By Joseph Benson
Name. Job, from its chief character, or hero, and mean "Persecuted."
Date. Neither the date nor the author can be determined with certainty. I incline to the theory of the Job authorship.
Connection with Other Books. It stands alone, being one of the so-called wisdom books of the Bible. It nowhere alludes to the Mosaic law or the history of Israel.
Literary Characteristics. Chapters one and two and parts of chapter forty-two are prose. All the rest is poetry. The different speakers may have been real speakers, or characters created by one writer to make the story. There is, however, little doubt that the story is founded on historical facts.
The Problems of the Book. This book raises several great questions, that are common to the race, and directly or indirectly discusses them. Among those questions the following are the most important. (1) Is there any goodness without reward? "Doth Job serve God or naught"? (2) Why do the righteous suffer and why does sin go unpunished? (3) Does God really care for and protect his people who fear him? (4) Is adversity and affliction a sign that the sufferer is wicked? (5) Is God a God of pity and mercy!
The Argument. The argument proceeds as follows: (1) There is a conference between God and Satan and the consequent affliction of Job. (2) The first cycle of discussion with his three friends in which they charge Job with sin and he denies the charge. (3) The second cycle of discussion. In this Job's friends argue that his claim of innocence is a further evidence of his guilt and impending danger. (4) The third cycle. In this cycle Job's friends argue that his afflictions are just the kind that would come to one who yielded to temptations such as those to which he is subject. In each of the three cycles of discussion with his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, each argues with Job except that Zophar remains silent in the third cycle. They speak in the same order each time. (5) Elihu shows how Job accuses God wrongly while vindicating himself and asserts that suffering instructs us in righteousness and prevents us from sinning. (6) God intervenes and in two addresses instructs Job. In the first address, Job is shown the creative power of the Almighty and his own folly in answering God whom animals by instinct fear. In the second address, Job is shown that one should know how to rule the world and correct its evils before one complains at or accuses God. (7) Job prays and is restored.
Purpose. The purpose of the book, then, is to justify the wisdom and goodness of God in matters of human suffering and especially to show that all suffering is not punitive.
Job's temptation. Job's temptation came by stages and consisted largely in a series of losses as follows: (1) His property, (2) His children, (3) His health, (4) His wife's confidence-she would have him curse God and die. (5) His friends who now think him a sinner, (6) The joy of life-he cursed the day of his birth, (7) His confidence in the goodness of God-he said to God, "Why hast thou set me as a mark for thee?" In his reply to Elihu he doubts the justice if not the very existence of God.
I. Job's Wealth and Affliction. Chs. 1-2.
II. The Discussion of Job and His Three Friends. Cha. 3-31.
III. The Speech of Elihu, Chs. 32-37.
IV. The Addresses of God, Chs. 38-41.
V. Job's Restoration, Ch. 42.
For Study and Discussion. (1) The personality and malice of Satan. Point out his false accusations against Job and God, also the signs of his power. (2) Concerning man look for evidence of: (a) The folly of self-righteousness, (b) The vileness of the most perfect man in God's sight, (c) The impossibility of man, by wisdom, apart from grace, finding God. (3) Concerning God, gather evidence of his wisdom, perfection and goodness. (4) Job's disappointment in his friends. (5) Elements of truth and falsehood in the theory of Job's friends. (6) Job's despair of the present, his view of Sheol and his view of the future. Does he believe in a future life or think all ends with the grave? (7) Does the book really explain why the righteous are allowed to suffer? (8) Make a list of the striking passages especially worthy of remembering.