AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF JOB
# We do not know precisely where these historical events took place. The Land of Uz (Jb.1v1) may have been somewhere between Palestine and Arabia. The exact time is also unknown, but many believe that Job lived at the same time as Abraham, during the patriarchal age. Nowhere is the Law of Moses or the nation of Israel mentioned. The Book of Job was an early part of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, but it was not connected with Psalms, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, or any other Biblical book. Job is recognized even by secular literary critics as being among the world's most magnificent dramatic works. It is comprised mostly of poetic passages. Hebrew poetry did not have Western-style meter or rhyme. It was composed of parallel thoughts which were synonymous or contrastive. Only the first and second chapters and the last chapter are prose.
Job is the most ancient statement which addresses the perennial, multitudinous questions of the problem of evil and human suffering: How could such a good God make such an evil world? Why should we do good? What reward is there for living right? Why do some righteous people suffer, and why does sin sometimes go unpunished? How does this square with the concept of a fair, holy, loving God? Does God really care for and protect His people who revere Him? Are adversity and affliction a sign that a sufferer is wicked? If God is good, why does He allow the suffering of the innocent?
The story begins with a very prosperous, respected, and good man who was devastated in just one day. He lost everything he had, including all of his ten children. However, he refused to blame God for his troubles. Later, Job himself was stricken with a terrible disease and he suffered excruciating pain for a long time. Then, in three series of dialogues, some of his friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) came to comfort him, but later they began to criticize him unmercifully along traditional lines of religious thought. They were certain that all of these horrible things which had happened to Job were due to his own sin. They simplistically taught that all suffering is ALWAYS the result of sin. Therefore, if Job would only repent of his sins, all would be well again. Job knew better. He was sure that he did not deserve this alleged cruel punishment, but, at the same time, he could not understand how God could let all this happen to him. And so He was faced with the dilemma that God must be dealing unfairly with him, or there was some other unknown explanation. He desired to regain the honor that he once had as a respected man. He boldly challenged God to allow him to plead his own case (Jb.29-31). He struggled on with the confidence that he would eventually be vindicated. Job never did lose his faith.
Another younger friend, Elihu, appeared (Job.32v1-37v24) and asserted that afflictions sometime do come from God in order to purify the righteous and that this, in no way, indicates that God is unloving. It is only His way of calling us back to Him, like a father chastening his children. Suffering sometimes instructs us in righteousness and prevents us from sinning. Elihu cautioned Job not to question God or to accuse Him. He told Job to humbly submit himself to God's will.
Then God spoke in Jb.38-41. God chose not to answer any of Job's penetrating questions. Instead, God overwhelmed Job with a panoramic view of His creative power amd divine wisdom. Then God reprimanded the friends of Job for not understanding the true meaning of Job's suffering. Job was truly humbled and felt foolish (Jb.42v1-6). Unless you can canvass your own world, how can you presume to tell God how to run His world? Finally, God restored Job two-fold (Jb.42v7-17).
Do we understand the enigmas of life any better than Job did? We did not ask to be born, and we are just as bewildered about the prosperity of evil men and the calamities of good men. But now that Jesus has come, we can understand the mystery much better. He suffered much and was unjustly condemned and executed, yet He too was victorious. Surely we can see that all things DO work together for good for those who love God (see Rom.8v28).
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