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Job is a very remarkable and marvelous book. It is the first of the poetical books which also include Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations. The reference “poetical books” denotes form rather than imaginative or capricious content. Neither does the term poetical mean that it is rhythmic. Hebrew poetry is achieved by repeating an idea or “parallelism.” The dialogue in the Book of Job is poetry. All the conversation is in poetic form. If you have ever read Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, you know that they are examples in secular literature of this Hebrew form.
The author of Job is unknown. It has been suggested that the writer was Moses. Other suggestions have included Ezra, Solomon, Job himself, and Elihu. Elihu, mentioned in this book, is one of the miserable comforters of Job. The idea that Elihu may be the author is based on Job 32:16–17: “When I had waited, (for they spake not, but stood still, and answered no more;) I said, I will answer also my part, I also will shew mine opinion.”
This is not said in the context of conversation, but the author is expressing his own thoughts in first person. Then the conversation resumes, and it is Elihu who is speaking. This indicates that Elihu may be the author of the book.
Another interesting thing about this book is that we do not know the period in which Job lived. And we do not know where he lived. I know that it says he was in the land of Uz, but we honestly don’t know where the land of Uz was located. We cannot fix it at any particular spot. It is interesting that the time and place, which are so essential to other books, are not given here.
I would suggest that Job was written during the patriarchal period. It is possible that Job knew Jacob. The fact that the Book of Job makes no reference to the Mosaic Law nor to any of the events recorded in the Book of Exodus would seem to indicate that it was written before Exodus.
Here are the arguments which lead us to place Job in the time of the patriarchs:
- The length of Job’s life span. “After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations. So Job died, being old and full of days” (Job 42:16–17). We know that at the time of the patriarchs people had long life spans such as that of Job.
- Job acted as the high priest in his family. Since there is no mention of the children of Israel or any other priesthood, evidently this took place before they came into existence.
- Eliphaz was descended from Esau’s eldest son. “These are the names of Esau’s sons; Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau, Reuel the son of Bashemath the wife of Esau” (Gen. 36:10). This would make it seem that Job was a contemporary of Jacob.
This book is a great philosophical work. There are many problems that are raised and settled by this book:
- The Book of Job raises the issue of why the righteous suffer. I really should say that it gives one of the reasons why the righteous suffer. I do not believe that this is the primary teaching of this book, although there are a great many Bible scholars who take that position.
- Job was written to rebuke the slander of Satan against mankind.
- Job was written to reveal Job to himself.
- The Book of Job teaches patience. James says, “… Ye have heard of the patience of Job …” (James 5:11). Was Job patient? I’ll be honest with you, it is difficult to see how this man was patient. We’ll consider this when we get to the end of the book.
- I think the primary purpose of the Book of Job is to teach repentance. If you want to disagree with this right now, just stay with us until we get to the end of the book, and then draw your own conclusions.
You see, when men want to talk or write about repentance, they always pick a character who has had a sinful beginning. For example, they will point out Manasseh, the most ungodly king of Judah. We studied about him back in the historical books of the Old Testament, and we saw that he repented. May I say to you, that is the kind of repentance we like to think of.
There was Saul of Tarsus, the greatest enemy the Lord Jesus Christ ever had. He repented. There was St. Francis of Assisi, a dissipated nobleman of his day, and he repented. There was Jerry MacAuley, the drunken bum on skid row in New York City, and he repented.
God didn’t pick a man like that in order to teach repentance. He could have! But God selected the best man who ever lived in the time of the Old Testament, possibly the best man who ever lived with the exception of Jesus Christ. God chose this man and showed that he needed to repent. When we get to the end of this book, we find the words of Job himself. “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5–6). This ought to teach every believer today—it should teach everyone who reads this—that no matter how good we think we are, we need to see ourselves as God sees us. All our righteousness is as filthy rags. We need to repent.
This is a great philosophical work and has been acclaimed so by many. Tennyson called this book “the greatest poem, whether of ancient or modern literature.” Speaking of the Book of Job, Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish philosopher said, “I call that one of the grandest ever written with pen.” Martin Luther said that this book is “more magnificent and sublime than any other book of Scripture.” And Dr. Moorehead said, “The Book of Job is one of the noblest poems in existence.”
The prose section of the Book of Job is a gigantic, sweeping drama that encompasses earth and heaven. This does not mean it is fiction. Job is referred to as a historical character in the Scriptures (see Ezek. 14:14, 20; James 5:11), and Paul quotes from the Book of Job (1 Cor. 3:19).
Many writers have used Job as the basis for their plots, including H. G. Wells and Archibald MacLeish in his one–time Broadway hit, J. B. In his play MacLeish attempted to make an analogy between the Book of Job and modern man. Very candidly, I think he missed it, although he mentioned the human predicament today, and he knew about that. I don’t think he quite knew about Job and the great purpose of that book. His play speaks of the despair and also the hope of modern man, but beyond that I think the analogy breaks down. The Book of Job reveals a man who was very conscious of God, but who could find nothing wrong with himself, one who was very egotistical about his own righteousness and maintained it in the face of those who were around him. Job felt that before God he was all right. In fact, he wanted to come into the presence of God to defend himself. When Job did that, he found that he needed to repent!
This is not a description of modern man by any means. The psychiatrists have told man today that his problem is that his mother didn’t love him as she should have. In my opinion, the thing that is wrong with this generation is that mother didn’t paddle as much as she should have. But we are told that mother and father have neglected the boy and the girl. Now I admit there may be some truth to that, and perhaps this is a part of the problem. However, we cannot shift the blame to others. Modern man refuses to take the blame for his deficiencies, inabilities, and sins. He tries to put the blame on somebody else. He will not accept responsibility for himself and his own actions.
Now, there is One who bore all of our sins. Until you and I recognize that we are sinners and need to turn to Him, my friend, we are only putting the blame on the wrong person. I think it is pretty low for any man to put the blame for his sins on his mother. That is a terrible thing, and yet that is what we find today.
Modern man is in a real predicament, and he is in great despair. He is blaming his sin on others, and he can find no place to go to find that comfort which he craves. Instead he has surrounded himself with materialism and secularism. I knew a man once who must have had twenty–five different buttons at the headboard of his bed. He could turn on lights all over the place, have a bell ring, open and close doors, and turn on outside lights—all from his bed. I have never seen anything like that. That to him was a great security. Many of us do that. We each have our own “security blanket,” and we snuggle up to it.
However, the problem with modern man is that he doesn’t have God in his consciousness. He doesn’t know that there is a Savior to whom he can go. That is different from Job. Job was very conscious of God and trusted Him. The fact is that God will put Job through the mill, as we shall see, and will finally bring him into His very presence. God stripped Job of all his securities in order to bring him to Himself.
Modern man is being put through the mill even in an affluent society. Despite all his gadgets and comforts of life, he is adrift on a piece of driftwood out in the midst of a vast ocean, and he doesn’t know where he is or where he is going. That is rather frightening. Actually, it is beginning to force some folk to think that somewhere there is a Someone. We have a song today that says to “put your hand in the hand of the Man from Galilee.” Well, that is getting pretty close, but it still misses the point that modern man must come to Him as a sinner and must accept Him as Savior. People today talk about commitment. What is your commitment, by the way? You can’t just say, “Lord, Lord,” and expect Him to be your Lord and Master. First He must be your Savior! He died for you. If you don’t begin with Jesus Christ at the cross, you will not begin with Him anywhere.
I have spent time on this because I think it is important. Job had a consciousness of the presence of God all the way through his troubles. He was not adrift in the sense that modern man is adrift. What Job could not understand was why God permitted him to be put through the mill. Job did not recognize that he needed to repent—until God dealt with him.
(McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 16: Job. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.)