Old Testament Survey - Lesson 40


Reading the book of Job wrestles with the challenges of faith and the nature of suffering. This lesson reviews the intricate layers of the narrative, exploring the characters' perspectives and the theological themes interwoven throughout. Through Job's journey, one gains an understanding of the complexities of human experience, the search for wisdom, and the dynamics of faith amidst adversity. Job underscores the importance of trust and reverence towards God, even in the face of life's most profound trials.

Daniel Block
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 40
Watching Now

I. Overview of Challenges to God's Ordered Universe

A. Introduction to Challenges

B. Nature of Normative Wisdom in Israel

C. Doubts and Perplexities about the Ordered Universe

II. Examination of the Book of Job

A. Date and Authorship

B. Literary Structure and Content

1. Discrete Literary Units

2. Complex Evolution of the Book

3. Language and Vocabulary

4. Inconsistency in Job's Character

III. Interpretations and Analysis

A. Scholarly Debates and Speculations

1. Various Views on Origin and Composition

2. Attempts to Reconstruct Original Core

B. Unity and Structure

1. Framework of Prologue and Epilogue

2. Diversity of Literary Genres

3. Analysis of Parts: Soliloquies, Dialogue, Speeches

IV. Thematic Analysis

A. Central Theme: Trial of Faith

1. Focus on Faith rather than Suffering

2. Dynamic Nature of Job's Faith

B. Possible Answers to the Problem of Suffering

1. Origin in Activity of Adversary

2. Lessons on Providence and Divine Intervention

3. Exploration of the Fear of the Lord as Principle of Wisdom

V. Literary Appreciation and Interpretation

A. Recognition of Literary Quality

1. Tennyson and Pfeiffer's Assessments

2. Literary Painting Analogy

B. Artistry in Structure and Design

1. Diagrammatic Representation

2. Fulcrum of Chapter 28

3. Function of Narrative Framework and Hymn

VI. Conclusion

A. Emphasis on Faith and Providence

B. Appreciation of Artistic and Literary Excellence

  • Learning about the First Testament's language, geographical, and cultural contexts, and how these factors contribute to its frequent misinterpretation and underappreciation in modern times.
  • Gain insights into the literary and cosmic foundations of grace and glory in the Torah, understanding its role as more than law.
  • Learn that to be made in God's image entails embodying divine qualities and functioning as His representative on Earth, which extends a universal dignity upon all humans and shapes a theological ethic that influences how you treat others.
  • Genesis 1-3 frames human response to divine creation, emphasizing human dignity, work's moral role, free will's consequences, and the persistent grace amid sin.
  • This lesson reviews the Israelite covenant, understanding its stages, implications, and its role in God's redemptive plan.
  • Gain insights into Abraham's covenant with God, exploring his faith and God's promises.
  • Learn how the Exodus from Egypt marked Israel's transformation from a family to a nation under Yahweh.
  • Understand how the covenant at Sinai transforms Israel from slaves into a treasured nation destined for a divine mission, fulfilling God's ancient promises.
  • This lesson covers the covenantal expectations at Sinai. The covenantal agreement provided a constitutional and ethical framework for societal living, focusing on community rights and responsibilities.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into how the tabernacle was both a physical manifestation of God's presence and a profound symbol of His grace, emphasizing the holiness and detailed guidance He provided to the Israelites for worship and daily life.
  • Gain insights into Deuteronomy, recognizing its focus on teaching rather than legislation, and understanding Moses' role as an instructor of Yahweh's will.
  • In this lesson, you explore how to interpret the First Testament's historiographic writings, emphasizing the divine inspiration and literary artistry that guide the selective storytelling and theological themes.
  • Learn how the books of Joshua and Judges illustrate the fulfillment and failure of Israel's covenant with Yahweh, highlighting divine promise, cultural assimilation, and the cyclical nature of faith and apostasy.
  • The Book of Ruth, highlights divine providence, social justice, and personal righteousness while exploring the role of Boaz as a pivotal figure in maintaining the lineage of King David.
  • Samuel had a significant yet complex role in Israel's history; judge, priest, prophet, and crucial figure in establishing monarchy.
  • Learn of David's central role in the Bible, understanding his unique portrayal and the extensive attention he receives compared to other figures.
  • Learn about the Davidic covenant's role in shaping biblical history and theology, emphasizing its eternal impact on Israel and beyond.
  • The books of Kings and Chronicles use historical events to underline theological themes, highlighting the role of scribes in documenting Israel’s history.
  • In this lesson on 1 and 2 Kings, review the downfall of Israel through kings' forgetfulness of God's covenants.
  • Learn about Solomon's temple's historical and theological significance, its divine design and purpose, and its role in Israelite worship and communal life.
  • Gain insights into the transformation and resilience of the Judean people during their exile in Babylon from 586-539 BC, exploring their struggles and adaptations in a new socio-political and religious context.
  • Learn about Daniel's exemplary life in Babylon, his integrity, and his prophetic visions, which highlight divine sovereignty and the vindication of the faithful amidst calamities.
  • Review the Persian period's impact on the Jewish diaspora, analyze the Book of Esther's literary and theological significance, and reflect on divine providence and cultural identity.
  • Explore the crucial roles of Ezra and Nehemiah in reconstructing the Jewish community and faith post-exile, understanding their historical significance, source materials, and theological insights.
  • Gain insight into the roles and significance of prophets in ancient Israel, learning about their historical context, and their critical function in guiding and correcting the nation through direct communication from Yahweh.
  • Learn about the lives and ministries of prophets Amos and Hosea, their calls for justice and return to divine covenant amidst Israel's political and spiritual turmoil, through prophetic books that blend personal biography with national prophecy.
  • This lesson reviews Jonah's struggle with divine grace and Micah's advocacy for justice and the messianic hope.
  • In this lesson, you learn how Isaiah's vision portrays the Messiah as king, servant, and conqueror, emphasizing his divine roles and global mission.
  • Learn of the political and social contexts of Jeremiah and Ezekiel's exile, including Babylon's rise, Jerusalem's fall, and the crisis of faith portrayed in Lamentations, emphasizing hope amid despair through God's faithfulness.
  • Learn about Jeremiah's life and prophetic ministry, navigating challenges with kings, themes in the Book of Jeremiah, and profound passages on true religion and a future covenant, offering lessons on prophetic burdens, God's faithfulness, and spiritual transformation.
  • Explore Ezekiel's life as a priest in exile, his bizarre actions, and profound messages revealing Yahweh's passion and eternal promises of judgment and restoration.
  • Learn about Nahum and Joel's prophecies on judgment, hope, and Yahweh's character. Explore the day of the Lord and the expansion of the covenant community.
  • Explore Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah's prophecies. Discover themes of judgment, faith, and restoration in God's plan.
  • Gain insight into Haggai's role in motivating temple rebuilding during the Persian rule. His brief yet impactful ministry fosters hope and action amid community disillusionment, recoginizing God's presence and reign.
  • Gain deep insight into Hebrew poetry: its forms, parallelism, acrostics, and emotional depth. Explore its celebration and lamentation of Yahweh's glory.
  • Gain insight into Psalms which reflect diverse emotions and experiences. Structured into five divisions, attributed to various authors, their interpretation involves understanding Torah context, literary devices, and applying timeless principles to life.
  • Explore biblical wisdom's depth: from practical skill to moral insight, rooted in the fear of Yahweh. It contrasts with secular knowledge, emphasizing God's order and universal application.
  • Engage with Proverbs to unravel its diverse wisdom, from aphorisms to discourses. Understand its practical guidance for righteous living and leadership.
  • Discover the Song of Songs, a rich exploration of love's nature. From its allegorical interpretations to its celebration of covenantal love, it examines human relationships with wisdom and depth.
  • The book of Job offers insights into faith and suffering, exploring theological themes and character dynamics. It emphasizes trust in God amid life's most difficult trials.
  • Uncover Ecclesiastes' profound journey from despair to hope. Koheleth's existential ponderings contrast with the narrator's faith, urging a shift from worldly pursuits to finding fulfillment in God's sovereignty.

This Old Testament Survey course offers a deep exploration of the Old Testament's literary structure, divine covenants, and historical context. Lessons cover the Pentateuch, emphasizing its narrative over legalistic interpretations, and extend through key biblical figures like Abraham and Moses. Topics such as the covenant at Sinai, the concept of imago Dei, and the tabernacle rituals highlight the continuity of God's grace and the ethical implications of divine laws. The course critically addresses common misconceptions, the role of the Torah as instruction, and the portrayal of God’s plan, underscoring the relevance and complexity of these ancient texts.

Dr. Daniel Block 
Old Testament Survey
Lesson Transcript


Responding with fear and wisdom to the challenges to God's ordered universe. There are challenges to the biblical wise person's picture of that universe. First of all, in the book of Job.

Some introductory comments to begin with. In the last two sessions, we explored the nature of normative wisdom in Israel, which operates under a series of assumptions. The universe is ordered and life proceeds according to a fixed order.

Second, this order is learnable and teachable. Third, by learning the order in the universe, the individual is handed an instrument with which to determine and govern and secure his or her own way through life. And fourth, the source and foundation of the order in the universe is God himself.

But seldom is human experience as neat as this, and we are often driven to doubt that the universe is in fact ordered, and that life proceeds according to that fixed order. It often strikes us as chaotic and random. Nor is the order always teachable and learnable.

On the contrary, in the face of disaster especially, we are often perplexed and wonder why we cannot recognize the order in the universe. And even when we think we have learned the order and have worked so hard to get our lives in step with that order, we lose our way in life. And when our heads tell us that God is the source and foundation of the order in the universe, we wonder why he remains silent in the face of our chaos and our pain in our experiences.

We are not the first to be perplexed by the realities of life. The First Testament canon includes two compositions that wrestle with these issues. In fact, we may look at the books of Job and Ecclesiastes as wisdom in revolt, protestations that the universe is not unfolding according to the built-in rules, and in keeping with the fear of Yahweh, which apparently does not pay

What can we say about this book? We'll begin by talking about its date and authorship. The book of Job is one of the most difficult books in the First Testament to date. Several factors contribute to this problem.

First, the book is made up of a series of discrete literary units, each of which has a radically different style and content, and some of which seem unconnected to the rest. There's a complex evolution of the book, apparently. You have a prologue, chapters 1 to 2, which is its own piece.

Then there's the debate between Job and his friends in poetic format, 3 to 27. Then you have a hymn on wisdom, then Job's soliloquy, 29 to 31, Elihu's speeches, 32 to 37, and Yahweh's speeches, 38 to 42.6, and then another prose epilogue, 42.7 to 17. These are seven or eight separate sections, each of which has its own characteristics style.

The prologue and epilogue are cast in classical prose, but the remainder is in poetry. So this really is one long poetic piece with many parts framed by prose. What about the language? Well, the prologue and the epilogue are cast in classical Hebrew, in their vocabulary, in syntax, whatever.

The language of the poetic heart of the book is among, shall we say, the richest but at the same time most difficult in the First Testament. The breadth of vocabulary with numerous synonyms for a single concept, more than 100 words that appear nowhere else in the First Testament, we call these hapax legomena, 100 unique terms, a multitude of loan words from other language, and numerous archaic, old-fashioned, King James English kinds of words, all of these features place the poetry of this book in a category all their own. How about the content? The picture that is painted of Job in this book is inconsistent.

If we had only the prologue and the epilogue, we would view him as a venerable and perfect saint. The dialogue casts him, though the dialogue in between casts him as a bitter man shaking his fist in the face of God. In the prologue, the adversary called the Satan, that's a transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning adversary, he appears only in the prologue.

He doesn't show up in the epilogue. That's a problem. The divine name Yahweh, the Hebrew name for God, occurs again only in the prologue and the epilogue.

In the dialogue, God is in the people's lips and in their speeches, but they have other expressions for God. And what shall we do with a poem on wisdom in chapter 28? It's quite different from anything else in the book, both in its poetic style and the theoretical nature of its discussion of wisdom. Besides this, Elihu, who speaks in chapters 32 to 37, he's not mentioned in the prologue or the epilogue among the friends, and many feel that he contributes nothing to the debate that's happening.

And as for the speeches of Yahweh in 38 to 42.6, they seem to speak right past the central problem of the book. Why is Job suffering? And the poems on Leviathan and Behemoth seem inferior in their literary quality. Well, it's no wonder that critical scholars cannot agree on what to do with this book.

Some think it was originally written in Arabic, Guillaume. Others in Aramaic, Tursinai. Still others think this is an Edomite composition, Robert Pfeiffer.

But most view it to be an artificial conglomerate made up of independent fragments poorly combined to develop a story whose original core is represented by an old folk tale about a patriarch tested by misfortune, but who retained his faith in God. But these reconstructions are all speculative, and we do best to simply try to make sense of the book as a serious literary work based on a historical event and constructed around a deliberate and sensible plot. Norman Hubble, for example, recognizes the following elements in this plot.

1.1 to 2.10, the conflict hidden, God afflicts the hero. 2.11 to 31.40, the conflict exposed, the hero challenges God. 3.32.1 to 42.17, the conflict resolved, God challenges the hero.

That's a neat sort of system, but at least he's trying to find a sense in the book as we have it. Now, evidences of unity extend beyond this sort of structure to the terminology, theme, and other literary features. The prologue does in fact prepare the way for the dialogue.

The Elihu speeches are consistent in many respects with the preceding speeches in style and content. In fact, they, in my opinion, they do advance the argumentation. Conclusion.

The internal evidence suggests the events portrayed here are from a distant patriarchal past, but the combination of archaisms, that's early features in the language, and Aramaisms, late features in the language, make it impossible to determine when the book was written. Most treat this as a post-exilic book on the basis of the exalted monotheism of Yahweh's speeches, but F. I. Anderson argues that it must have been written before 734, the fall of the Northern Kingdom. In my view, it seems best, and it's just, it's in pencil, soft-led pencil, but I propose that this is written by an Israelite living on the fringes of Israelite territory, perhaps in the mid-8th century BC.

That's maybe when he wrote it. This would account for the numerous dialectical features and the linguistic problems. The author may have lived in a part of the world where there's an intermingling of people coming from Edom and from Damascus and from the desert and elsewhere, and he's picking up words and expressions and concepts that come from more than one source.


This could account for the numerous dialectical and linguistic problems in the book. Let's take a closer look at the nature of the book. At the macroscopic level, the big picture, the book divides readily into, as we've said, a narrative prologue and epilogue framing it, which had been separated by a lengthy series of poems.

The series of poems contains several genres of material. There's the hymn, chapter 28. There are soliloquies, chapter 3, and 29 to 31.

There's a dialogue in the form of disputation speeches. Within these, one may also identify riddles, curses, laments, and other smaller genres. The narrative portion seems to be based on an actual historical occurrence.

It certainly reflects a realistic series of events, and the figures in the book seem to have been real people. The exilic prophet Ezekiel refers to Job along with Noah and Daniel. These were three paradigms of righteousness, but whose mere presence in Israel in Ezekiel's time could have had no bearing on the fate of Judah.

The prophet seems to be alluding, that is Ezekiel, to an historical person who lived in the hoary past, but who has become proverbial for his righteous character. Even so, as a whole, the book should not be treated as a literal record of events reflected. It may represent a literal event, but this composition is best interpreted as a literary piece, and when you read the debates involving Job and his three friends, we need to recognize that in ordinary speech, people don't talk in poetry, and the more excited they become, the less poetic their speech, whereas in this instance, in those speeches involving Job and his friends, I mean, it's elevated poetry.

It looks like a literary piece, perhaps something like a six-act drama. Act 1, chapters 1 to 2. Act 2, chapters 3 to 27. Act 3, 29 to 31.

Act 4, 32 to 37. Act 5, 37 to 42, 6. And Act 6, 40, 7 to 17. With this perspective, chapter 28 functions as a literary curtain inserted at a critical moment to relieve the tension, to prepare the way for the resolution of the crisis, like the intermission in a performance.

If I'm reading this book, by the time I get to chapter 27, I am so frustrated I need to take a break, and I go and make myself a cup of coffee or a cup of tea or whatever. I need a break, and that's what chapter 28 gives us, and then we can come back and carry on through the rest of the book. We should not interpret the speeches as transcripts of original presentations.

A, the author didn't have a tape recorder or a stenographer transcribing what they were saying, and B, people do not normally dialogue in poetic style, and especially not when they're getting excited. Rather, these should be viewed as artful creations, the combinations of which result in a powerful emotional and theological statement. If I may use an analogy from the visual arts, the book of Job is not cast as a photograph of a man and his experiences, but this is an arresting, impressionistic literary painting.

The literary quality of the book has long been recognized. Tennyson considered the book the greatest poem ever written. R. H. Pfeiffer described it as, one of the most original works in the poetry of humankind.

So original, in fact, that it does not fit into any of the standard categories devised by literary criticism, so much Robert Pfeiffer. Well, let's look a little more closely at the design of the book. The structure of the book is obvious.

It's clear. It has already been identified. However, its artistry, we may portray diagrammatically like this.

The blue on the borders represents the framework, the prologue, and the epilogue. The first beige piece, this is Job's first soliloquy, the second beige piece is Job's second soliloquy at the end of this cycle of speeches involving his three friends, which goes through three cycles. That is, in the red and the orange and the red circles.

Then the green represents Elihu's four speeches, and then the yellow at the end, now we are transported into glory, the gold of Yahweh. He speaks in the end, and all that is left is the epilogue. But the black, the H in the middle, this is the fulcrum.

This is chapter 28, not in terms of the length. The first part, chapters 1 to 27, that's longer than the second part, so don't look at it in those terms, but in terms of the plot of the book. Chapter 28, tells us that this is a study, an essay on wisdom.

Where can wisdom be found? And in this portrait, it's difficult to find it, but we do in fact find it in the end because God shows up, and it demonstrates again that the fear of the Lord is the first principle of wisdom. Job, in the debates, Job came awfully close to losing that. So what comments can we make about the parts? The narrative framework.

The prologue and epilogue provide the framework for the debate in the middle. These narrative sections set the stage and describe the resolution of the problem dealt with in the book. The Wisdom Hymn, 28, this beautifully crafted poem summarizes the key issue, the nature of faith.

The fear of the Lord, we've said before, the range of meaning of this word, fear, encompasses at the extreme, one extreme, it's terror, I'm going to die, but at the other extreme, it is trusting awe, and that's where we land. The climax is reached in 28. Then we have Job's soliloquies.

Here he is reflecting. These represent statements of the problem from the perspective of the sufferer. In his mind, Yahweh has acted arbitrarily against one who is devoted to him without respect to his character and his long-standing fidelity.

We know he's a righteous man. The narrator tells us in the prologue, the narrator says he's a righteous man. God tells the adversary he's a righteous man.

We know he's a righteous man. Well, then why is this happening? And here Job is protesting. The speeches of the three friends.

These are the responses of people who are called friends, but their responses are based respectively on experience and observation. That's Eliphaz, look at 4.8. Tradition, this is Bildad, 8.8 to 10. And common sense, this is Zophar, read 11.6 and following.

The primary function of the speeches of the three is to answer the problem of Job's suffering from the perspective of cold orthodoxy. The responses of the three friends we may characterize as dogmatic, frigid, and irrelevant to the present case. Their theology is orthodox.

Their names are not Israelite. They're not Hebrews. They are outsiders, and Job isn't an Israelite either.

And yet the author has created these characters as if they are proclaiming orthodox theology, and their pronouncements as a whole theoretically are unimpeachable. But in these three, cold orthodoxy is caricatured. How? First, by their verbosity. 

No matter how much time they spend and how many words they use in defending their position, their answers don't fit, don't satisfy, don't solve Job's problem. Space and volume alone do not strengthen a weak case. A bunch of zeros, a thousand zeros, still lands up amounting to zero.

But then there's also the law of diminishing returns. The longer the discussion proceeds, the less the men have to say, both in terms of substance and the length of the speeches. Their speeches get more vacuous, but they also shrink and shrivel.

The sizes we may represent in this. Look at Eliphaz's speeches. The first one is 48 verses, the second 35, and the last is 30.

Bildad, 22, 21, and 6. Well, Zophar, his first is 20, his second is 29 verses, but the last one, it's gone. It's over. The whole system is bankrupt, so that the total shrinks from 90 to 85 to 36.

No matter how long you talk about nothing, you land up with nothing. And in this case, the length of the speeches alone functions literally to show the bankruptcy of orthodoxy that has no heart. But this leads to a third way in which they are caricatured.

They are called friends. This too is an artistic device to expose the hypocrisy of cold orthodoxy. According to the biblical definition, a friend is one who A, knows one intimately, and B, accepts full responsibility for the other's welfare.

That's a friend. Well, these three appear to fit the definition outwardly. They hear that Job is sick, and they come, and they sit with him for a week.

But in the end, their theological positions are much more important than Job's welfare, and they land up tearing him apart instead of building him up. In fact, it was their speeches that drove Job to the brink of collapse. What can we say of Elihu's speeches, despite his opening apologies? He starts out with great verbosity and pomp, but he says, I'm the young guy.

I'm the upstart. I thought I would let the old guys talk first. So you've spoken, but nothing that you have said makes any sense.

I won't use many words, but here, listen to me. And as it turns out, he uses lots of words. This young guy had no illusions of his own importance, and in leading the audience watching this drama, it leads us to expect little from him.

The interesting thing, he's the only character in the book who actually has a Hebrew name. So from that perspective, we would expect him to be really helpful. But as Elihu proceeded, his claimed inspiration, he claims inspiration.

I will speak as God has taught me. But the longer he speaks in contrast to the three friends, oh, he says he will not say, doesn't have much to say. But the longer he speaks, the more apparent becomes his inspiration.

In chapter 33, he answered Job's charge of God's remoteness. Job said, why doesn't God show up? Why doesn't God talk to me? And Elihu says, God does in fact speak to men through dreams and through sickness. The purpose of sickness is to teach people the lessons of life and of God.

God is in fact interested in human beings, but essentially beyond human understanding. And so the only appropriate response we hear from Elihu is to fear him. Elihu's role in the drama is to separate us from the cold orthodoxy of the three friends and to prepare us for the speeches of Yahweh.

His big point is, Job, you've had your mouth open so wide that your ears have been plugged. God has been trying to get through, but you haven't been listening. Well, by the time Elihu has finished, he has finally got Job to close his mouth and open his ears, and now Yahweh can begin.

And then we have Yahweh's speeches. Judging by, one, their final position in the book, two, the exalted nature of the speaker, and three, the unparalleled magnificence of the poetry, the speeches of Yahweh obviously represent the climax. But they do present several problems.

First, they're concerned primarily with natural wonders, what's going on out there. Second, they are silent on Job's suffering and alleged sin, hear the friends. And third, in his speeches, God never alludes to Job's friends.

Ah, but this too is intentional. It takes the reader's and Job's attention off everything other than God. Through God's speeches, Job does not learn the causes of his suffering, nor the apparent mysteries of life.

But he has found God. All his exclamations to the contrary, God is near, God has come to him. The awesome picture of God convinced him that he could have faith in Him and fellowship with Him even in his sufferings.

He admits, I have been speaking about stuff and speaking about God when I have been absolutely ignorant of Him. I didn't have a clue what I was saying, but I was talking. Well, Job may have lost everything, but he has found God, and this brings contentment, and he is relaxed.

What then is the message of the book? Well, I think the theme is the trial of faith. According to many lay interpreters, the book of Job is concerned primarily with discussing the problem, why do the righteous suffer? But the difficulty with this view is apparent. It's obvious.

In the final speeches of God, God never addresses that question. If suffering is the main issue, why does God in the climax of the plot not address himself to the problem? Why does he go off on a tangent which leaves Job with no solution to his dilemma? Many in attempts to interpret the book around this theme of suffering miscarry because they missed the central point of the book. It is easy to become so preoccupied with the form used by the author of Job that his message is lost.

The fact that the most important speech in the entire discussion doesn't touch on the problem of Job's suffering should send a signal that many interpreters have been searching for the key in the wrong places. This is not to say that the problem of suffering of the righteous is not dealt with. This is the locution.

It is indeed a crucial element in the book. Job's suffering provides the occasion for teaching a greater and more fundamental lesson. But the book is not an essay on suffering but on faith.

In the course of the drama that centers on the suffering of Job, the writer is making a profound statement on the essence of true faith. His literary skills become quite apparent when we examine the book in this light. Interpreters often fall into the trap of reading the prologue carefully and basing their evaluation on Job, on that alone.

When Job then begins to complain and shake his fist at God for treating him so unfairly and arbitrarily, they whitewash his actions as impulsive reactions to his problems. Job really knew better, and his relationship with God was warmer than these outbursts might imply. After all, doesn't the epilogue vindicate him? Well, this approach is problematic because it fails to take seriously the attitudes that underlie and characterize Job's clenched fists when he uses such strong language in his accusations against God.

But the purpose of the book is not to demonstrate that righteousness will ultimately be recognized and the righteous man vindicated. Oh, this does happen. It will all work out in the end.

It does work out in the end, but that's not the point. Rather, the author would have the reader watch what is happening to the man in the course of the book. Job's faith is not something static.

It is dynamic. It is involved in a long and a difficult process of maturation, and it exposes some weak points in his life, in his character. The author uses Job's suffering to show how necessary the refinement of faith is for all.

But the reader must not ignore the problem of suffering which is discussed in the book. Though it is not the main purpose of the author, he proposes several possible answers to the problem. Well, each of these solutions possesses a measure of truth.

In this case, none, explains Job. First, suffering originates in the activity of the adversary, Hasatan. The prologue clearly states that it was the adversary who started Job's difficulties, and God gave him permission to do this.

But who is this character? Most interpret this person as the devil, but there are problems with this interpretation. First, the article, the adversary, tells us that this is not a name. It's a common noun, the adversary.

Two, the absence of the devil in the first testament. First Chronicles 21.1 speaks of an adversary, where 2nd 24.1 attributes that same action directly to Yahweh. So the adversary referred to in 1st Chronicles 21 can't be the devil who is God's opponent.

He's an agent. Third, the access this person has to the presence of Yahweh, and he appears to function as an agent of providence. There was a day when the sons of God, that's the angelic beings, the heavenly court, came before the Lord, and Hasatan also was there.

Well, if this is the devil, what's he doing in the court of heaven? He doesn't belong there. And the Lord begins the conversation. Oh, sir, in your travels, did you notice? No.

What have you been doing? And he says, I've been walking back and forth on the earth. Now, this does not mean looking for victims. This expression is used elsewhere, the hithpahel form of this word.

It's an administrative movement back and forth. I've been doing my work, taking care of my business. And in this case, I think it has reference to, he is an agent of divine providence, and God has called his agents of providence into his court to give an accounting.

And then God says, oh, by the way, in the course of this, did you notice, in the course of your supervision, did you notice my servant Job? What a fine specimen of humanity he is. And then what happens? Well, Hasatan, the adversary, proposes, you know, let's do an experiment with this guy. Let's take out all the props and see what happens.

And God says, fine, that's a good plan. And God prescribes a series of tests, but the adversary can't go beyond what God limits him. God is the one who permits it.

But the clincher of this interpretation comes in 42 verse 11, where the narrator expressly attributed Job's disasters to Yahweh. The narrator says, for all the disaster that Yahweh had brought on him. Most people don't notice that verse here.

So on those grounds, I understand the adversary here is not God's adversary. He is elsewhere in Scripture, and this comes to mean the Satan, or Satan with a capital S in the New Testament. But in this case, it strikes me that the adversary here functions as the adversary of Job, not God.

He's an agent of God. So that's the first answer. Sometimes suffering is our experience because there's an adversary doing it.

Second, sometimes suffering has its origin in sin. This is orthodox, sheer orthodoxy. It's presented by the three friends.

It's also the view of official Jew, the Torah. This answer, however, doesn't suit the case. Job's innocence is announced at the beginning, and it cannot then be the case.

It's hypothetical. Third, suffering has its origin in the arbitrary action of God. Some people say that's the case.

Job repeatedly suggested God has treated him any way he wants, and it makes no sense. But God is not obligated to respond to humans. We are but puppets on a string controlled by the sovereign God.

That's what we might get from his speeches. Well, he doesn't understand the hand of God, but that doesn't mean God acts arbitrarily. And then the third theory of suffering, purpose of suffering, sometimes suffering has a didactic purpose, to teach us something.

This is Elihu. He insists that when suffering comes to the righteous, it is designed to teach us something, to discipline us, to mature us in our faith. Well, this then prepares the way for God's response.

When he finally does speak, instead of answering Job's questions, God goes off on a tangent and presents Job with many queries of his own. He starts questioning Job. Can you explain this, this, this, and this, all these big issues in the universe? All of which appear to be off the topic.

The question the interpreter must ask at this point is if the speeches of God are integral to the plot, what is their function? The answer lies in the devastating effect they had on Job. Their intention was to focus Job's attention on the omnipotent and omniscient character of God. It was only when Job received this new vision of who God was that he arrived at the point to which God was directing him.

There was some truth in the adversary statement that Job did not find it difficult to be faithful so long as God was kind to him. The crisis in his life came, however, when God's treatment took a different turn, and his suffering exposed the inadequate basis of faith. Because something was lacking, he came awfully close to renouncing God.

This lack, however, was corrected when God gave him a new vision of his greatness. The author wants the reader to know that the only kind of faith that will stand up under the problems of life, and they will come, the only kind of faith that will stand is based on the person of God, not just on his actions. This provides the prescription for the anemic faith so common today.

Many believers are more concerned about experiencing God than knowing him. As a result, their faith depends upon their experiences. When God is seen to be treating them well, they have no difficulty serving him.

But when things go wrong, many deny their faith because God is inconsistent. The author of Job appeals to all his readers, base your faith on the person and the character of God who changes not. Only this kind of faith will prove adequate for the vicissitudes, the ups and downs, and the uncertainties of life.