Lecture 20: Job
Course: Old Testament Survey
I. Structure of Job
A quick look at the structure of the book of Job. Notice the way things are organized. There is a prologue that is a couple of chapters long and there is an epilogue that is not a full chapter, but there is a lot in it. Then there is Job’s opening lament, chapter 3. Then look near the end, there is Job’s closing contrition. Then there is a dialogue or dispute set of cycles; three of them. Then there is a set of monologues and then it centers into the middle with the wisdom interlude. This is what we call a chiastic structure or a concentric structure. If those terms are new to you, look them up. They just talk about the way you work in from the ends, the first element and the last element are going to parallel or be close in some way. Then the next one, the second from the beginning and the second from the end, will parallel one another in some significant way and you work in toward the middle. Some people have learned wrongly that the middle of a chiasm or a concentric structure is what it concentrates on; this is a mistake. The middle is a convenient hinge of some kind but it is not the center of the importance. You need to understand that. It can be but not usually. So do not think that the whole chiasm or concentric pattern focuses on the middle, rather it hinges on the middle in some useful way. So, what is in the middle of this one?
There is a wisdom interlude that really is not anyone talking except the writer of the book and we are not sure who that is. It could have been Job himself or somebody else. It asks the question, where do you find wisdom? You go everywhere looking for it. The final answer is that it is found in the Lord. He is the source of wisdom. The book is especially structured in these dialogues. Here is what we say about Job in contrast to Proverbs which is monological wisdom; there is somebody saying the Proverb. We say that Job is dialogical wisdom. In this case people are debating back and forth what the right and the wrong are. The point of this can be shown in the following very quick run-through. I want to apologize for this; it is just my way of trying to cover a very big book very quickly. I do a lot of that in this course. That is the nature of what we are doing. We are seeing the overview. This can be frustrating unless you just say, “Look, he is not going to ask this question on the test, there is nothing like this: Summarize the dialogues of the Book of Job.” I just want to give you a feel for the way the debate works; just a feel for it, just a sense of it. What I have done is provide a summary of what you can find anywhere: a good commentary, any bible encyclopedia article on Job will summarize and outline the arguments. This is nothing new.
II. Summarized Outline
What we have is a situation where God gives Satan unusual power, power Satan does not normally have. Satan has to ask for it. That is the power to make people ill. You might say, “I just thought Satan always caused illness.” No, Satan cannot normally cause illness according to the Scripture. That is a very important thing to appreciate. Demon possession is a type of illness, and Satan can certainly cause that, but only if God allows it. I would argue that demon possession is not possible for believers. The idea that a believer would be demon possessed is, I think, theologically contradictory. That is another issue, I realize, but just in case you have thought that it might be so, at least let me challenge you, to prove it to yourself. Study the topic and see if you do not become convinced. It makes no sense to say that a believer, a real follower of Christ, could be demon possessed based on the data in Scripture. Anyway, Satan has the unusual power to make somebody sick and to control the weather, which he normally does not control. It seems like it most of the time in New England but he honestly does not control the weather.
Miseries of all sorts come to Job. The challenge is this—Satan says to God, “I can get Job to curse You.” That is the challenge. Now God will win that challenge and Satan will lose if Job is impatient. He can be impatient, he can be angry, he can be frustrated, he can hurt like everything, he can tell you chapter after chapter how unfair everything is, but if he does not curse God, Satan loses and God wins. That is the big challenge. Even Job’s wife unwittingly plays into Satan’s hands.
A. Job - Chapter 3
1.Because she is frustrated, these miseries have happened to her as well, most of the them, aside from the physical pain that Job is in, she says, “Curse God and die. Get it over with. We are both so miserable. It is horrible.”
2. Job starts out in chapter 3, “It’s better never to have lived, isn’t it? If you are so miserable, why live?”
B. Cycle One - Chapter 4-14
1. Eliphaz - Chapter 4-5
Somebody named Eliphaz comes in. Eliphaz is trying to do a good thing. His motive is good. He is well-motivated and well-intentioned. He wants Job to realize something—that God is good and He would never allow the kind of suffering that has come to Job if Job did not deserve it. So Eliphaz is arguing what many, many people argue, what many people think implicitly, what many people assume, what many people you minister to are going to think. They are going to think that you basically get what you deserve. If things go well for you it is because God likes you and He is pleased. If things do not go well, you are not doing the right sorts of things. People link their fortunes in life with their supposed righteous in God’s eyes. It is very common. It is almost instinctive, and yet it is wrong. Eliphaz, as Bildad, as Zophar, three friends of Job who try to help him, all come with the same message. “Job, what has happened to you is the result of sin. Please get right with God and God is good and He will take it away.” That is their message. They say it in all kinds of different ways. They hammer at one part of it or another. They emphasize one ration or another but they are always making the same point, “Job, you have offended God. Please admit it, confess it, get right with God and He will take care of you. These things don’t happen to undeserving people. God is good; He is fair; He is just; He is decent; He is caring and you just have done something wrong.” So Eliphaz starts out, “You get what you deserve in life. Don’t be resentful, trust God to be fair.”
2. Job - Chapter 6-7
But Job says, “I’d like to die. I won’t curse God. I’ve done nothing wrong. What have I done?”
3. Bildad - Chapter 8
Bildad shows up, “Turn to God, He helps good people.” In other words, you have got to repent.
4. Job - Chapter 9-10
Job says, “I want to argue with God. Why me? Why this?”
5. Zophar - Chapter 11
Zophar in chapter 11 just says bluntly, “Job, repent and God will forgive you.” You know I have not summarized verse after verse, but I have just summarized very quickly. Job sometimes, kind of, talks past these guys because they are not helping him. He knows he did not do anything wrong. It is not as if he does not care about them, it is not as if he does not appreciate them, but he certainly is not encouraged by their saying, “Hey, this is sin you know.” It would be a lot like visiting somebody in the hospital with cancer and saying, “To bad, you have just offended God and He gave this to you.” Isn’t that a nice thing to say?
6. Job - Chapter 12-14
Job says, “I’m worse off than plenty of evil people. There is a lot of evil people doing fine. You guys can’t help me but God can. I want to talk to God.” He often does talk to God as in chapter 14, “God, you’ve given human beings a miserable existence haven’t you?” he said.
C. Cycle Two - Chapter 15-21
1. Eliphaz - Chapter 15
They get very blunt after a while, he says, “You sinner, you doubter, it’s the wicked who suffer.”
2. Job - Chapter 16-17
Job says, “You are no help.”
3. Bildad - Chapter 18
And then he has a little bit of doubt almost in chapter 18, “You’re no help are you?” Bildad, “There is not future in being wicked Job.”
4. Job - Chapter 19
Job responds, “I deserve vindication, you guys deserve judgment.”
5. Zophar - Chapter 20
Zophar, “Anything the wicked enjoy is only temporary. Oh, it is terrible to be wicked during judgment. Oh Job, it is terrible.” They are assuming that he sinned.
6. Job - Chapter 21
Job says, “The wicked often do well. God ought to punish them but He lets them do as well as the righteous.” He is saying that in this life there is a lot of unfairness. That is the point he keeps making. You do not get what you deserve in this life. You often do bad and nothing happens. You often do good and miserable things happen. It is not an even thing like you guys are arguing. They were arguing what some people have called prudential wisdom or, even better, extreme prudential wisdom, which says that all you need to do is learn the rules. You learn what good is, you learn what bad is, just do good and everything will be peachy for you. So, not only do you do what is right but by doing it you get immediate reward. That is extreme prudential wisdom, which Job is arguing against. This is a dialogue in which he is saying, “That is wrong”; they believe that is wisdom and he is saying that is false. That is quite a challenge going back and forth.
D. Cycle Three-Chapter 22-27
1. Eliphaz - Chapter 22
In chapter 22 Eliphaz says, “A good God would never punish a good human. He would help you if you would just humbly pray to Him.”
2. Job - Chapter 23-24
Then Job responds and says in chapter 23, “God’s distance makes getting justice hard. He doesn’t seem to police the world. The evil do just as well as the good people.”
3. Bildad - Chapter 25
In chapter 25, Bildad is trying to help Job. He is now using an argument from ontology, the very nature of God. He said, “Look Job, think of it this way, God is so good that compared to Him you are bad.” He is trying to help him.
4. Job - Chapter 26-27
Job says, “Yeah, great advice. God is all-powerful, yet He has denied me justice.
E. Wisdom Interlude - Chapter 28.
Fearing God is wisdom
1. Job - Chapter 29-31
Job has his final words in the dialogue, “I was upright, I lived a good life, worthless people make fun of me now. My hopes for life are dashed. If I were bad I deserved punishment but I wasn’t. I didn’t do anything that would call for what has happened to me.”
2. Elihu - Chapter 32-37
Then a new character comes in, Elihu. He seems to be neutral so you might say, “Whoa! Great, we are going to get some good, neutral advice here. After the fight back and forth, we now are going to get in this monologue of great advice.” He goes on for chapter after chapter and basically says, “Job, you’re a sinner.” He basically rubs it in all the more.
3. Yahweh - Chapter 38-41
Then the Lord Himself comes in chapter 38 and He speaks in 38, 39, 40, and 41, and it is very interesting. He does not say to him, “Job, it was a contest and you’ve won it for me. You have been faithful, you haven’t cursed me. I’ve let Satan cause suffering to you such as has not happened to any human and you have still refrained from cursing me; you’ve held out, good for you.” He did not tell him that. He does not tell him why he suffers. In the same way that you and I are not told why we get this illness or that illness, why this bad thing happens to us, why that disappointment comes, why when you so much want a child you cannot, or when you so much want something that you really would love to do it does not work out for you. We do not know those reasons and Job never knows. But God instead says to him, “Job, consider the way nature works. Did you create the whole universe?” In effect, Job says no; although he is not talking, he answers, in effect, of course not. “Do you control the whole universe?” No. “Do you control, for example, the hippopotamus?” the behemoth in the Hebrew, the big animal like the hippo. No. “Do you control the crocodile?” No.
G. Job - Chapter 42
At the end of that speech Job says, “I’m sorry I questioned you.” Now all God said was, “Job, I’m running the world. I create everything, I make it happen, I make it work, I’m in charge. That is all He says. He does not say, “It was a contest and you did wonderful. We cheered every time you resisted. We thrilled at the things you said. We were delighted. We just watched it all and we we’re happy.” He did not say any of that. He just says, “Job, do you know more than I do?” and Job says, “No, I don’t.” That is what Job needed to hear. I would suggest that that is the message of this book. We need to hear and be reminded that many kinds of suffering understood by God may come our way. There will be many sufferings, many difficulties and many things will be thwarted that you very much want.
Maybe you say, “I want to be a minister of the Word of God, I really want to do this,” and all you can ever serve are kind of obscure churches. You always wanted to have thousands of people in your youth group and you only have six. There are a many number of things. You many always have wanted to be married and nobody ask you so you remain unmarried. You may always have wanted to go to the mission field and it never worked out. You many have wanted to be healthy and you are sick all your life. Any number of possibilities. We are not told why just as Job is not told why. That is what makes the book so real. But he is told by God, “Job, do you think I know how to do things?” That is what he needs to get. And his answer is, “Yes, you do.” In effect, “Yes, of course, You know how to do things, You know what You are doing, You are in charge.” There is a very important little statement at the end of the book that you also need to get. Let me read it so as to be sure that nobody misses this.
At the very end of the Book of Job is the epilogue. “The Lord then speaks to Job and the others and He says to them,” to Eliphaz particularly, “I am angry with you and your two friends,” this is Job 42:7, “because what you’ve spoken in not right as my servant Job has.” In other words, what Job has said is right. Now that is incredible. What did Job say? He said life is unfair; it is. This life is unfair; the Bible says it. Jesus said, “God’s reign falls on the just and the unjust.” He said it too. There are lots of ways that it is said in Scripture. The wisdom psalms say that, “The wicked often get away with everything but don’t join them, it looks good now but it won’t be good forever.” So in the life, in this world, now at this time life is unfair. Good people do suffer; bad people often do not. That is the way it works. Indeed, in the New Testament suffering is often an indication that you really are following Christ. It is a kind of proof that you are not leading a hedonistic but you are living an unselfish life of the sort that Christ wants us to live. That is one of the evidences that suffering is positively directed toward. So Job has spoken correctly. That is an important thing. However, what does Job keep asking for? “I want to talk to God. Oh if I could see Him personally. Oh if I could be in His presence. Oh if I could have some connection, if there were somebody who would be between us, a go-between, oh would that be great; then I could understand it all.” What Job is looking for is the kind of thing that Ecclesiastes is looking for; we are getting to that next. He is looking for some way in which he could figure out what this life is all about. The answer is that you figure it out by what God has in store for making all things right. Job is implicitly waving a flag at you and saying, “We need something other than this life. There needs to be something other than this life, this world which is so unfair, which has so much cruelty in it, so much suffering, so much hardship; there has got to be something else.” That is hinted at by the restoration to Job of all kinds of blessed things. It says, “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former.” That is a very important statement. The best is yet to come is in effect the message of the Book of Job.