The Book of Job - Lesson 37

The Theology of Job (Part 1)

Job’s suffering brought him to a new understanding of who God is and what God is doing in the world. Job’s hope, and our hope, is in a heavenly redeemer that rose from the dead. Legalism comes about often when people hold to essential teachings but they don’t know God. They substitute the rules for relationship.

Duane Garrett
The Book of Job
Lesson 37
Watching Now
The Theology of Job (Part 1)

I. The Message of Job

A. Satan's challenge is, "Does Job fear God for nothing?"

1. The answer is, "no"

2. Job learned that the benefit is God himself

B. Our hope is in God

C. The need for a heavenly redeemer

D. Job's understanding of God came through redemptive suffering

II. Misdirected Orthodoxy

A. Orthodoxy is essential but never sufficient

B. Job often prays but the three never do

C. Job's faith is combined with honesty

III. Questions and Answers

  • When you see what you would describe as evil and injustice in the world, how does that affect your view of God? When someone is suffering, do you assume that it’s because they are getting what they deserve? This lecture gives you an overview of book of Job by describing his situation, how he interacts with his friends and God, and what we can learn about how God is managing the world.

  • Because there is nothing specific in the text that tells you when the book of Job was written, the sections in Job that allude to other passages of scripture give you some helpful clues. The structure of the book of Job focuses your attention on the main subject of the book which is God’s wisdom.

  • Other cultures in the ancient near east created literature with themes that are similar to the book of Job. The book of Job is unique because of his character and the answer that the book provides for the situation he is in.

  • Job is one of the wisdom books of the Old Testament. It covers more “advanced” topics than Proverbs and uses a variety of literary genres and allusions to other Biblical passages to explain and illustrate profound truths about God’s nature and his involvement in the world.

  • There is limited information in the book of Job about its geographical and historical background. However, it can be helpful to understand general information about the geography and history of the area to give you a context for reading and studying the book of Job. The author of the book of Job was a Hebrew poet who had an extensive vocabulary. Being uncertain about history and geography is good because the message is timeless.

  • Job contains literary elements that are similar to what you find in other Biblical books that are Apocalyptic. These elements include depictions of events in heaven and on earth, the emphasis on specific numbers and persevering in your faith in God, the references to mythological animals and God’s supernatural control of all events. 

  • Satan appears before God with an accusation against Job. Even though Job is described as, “upright and blameless,” Satan accuses Job of serving God only because Job is prosperous. God allows Satan to take away Job’s possessions, children and health. The remainder of the book is the dialogue of Job and his friends attempting to determine why this is happening.

  • Job curses the day he was born. When you carefully examine what he is saying, you realize that it is more intense than just saying that he wished he had never lived.

  • Eliphaz begins tactfully in his remarks to Job. He did not intend to do harm. However, he thinks God is causing Job to suffer because of a sin Job committed. He speaks accurately of the justice of God, but in Job’s case he misapplies it. He also gives a message he received from the, “night spirit.”

  • Eliphaz considers the message of the, “night spirit” a revelation from God. However, at it’s core, this message is inconsistent with God’s attitude toward Job, and creation in general.

  • Job’s theological worldview has fallen apart because he knows he doesn’t deserve to suffer. Eliphaz calls Job to repent. Job responds questioning why he is suffering, because according to his worldview, he hasn’t done anything to deserve it.   

  • Bildad is direct is his rebuke and admonition of Job. He uses metaphors to get his point across.

  • When Job’s friends describe God as all powerful in an attempt to comfort Job, he becomes terrified because he sees God as causing his suffering and there is nothing that can stop it.

  • Zophar assumes that Job is being punished because he sinned and accuses him of mocking God. Job's three friends move from tactful suggestions to open hostility. As Job is searching for answers, he becomes disappointed in his friends.

  • Job agrees with his friends that God is causing his suffering, but disagrees with them about why it’s happening. Job believes that God will eventually vindicate him.

  • Eliphaz appeals to the night spirit and the tradition of the elders to tell Job that he is a babbling and blaspheming fool.

  • Job begins by criticizing what his friends are saying to him and then professes his faith in God. Bildad responds harshly to Job.

  • Even though Job’s friends have criticized him, he has grown in his faith in God. Job is worn out and begs for compassion. When he gets nothing but contempt and hostility instead, he confesses his faith and hope in God. The messianic theology of Job is different from any other book of the Bible.  

  • Zophar uses metaphors that are found in other passages of scripture as well as Job’s own words to accuse Job of being wicked. However, Zophar made a serious error, which we need to avoid in our lives.

  • Job continues to wrestle with the presence of evil in the world and the apparent injustice of God. 

  • Eliphaz attacks Job as being wicked by twisting the meaning of what Job has said previously. The irony is that Job will be reconciled to God and will pray for Eliphaz.

  • Job wants to lay out his case before God by claiming his innocence. Job says that God is hidden and does as he chooses, but that God neither judges the guilty nor helps the righteous. Bildad responds by contrasting God’s holiness and human lowliness.

  • Job sarcastically thanks the friends for their wise words, which he doesn’t think were wise at all.

  • This is a poem about wisdom that divides the content of the book and points to a deep truth. It is inserted by the author of the book and is not attributed to Job or the friends.

  • The crisis that Job is experiencing is not just the material losses and physical suffering, but also his crisis of faith. He thought he understood what his relationship with God is all about but he feels that God has abandoned him for no apparent reason. Job laments the pain he feels from being disgraced and humiliated.

  • This is the last major statement that Job makes, other than his responses to God that come later. Job is taking a series of oaths that he has not committed any of the sins he mentions. The Bible is distinctive in declaring that all people are created equally, in the image of God. In ancient cultures, some people intrinsically have more value than others because of heritage, wealth, gender, race, etc. God looks on everyone impartially.  

  • Elihu is not mentioned either before or after his speech. He claims to be perfect in knowledge. Elihu thinks that the other three did not convince Job because they did not give a satisfactory answer, but Elihu ends up repeating what they have already said. He thinks that the doctrine of retribution is the answer to Job’s situation. Elihu is a warning to us that we don’t have all the answers.

  • The questions of the book of Job are, “How does God address the problem of evil and why do we serve God? God created a world that is stable and not chaotic. Where there was chaos, God brought in light, shape and beauty. Chaotic forces are necessary for life and God controls them.

  • People in ancient Mesopotamia lived in constant fear of the chaos, danger, ferocity of nature and they valued subduing, controlling and pushing back nature. Wilderness was something to be tamed and pushed back by civilization. In the Gilgamesh epic poem, Enkidu is transformed into a civilized man who protects the domestic animals from the wild animals. In Egypt, there were gods of the Black Land and gods of the Red Land. God sees everything in the world as entirely under his control.

  • God’s care for the animals and how this relates to the problem of Job. All of the things that we see as chaos, and out of control depend on God and thrive because he provides for them and things that he manages and glories in. God describes nature as good, unlike the night spirit that describes it with contempt and loathing. God knows how to manage the chaotic elements of creation.

  • The societies of the Ancient Near East had a high concept of justice. It was the duty of the rulers to uphold justice and protect the powerless. If you are a man who leads, you need to make sure that evil is held in check. Listen to people who come to you with a grievance. God is asking Job if he comprehends what it means to bring justice to the world. It involves both power and wisdom.

  • Behemoth is the plural form of a Hebrew word that refers to animals in general also specifically to wild animals. In Job, it’s also used as a metaphor representing the composite forces of the powers of the earth that are against God.

  • Behemoth is a dangerous power that God must reckon with. Some people think this is an allusion to animals that God created in Genesis 1:24. “Lady Wisdom” is the wisdom that God built into creation. Behemoth is dangerous and a force to be reckoned with, not the embodiment of good behavior. One aspect of principalities and powers is forces outside of the world we can see. In Revelation, God protects people from the fury and wrath of the beast, which is an oppressive power that seeks to take the place of God.  

  • Job 41 describes Leviathan. Leviathan is not a natural animal like a crocodile. Sometimes Leviathan refers to a large sea creature, and sometimes death, chaos and the embodiment of evil. Satan is present at the first of the book but he is never mentioned again. In order for God to deal with evil in the world, he must defeat Leviathan.

  • Leviathan is a ferocious creature that no human can subdue. God is saying that he is willing to oppose Leviathan and  is not frightened of Leviathan or intimidated by his boasting. God is the one who will defeat this enemy who seems unbeatable to humans. God tells Job that he will deal with Leviathan but God doesn’t tell him how he will do it. Job embraced God’s answer even though Job didn’t know how God would deal with evil.

  • Job announces that he has changed his outlook on evil, God’s governance of the world and his own suffering. Job knew that God is all-powerful. Now Job knows something more about how God uses his power. Should God be merciful to people who will still be evil? Eschatological is an event that can only happen by a work of God. Emergence of divine power within the historical context. Job admits that he didn’t understand the complexity that is involved in God conquering evil. God forgives Job’s three friends because Job interceded for them. God is showing his approval with job by publicly restoring him.

  • Job’s suffering brought him to a new understanding of who God is and what God is doing in the world. Job’s hope, and our hope, is in a heavenly redeemer that rose from the dead. Legalism comes about often when people hold to essential teachings but they don’t know God. They substitute the rules for relationship.

  • Job mentions composite animals similar to those described in other apocalyptic passages. Job had faith that God would do a work of salvation but didn’t understand everything that Jesus would do. There is a hidden plan of God to redeem people and conquer evil that is a major theme in apocryphal books and also in Job.

  • Job tells us about the heavenly mediator. Prior to his afflictions, Job’s life was almost god-like because he was relatively free of suffering. Job through his affliction, faces the problem of evil and the enormity of suffering in the human race. Even though some people commit evil and violent acts, Job describes them in pitiful terms.

  • Should virtue, or piety, be disinterested? If it’s not done for it’s own sake, is it real? Job’s love for God is not disinterested, but it is real.

If God is good and powerful, why do you see suffering in the world? Why do you serve God even when you experience suffering? How do you respond to others when they ask these questions? How have you answered them for yourself? These are such important questions that the entire book of Job is devoted discussing only these issues in the context of the perspective of the experiences of one person. 

The theme of the book of Job is timeless and singular. There are clues about its geographical and historical setting but nothing in the book itself that identifies the place or time of its writing. However, the setting is irrelevant because the questions that are addressed in the Book of Job are ones that people have asked in all cultures, throughout time. It would be distracting and even limiting to frame the dialogue in a specific time or culture. There are enough clues in the text to give you a general idea of the culture and time it was written in to help you understand the logic and metaphors used by the main characters in their dialogue. 

The complete book of Job is composed of the dialogue of Job, his friends and God regarding the issues of God's goodness, his power, and evil in the world. No historical events. No other personal, corporate or theological issues. Since these questions are central to your understanding of God's character and how he works in the world around us throughout history, the book of Job compels you to consider this question deeply and exhaustively. The point is that by the end of the book, you can understand and articulate who God is and how he works in your life and in the world. 

The value of this class is that Dr. Garrett helps you understand what the text means, the historical and theological implications, and how you apply it to your life. Dr. Garrett's knowledge of the Bible, understanding of the Hebrew language and background in Ancient Near Eastern history and culture inform his insights into the message of the book and what it means to you. He is skilled at explaining technical linguistic and theological issues in a way that helps you comprehend them and see how they apply to your life. Whether you are just beginning in your study of the Bible or you have had training at an advanced academic level, studying the Book of Job with Dr. Garrett has the potential change the way you understand God and also how you live each day. 

Recommended Books

The Book of Job: A Biblical Answer to Pain - Student Guide

The Book of Job: A Biblical Answer to Pain - Student Guide

This Student's Guide is for the class on The Book of Job in BiblicalTraining.org. It contains the outlines to the lectures, a summary of each point, and reflection...

The Book of Job: A Biblical Answer to Pain - Student Guide


We have now looked at the entire book of Job and we are going to consider the message of Job or its theology in the next and final four lessons. First of all, let’s very quickly review the message of Job.

I. The Message of Job

A. Satan’s challenge is, “Does Job fear God for nothing?”

First of all, what was Satan’s challenge? Satan’s challenge was, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” The answer remarkably is, “no.” Job does not fear God for nothing. But what is the thing that Job gets from his fearing God? What is the benefit he gets from his devotion to God? It is not really his health and his wealth and his children, those are all secondary. They are good, but they are all secondary.

The real benefit Job gets from his fear of God is God Himself. We can get this from the words of Job himself when he was longing for the old days when he said, “Oh, that it was like it was when God was with me, when I would speak to him and he would answer; when God was near to me, God was close to me.” That is the thing Job missed the most. And at the end, his vindication by God is the main point. Getting new children is great. Getting wealthy again is fine. But the important thing is, he knew he was accepted by God. Furthermore, he now as never before, fully understood that God Himself was his hope in a world filled with evil.

It is a slight difference, but a very important difference between what Job was before and what Job was after. Before, Job thought in terms of God’s retributive justice as being the answer. People are evil, God punishes them. People are good, God rewards them. But now his hope is fixed much more on the person of God Himself. He is thinking about how God is his hope, how he is simply waiting on God in his own way, in his own time to fulfill the mystery, to do the thing that he talked about and destroy Leviathan. Again, it is not even the idea of destroying Leviathan that is his hope; it is God who does destroy Leviathan. That is his hope.

B. Our hope is in God

We can kind of compare this to our own situation as mortal beings. We are people who are mortal and who are doomed to die. What is our hope? Well, you could say our hope is in the resurrection, and that is true. But I would say it’s a little misleading to say our hope is in the doctrine of the resurrection, as if our hope were an abstract principle.

Our hope is in God, who raises the dead. Our hope is in confidence that God Himself will raise us up. Earlier I made mention of the confrontation between the Sadducees and Jesus about the resurrection; and mentioned the fact that when Jesus answered them, he didn’t refer to some passage that specifically dealt with the dead rising. Instead he simply cited God saying from Exodus 3: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. God is the God of the living, not the dead.”

It is the fact that we have God and that he is our hope and that he holds onto us; and that he identifies us as his own. That is our hope of eternal life, that he will act and that he will raise us from the dead. So in the same way, when it comes to facing the problem of evil, Job now understands that his hope is in the Person of God, not in an abstract theological principle.

C. The need for a heavenly redeemer

Job has also learned that there is a need for a heavenly redeemer. We talked about this in the first part of the book, how Job went through this progression of realizing there should be an intercessor between man and God and how Job realized there needs to be resurrection. Finally, he puts it all together in his hope in a heavenly redeemer who will rise against the dust and who will raise Job himself.

Job realizes first of all, that God is his hope, but also there is a need for a redeemer between man and God; and we see all of this fulfilled in the New

D. Job’s understanding of God came through redemptive suffering

Another thing that Job gets out of this story is that it is through suffering that he comes to a deeper understanding. Again, Job did not suffer because he had sinned. But his suffering brought to him, first of all the reality of evil in the world as he had never confronted it before; but it also brought him to an understanding of God that he had never had before.

The suffering that Job went through therefore brought him to a deeper compassion and a deeper knowledge of God. So the book, again, illustrates the
importance of redemptive suffering; not suffering as punishment, but redemptive suffering in the context of an evil world.

II. Misdirected Orthodoxy

A. Orthodoxy is essential but never sufficient

There is one more topic I want to mention in this lecture very briefly, and that is the question of misdirected orthodoxy. That is where we confront the theology of the three friends. Orthodoxy is essential, but is never sufficient. Orthodoxy is essential, but never sufficient.

Orthodoxy matters. Heresy is a bad thing. Heresy is very, very destructive. But orthodoxy can itself become so rigid and harsh that it begins to bend into a heresy without the person realizing it. In my view, the way it works basically is this: If you are a religious person who let’s say was brought up in a strong, we’ll say Christian tradition or a strong orthodox tradition, you accept it as something that is valid and true and you identify with orthodoxy. But you don’t really know God. You are not truly repentant. What will be the result? The result will be a hardened, bitter, brittle orthodoxy. You may hold to all the doctrines that you were taught, but you will do it in a harsh, unforgiving, unyielding and defensive manner. It is in fact the origin of much of what we call “legalism.”

Legalism does not come about necessarily because people sit down and they construct a theology of legalism and they say, “Yes, this is the theology I adhere to.” Legalism comes about in Christianity because people hold to certain essential Christian teachings, but they don’t really know God and their consciences are always bad. They are always aware of their lack of forgiveness when their orthodoxy is combined with that. What comes out is a very rigid set of rules that they apply to everyone else as a way to justify themselves. This is in fact, I think, what happened with the Pharisees who opposed Jesus. Were they orthodox in their Judaism? Certainly they were. They were probably theologically the best Judaism that time had to offer. They were very orthodox in their faith. But they did not know God and when they confronted Jesus, all they could do was become angry and bitter and turn it upon him, and eventually crucify him.

We see other examples of this in the Old Testament. For example, in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 7 we have a strange-looking little text. Let me read it to you. Jeremiah 7:1-4: “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message: Hear the word of the Lord all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says, the God of Israel: Reform your ways and your actions and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’”

That is strange. What does he mean by saying, “Do not say ‘the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord’”? I think we make a serious mistake when we think of the Israelites of this time as all just being out and out pagans; as if they had simply rejected the Lord and had all embraced paganism and that is the end of the story. Yes, they did have a lot of pagan elements that they had embraced and that they had thought was part of orthodox Judaism, so to speak. However, in many ways they were orthodox, kind of hyper orthodox. One reason they would reject a prophet like Jeremiah is, they thought they were orthodox, they thought they were right. So in this specific instance they knew that this is the Lord’s house, this is the temple, this is the house that the Spirit of God filled when Solomon finishes building it and consecrated it. This is the one place on earth where Yahweh, Maker of heaven and earth, is worshiped. And they fully believed that. So they thought, well, if this is the Lord’s house, this is the temple, then God is not going to let it be destroyed. So they had taken an orthodox belief that this was God’s house and they had so elevated it that even though they themselves were unrepentant sinners, even though they were to some degree idolaters, they still would confess, “This is the Lord’s house and God is going to protect it no matter what.”

When you read the book of Jeremiah, the surprising thing is, they didn’t hate Jeremiah because they were all pagans and he was preaching against them. They hated Jeremiah because they thought he was a heretic because he was one who was saying, “God is going to give us over to the Babylonians,” and they openly accused him of being a traitor.

Our point here is that orthodoxy is good; but if it is not combined with a true knowledge of God and a repentant heart, it is in danger of becoming hardened, misanthropic and Satanic. We have an example of this, of course, in the Gospels, many examples. In Matthew chapter 9 we have Jesus healing a man. Matthew 9:1: “Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought him a paralyzed man lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, ‘Take heart, son, your sins are forgiven.’ At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, ‘This fellow is blaspheming.’”

Again, how would we normally react to someone who has pronounced other people’s sins forgiven? We would consider it blasphemy. We would say, “Only
God can forgive sin.” So did these Pharisees. But the Pharisees were unrepentant. They were people who did not know God and they did not recognize the work of God when God was among them in Jesus Christ.

Thus, the book of Job warns us to be careful about our beliefs and we are always to be on the alert to be careful about things that we know are outside the faith, things that come from atheists, things that come from famous heretics or something like that. Unless we are close to God, unless our heart is right with God, then we ourselves can take our orthodoxy and become brittle in it.

B. Job often prays but the three never do

This is shown in the fact again in the book of Job that Job often prays, but the three never do. In speech after speech Job will conclude his speech with a long prayer to God. At no point do the three ever pray.

We can call to mind, for example, Numbers 12 where Miriam and some others kind of rebelled against the authority of Moses, thought Moses was taking too much power to himself. And of course, God struck Miriam with leprosy and Moses called out to God for her to be healed, and she was. But here is the really important point. When God speaks to them about the nature of Moses, he says, “Moses is a man who speaks to me face to face as a man does to his friend.” To some degree that is unique to Moses. But the important point there is, Moses had a close relationship to God, a close walk with God. And if there is no walk with God, then orthodoxy again will become brittle and it finally will become heretical.

C. Job’s faith is combined with honesty

Finally, we should note in this regard that Job’s faith and his orthodoxy is also combined with great honesty. Job knows that he has not sinned to bring this upon him. And he will not pretend he has sinned or convince himself that he has sinned in order to save his doctrine. Job will do something the three will never do. Job will look around the world and say, “I see people all around me who never acknowledge God and yet they are doing fine; and I see all kinds of examples of oppression. I see suffering that is heartbreaking. Where is God in all of this?”

Job is just being very honest about reality as it is. Job doesn’t abandon his faith. Job does not turn away from God. He does not curse God and die, so don’t
misunderstand me. But I think a weak faith in God, a faith that is not combined with a close walk with God, is going to be very fragile, very bitter. That kind of weak faith in God is going to be easily threatened. Therefore, it will not be able to face hard facts. Job is the one who faces the hard facts and Job is the one who comes out with a much deeper understanding of God and humanity than the three friends ever would.

It is a matter of not turning aside to the right or to the left, as the Old Testament often says. On the one hand, orthodoxy matters. Heresy is bad, heresy is
destructive. Our faith in God needs to remain constant and fixed. It can’t be something that we are ready to give up on. On the other hand, our faith in God
needs to be willing to face the realities of life, but face them with faith. And our faith in God needs to be not just a matter of knowing the answers, but of knowing God and holding fast to God even when the answers are not apparent.

I think if we do this as Job did, then we are not going to fall into the trap of the three; and we will grow in the knowledge of God, even as we go through periods of suffering and doubt.

III. Questions and Answers

Question: As you described in the theological themes in Job, it really sounds like you are talking about the New Testament. It’s like there is a very strong
connection. Without being cynical, a lot of the things that I heard you say can describe so many situations in the church where for example, there are a lot of people that can mouth the right orthodoxy – I believe in justification by faith – but their relationship is dead or just about nonexistent. You can think about what you and I have seen in the university setting where students need to be encouraged to question things, to fight through them like Job did because only then, when you come out on the other side, do you really believe them. It has been interesting how New Testament-ish Job is; or you would probably say, “The New Testament is a lot like Job, isn’t it?” There is not this chasm between them.

Dr. Garrett: No, there is not a big chasm between them and you do see a lot of similarities. The three friends, of course they are very harsh, they are brittle, they are bitter and finally, they are absolutely cruel in the things they say, in addition to saying things that are not true. We can compare this, you mentioned in the Christian Church, Christians who can be very harsh, rigid and legalistic. It is interesting, it is not doctrinal; because those same Christians, who can be very legalistic and very harsh, will doctrinally confess a doctrine of salvation by grace through faith through the atoning blood of Jesus. Yet, with all that, they can still be very legalistic, very harsh, very brittle, have no real sense of the meaning of grace. It is a matter where you have to have faith, you have to have relationship with God and you have to be honest with your life and the world.