JOB STUDIES 1
Job Studies 1 provides an introduction to an often-neglected Bible book. The Book of Job ranks among the greatest works of poetry ever written. But of course it is more than a wonderful poem. It gives us a unique look at how faith deals with life’s trials. In the book we see the struggles of a soul, as a great man of God refuses to turn from God, even when his world is falling apart and nothing seems to make sense.
Though liberal scholars are prone to treat Job as a fictional character, or as a mythical symbol of suffering Israel, the Bible does not. The Lord speaks of the righteousness of Noah, Daniel and Job together (Ezek. 14:14, 20). Unless we are willing to question the existence of all three, there is strong reason to believe Job is a real personage as the others are. Further, the Apostle James affirms Job’s existence as he describes the Lord’s mercy and compassion toward him, and points us to the man himself as an example of perseverence in trial (Jas. 5:11).
As to the time when Job lived, many clues in the book suggest a very early date--about 2100-1900 BC, around the time of Abraham or Isaac. Perhaps Job composed a journal of his experiences at the time. However the actual writing of the book likely came later. Some believe Solomon may have written it in the poetic form we have now, basing his work on earlier records. Others suggest Moses as a candidate for the authorship, since Midian is next to Uz, and Moses may have heard Job’s story during his forty years there. Whatever method was used to preserve and transmit Job’s story, the work was superintended by the Holy Spirit, so that what we have is the inspired and accurate record of his life, a book of profound depth and significance.
Some suggest the theme of the book is “Why do the righteous suffer?” But, if so, that question is never really answered. All through his prolonged misery, a much more important question troubles Job: What is God like? If God can bless me one day, and seemingly hurt and harm me the next--when I have not changed toward Him, what does that say about Him? That is the central issue to Job.
Before we begin, just a word about the structure of the book. Chapters 1-2 are introductory. They set the scene, giving us a picture of Job and his earlier life, and also letting us in on an important conference in heaven. Then, there follows a series of speeches, alternating between Job and three of his friends--Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. They go round the circle three times, except that in the final cycle of speeches Zophar is silent. Instead, a new character enters the discussion, a young observer named Elihu. But although Elihu seems to have a somewhat better understanding of the ways of God, neither he nor the other friends can offer a satisfying answer to Job’s dilemma. Finally, in Chapters 38 and on, God Himself speaks to Job. Then the story is wrapped up with a fitting conclusion in Chapter 42.
Please read Job 1:1-5
INSIGHT: “The land of Uz” where Job lived is an area south of Palestine, in northern Arabia.
1) What four things do we learn about the character of Job in vs. 1? (If you have one available, use another Bible version to expand on these.)
INSIGHT: This important description is repeated twice by the Lord Himself to Satan (1:8; 2:3). Further, God says that Satan’s desire to attack Job is “without cause” (2:3), meaning Job had done nothing worthy of the terrible treatment Satan has in mind for him.
2) What else does Job do that suggests the spiritual quality of the man (vs. 5)? (And was this just a one-time thing for him?)
INSIGHT: To say that Job was “blameless” (KJV) is not the same as saying that he was sinless. No man ever lived without sinning, apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. However, being blameless suggests that Job was sensitive to any sin in his life. When he did wrong, he was convicted about it, and dealt with it immediately. He worked at maintaining his unbroken fellowship with God. Consider this: It is at least possible that Job is the most godly man who ever lived. He was certainly the most godly man living in his day. God Himself declares, “There is none like him on earth” (Job 2:3).
3) What do we learn further about Job in vs. 2-3?
INSIGHT: Again we are faced with a superlative description. Job was “the greatest of all the people of the East” in terms of his wealth.
4) If Job was the godliest man on earth, and the most wealthy man around, what is the natural conclusion as to how these two things fit together?
5) Is this always the case? (Why? Or why not?)
INSIGHT: Job’s children loved to party (vs. 4)! A special feast was held in the home of each “on his day” (likely meaning his birthday). We know from records of ancient times that these feasts sometimes involved a whole week of revelry.
6) What was Job’s great fear concerning his fun-loving children (vs. 5)?
7) Why might Job’s sons have spoken against God? (Clue: Imagine how godly Job might be using his wealth, and think of the sons’ love of luxury.)
Please read Job 1:6-12
INSIGHT: The “sons of God” in Job are the unfallen (good) angels. They were present at the creation of the world (38:4-7), and continue to be God’s servants and spirit messengers (Heb. 1:14). Vs. 6 suggests, as we would expect, that these angelic beings must report to the throne of God, to account for their activities and receive further instruction. However, the remarkable thing here is that “Satan also came among them.” Whether this is required of him regularly, we do not know, but we know that his power is under the sovereign control of God. On this occasion, Satan comes with an evil scheme in mind.
8) God wants to hear what Satan has been up to. What is his answer (vs. 7)?
9) According to First Peter 5:8, what is Satan’s purpose in “going to and fro on the earth”?
INSIGHT: An added thought. In ancient times, a way of claiming ownership of property was to walk through it (cf. Josh. 1:3; 14:9). One can picture Satan swaggering through the length and breadth of the earth, claiming it as his domain. To some extent, the Lord has allowed him this place for a time (I Jn. 5:19), but Satan’s rule is strictly limited by a sovereign God.
10) What question does Satan ask concerning Job (vs. 9)? (And what answer is he hoping for?)
11) We learn that God has not only blessed Job materially, but what else has He done (vs. 10)? (And what is the purpose of this?)
INSIGHT: “Satan” (meaning Adversary) was successful in tempting Adam and Eve into sin. Now he confidently chooses a new target. And with his twisted mind he can only imagine Job’s motives (and the Lord’s motives as well) to be similar to what he would have himself!
12) In Satan’s view, what unfair methods has God used to affect Job’s love and loyalty?
13) In Satan’s view, why was Job being such a good man?
14) Why did Satan pick on the most spiritual and godly man on earth, and the most wealthy (and one who’s fame had undoubtedly spread)?
INSIGHT: Satan voices a central question of the book: “Does Job [and can any man or woman] fear God [and love and serve Him] for nothing”--that is, nothing more than what God is, in Himself? If the answer is “No” then God has failed to fashion a being who can relate to Him freely–because he must be bribed to do so. And that would mean God’s “image” in man is an illusion. These are big stakes. The issues involved are far greater than the happiness of one man who lived long ago. Angels and men are watching, and God’s reputation is on the line.
15) What challenge does Satan issue, concerning Job (vs. 11)? And what result does he expect?
16) What permission does God give Satan? And what limit does He set?
INSIGHT: The evil against Job was devised in Satan’s wicked heart. God gave him freedom to act against Job, but that does not make God the origin of evil. James tells us, “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (Jas. 1:13). For His own wise and good purpose, God is allowing the evil in the world–from the devil, and from human beings as well–to express itself. Though it is difficult to comprehend, in the end, God’s plan will be for the best, and will reflect glory and honour to Him.
INSIGHT: Satan chose a time when Job’s children were all gathered for one of their occasions of feasting and revelry (vs. 13). They were in the home of Job’s eldest son--perhaps suggesting the biggest house and the grandest party!
Please read Job 1:13-19
17) Satan brings a series of cruel trials upon godly Job.
¤ What is the first trial (vs. 14-15)?
¤ What is the second trial (vs. 16)?
¤ What is the third trial (vs. 17)?
¤ What is the fourth trial (vs. 18-19)?
18) Why might Satan have chosen this particular time to bring about the deaths of Job’s children? (It was likely before Job had done what, vs. 5)?
19) In 3:25 Job cries, “The thing I greatly feared has come upon me....” We will discuss this text further in its place. But if Job is thinking of his children, what might he think is the reason for their deaths?
20) What do these four trials (in the answer to Question 17) tell us about the power Satan has?
INSIGHT: It is important to keep in mind throughout the book that Job knows nothing of Satan’s activity, or of the challenge he has issued to God. In fact, it would have been no real “test” of Job’s faith if he had known these things in advance. We can only suppose (though we are not told) that at the end, the Lord revealed all that had been going on, enabling Job (or the later author) to explain it to us.
INSIGHT: Each of the blows lands on Job in quick succession, so that he has no time to recover or think reasonably about what is happening. Boxers sometimes use what is called a “one-two” punch, a quick series of blows with the right and left hand alternating. This is Satan’s tactic here.
21) From Job’s point of view, what is the origin of Trials #1 and #3?
22) From Job’s point of view, what is the origin of Trials #2 and #4?
INSIGHT: By this quick alternation back and forth, Satan’s plan seems to be to get Job angry with people, and then to get him to transfer that anger to God.
Please read Job 1:20-22
23) What is Job’s response to this series of devastating calamities?
INSIGHT: Tearing one’s robe was an ancient sign of turmoil and grief (cf. 2:12).
INSIGHT: Our praise and thanksgiving is often adjusted and rationalized, depending on the circumstances.
¤ Perhaps we are thankful when good things happen, but not for the painful things.
¤ Or we are thankful things aren’t any worse.
¤ Or because we’re better off than others we know about.
But all of that is far beneath Job’s lofty praise. In heaven, earth’s greatest tragedies will draw from God’s people this kind of response. Job seems to have an eternal perspective already.
24) What did Job not do (vs. 22)?
25) Satan’s theory is in trouble right at the start. What is clearly not the reason why Job fears and honours God?
26) In your own words, what is Job saying in vs. 21?
INSIGHT: If you were to mop up some spilled grape juice with a sponge, and then ring the sponge out over the sink, what would come out is grape juice, not milk or orange juice. In the same way, when a life is wrung by trials, what comes out is what has been soaked up before!