not one that comes to the mind of most people when they think of poetry. The great poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, however, would disagree. Tennyson called Job “the greatest poem, whether of ancient or modern literature.” A common statement made about Job is that it is about the question of why good people suffer.
Well, that question certainly was raised in Job, but there is a problem with that description after a careful reading – that question was never really answered. Oswald Chambers said it better when presenting a summary of all five of the wisdom books. Speaking of Job, he said it describes “how to suffer.” And that is just about as good of a description as you will get, for much of the book does teach us how the righteous should face suffering, when it comes into their lives. And in fact, Job is overflowing with poetry, as well as wisdom. Every Thursday this year, we will read a chapter from this great book.
One question that constantly comes up about Job is whether it is fiction or history. Defending the (correct, I solemnly believe) view that the Book of Job is the real story of a real man who suffered unimaginably difficult times is beyond the scope of this blog – except maybe to point out that God’s word treats it as such, and His inspired writers in other books refer to Job as a historic figure (Ezekiel 14:14, 20 and James 5:11, for example). For a more in-depth look at the historicity of Job, please see this article at ApologeticsPress.org.
We will start off chapter one by stating that there is much we do not know. We do not know who the author was or when it was written. The absence of reference to a Levitical priesthood (as demonstrated in verse 5) along with Job’s longevity (see Job 42:16), however, suggest roughly a time in Genesis after the flood. We also do not know where, geographically, Job’s home in Uz was either, other than it was in the east (verse 3) and near a desert (verse 19). It could be related to the northern home of Uz, the grandson of Shem (Genesis 10:22-23), Noah’s son, of whom the historian Josephus wrote in “Antiquities of the Jews” (book 1, chapter 6, paragraph 4), crediting him with the founding of Trachonitis and Damascus. It could also be the land of Abraham’s nephew Uz (Genesis 22:20-21). It could even be the land of the Uz the descendant of Seir, who had been related to Esau by marriage (Genesis 36:28). It could also be the same land spoken of in Jeremiah 25:17-29 and Lamentations 4:21, which would be near or even include Edom to the south and east of the Dead Sea.
There is a lot of speculation also about verses 6-12. Some say that the “sons of God” in verse 6 were angels. Others make the perfectly good point that the term “sons of God” is used elsewhere in the scriptures to speak of people who serve the Lord (e.g. Romans 8:14 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God”). Along those lines, it is noteworthy that six times in these six verses, the Tetragrammaton (the Hebrew letters usually transliterated as YHWH or JHVH, which many refer to as Jehovah, rather than Yahweh) are used for God. This use of the proper covenental name of God would seem to suggest a gathering of worshipers in which Satan asserted himself.
What we do know is that Job was a wealthy man who lived an upright life in the fear of the Lord (verses 1-3),
even to the point of offering sacrifices to God for his ten children (verse 5). He seemed to have everything one could desire in life. Then came the news from messengers, one after another, each telling of the great calamities that had fallen upon Job. The Sabeans came from the south and killed his oxen and donkeys, and then murdered his servants that were with them (verses 14-15). Then what we could assume as lightning had struck and killed his sheep and the servants that tended them (verse 16). Before the second messenger had finished, another came and told Job that the Chaldeans, coming from the north, had taken his camels and killed the servants that were with them as well (verse 17). The worst blow came again before the third messenger finished delivering his news. All of his children, having been at the feast at his oldest son’s house had been killed by what must have been a great tornado that destroyed the house (verse 19).
Of Job’s immense grief at all of this loss, we get only a sense, as he tore his robe and shaved his head (signs of mourning) in verse 20. He then fell upon the ground and worshiped God, rather than cursing him as Satan had hoped. Verses 21-22 begin the real lesson of this book:
“And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”
Many have suffered great loss in this world (though few as great as this in such a short time), but who has not known someone who blamed God for their troubles, even those that were really self-inflicted? How often have we been inclined to do the same? Any loss, however great, is not the end of eternity. Not for us, nor for any of the loved ones we may have lost. Every blessing we have received in this life has come from God (James 1:17), unearned by us, and all of those blessings will be only a memory by the end of this life. But as James, the Lord’s brother, also wrote in 1:12:
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
But Job’s story is only beginning. We will take up chapter 2 next Thursday.
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Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com. For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.