The Book of Job - Lesson 38

The Theology of Job (Part 2)

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.

Duane Garrett
The Book of Job
Lesson 38
Watching Now
The Theology of Job (Part 2)

I. Relationship Between Job and Apocalyptic Literature

II. People on Earth Are Suffering, But There is a Heavenly Reality That They Don't Know About

III. Evil is Pervasive

IV. The Wisdom We Have is Limited

V. Job's Experience is Reflected in Revelation

VI. Christ is the Hidden Wisdom of God

  • 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 are continuing our study of the theology of Job, the message Job has for us and its abiding significance for us.

I. Relationship Between Job and Apocalyptic Literature

We have talked about the relationship between Job and apocalyptic literature and we have noted all kinds of similarities. The fact that Job has these strange composite animals at the end, behemoth and Leviathan; and we see these kinds of composite animals in Daniel 7 and 8. The fact that Job uses a lot of numbers like 3 and 7, common in apocalyptic literature. We have seen things where Job calls upon the reader to understand and so does apocalyptic type text.

II. People on Earth Are Suffering, But There is a Heavenly Reality That They Don’t Know About

Moving beyond that, let’s try to get to the main point. Apocalyptic literature in my understanding has one crucial feature. I’m talking about Biblical apocalyptic literature. For those of you who know it, I’m not talking about texts like first Enoch or something like that. I’m talking about the Bible. In the Bible, apocalyptic literature’s major theme is, people are suffering down here on earth, the people of God are suffering, but there is a heavenly reality that they don’t know about and this heavenly reality is over and ultimately controlling the struggles and the pains of people down on earth. But ultimately God’s way will prevail. The plan of God, the will of God, the ultimate desires of God for the human race, they will all come to pass.

So let’s just briefly think about it. The book of Daniel again, what is Daniel primarily concerned with? It is concerned with the fact that the Israelite people
seem to have completely lost their place. The Davidic kingdom is fallen. Jerusalem is gone. There is no more Davidic King on the throne. So it seems like Israel’s place is completely gone. Israel’s time is over. In fact, it is now called “the times of the Gentiles,” the time when Gentile nations would be dominant over the people of Israel. So you see where it goes through these four empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. But basically it is speaking of how the Jewish people, the Israelite people, need to persevere in their faith. The heavenly visions and the encounters with the angels tell Daniel that there is a reality he doesn’t see. There is a plan of God, so to speak, that he is not aware of, but it will come to pass. So Daniel and his people need to persevere, need to hang on in faith through this extended period of their humiliation and suffering, the times of the Gentiles, the time when all the world is under Gentile power, until God brings about a great restoration.

III. Evil is Pervasive

In my opinion, we have much the same thing in the book of Revelation, although it is directed toward the sufferings of the Church. The Church is afflicted. The people of God bear all kinds of persecution for the name of Jesus and for the word of their testimony. It looks like the evil powers of this age, the principalities and powers are all controlling. It looks like evil has won. Yet they are called to persevere in their faith and as an encouragement to persevere in their faith, again they are given a heavenly vision. They are given a revelation and an apokalypsis, an unveiling of the ways of God and the plan of God to enable them to persevere until salvation comes. That is what basically I think is going on in Job. Job is a book about the problem of evil and Job is held up as the example, as the test case, the righteous man who suffers undeservedly. He and his experiences and all the things he describes, all the injustices he describes seem to present a world in which evil is absolutely triumphant. There is no goodness, there is no virtue, there is only suffering and pain and evil. Again, as in the theology of the night spirit, it is a world that seems to be in nihilism.

But behind it all there is God and God speaks to Job and God gives Job a glimpse of the heavenly realm, so to speak, when he speaks to him of behemoth and Leviathan; in that he enables him to understand that God will defeat Leviathan, he will defeat the powers of evil. God will bring about true justice. Therefore, it is the place of Job to persevere in his faith, to endure even though he doesn’t know how or when God will do all these things.

As I have said before, we come back to the issue described in the last verse of Job 28, “To fear the Lord, that is wisdom; and to turn from evil, that is

The problem of evil is, as I have mentioned before, a longstanding problem in the Old Testament. Proverbs 24, verses 19-22 says the following: “Do not fret because of evildoers or be envious of the wicked, for the evildoer has no future hope and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.” What do we have in this proverb? It is a very simple statement to the effect that yes, we all know the evil are all over the place; and it is upsetting, it is frightening, it is depressing; and we fret. But the passage is saying, don’t do it. Eventually things will turn out right. The passage doesn’t give you much information beyond that, but it just says to be confident in God, the evil ultimately have no future.

What we have in the book of Job, if you will, is a much more full exploration of that issue. What Proverbs puts in two verses, Job puts in an entire book and it explores it very, very thoroughly. Job shows us and does not flinch from the fact that evil is pervasive. It never hides the reality of human suffering. It never glosses over it in order to make it easier on the reader. It describes the suffering of the righteous, the wretchedness of the poor and the unchecked violence of the ruthless. It also describes the prosperity of the godless. It is the whole state of the world. Job is able to look at the idea that a righteous and Almighty God governs everything and say, “How does it square with this? How do these things go together?” And then Job explores all of that.

IV. The Wisdom We Have is Limited

The wisdom that we have in this regard remains somewhat limited and opaque; certainly it was for Job himself. Job did not understand all that Jesus would do. For him, all of that was a mystery. He did not realize how Jesus would conquer sin and death at the cross and resurrection. Nevertheless, he holds to his faith that God will do a great work of salvation.

V. Job’s Experience is Reflected in Revelation

What we experience in Job has a reflection, I would say, in the book of Revelation, many places in Revelation. Let me give you just one, Revelation chapter 6, verses 9-11: “When he opened the fifth seal I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and their testimony that they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, Holy and True, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe and they were told to wait a little longer until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.”

I want you to notice, we have the saints under the altar. In my opinion, this is essentially symbolic for the suffering of the Church through the generations, the martyrdom and the affliction and the abuse the Church must take. They call out, ”How long, God, until you judge the earth?” Which is precisely what Job cried out.

“How long, God, until you step in and do something?” In the vision they are given white robes, signifying their righteousness, and told to wait a little longer.

In my opinion the main point of this text is not to speak of some benefit for the souls who are in heaven. It is written for the sake of the readers, telling the reader that our waiting upon God, our faithfulness, our perseverance, our adherence to our testimony in Christ, is our righteousness; and that we persevere in that and we must wait a little longer until all the evil that must take place, does take place. As Revelation puts it, “Until the full number of the souls who should be slain, have been slain.”

What we have in Job is essentially the same thing. There is evil. We don’t understand what is going on. We cry out for God to do something about it. God
tells us that our faith and our perseverance is our righteousness and that there may be more suffering ahead. But we need to wait until God knows it is time to act.

VI. Christ is the Hidden Wisdom of God

The fulfillment of the apocalyptic hope of Job is of course, as we have said, in the New Testament. Christ is the hidden wisdom of God and it was manifested on the cross where the wisdom of God looked like folly to humans - to Jews and to Greeks. But it was the wisdom of God and it was the power of God.

This was a mystery that no one could have imagined. Just to kind of grasp again the majesty of all this, let’s remind ourselves of something that Paul wrote in Ephesians chapter 3, beginning with verse 7: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given to me to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.”

I want you to see how similar what Paul says is to what we have read in Job and what we have been discussing. First of all, everything that God would accomplish in Christ was a mystery hidden through the ages. Again, God showed Job that God would destroy Leviathan, but he didn’t show him how. It was simply something God would have to do and something Job would have to wait on. Now in Christ we have this mystery hidden through the ages that is now revealed. Notice also, Paul says that the wisdom of God is now made known. What did we talk about in the book of Job? We talked about the hidden secret wisdom of God, as described in Job 28; again, what I have called the type 3 wisdom. This is the wisdom that no human could imagine, that no one could have worked out in their mind, no theologian could have figured out. This was the plan of God, kept hidden in the mind of God until it was revealed in Christ. Notice, it is made known to who? To the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms; what we have spoken of as the principalities and powers, and what I think we see manifested in Job in the future of behemoth.

So it is through Job’s suffering that he comes to understand how behemoth will be confronted and now it is in Christ that it is revealed and in the sufferings of the church that the reality of the work of God is made known to rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. Paul says this is the eternal purpose of God, that we might belong to God and be reconciled to him.

I hope it has been clear that when I speak of Job as being kind of apocalyptic in how it approaches things, that I am not really saying that I think Job is just like Daniel or just like Revelation. But I am saying that Job has tapped into a major theme of the Bible and especially of the New Testament; that there is this hidden wisdom of God, this hidden plan of God to conquer evil and redeem people. And that this is now ultimately fulfilled in Christ; and so I see a close tie between the theology of Job and the theology of the New Testament.