In these brief studies we will be dealing mainly with the speeches of Job. The friends speeches are much of a reiteration of the same theme- “You must be guilty - that is why you are ill. God is not unjust” Their beliefs were summed up in numerous maxims, proverbs and sayings, much as we would quote texts or proverbs today so they quote their “wise sayings” We may spend a short while on the first speech of friend Eliphaz. But the rest of the book will be explored under a number of subject headings; For example, the “Power of God”, the “Wisdom of God”, “Death and the Grave”, “Job’s character”, “Maxims and Proverbs”, are all subjects which continue throughout the book. If you think any other subjects are worthy of noting, then add them to your list. Probably the most popular list will be that of “Gem Verses”. This can contain any verse which you think is special or significant in any way. Should you be of the mind to knuckle under and set about a thorough study of the book then copy & paste the following lists and then add any verses which are associated with the various subjects, as you read through;
His Argument. His Christ-likeness. His Complaint. His Faith. His Friends. His Hope His Integrity. His Patience. His Position; Now. His Position; Then. His Request. His Suffering. General;
God the Instigator. Power of God. Personification of God. Sovereignty of God. Wisdom.
How to Study the Bible
Just a gentle reminder of something you might or might not have heard before.. The best format for Bible study is in this order 1. Historical Account: Simply read the story or the written record and get to know who, what, when, where etc. of the writing. 2. What does the scripture tell me of Christ and the redemptive purposes of God? As all scripture is to reveal to us what God wants us to know of Himself, and as all that God wants us to know is in Jesus, then in the “volume of the book” you will find Jesus. Jesus said that the scriptures "testify of me". What is not written in the New Testament is hidden in the Old. The book of Job and the “books of experience” (Job to Song of Solomon) in general reveal many hidden gems about the Lord Jesus. Hopefully after you have studied this book, you will realise that it could be argued that the ONLY reason the story of Job is recorded is to tell us of the suffering of Jesus. 3. What does the scripture say to me personally? Having studied the relevant scripture in the above ways we can then healthily apply it to ourselves, and seek to obey it by the manner of life we lead. Keep to this formula as you read and study the scriptures each day, and you will avoid the pitfalls, into which so many very sincere and “spiritually- minded” Christians fall.
We begin with a few brief comments on the following subjects concerning Job.
1. HIS POSITION IN HISTORY. 2. HIS POSITION IN SCRIPTURE. 3. HIS POSITION IN DIVINE REVELATION.
1. Job’s Position in History;
Now this may surprise many, especially those who like myself, are well persuaded that the bible is the Word of God, therefore only the truth will be found therein. However, we must remember that there are many parables in the bible. Indeed, Jesus told many parables. It is not without significance to notice that Job is set in among the "Poetical"books of the Bible, along with Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and The Song of Solomon. It is not among the 17 historical books, among which some take their names from historical characters; e.g. Joshua, Ruth, Samuel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. Similarly there is a very good argument for believing that this book is a kind of parable or allegory, which answers the question “What would have happened if Adam had not sinned” - add that to the fact that the "Last Adam" did not sin- but suffered, and the light might get brighter.
Here then are the main points of that argument; 1. Who wrote the book? Who was present to record in such detail the long and detailed speeches and arguments of the book. Certainly Job was in no fit state to do so. Who sat around enough to record, word for word the long speeched of Job or Elihu, (five chapters) and more amazingly God's speech (4 chapters) It's almost as much as God said to Moses on the mount. 2. When was it written? There is no doubt, as the following will show, that it was written after the Law of Moses was written, but it is obviously set in the time of the patriarchs, such as Abraham. (before the Law came) Many Jewish scholars believe that Moses wrote this story. Others think Jeremiah. (my personal persuasion would go with the latter- Lamentations etc) In the Talmud (book of Jewish sacred writings) we read of the following observations; The Book of Job as Jewish Scripture The Book of Job reveals itself as a work of Jewish scripture when analyzed within the context of certain key passages from Deuteronomy. These specify the curses God vows to visit upon those who fail to listen to His voice: Here is an extract from the Jewish Talmud: "If thou wilt NOT hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God . . . thine ox shall be slain . . . thine ass shall be violently taken away...thy sheep shall be given unto thine enemies . . . thy sons and daughters shall be given unto another people. . . and thou shalt be oppressed and crushed. (Deut. 28:31-33)
Now, compare the sequence of punishments predicted above in Deuteronomy with the "first round" of Job's torments:
"A messenger came to Job, 'Your OXEN,' he said, 'were at the plow, with the ASSES grazing at their side, when the SABEANS swept down on them and carried them off . . . the fire of God . . . . has burned up all your SHEEP . . . and your SONS AND DAUGHTERS . . . are dead. (Job 1:13-19)
Thus, we see that Job's suffering is not only identical with the curses God earlier promised to inflict on those who did not "hearken unto the VOICE of the Lord they God," but the very order in which they happen to him is almost the same as that in Deuteronomy.
Moreover, another curse for failing to "listen to God's voice" states: "Thou shalt build a house, and thou shalt not dwell therein" (Deut. 28:30) -- which compares to the passage in Job, "A gale from across the desert came out and battered down the four corners of the house." (Job 1:19). Also compare the Scripture from Deuteronomy, "Thou shalt become an astonishment...among all the peoples" (Deut. 28:37) with that of Job, "Looking at him, they could not recognize him; they wept aloud and tore their garments and threw dust over their heads." (Job 2:12) However, the most striking parallel is found in a comparison of the passage from Deuteronomy: "The Lord will smite thee . . . with a SORE BOIL . . . from the SOLE OF THY FOOT to the CROWN OF THY HEAD." (Deut. 28:35) with the corresponding passage from Job: "He struck Job down with a SORE BOIL from the SOLE OF HIS FOOT to the CROWN OF HIS HEAD." (Job 2:7)
Compare, also, the passage in Deuteronomy that states: "In the morning thou shalt say: Would that it were evening! and in the evening thou shalt say: Would that it were morn!" (Deut. 28:67) with Job's complaints over his torments: "Lying in bed I wonder, When will it be day? Risen I think, How slowly evening comes!" (Job 7:4)
These striking parallels between Moses' Deuteronomy and the Book of Job strongly suggest the same author of both -- or, at the very least, the same "Judaic" point of view. Other points which might suggest that Job could well be a poetic parable which considers the question; "What would have happened if man had not sinned? If you have never asked yourself this question, then do so, and ponder on your own answer 3. The Book is Poetry, The Books of Experience, (the term I use) are also called the Poetical Books 4. There never has been a perfect (sinless) man- so symbolism must be suspected. [Which reminds me of the quiz question "Why could Jesus be called "Nobody?" - Answer: because "Nobody" is perfect".] Now that "joke is not without purpose, for in Jesus we have a very clear picture of "another Adam" (the scriptures call him the "Last Adam") But this Adam WAS sinless, yet we know what happened to Him in terms of suffering. 5. The seeming neat and tidiness of the book’s construction might suggest story rather than history. There is a prologue and an epilogue. 6. The numbers of people and cattle involved are “scriptural” numbers such as 7 and 3 and their multiples.Thus the sacred numbers, three and seven, often occur. He had seven thousand sheep, seven sons, both before and after his trials; his three friends sit down with him seven days and seven nights; both before and after his trials he had three daughters. So also the number and form of the speeches of the several speakers seem to be artificial. The name of Job, too, is derived from an Arabic word signifying repentance. 7. It has a "once upon a time" beginning and a “happy ever after” ending. The reward at the end is double. The mode of the chat between God and Satan at the outset has a suspicion of “once upon a time” naivety about it. (ch 1:6: “Now there was a day...”) and for Satan to be in God's presence does not align itself too closely to other scriptures concerning Satan's fall and casting out of Heaven. 8. The characters all seem to have a legal backgound, which is ideal when considering and debating the subject of justice and suffering. Righteousness has to do with Justice (Romans) 9. None of the five who were involved in the debate had any knowledge of Satan's prominent part in the suffering, such as the writer professed to have. 10. If it were true History, it would surely be among the books of History rather than the books of poetry. This is one of the reasons a Jewish rabbi would refute Genesis ch. 1 as being poetry. ( as some critics suggest) He argues that if Gen. ch. 1 was Poetry it would be among the Poetical Books. 11. There is no mention of Job's ancestors. No contact with Israel or even Abraham. He is a bit like Melchizadek, but the latter was clearly a personified prophecy of Jesus. Job fits into this category but unlike Melchizadek who was at least "the King of Jerusalem. Also if Job had a very large family at the end , would not his family have increased to millions in a few hundred years. How then could they be missed out from the chronicles of Israel? 12. Its parabolic similarity to the garden of Eden is remarkable, especially as he lost all his family and only Job and His wife were left. She tempted him (Eve like?) to curse God and die. (more later) Conclusion: Ask yourself this question. If you were to write a book about what would have happened if man had not sinned" would it not be similar to this book? Many sincere believers in the bible hold up their hands in horror if it is suggested that Job is a parable. But the Father and his two sons in Luke 15, were not real people were they? Don't be like job and give advice without knowledge.(Job 42:3) Study the book thoroughly first. this book in not about us, an dhow we suffer in this world. We are not perfect. We deserve the curses under the law, for breaking the commandments. Jesus didn't deserve the curses, but he got them. Does that mean that God does not keep his promise, that if you keep the Law you will prosper. Jesus didn't prosper but he was perfect- He never sinned, but received all the stuff promised to those who did. The unbeliever might argue that the Law (word of God) is not a perfect as the rest of scripture declares it is. So then think about it.
***************** Job can be viewed as a RE-RUN of the garden of Eden
When we consider the suffering encountered by those who break the law, we can firmly put the blame for it on man. This is the usual reason a bible-believing Christian will offer as a reason for suffering in the world. But in Job we read of a very different reason, for Job did not sin, and the blame is laid firmly at Satan’s door. We see a similarity between Job & Adam in the garden of Eden scene, both surrounded by a hedge, both in paradise, and in both cases, Satan breaks through the hedge and seeks to separate man from God. The name Satan means “Accuser” In Genesis he slanders God to man “Has God said such and such will happen?.........no it wont..” In Job he slanders Man to God; He says "Job is righteous because it pays him to be righteous-- you have a hedge around him."
It is significant to note that though Job lost all his children, he did not lose his wife- and thus we have an "Adam & Eve " scenario, where once again the woman tempts the man to sin. His wife told Job to "Curse God and die"
But in both cases we see a suggestion of a hedge. In Job’s case it is suggestive of the law. Job 1:10 :Have you not made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he has on every side? you have blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
In Genesis we have a garden scene, which when considered with other scriptures we could well suppose there was a hedge. Eccl 10:8: and whoso breaks a hedge, a serpent shall bite him. When describing Israel as his vineyard God says it has a hedge round it. Isa 5:5: And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof,
Jesus endorsed this in Mark 12:1 "A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country." It seems quite reasonable within the analogies and typology of the scriptures to equate this “hedge “ with the Law. If the Israelites had stayed within the Law, they would have prospered and overcame all their enemies. It would not have removed their enemies but certainly their enemies would not have had victory over them. Then further in Ezekiel, we see reference to the broken hedge- which is obviously preparing the way for Jesus to come and fulfil the Law. Ezek 22:30: " And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none." Most of David's rejoicing in Psalm 119 is because he is safe within the law. So in Genesis and Deuteronomy we see that man breaks the hedge and gives access to the devil and all his works, but in Job we see that God does not take away the hedge but in fact brings it in, so that Satan has access to his possessions and family. Then God takes the hedge in further so that his body is outside the hedge and only his breath(life), is within it. In the case of Jesus, God took the hedge away completely, for him to fulfil the law. All the rules of blessing through righteousness were cast aside and he who knew no sin took all the suffering , and condemnation of it. Considering the principles in scripture we can reasonably suggest that Job could never have died because he “never sinned”, but Satan was still allowed to do his evil works. When Satan was cast from Heaven he came to earth to seek to steal, kill and destroy the works of God. His aim was to rob from God his glory. The greatest mind blowing mystery of all is that God, who is LOVE, by his wisdom, has allowed him to carry on and in fact uses him and his works like a chattel to fulfil his own purposes. This is the message of Romans 8 and the reason Paul eulogises about God’s wisdom in chapter 11. To understand Job more fully one certainly needs to get to grips in understanding Romans ch 8 first. God's wisdom is shown in what he allows.
Job is a Lawyer, and it would seem his friends also. This suggests judicial arguments concerning the great problem of suffering. His friends speak many true things, but not the truth. The confusion about a good God sending pain and suffering on people is illuminated by the revelation of Satan’s part. Most people today will hold God responsible for all the suffering in the world. Very few believe in Satan. Set against the background of the Sovereignty of God we see Satan as a “tool” in God’s hand. Satan’s powers are limited to God’s will. The fact that Job is counted “perfect” by God confuses many who believe (correctly) that all are sinners, (Job even confesses to sins of his youth) all this provides light upon answers to the question “what would have happened if Man had not sinned,” and clearly reveals Jesus and his suffering.
Job is very prosperous. He gets the blessings promised to those who don’t break the law. The inspiration of the book cannot be denied. Some amazing prophecies and statements are made. “I know that my redeemer lives” suggests that man would have still needed a redeemer even if he had not sinned, for Satan would still have interfered with nature and the human condition. All that Satan tarnished would have needed to be brought back to perfection. For that reason Paul states in Rom 8:22 that all creation groans for mankind’s day of redemption. Whether one accepts the suspicion that the book of Job might have been written by someone very familiar with the Law and its penalties and was a story (parable) or the belief that Job was a historical character does not in any way impinge upon the greatest Gem in the book, which is "Job’s Likeness to Christ," which we will discuss later.
We know that the problem of why God allows suffering in the world gives many people a seemingly good excuse for them to deny that God is all powerful and at the same time, a “good” God. We know God as a God of Wisdom Love and Power
The book says much about the Wisdom and Power of God, and we shall discuss the fact that it says little about the Love of God.
The book of Job could very well be the first recorded account of man’s experience with God. If Job is to be accepted within the historical records then we might say he lived about the time of the “Patriarchs” such as Abraham. Such men as Job and Abraham are called patriarchs, this name is derived from the word “fathers.” They knew no community priesthood, but acted as priest and channels of divine knowledge and guidance for their immediate family. Such families, as in the case of Abraham, would extend to whole communities, which included large flocks and herds which need herdsman and shepherds. These would have families who travelled with them. There were no commuters in those days living in Suburbia but rather whole farming communities all living in tents, and nomadically caravanning together. The patriarch or father would be the head of the tribe. These would at times become large tribes, and competition amongst these nomadic tribes for such things as water holes and good grazing land, would give rise to conflicts. Occasionally, tribal warfare would break out. Abraham waged war against various kings and rulers. Some accounts are referred to in Genesis. If the name of the game then was “survival”, it followed that “if my god was bigger than your god,” then I would triumph in battle. We know (or suppose) that Job lived in this period because there is reference to a flood, which destroyed the wicked. There is also reference to rain, which did not fall until after the flood. Strangely also there is reference to mammoth creatures which were obviously known to Job, which breathed out fire like a dragon of some sort. It leaves us to argue what exactly these creatures were and why or how they survived the flood. Also it would add weight to the argument that such creatures are far more recent in history than evolutionists would want us to believe. In general, they would prefer not to be reminded of the Flood. For other references in scripture, (sea serpent) see Psalm 104 v. 26 and Ps 76 vv. 13-15. Modernist liberal thinking will suggest that the creatures were alligators or crocodiles of some kind, but Job’s vivid description of the creatures, and God’s implied likeness of their power to His power, leaves them far short of Behemoth and Leviathan. - God’s power as great as a Crocodile? Wow!
Job’s position in Scripture: (see chart Fig. 1.)
The books of the bible are not set out chronologically (in order of times in which they happen). They are set out in a divine order. The Old Testament is set out in the following pattern:
The books of the Law. The books of Experience. (Psalms) The books of the Prophets. (click to enlarge ) The Law included all the historical accounts of the beginnings of mankind and the birth and growth of the Jewish nation, Israel. The Psalms included all the books of poetry but which can be better termed the Books of Experience. These were written in the main by Job, David and Solomon. A simple count of the books in each section reveals a balanced pattern. They are not just an indiscriminate number of books thrown together. We see that there are seventeen books of history, five books of experience and seventeen books of prophecy. The two sets of seventeen books are each similarly divided, in that the first five books are major books, and the following twelve are divided into two parts, nine having been written before the exile, and three written after. (The “exile” was a very important time in the history of the Jews, it was that period of time which they spent in captivity in Babylon. God allowed this to happen to them as punishment for their continued backsliding and general sinfulness; which consisted mainly of idolatry and indulgent living by the rich at the expense of the poor.)
In between these two sets of seventeen, there are five, which are the mind and heart expressions resulting from experiences of men in relation to God. Within this pattern can be seen a spiritual principle, that History leads to Experience and experience is the seed bed of preaching or Prophecy.
Job’s position in the overall revelation of God to Man:
If you liken revelation to light, and see the process by which God has revealed himself to man as similar to day dawning, then eventually the fullness of the bright afternoon sunshine with all it’s light and heat and energy, is manifested at the coming of God in Christ to the world. Within that spectrum, you should understand that Job “existed” in the time that men were still rubbing sleep from their eyes and peering through the early morning mist to ponder at the strange lightness on the horizon. The book deals with the most fundamental problem that men have in their relationship with God, which is that of suffering.
How can a mighty, loving, all wise God allow indiscriminate suffering. We do not have to live long before we see “innocents” suffering, and the “wicked”, seemingly enjoying prosperity. The apparent lack of justice and wisdom in it all sets the foundation for the contents of this marvellous book. Hardly does a man live any thinking time on this earth before he begins to throw out his resentful accusations towards God; oft-times, as though he himself had just. originated the argument; but the problem has strained the mind and the faith of man since the beginning of time. It is significant to notice that within the revelation of God to man, God seems to have brought the subject up for discussion at a very early stage. He has not tried to sweep it under the carpet. It is a problem, and eventually the scriptures show us more and more light on the matter, but even in this misty morning light there are some tremendous truths, none less than the fact that Wisdom is the key to it all. If allowing suffering can be seen to be the wisdom of God, then it shows how far and how different is the wisdom of God above that of man. We shall see a lot more of that later. Although Job only had what we know now as the revelation of God through the “Law of Nature” (Romans 1) and knew only the Elohim of Genesis 1, yet even at that early date God made it known to man that the causes behind human experience were in the spiritual world. At some time or other after the test, God must have made known to Job the part that Satan played in his trials of faith. The existence of Satan and his evil intentions to separate man from God, comprise the backdrop to the narrative. It is the unseen world that controls the visible world in which we live, and if we want to change this world we must first change the unseen world