Introduction to the Book of Job
The Name “Job”
The name “Job” comes from a word which means “enemy.” The term can mean “foe”—this may have something to do with Job’s reaction to what happened. The name does appear to have been common in the Ancient Near East. This seems to argue for the historicity of Job.
The story takes place in the land of Uz (Job 1:1). Uz would have been located near the borers of modern-day Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Notice that Job is called the greatest of all the men “in the east” (Job 1:3).
This episode seems to have taken place before the giving of the Law and the time of Moses. This is indicated by the following:
- There is no mention of the Israelite covenant.
- There is no reference to Hebrew institutions.
- The characters are not presented as Jews, Hebrews, or Israelites.
- The head of the family leads in worship (Job 1:5; 42:8).
- Wealth is measured in animals and servants (Job 1:3; 42:12).
- There is no priestly class.
Authorship and Date
Tradition generally holds Moses as the author. However, there are reasons to believe that the book was written well after the time of Moses.
Since the author does not identify himself, we cannot know who he is.
Various dates have been put forth—Some have even suggested that Job is the oldest book in the canon.
However, the best hypothesis places the writing around the time of Solomon. The time of Solomon was the “golden age” of Hebrew literature, and Job is one of the greatest masterpieces ever written. The poetry in Job is very developed. This would argue for a time after a period of development for Hebrew poetry.
Scholars have seen several purposes in the book. While some of the work on purpose is useful, some must be seen as not useful. Some of the suggested purposes:
To explore why the innocent suffer
Several see this as the purpose of the book. Yet, the book offers no solution to the problem. Instead, it leaves us with more question than answers.
To show the test of Job
The ancients believed there was a direct corollary between righteousness and blessings. If you were righteous, God would bless you. If you were wicked, God would punish you.
This book strikes a blow at that because it shows that sometimes the innocent do suffer.
To show that suffering is worth the cost
This book shows that suffering has a purpose—we become stronger people because of our trials. Although the book does demonstrate this truth, I would have serious doubts about claiming this as the purpose of the book.
To show that God is in control.
Throughout the book, Job struggles because he sees God as far off and aloof. Yet, when God speaks from the whirlwind, God becomes near to Job. After the encounter with God, Job says, “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee” (Job 42:5). Job now knew that God did care, that God was near, and that God did know what was taking place.
Because this book is such an excellent masterpiece, the author uses great irony.
Some examples of the irony in the book:
- Job fears God, and God blesses Job.
- Job fears God, but Job is sorely afflicted.
- Job laments in silence, but then Job laments loudly and bitterly.
- The friends wish to comfort Job, but they accuse him of fragrant sins.
- The friends think they honor God in their exhorting and condemning Job, but God condemns them and requires sacrifices for them.
- Job pleads for mercy, but God is silent and allows Job’s affliction to continue.
- Job accuses God of condemning him unjustly, but Job affirms his faith in God.
- Job claims that he is innocent and that God has wronged him, but God accuses him of darkening counsel.
- Job demands a resolution to his case, but God questions him about creation and the government of the world.
- Job states that he is well prepared to argue his case before God, but Job declines to take advantage of the opportunity God gives him to speak.
- Job swears that he is innocent, but Job surrenders his complaint and his oath of innocence.
- God accuses Job of darkening counsel, but God affirms that God has spoken rightly.
The above image depicts Job’s sufering.