Introduction to Job
Author and Date
The unknown Israelite author of this book presents Job as a person living in Uz (see note on 1:1). Job’s godliness (1:1) matches the ideals of Israelite wisdom literature. He clearly knows Yahweh (1:21). The events of the book seem to be set in the times of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob).
The book of Job concerns itself with the question of faith in a sovereign God. Can God be trusted? Is he good and just in his rule of the world? The book shows that the reasons for human suffering often remain a secret to human beings.
In the book of Job, God seems both too close and too far away. On the one hand, Job complains that God is watching him every moment so that he cannot even swallow his spit (7:19). On the other hand, Job finds God elusive (9:11). Though God is greatly concerned about humans, he does not always answer their most agonizing questions.
At the same time, Job’s friends offer no real help. They come to “comfort” him (2:11), but Job ends up declaring them “miserable comforters” who would console him “with empty nothings” (21:34). These friends represent an oversimplified view of faith. They think that all human troubles are divine punishments for wrongdoing. Their “comfort” consists largely of urging Job to identify his sin and repent of it. These friends are negative examples of how to comfort those who are suffering.
The book illustrates that one does not need to fully understand God’s will in order to be faithful while suffering. Those who suffer need not be afraid to express to God their confusion and questions.
The book of Job was written to those who struggle with the question of how God can be good when the world is filled with suffering.
The author does not provide a formal defense of God’s justice. Rather, as Job’s friends offer their inadequate answers, the author shows how their reasoning fails. Then, in chs. 38–41, the Lord speaks in his own defense, bringing Job to fuller understanding (ch. 42).
Even during his suffering and confusion, before God finally speaks, Job can triumphantly declare, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (19:25).
- Prologue: Job’s Character and the Circumstances of His Test (1:1–2:13)
- Dialogue: Job, His Suffering, and His Standing before God (3:1–42:6)
- Job: despair for the day of his birth (3:1–26)
- The friends and Job: can Job be right before God? (4:1–25:6)
- Job: the power of God, place of wisdom, and path of integrity (26:1–31:40)
- Elihu: suffering as a discipline (32:1–37:24)
- Challenge: the Lord answers Job (38:1–42:6)
- Epilogue: The Vindication, Intercession, and Restoration of Job (42:7–17)