Having covered Genesis 1-11, what is known as Primeval History (from Abraham forward is known as Patriarchal History), we now consider Job. Why? Two reasons. First, Job is believed to be a contemporary of Abraham, so the events recorded in this book take place somewhere around Genesis 12. Second, while many admit we don’t know who wrote this book, there are those who believe that Moses wrote this book. Whether or not he did, the book fits here both chronologically and thematically. Remember what we saw with the first 11 chapters of Genesis and Moses’ purpose: even though sin (and it’s effects!) may reign in the world – God is sovereign, God has all the power, God always has and always will preserve a people for Himself, and God has a purpose for everything. This is also the theme of the book of Job.
Job was from the land of Uz. This land is equated with Edom in Lamentations 4:21, so this is just south of the Promised Land. Job is described as blameless, upright, as fearing God, and as turning away from evil. The Bible is establishing the lack of moral flaws (as much as that can be true of a human) in Job so we understand that, contrary to what his friends will say, what happens to him is not a punishment for personal sin. This is not a story, first and foremost, about Job. It is about God.
Even the blessings that Job has are meant to be understood as blessings of God, and not in any way of Job. Note the number of children – seven sons, three daughters, for a total of ten (again, three, seven, and ten). Note also that Job would offer burnt offerings for each of his children. He filled the priestly function of his family before there was a priesthood established by God. This again shows us that God had established rules for offerings very early on – long before the ceremonial law was given. We also see here that there were believers outside the recorded godly genealogies of Genesis. The family line of Shem to Abram is not exhaustive of the believers on earth, but typical.
In the following passage, we are given the clearest glimpse of heaven in the Bible. Though the book of Revelation gives a vision of heaven, it is a symbolic vision. Job is a historic narrative. And we are told that the “sons of God” came before YHWH (also 2:1), and that Satan (transliteration of the Hebrew word for “adversary”) was “among” them. These are clearly angels (thus strengthening the likelihood that “sons of God” in Genesis 6 are fallen angels). Note that when asked where he came from, Satan says he basically bides his time moving around the earth. The Bible teaches that Satan and the other evil angels were expelled from heaven, which we will see elsewhere.
Note that God is the One to turn the conversation to Job. He is Himself setting the stage for what is about to happen. He knows how a sinful heart reasons – if God gives me good, I will worship Him. And the point of the book is that neither this, nor its converse, is right. We don’t worship God because He gives me good in this world, and we don’t not worship Him if He takes it away. Neither does God give me good in this world because I worship Him, nor does He withhold good from me if I do not. This is the point God is about to make.
We see here that Satan cannot do anything without God’s permission. Again, God has all the power. Satan is stronger than men, but he is powerless compared to God. This destroys any ideas one may have that Satan and God are powers fighting against each other. Satan fights against us, not God. We see this here. Satan is allowed to take literally everything Job has – his children and his belongings.
And in Job’s reaction, we see true faith. He worships God. Why? Because he understands what Satan doesn’t. Everything he had came from God. Everything he lost was God’s to take. God did no wrong. God is good, all the time. So Satan attacked Job’s health. His faith did not waiver. He understands what his wife doesn’t – “good” and “evil” in this world are not a reflection of God’s pleasure or man’s standing with Him. Suffering in this world is nothing compared to what we have – and will yet have – in God (see Rom 8:18).
And we are introduced to three men, none of which understand what Job does. They are truly his friends, as evidenced by their sympathy for him, but they lack the faith of Job.
And Job offers his first lament in beautiful poetry. It would be better if he was never born. It would be better if he died as an infant. It would be better if he died right now. Job recognizes the rashness of much of what he says to his friends (Job 6:3), and his opening monologue falls into this category. Job’s mistake here is one common to man – all that matters is “right now.” If I suffer now, it erases the good that has come before. And the severity of the suffering is directly proportionate to how much good is erased.
And this will happen throughout the book when Job speaks. He is, after all, only human. And if this book was written by Moses, we can understand why. The Israelites suffered. And time and again, it completely erased the good that God had done. They wished they had died in Egypt because they were suffering in the desert. The Exodus was forgotten. Even for the people of God, that “what have you done for me lately” attitude sneaks in. Perhaps Moses wrote the story of Job to show them the foolishness of that kind of thinking.
And for us, we should see ourselves in Job (and the Israelites). How many times have we had that exact attitude? How many times have we looked at our “bad” worldly circumstances and forgotten all the good that God has done?
And, of course, we should think of Him Who was human, but not only human. God in the flesh that took on suffering. Suffering that erased not all the good God had done, but erased all the bad that we had done! The One Who has all the power used it against Himself at the cross. And rather than speaking rash words, He cried out for His Father to forgive those who meted out the suffering.
As we read through Job, let us see ourselves as the sufferer that we may have understanding for him and his rash words. Then, let us see Christ as the sufferer that we may have understanding of Him and His endless love.