The Book of Job
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 17 September 2014; Revised 16 May 2016
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the article. Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (1995 Updated edition). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. References to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); found at Halakhah.com.
Grammar: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB" and the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009).
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Hebraic nature of Scripture I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus) and Messiah (Christ).
"There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil." (Job 1:1)
As the verse above summarizes there lived a man in ancient times whose name was Job (Heb. Iyyob, pronounced ee-yohv). The Complete Jewish Bible presents his name literally as Iyov. The meaning of his name is unknown, but Strong's Concordance suggests the name may have been derived from Heb. ayav, "hated, persecuted." While some scholars have questioned Job's actual existence, the Bible treats this man as a real person (Ezek 14:14, 20; Jas 5:11). The book establishes first Job's character and therein lies the key to the meaning of his name.
Job is identified with four character traits. First, he was blameless (Heb. tam, perfect, complete, morally innocent, having integrity, BDB 1070). The word tam occurs 13 times in Scripture, one of which is attributed to the patriarch Jacob (Gen 25:27). An adjectival form of tam, tamiym was applied to Noah (Gen 6:9) and prescribed as God's expectation of Abraham (Gen 17:1). Second, Job was upright (Heb. yashar, straight, right, straightforward, BDB 449). The adjective occurs well over 100 times in the Tanakh and is used to characterize God (Deut 32:4; Ps 25:8; 92:15), Jacob (Num 23:10), David (1Sam 29:6; 1Kgs 3:6; 9:4) and Levi (Mal 2:6). Job was without fault in an ethical sense.
Third, Job feared God. The Heb. word is yare ("yaw-ray"), afraid, standing in awe (BDB 431). Solomon said the fear of the LORD is to hate evil (Prov 8:13). Job was not frightened of God. (Only consider his boldness in his speeches.) Rather, Job respected God's judgment on sin and agreed with His standards of righteousness. Fourth, Job turned away (Heb. sur, to turn aside, BDB 693) from evil (Heb. ra, adversity, evil, BDB 949). In other words, Job actively shunned wicked behavior. Job was as great as Noah and Daniel (Ezek 14:14), making him one of Israel's greatest ancestors. The apostle Jacob holds Job up as a model of endurance (Jas 5:11).
Job is not included in any genealogy, so fixing the time period of his life cannot be certain. Most scholars suggest that Job probably lived about 2000 B.C., the time of the patriarchs or even before the patriarchs. Job was most likely a descendant of Shem, perhaps in the family tree of Abraham, because he "feared" the God of Abraham (Job 1:1; cf. Gen 22:12) and worshipped God with "burnt offerings" as Abraham (Job 1:5; cf. Gen 22:2). Job resided in Uz, which corresponds to the later territory of Edom (Jer 25:20; Lam 4:21), and his home may not have been far from the Jordan River (cf. Job 40:23). Job was a very wealthy man (Job 1:3) and his family included one wife and ten children - seven sons and three daughters (twice, Job 1:2; 42:13). Job also had at least two brothers and two sisters (42:11). At the end of the story Job lives long enough to have great-great grandsons (42:16).
Some scholars assume that Job's lifespan was 140 based on Job 42:16 (Kaiser 64; NIBD 575), but the Hebrew text says "after this" (meaning the events of the book), Job lived 140 years. In addition, a considerable number of years had passed before the beginning of the story to account for his level of prosperity (Job 1:3) and the adult age of his first set of children (Job 1:4-5). The average lifespan from Peleg to Abraham was 206. Most of the patriarchs listed in Genesis 11 before Abraham had their firstborn sons about the age of 30, as well as other sons and daughters. So we can estimate Job's lifespan at least 170 and as much as 210. Morris suggests that Job's lifespan was about 200 years (133). Job and his wife may have been about 40 years of age, perhaps 50, when tragedy befell them.
The exact length of Job's suffering is not given, but the narrative implies that the period of his trial lasted "months" (cf. Job 7:3; 14:5; 21:21; 29:2). News of Job's tragic losses likely took considerable time to be made known. Many days or even weeks probably preceded the arrival of the three friends who may have lived as far away as Arabia. Travel by wealthy persons involved much planning and normally accomplished by slow caravans. In addition, the discourses of the book were probably not given in a single day, but could easily have ranged over days and weeks.
Overview: Job is the fifth longest book in the Bible in terms of chapters (42) and the seventh longest in terms of verses (1068). In the Christian Bible the book of Job appears after the historical books and before the book of Psalms. In the Hebrew Bible the book is placed in the third section called Ketuvim ("Writings") and in sequence is third after Psalms and Proverbs.
Author: The text never declares an author. Thus, many scholars have concluded that Job was written by Elihu, one of the three friends, or simply some anonymous writer of that or some other age (HBD). However, Christian scholars often fail to understand the ancient Hebrew-Jewish mindset. "Unlike the Greek, the Jew had no personal pride in authorship, probably because he so often felt himself the vehicle of something before which his own personality sank into insignificance" (Tarn & Griffith 229). The Jewish Sages attributed authorship to Moses (Baba Bathra 14b). When asked why Job did not appear as the first book in the Ketuvim in honor of Moses, the reason given is "We do not begin with a record of suffering."
It is a puzzle why Christian scholars ignore the opinion of Jewish Sages who lived much closer to the event. Internal evidence suggests Job as the original author (19:23-24), and then Moses served as editor, much as he did in writing Genesis. The prologue is obviously a work of divine revelation, and could have been given to Job or Moses. Written records about Job's experience could also have been available, just as Moses had access to family records (Heb. sepher toledoth, "record of generations") passed down from God to Adam to Noah to Shem to Terah to Ishmael to Isaac to Esau to Jacob to Joseph (Gen 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 19; 36:1, 9; 37:2; 50:23). When Moses fled to Midian (Ex 2:15), which lies just south of ancient Edom, he "sojourned" throughout the region (Ex 2:22; 3:1). Not only did Moses learn the territory, which would be important to the later wanderings of Israel, but he could easily have come into contact with the story of Job.
Date: The book of Job may well be the oldest book of the Bible with the exception of the first eleven chapters of Genesis (Morris 12). Many scholars date the book just prior, during or after the exile, partly because of the belief that the art of writing was a very late development and the history of the Hebrew people was largely oral for centuries. It is much more reasonable to suppose that Bible books were composed soon after the last event recorded in the book and the content based on contemporaneous records. The authors were the significant leaders or prophets of Israel (cf. Eph 2:20). The books were committed to writing very early and the Holy Spirit superintended the entire process (2Tim 3:16).
Archaeology has demonstrated the existence of writing from at least 3100 BC. Moses lived c. 1525-1405 BC. The Pentateuch, written in Hebrew, contains many references to writing (Gen 5:1; Ex 17:14; 24:4, 12; 31:18; 32:15-16, 32; 34:1, 27; Num 17:2; Deut 6:9; 10:2; 17:18; 24:1, 3; 25:58; 27:3, 8; 28:58; 29:20-21, 27; 30:10; 31:19, 24). Oral tradition has not been proven; it has just been assumed. Thus, modern criticism ignores the evidence. The Tanakh was written over 1,500 years, Moses to Malachi.
Dating the book of Job considers what is absent. There is no mention of Israel, including Moses, judges, kings or prophets. There is no mention of the Ten Commandments or any of the laws given to Moses for Israel. Yet, there is an assumption of commandments, because divine laws were given long before Moses. God said of Abraham, "Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws" (Gen 26:5). Similarly, Job declares, "I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12; cf. 6:10; 42:5). Job's friends and Elihu were also aware of these divine laws (cf. Job 22:22; 33:16; 36:10).
Literary Structure: The book is primarily in the form of poetic verse, which some scholars consider a dialog between Job and his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. However, the book is actually a debate carried out in a series of discourses or monologues, such as congressmen who give speeches in response to one another. As a result of this unusual structure, some scholars find a tension between the prose form of the prologue and epilogue and the poetic form of the body of the book. Not always considered is that prose and poetry serve different functions. The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle said that "poetry is something more philosophical and of graver import than history." The prologue and epilogue describe the facts of the historical event, but the poetic sections address universal ideas and truth. Indeed, we need the poetry of Job to make sense of the history.
Prologue: Job's Tragedy, Chaps 12
Job's First Speech, Chap. 3
First Round of Debate, Chaps 414
Second Round of Debate, Chaps 1521
Third Round of Debate, Chaps 2226
Job's Closing Argument, Chaps 2731
Elihu's Discourse, Chaps 3237
God's Instruction of Job, Chaps 3842:6
Epilogue: God's Restoration of Job, Chap 42:7-17
Commonality With Genesis
One commentator, Edward Dhorme, has pointed out several points of commonality between the book of Job and the descriptions of the patriarchs in Genesis 12−50.
The wealth of Job (1:3) and the prosperity of Isaac (Gen 26:13-14). [Also, Abraham, Gen 12:16; 20:14; 24:35; and Jacob, Gen 30:43]
Increase in Job's cattle (1:10) and Laban's increase of cattle (Gen 30:29-30).
The preference for the divine name of Shaddai in Job (5:17; +30t) and the patriarchs (Gen 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; Ex 6:3).
Job, a non-priest, offered [animal] sacrifice (1:5), as did the patriarchs (Gen 8:20; 22:13; 31:54; 46:1).
Content of the sacrifice (7 bulls and 7 rams) (42:8) is the same offered by Balaam for King Balak (Num 23:1-3).
Job lived 140 years [sic], which allowed him to see four generations (35 years for a generation) and Joseph lived 110 years, which allowed him to see three generations (about 36 years for a generation) (Gen 50:23).
The currency of qesitah (42:11) is the same as in Jacob's day (Gen 33:19).
The death of Job (42:7) is described in the exact terms of Abraham and Isaac (Gen 25:8; 35:29).
(A Commentary on the Book of Job, quoted in Kaiser 64).
In addition, Henry Morris points out that the antiquity of the book of Job may be found in its perspective on various important events recorded in Genesis (23).
Creation and Curse. The book of Job assumes divine special creation and that Elohim is the Creator of all things, including the heavens (9:8), the earth (38:4), the stars (9:9; 26:13), the animals (12:7-10), and man (27:3; 33:4-6). Adam is mentioned by name, but it's to point out his sin and the fact that he tried to hide it (31:33). Due to the curse imposed by God after Adam's sin man will return to dust (10:9; 34:14-15). The specific curse on Woman and her offspring is also mentioned (14:1-4; 15:14).
Deluge. It's very possible that Job lived only 300 years after the great deluge of Noah's time. Job mentions Noah being shut in the ark and the worldwide destruction by water following: "Behold, He breaketh down, and it cannot be built again; He shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening. 15 Behold, He withholdeth the waters, and they dry up; again He sendeth them out, and they overturn [Heb. haphak, overturn, overthrow, inundate] the earth" (Job 12:14-15 ASV). Job also uses this word "overturning" in reference to the mountains being destroyed (9:5; cf. 28:9). Eliphaz, too, refers to the deluge in his attack on Job, "Will you keep to the old way which wicked men have trod, 16 who were cut down before their time, whose foundations were swept away by a flood?" (22:15-16 NKJV)
The book of Job also speaks of the aftermath of the deluge, namely the drying (14:11-12), and the oceanic boundaries that protect the earth from a similar flood (26:10; 38:8-11). There are even hints of a post-Flood ice age (37:9-10; 38:22-23, 29-30). Indeed, there are more references to cold, snow, ice and frost in Job than in any other book of the Bible.
Dispersion. The traumatic beginning of the nations recorded in Genesis 11 seems to be in view in the latter part of Job 12 after the mention of the Deluge. In verse 20 Job speaks of God taking away speech and understanding. Then in verse 23 God increased the nations (by virtue of language division). Morris points out that it is worth noting that a number of the tribal names mentioned in Job are first encountered in the Table of Nations (Gen 10), including Uz (Gen 10:23; Job 1:1), Sheba (Gen 10:7; Job 6:19), Ophir (Gen 10:29; Job 28:16), Cush (Gen 10:6; Job 28:19) and Seba (Gen 10:7; Job 1:15).
I would add that the book of Job addresses various subjects connected to the Genesis narrative.
Angels. Job is the first one to give a hint as to the creation of the angels. "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God [Heb. Elohim] shouted for joy" (Job 38:4, 7). The earth or land was brought into existence on the third day, so the angels had to have been created prior to this in order to witness the event. Psalm 104:2-5 suggests that angels were created on the second day when the waters of the Deep were stretched out and the expanse (or firmament) was created (cf. Gen 1:6-8). The fall of some of the angels is alluded to in a demonic visitation to Eliphaz in which a spirit says, "against His angels He charges error" (Job 4:18). Some believe the fallen angels constituted a third of those created on the basis of Revelation 12:4.
Deity. Six names of God appear in the book of Job. (1) Elohim, "God," the Creator God (1:1; 18 times; cf. Gen 1:1); (2) YHVH, "LORD," the Sacred Name (1:6; 32 times; cf. Gen 2:4); (3) Eloah, "God," the Rock of Salvation (3:4; 43 times; cf. Deut 32:15); (4) El, "God," the God of Melchizedek (5:8; 55 times; cf. Gen 14:18); (5) Shaddai, "Almighty," the God of Abraham (5:17; 31 times; cf. Gen 17:1); and (6) Adonai, "Lord," the God of Abraham (Job 28:28; cf. Gen 15:2). Of these, two names are especially noteworthy because they dominate usage in the Tanakh, Eloah with 75% of the occurrences in the Tanakh, and Shaddai with 65% of the occurrences in the Tanakh.
The occurrence of YHVH is also significant, being spoken four times by Job (1:21; 12:9) and the remainder by the narrator in chapters 1, 2, 38, 40 and 42. The Sacred Name, YHVH, first occurs in Genesis 2:4 and then a total of 162 times in the book. While not reflected in Bible translations YHVH is not a title or a word for a deity, but the personal name of the God of Israel (Ex 3:15; 2Chr 14:11; Isa 42:8). The prolific use of YHVH in Genesis, as well as Job, presents something of a conundrum because God told Moses, "I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty [Heb. El Shaddai], but by My name, LORD [Heb. YHVH], I did not make Myself known to them" (Ex 6:3; cf. Gen 15:2, 7; 17:1). The statement implies that Moses inserted YHVH into the Genesis and Job narratives. The rationale could be two-fold: (1) the usage of YHVH in Genesis and Job asserts that the Creator-God is the God of Israel; (2) the usage of YHVH also demonstrates that the true people of God from the time of Seth had always worshipped the Holy One of Israel.
While the use of YHVH in Genesis does emphasize both the identity of the Creator and the One who received true worship, the fact remains that God also said to Abraham, "I am the LORD [Heb. YHVH] who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it." (Gen 15:7). Keil suggests that the patriarchs (and those before them, including Job) were not ignorant of the Sacred Name. The knowledge indicated by Exodus 6:3 is that the God of the fathers is "an absolute Being working with unbounded freedom in the performance of His promises. For not only had he established His covenant with the fathers but He had also heard the groaning of the children of Israel and remembered His covenant" (303f). So, while the Name YHVH was known, the complete redemptive significance of the Name was not revealed until Moses.
Redeemer. Throughout the Tanakh reverberates with the theme of the promised Seed or Messiah who will bring redemption and defeat the Serpent who deceived our first parents (Gen 3:15; cf. Luke 24:25-27; Acts 26:6-7; Rom 4:13-14, 20; 9:4; 15:8-9; Heb 6:14-14, 17; 11:9, 39-40; 1Jn 3:8; Rev 20:2, 10). Job said, "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth" (Job 19:25). The word "redeemer" is Heb. go'el, one who acts as a kinsman redeemer. Job prophesies that the expected redeemer will stand on the earth at the "Last," which as a time reference could either mean the last day (DRA, WYC) or in the latter days (KJ21, KJV, JUB). This message is affirmed in the Besekh where it says that Yeshua is the one who will bring final redemption of the body (Luke 1:68; 21:28; Rom 8:23; Eph 4:30) and will do it on the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54).
Resurrection. Job is the first one to express the expectation of life after death. While he initially expressed doubt of being rescued from Sheol (7:9), he later questions this assumption (14:13-14). Eventually after declaring his belief in the coming Redeemer he says, "Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God" (Job 19:26). His statement of faith is earlier that God's declaration to Moses, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Ex 3:6), later quoted by Yeshua as proof of resurrection in his rebuke of the Sadducees (Matt 22:31-32). However, the concept of resurrection is present in Genesis because the "deadness" of Abraham and Sarah's capacity for conception was transformed to bring forth life (Heb 11:12) and Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac because of believing in resurrection (Heb 11:19).
The Satan as Adversary
"Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them" (Job 1:6)
After introducing the man Job the scene shifts in the first chapter to heaven where a conversation begins between God and Satan. The Hebrew name ha-satan ("sah-tahn") means adversary and describes the activity of a person, whether human or heavenly, who opposes other humans (e.g., Num 22:22; 1Sam 29:4; 1Kgs 11:14, 24, 25; 1Chr 21:1; Job 2:1; Zech 3:1). In the LXX the Heb. satan is rendered by Grk. diabolos ("devil"), which also means "adversary," and in the apostolic writings is never used to describe a human (DNTT 3:468f). The words "devil" and "satan" are not personal names. In the apostolic writings Satan is an opponent of Yeshua and the gospel (Mark 4:15), a tempter (Mark 1:13) and the head of a demonic empire (Mark 3:23-26).
F.F. Bruce explains the nature of Satan's office as seen in the book of Job,
"In the story of Job, for example, where Satan (better, 'the satan') is said to have presented himself at a session of the heavenly court (Job 1:6), the expression means 'the adversary' or, as we might say, 'counsel for the prosecution.' This is the regular function of this unpleasant character in the Old Testament. Every court must have a prosecutor, but this prosecutor enjoys his work so much that, when there are not sufficient candidates for prosecution, he goes out of his way to tempt people to go wrong, so that he may have the pleasure of prosecuting them (cf. 1Chr 21:1). His role as tempter is thus secondary to his role as prosecutor." (147)
Satan's character explains the meaning of Job's name ("hated, persecuted") and in one respect Job is symbolic of all those who have been persecuted for "the sake of righteousness" (Matt 5:10). Satan hates all that belongs to God and actively seeks the destruction of God's people (1Chr 21:1; John 8:44; 10:10; Acts 10:38; 13:10; 1Th 2:18; 1Pet 5:8; Jude 1:9; Rev 2:10; 12:9). Satan had some specific objectives for Job. He accused Job before God and with God's permission he attacked Job's prosperity, Job's family, Job's physical health, Job's mental health, and Job's spiritual health. The adversary's tactics were both direct and deceptive. In direct and unmerciful cruelty he brought disasters and death on Job's household (1:13-19). Then Satan acted with subterfuge to turn Job's friends against him so that they became adversaries (cf. Matt 16:23; Luke 22:3; Acts 5:3). Through all of this Job maintained his integrity and his loyalty to God.
"Then his wife said to him, 'Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!'" (Job 2:9)
"Now when Job's three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him." (Job 2:11)
"Miserable comforters are you all." (Job 16:2 ESV)
Little considered by commentators is the anguish of Job's wife. Unlike his friends, Job's wife had lost her security and her children. To her, Job's physical suffering was the least of her problems. She had lost her financial security, but the far worse misfortune was the death of her ten children when a great wind (think 'wind sheer' or 'tornado') destroyed the house where they were enjoying a celebration (1:19). God has control over the weather, so she angrily exhorts Job to curse God, because He is the cause. Her grief must have been unspeakable, and so her emotional outburst against Job is understandable. While Job suffers, she too suffers and cannot offer him the comfort he needs for his physical torment.
Hearing his wife's bitter words must have hurt Job, but then he must endure multiplied wounds from judgmental criticism of three friends and a nosy outsider: Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, plus a young man by the name of Elihu the Buzite (Job 32:2). The names of Job's friends have connection to tribal and character names in Genesis. Tema was a son of Ishmael (Gen 25:15; cf. Job 6:19) and Teman was a grandson of Esau (Gen 36:15; cf. Job 2:11), thus providing a connection to Eliphaz. Also Tema is identified as a locality in Arabia (Atlas 52).
Shuah occurs as a son of Abraham by Keturah (Gen 25:2), and is probably an ancestor of Bildad the Shuhite. Naamah occurs first as a sister of Tubal-Cain (Gen 4:22). Naamah is also a locality in southern Canaan (Josh 15:40). Barker identifies Naamah as a locality east of the Jordan, perhaps in Arabia (369). Buz occurs as son of Nahor, Abraham's brother (Gen 22:21), and thus likely as an ancestor of Elihu (Job 32:2). The family identification of these four men appears to be a deliberate association with key figures in Genesis.
In spite of their cynicism, the three friends and Elihu demonstrate a belief in the one true God as evidenced by their repeated use of Elohim, the Creator God (5:8; 20:29; 32:2; 34:9; the "Maker" 4:17; 35:10), and El Shaddai, the Almighty (8:3; 11:7; 15:25; 22:3, 17, 23, 25, 26; 32:8; 33:4; 34:10, 12; 35:13; 37:23). There is no evidence in the book that Job's critics were inclined to other gods. As Morris says, "there is no hint of pantheism, polytheism, idolatry, or evolutionism anywhere in the book and such a situation is inconceivable anywhere in any nation much after the time of Abraham" (13).
The three friends initially came to provide comfort and acted out their grief by weeping, tearing their clothes and throwing dust over their heads (2:11-12). They gave Job "space" for seven days, but when they opened their mouths comfort did not come out, but rather accusation and rebuke. Eliphaz spoke first and his words are recorded in chapters 4, 5, 15 and 22. Bildad's words are recorded in chapters 8, 18 and 25. Zophar speaks in chapter 20. Eliphaz may have been initially chosen to speak for the three friends and when Bildad and Zophar do speak it is to agree with Eliphaz. The last character, Elihu the Buzite was not a friend of Job and his connection to the three friends is not made clear. He makes his entrance in chapter 33 and his words continue through chapter 37. Elihu was a young man who had a rather high opinion of his own intelligence (32:6-21; 36:4). Indeed, he even claimed divine inspiration (32:18; 33:4-6), and had the audacity to offer his services as a mediator (33:23-33).
Job and his critics do not conduct a round-table discussion on the philosophical problem of suffering. They are not a committee trying to solve a problem. There are no helpful tips to restore prosperity. Rather the discourses of the friends and Elihu are pure polemic. Eliphaz and then his two buddies repeatedly espouse what's called the "Retribution Principle." By this reasoning character produces consequences. The righteous or good people will prosper. Earthly benefits are the only proof of God's approval. Conversely, the wicked will suffer. Elihu affirmed a discipline value of suffering (33:29-33), believed Job deserved more suffering (34:36) and like the three friends affirmed the retribution principle (36:6-14). Unlike the three friends, God totally ignores Elihu when the story is finally resolved.
The retribution principle is not without example in Scripture. God promised in general that if Israel kept the covenant with Him they would not suffer the plagues of Egypt (Ex 15:26), but disobedience would bring on those calamities (Deut 28:60; cf. Prov 10:16). Particular cases in the Bible serve as serious warnings that God will afflict people for sinning. God punished the household Pharaoh with plagues for taking Sarah away from Abraham (Gen 12:17) and the household of King Abimelech for the same lecherous conduct (Gen 20:17)). An angel struck men of Sodom with blindness for their intended plan to rape Lot's guests (Gen 19:11). God struck Israel in the wilderness with a severe plague for grumbling and rebellion (Num 11:33). Miriam, the sister of Moses, was struck with a skin disorder for her opposition of Moses taking another non-Israelite wife (Num 12:1-10).
Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, was punished with the skin disorder of Naaman because of greed (2Kgs 5:20-27). King Uzziah of Judah was judged with a skin disorder for burning incense which only priests had the right to burn (2Chr 26:16-21). King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was afflicted with a monomania called boanthropy in which he lived as an animal for seven years because he boasted of his accumulation of wealth and achievement in constructing magnificent buildings without giving glory to God as the source of all he possessed (Dan 4:29-34). Yeshua warned the invalid whom he had healed at the pool of Bethesda to "stop sinning or something worse may happen to you" (John 5:14 NIV). Jacob's instruction about praying for the sick includes the provision of the invalid confessing sins if applicable (Jas 5:15-16).
Conversely, there are many people in Scripture who had not sinned and yet suffered unjustly, including Daniel with whom Job is favorably compared. The apostle Paul summarizes some of these "heroes of the faith" in Hebrews 11:32-40. Perseverance under trial gained God's approval and set an example for all of God's faithful people who came thereafter. There was no need for Paul to include Job in that list since an entire book was devoted to his story and he had become the pattern for the righteous sufferer.
Generally ignored by commentators is that the argument of Eliphaz was based on a demonic visitation (4:12-16) and deceptive discourse about the unrighteousness of man and the unfairness of God (4:17-21). Morris summarizes the encounter and outcome:
"This spirit's message was one of cynicism and despair. The spirit cunningly left Eliphaz to draw his own conclusions. With no recognition of God's mercy or gracious promise of salvation in a message supposedly sent by the Lord, the only conclusion Eliphaz could draw was that such a holy God must punish evil and bless goodness, in an inevitable cause-and-effect relationship built into the very nature of things" (68).
The argument of Job's friends in favor of the retribution principle is incomplete, because they leave out the principle of God's grace and His provision for atonement. Job recognized this greater principle when he offered burnt offerings for his sons in case they had sinned (Job 1:5). They also conveniently ignored the fact that wealth is no guarantee of righteousness. Job reminded his friends that there were wicked men with great power and prosperity (21:7-9; 27:13; cf. Prov 11:16). Indeed, the wicked seem to have the upper hand on the earth (Job 9:24). Wisdom literature in the Tanakh cautions against putting trust in riches (Ps 49:6; 52:7; 62:10; Prov 11:4; 27:24; 30:8; Eccl 5:13).
As the story proceeds the critical accusations become increasingly malicious, perhaps reflecting personal insecurity. If Job was innocent where did they stand with God? In spite of the repeated assaults on his character Job forthrightly and repeatedly declares his innocence (Job 9:21; 23:10-12; 27:5-6; 31:1-40). The reader knows from God's pronouncement at the end that the three friends are totally wrong in their judgment of Job (Job 42:7). Their failure was not in understanding the principle of consequences in divine justice, but in ignoring the importance of evidence. The friends had no factual evidence of any misdeeds by Job, but presumed God's judgment.
It's important to remember that not only had the three friends misjudged Job but they also misrepresented God's character. Listen to what God said to Eliphaz: "My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has" (42:7). The divine assessment means that Bible interpreters and students must be very careful in using any part of the adversarial discourses as the basis for teaching spiritual truth. Consider Paul's quotation of Eliphaz (the only quotation from Job in the apostolic writings),
Eliphaz: "He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end." (Job 5:13 ESV)
Paul: For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness." (1Cor 3:19 ESV)
Eliphaz had meant his "wise" saying as a slur against Job. Paul in no way agreed with Eliphaz's intention, but changed the focus of the saying to make it apply to worldly wisdom. Eliphaz exhibited the wisdom of the world and Paul with a touch of irony implies that it was Eliphaz, not Job, who was "caught."
In the end the three friends were required to present burnt offerings to atone for their mischaracterization of God and Job prayed for them to secure divine pardon (Job 42:8-9). The sacrifices of seven bulls and seven rams each constituted a lavish redemption. In addition, they each gave Job some money and a ring of gold as a kind of personal restitution, what a modern court might call compensatory damages (42:11).
Science in Job
Scientific Method. The book of Job is the only book in the Bible to present a clear example of what is now known as the scientific method, which is simply an experimental method. An hypothesis is proposed by a researcher which is then tested. If the test fails then the hypothesis is wrong. Passing the test, however, is not absolute proof that the hypothesis is correct, only that it worked for the conditions under which the test was conducted. Therefore, a second type of falsification test is proposed and the hypothesis is examined under the second set of conditions. The test may be repeated, but if the hypothesis fails any of the tests, it is considered falsified and must be rejected. Similarly, Satan subjected Job to two falsification tests after God proposed the hypothesis regarding Job's character and behavior (Job 1:8). The tests proved God's assessment of Job.
Science. The most prominent feature of the book is its focus on science with many references to the physical universe. There are passages concerning cosmology (Job 9:8-9; 11:7-8; 22:12; 26:13; 38:31-33), geology/geophysics (Job 14:18-19; 26:7, 10; 38:12-16), hydrology (Job 26:8; 28:24-27; 36:27-28; 38:25-28), physics (Job 38:19, 24, 35) and zoology (Job 38:3939:30; 40:1541:34). Morris says there are fifteen or more facts of science in Job that scientists did not discover until recent centuries (35). For example,
Air and wind have weight (Job 28:24-27).
Job depicts the science of geomorphology which studies the effect of water in its work of eroding, transporting and depositing sediments (Job 14:18-10; 28:9-10).
There is a hydrological cycle consisting of evaporation, atmospheric circulation, condensation, precipitation and run-off (Job 28:24-27; 36:27-28; 37:16; 38:25-28).
The earth is suspended in interstellar space with nothing underneath it (Job 26:7). In other words, the earth does not rest on anything as depicted in pagan mythologies.
The earth is a spherical globe, not a flat table (Job 26:10; cf. Prov 8:27; Isa 40:22).
The earth rotates about its north-projecting axis (Job 38:12-14).
There are fresh-water springs on the ocean floor (Job 38:16).
The extent of interstellar space is unlimited (Job 11:7-8; 22:12).
The universe is expanding (Job 9:8).
Heavenly constellations mark the advance of the seasons (Job 38:32).
God's monologue in chapters 40 and 41 introduces two unique and incredible creatures as hallmarks of His omnipotent power. Because these animals are a significant part of God's rebuke of Job, they deserve special attention.
"Behold now, Behemoth, which I made as well as you." (Job 40:15)
God first draws Job's attention to Behemoth, a great land animal (Job 40:15-24). The command to "Behold" implies Behemoth existed when Job was alive. The English word Behemoth transliterates exactly the Hebrew masc. noun (pronounced "be-hay-mohth"). Marginal notes in some Bible versions suggest Behemoth as a "hippopotamus" (CEV, LB, LEB, NASB, RSV, TLB). Two versions insert "hippopotamus" in parenthesis after Behemoth in the text (AMP, OJB) and three versions actually translate "Behemoth" with "hippopotamus" (CEV, NLV, TLV). However, a few versions identify Behemoth as a "monster" (EXB, TEV). Other versions take a neutral position with the marginal note, "a large animal, exact identity unknown" (ESV, NCV, NKJV). The ERV marginal note suggests that Behemoth is either a "hippopotamus, rhinoceros, or possibly elephant."
Bible scholars favor interpreting Behemoth as a known animal for two reasons. First, there is an assumed linguistic connection to Heb. behemah in Psalm 73:22 and Isaiah 30:6 (BDB 97). However, behemah is a fem. noun for an ordinary beast, animal or cattle, occurring many times in the Tanakh and rarely of wild animals (BDB 96f). Second, Bible scholarship's interpretation of animals described in the Bible has been unduly influenced by the theory of evolution, which teaches that dinosaurs did not coexist with human beings. However, the description of Behemoth in Job 40:15-24 does not conform to any current animal in existence.
God sets forth the attributes of Behemoth in unambiguous language: (1) He eats grass of the field as an ox, which identifies not only his diet, but also the manner of consumption, that of chewing a cud (v. 15; cf. Lev 11:3). Since there is no mention of split hooves, Behemoth would be considered an unclean animal, such as the camel. (2) He has a tail like a cedar (v. 17), which suggests size and strength, thereby eliminating all the suggested animals from consideration. (3) His bones are hollowed out structures strong as iron ("tubes of bronze," v. 18), which conform to the bones of known dinosaurs (Clarey).
(4) He is chief, beginning or first of the ways of God (v. 19), which may indicate he is the largest of all land animals (Morris 116). (5) He is a herbivore feeding on plant food (Heb. bul, "produce, outgrowth" BDB 385) in the hill country (v. 20). (6) His known habitat is near the Jordan River (v. 23), whereas the hippopotamus, rhinoceros and elephant are not found anywhere in the Middle East. Indeed, the description of the valley of the Jordan in Genesis 13:10 seems an ideal habitat for Behemoth. (7) Behemoth has no fear of being killed or captured (v. 24), whereas all the suggested animals have been killed and captured by man.
On the assumption that Behemoth represents a dinosaur, Henry Morris suggests the Brontosaurus (aka "Apatosaurus") as a possible match due to its muscular frame and giant tail (BBMS 358). Paleontologists make an interesting observation of the Apatosaurus that fits the description in Job:
"As opposed to popular misconception the mammoth herbivore did not reach its neck up to tall trees and rather it is thought to have either used its long neck in mowing motions to feed on vegetation or they used their long necks to reach out in to marshy ground to feed on lush swampy vegetation. Both of these theories hold ground due to the fact that the Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus) was so large it could not efficiently move through forests to feed on masses of vegetation, nor could it stand in swampy ground without sinking and thereby meeting a slow death. It is popularly believed that the Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus) spent its early years partially submerged in water to support its weight as was also believed of other massive Sauropods; however, recent research suggests that this would not have been possible as it would lead to suffocation of the animal." (Brannan)
Because of the strong influence of evolutionist teaching most people believe that dinosaurs did not coexist with human beings. Besides the biblical record and ancient traditions of most nations and tribal pictographs describing dinosaurs, there is geological evidence of the coexistence of men and dinosaurs. For example,
"Numerous footprints of various kinds of dinosaurs are well preserved in a Cretaceous limestone formation near Glen Rose, Texas, and the area has actually been set aside as a dinosaur park by the State of Texas. In the same formation many human footprints have been reported over the years, of various sizes, some wearing sandals, and some barefoot. Two human skeletons were discovered in the same Utah sandstone formation in which, a few miles away, the Dinosaur National Monument has been constructed because of the great number of dinosaur fossils found there." (BBMS 353)
Recognizing Behemoth as a dinosaur is a perfectly reasonable conclusion.
"Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook?" (Job 41:1)
The entirety of chapter 41 is given to describing Leviathan (Heb. Livyathan), a creature of the sea (cf. Ps 74:13-14; 104:25-26; Isa 27:1). Isaiah 27:1 refers to Leviathan with two important words: (1) a serpent (Heb. tannin, serpent, dragon, sea monster), which is first used of the great sea creatures created on the fifth day (Gen 1:21), and (2) dragon (Heb. nachash, "serpent"), which is first used of the Serpent who tempted Adam and Eve (Gen 3:1). As with Behemoth some Bible scholars (Delitzsch; TWOT 1:472) and Bible versions ignore God's description and interpret Leviathan as a crocodile (AMP, CEV, ERV, LB, NASB, NLV, NRSV, RSV, TLB, WEB). The following attributes demonstrate that Leviathan was not a crocodile:
No human being was a match for Leviathan (vs. 7-10, 25-29).
Leviathan shot forth smoke and fire from his nostrils and mouth (vs. 19-21).
Leviathan had a heart "firm as a stone," which suggests a structure able to withstand the high pressure of great ocean depths.
Leviathan makes the depths of the sea to boil and leaves a significant wake as he moves through the sea (v. 31-32). Indeed, he was made to sport in the sea (Ps 104:26).
Like Behemoth this great creature would be a dinosaur. To the possible objection that not even dinosaurs could breathe fire, Morris retorts that "no one knows what dinosaurs could do" (118). There are many cultural traditions in history of "dragons" that breathed fire, which means they had the ability to breathe out certain gaseous fumes which, on coming in contact with oxygen, would briefly ignite. There are some creatures that perform what man would consider to be impossible. Fire flies produce light, eels produce electricity and the bombardier beetle produces explosive chemical reactions giving it the ability to blow fire out of its head (BBMS 359). Some dinosaur fossils have been found to contain an internal cavity on the top of the head that could have served as a mixing chamber for combustible gases (Morris 118).
On the assumption that Leviathan represents a dinosaur, Henry Morris suggests the carnivorous Plesiosaurus or Ichthyosaur as a possible matches (BBMS 358). In 1976 a dinosaur-like creature was dredged up from the ocean near New Zealand. The giant carcass offered striking evidence that some marine dinosaurs may still be surviving (BBMS 356). Whatever Leviathan may have been he was without a doubt one of the largest and most ferocious marine animals of his time without equal. He was king of the sea (Job 41:34).
Besides being a literal creature Leviathan has a figurative use as well. Job first mentions Leviathan as a power who produces eclipses (Job 3:8-9). In Psalm 74 Leviathan is the Adversary of God's people, possibly an allusion to Egypt (cf. Ps 74:10, 14). Isaiah 27:1 asserts that the dragon or serpent who lives in the sea and cannot be killed by the sword of man (Job 41:26) will be destroyed by the sword of the LORD. While TWOT suggests that Leviathan in Isaiah 27:1 symbolizes sinful mankind (1:472), it is much more likely that the prophecy is of the beastly world power that operates under the aegis of Satan. The book of Revelation depicts the great beast of seven heads and ten horns coming out of the sea at the direction of the dragon, Satan (Rev 13:1).
The Message of the Book
Most Bible scholars, such as Archer, Delitzsch and Smick, believe the purpose of the book of Job is to answer the question, "Why do afflictions upon afflictions befall the righteous man?" or "How do we reconcile the suffering of a just person with the existence of a just God?" Human beings assume that they are entitled to a happy life without pain and that God should arrange it (cf. Job 24:1). However, these questions debated ad infinitum among scholars and Bible study groups are not really answered in the book. In this book suffering is not theoretical or philosophical. Suffering is all too real, and throughout the story Job's suffering is directly attributed to God (Job 1:21; 6:4; 7:20; 23:16; 27:2; 42:11). Since God is ultimately in control, Job pleads for the opportunity to present his case before God (Job 13:3; 31:35).
It's easy to overlook the fact that God started the scientific test. In the mind of Bible characters God has sovereign control and authority over both blessing and misfortune. Life and death are in the hands of God (Ruth 1:20-21; 1Sam 2:6-7). Bible characters never speak of God allowing bad things. God is always in control of His creation; it does not control Him. Thus, if God allows Satan to pick on Job, He is still making a choice. Everything we have comes from God, whether material or physical. He has the right to remove these things or restore these things by His own will.
The sovereignty of God is the focus of this book and the final message of God in chapters 38−42 clearly gives His perspective. As Kaiser says, "The book of Job wanted to define the proper relationship between God and mortals. He is the Lord who will always be there in all his omnipotence and mercy, despite how the circumstances appear at the moment" (65). Leman points out that the story of Job is one of irony, because the reader knows more than the characters. Thus, the words and actions of the characters mean more to the reader than the characters realize. Leman explains,
"In Job, none of the characters, including Job, know why God allowed great tragedies to befall him. Job never learns, even after the fact, that God was using Job as an example to show the angelic beings, especially the Accuser, that there are men who love God purely for the sake of love. The purpose of Job's suffering is God's glory before the heavenly court of angels. The irony that this leads to is two-fold: Job questions God's justice and Job's friends question Job's righteousness. The reader knows better. God is just and Job is righteous." (85)
Another perspective is to deduce the reason for Job's suffering from its ending. God blessed Job with twice as much as he had at the story's beginning. Examining what God did reveals God's purpose. God wanted to heap even more blessing on Job, but knew that if He did Job might be tempted to pride. Job knew that his great wealth was not gained by his own ingenuity and he was afraid that one day he would lose it all (cf. Job 3:25; 31:25). Job was a humble man and God wanted to keep him that way. Mark Copeland also offers a valuable lesson to be gained from the story of Job. Rather than answering why the righteous suffer, Copeland suggests the book presents how the righteous should bear up under suffering (5). This perspective lies behind Jacob's saying, "You have heard of the perseverance of Job" (Jas 5:11).
While we may deduce the immediate reason for Job's misfortunes and the valuable lesson to be learned from it, we should also consider why the book exists. Given the dominant place of science in the book the larger reason for Job's suffering and telling that story may be found in its creation message. Job lived in a time of increasing rejection of the Genesis account of special creation and acceptance of a pantheistic, polytheistic, evolutionary humanism, first developed in the land of Shinar or Babylon. God's declaration of His great work of creation (chaps. 38-41) is His response to Job's complaint. The creation message is just as important today and God's people can find comfort in their struggles as they realize that the great Creator-God cares about them (cf. Matt 6:26-28; 1Pet 5:7).
Lastly, the story of Job is a cautionary tale about the pitfall of judging without evidence. The malicious accusations of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar could have easily destroyed their relationship with Job. God, however, wanted reconciliation between these men. Thus, He counseled the three friends to present burnt offerings as atonement and promised that Job would pray for them to gain divine mercy (42:8). Job would also pray for them in order to keep his own soul from sinking into resentment. In fact, we see a kind of quid pro quo in the statement that "God restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends" (42:10). The word "restored" is lit. "turned back" (Heb. shub) and "fortunes" is actually "captivity" (Heb. shebuth).
The Satan-instigated tragedy had imprisoned Job in a condition he could not reverse. But, God turned back the clock, freed him from his diseased body and gave him his life back, including an increase of twice his original wealth. We may also assume that God restored Job's relationship with his wife who had apparently stayed with him in spite of her initial negativity (cf. Job 19:17; 31:9-10) and invigorated her fertility to bear ten more children to replace the ones who had died so tragically. Divine deliverance occurred when Job interceded for those who had sinned against him. The divine principle is that no one can experience the full blessing of God until they release resentment and bitterness against those who have caused offense.
Archer: Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Moody Bible Institute, 2007.
Atlas: Oxford Bible Atlas, Second Edition. ed. Herbert G. May. Oxford University Press, 1974.
Barker: William P. Barker, Everyone In the Bible. Fleming H. Revell Co., 1966.
BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Brannan: Amy Brannan, Brontosaurus, JurassicTimes.com, 2010; accessed 14 Sept. 2014.
Bruce: F.F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus. InterVarsity Press, 1983.
Clarey: Tim Clarey, Ph.D., Dinosaurs vs. Birds: The Fossils Don't Lie, Acts and Facts 35-9, Institute for Creation Research, 2006; accessed 14 Sept. 2014.
Copeland: Mark A. Copeland, The Book of Job. Executable Outlines, 2006.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Delitzsch: F. Delitzsch, The Book of Job. Vol. 4, Commentary on the Old Testament (Keil and Delitzsch, 1866-1891). Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 3 Vols. Ed. Colin Brown, Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Harrison: R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1969; Hendrickson Publishers Edition, 2004.
HBD: Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991.
Kaiser: Walter C. Kaiser, The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Zondervan 1978, 2008.
Keil: C.F. Keil, The Pentateuch. Vol. 1, Commentary on the Old Testament (Keil and Delitzsch, 1866-1891). Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.
Leman: Derek Leman, A New Look at the Old Testament. Mt. Olive Press, 2006.
Morris: Henry Morris, The Remarkable Record of Job, Baker Book House, 1988
Smick: Elmer B. Smick, Job. Vol. 4, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
Tarn & Griffith: Sir William Tarn and G.T. Griffith, Hellenistic Civilization. 3rd Edition. Edward Arnold Publishers, Ltd., 1952.
TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 vols. Ed. R. Laird Harris. Moody Press, 1980.
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