The person of Job is mentioned in Ezekiel 14:14 and 20, along with two other historical figures, Noah and Daniel. He is mentioned among the righteous or among those who were fully surrendered to Yahweh.
Job comes up again in James, where he is again commended as being righteous. His faith-surrendered life there is defined as persevering (James 5:11).
This would mean both the Old and New Testament writers of Scripture viewed Job as a real person who actually suffered and the book of Job to be inspired Scripture.
The book of Job contains over 10,000 words and 1,070 verses, and is divided into 42 chapters.
The book is plagued with interpretive and translation challenges.
Job is not only difficult to interpret, but it is monstrous to translate. Its poetic lines and phrases crave for words equivalent to ours. Its rhetorical questions are formed and expressed in a culture foreign to our own. The simple ironies throughout the book are lost on us. The translation is a challenge. This is why I suggest to first-time readers that they read the narrative from The Message Bible, written by Eugene Peterson. The Message Bible places the book in a great story form and gives you the substance of the book without violating its purpose.
I will write this review as always from the ESV while filtered by The Message Bible. Meaning, it will be easier to follow my review if you have read The Message text.
Job's name most likely meant, “Where is my father?" but that cannot be for certain. It is probably best to conclude the book is a story about a man named Job who was well-known to the friends who appear in the story.
The Inspiration of the Book
The book of Job internally claims its own inspiration as Yahweh, who speaks in chapters 1-2 and in chapters 38-41.
There are basically three kinds of speeches beyond God's:
1) Job's friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) minus Elihu; God plainly declared their words to be false and absent from relationship with Yahweh (38:2).
2) Elihu, who gave one speech; his words were not repudiated by God. They were closer to the truth, coming more from a heart of relationship, but still mixed with human reason.
3) Job's words, Yahweh declared, were darkened by his circumstance so they were divinely defective (38:2).
With all the talking, there is no claim of authorship by any one person; the book of Job is assigned an anonymous author.
There is no specific date given for the writing of the book of Job; however, within the book there are some clues as to when the story occurred.
The Talmud tradition assigns the work to Moses, as he compiled the story from Elihu or Elihu's descendants.
This would explain three observations about the book.
1) The only Hebrew name in the story is Elihu, and the events did not take place in Palestine but in the region of Edom. This would explain how the story came into Hebrew possession.
2) This would also explain how it came into Scripture-status.
3) This would explain the reliability of the story’s occurring so close to when it was written.
The Importance of Job
The term “Bible" derives from the Latin and Greek word biblia, meaning book or books, used in phrases in both languages meaning “holy books.” Thus, every book in the Bible is important. Each book explains all the other books and all the other books explain each book. This book of Job is an essential book among the other books of the Bible. This book explains so much in other portions of Scripture, and so much in other Scriptures explain this book.
The events of the story of Job seem to have occurred somewhere in the Patriarchal period. This is deduced from the practice of sacrificing by Job, the measuring of wealth by flocks, the span of Job's life, and the names used, being compatible with that time-era.
There are two theories regarding the date of the writing. First, Moses, early on, having heard the Job story from one of Elihu's descendants, grasped its import and began putting the story into some poetic form during Israel's suffering in the wilderness.
Second, the book was composed during the Solomon period from scraps of oral tradition concerning Job.
My best guess is that it was both. Moses wrote the story down originally and then, in a period of time in which wisdom literature was flourishing among the Hebrew, it was further edited and refined.
While there are three mentions to a place called Uz in Scripture, Lamentations hints the homeland of Job to most likely have been south of the Dead Sea where the Edomites settled.
The Greek version of this book declares openly that Job lived on the borders of Edom and Arabia.
There are good cases made for other places, however, all outside of Israel. Because Job dwelled in the land of Uz, he likely lived in the country and not a city.
Was the story recorded in Job in prose an actual and factual story? It is unlikely the Holy Spirit would wish the book imagined so. It certainly has a historical core, and then Job seems to then become a representative figure of the righteous who feel they are unfairly suffering. The friends of Job seem to present religious and ageless arguments to Job for his suffering.
The beginning and ending of the book where God speaks would likely be the most transcendent and the most historical parts of the book.
The book of Job records a dispute between Job and his four friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and then a late-comer, Elihu. The friends of Job were wrestling with a timeless argument concerning God's fairness. Specifically, they were seeking an answer to the question, “Why do the righteous suffer?”
Job's friends mustered a pile of reasoning in support of the traditional view: righteousness produces prosperity and good fortune, and wickedness produces poverty and misfortune.
Job did not disagree with his friends' foundational proposition; he argued his innocence.
Job accused God harshly but did not deny His power and greatness (9:5-13; 12:7-12; 12:13-25; 23:13-17; 27:7-10), nor did Job deny the truth—he yet longed for fellowship with God.
"If I knew where on earth to find Him, I’d go straight to Him. I’d lay my case before Him face-to-face, give Him all my arguments first hand. I’d find out exactly what He’s thinking, discover what’s going on in His head. Do you think He’d dismiss me or bully me? No, He’d take me seriously. He’d see a straight-living man standing before Him; my Judge would acquit me for the good of all charges” (Job 23:2-7 The Message).
Oddly, when Job's fourth friend, Elihu, finally spoke, he made it clear Job would get no hearing with God. As soon as Elihu made the claim God wouldn’t appear, God spoke directly to Job.
From God’s words, the reader learns the purpose of the book of Job is not to resolve the question, "Why do the righteous suffer?"
Instead of answering the question about suffering, God revealed the mystery of creation and life. The earth, the heavens, the sea, the sunrise, the great Behemoth, the great Leviathan, and on He went, were all great mysteries beyond Job's mental and emotional stamina. Added to the list of mysteries beyond our ability to comprehend is the reality of human suffering.
It isn't that there are no answers; the problem is the answers would short-circuit the human system. The grasping of the answers would lead to other problems more formidable than suffering itself.
The Names of God
There are five names of God used throughout the story. Here I would like to give a brief review.
El: common term to designate god or God
Eloah: Singular form of a generic name or title for god or God. Was not commonly used by Israel.
Elohim: Plural form of the generic name for gods or Gods and was more commonly used by Israel.
Shaddai: the name God used to reveal Himself to the Patriarch, El Shaddai.
Yahweh: the name God used to reveal Himself to Israel.
The name of Yahweh was never used on the lips of Job's four friends and was used on Job's lips only twice (1:21; 12:9).
Yahweh referred to Himself as God (1:8; 2:3) as did Job (1:5; 2:10), Satan (1:9), and Job's wife (2:9). “Elohim" (deity) is used only two more times throughout the book.
Throughout the book of Job, the other names of God are used in varying combinations.
Not wishing to complicate the subject of God's names used in Job, I just want to make an interesting point: during Job's trials, he dispensed using the more personal name for God, Yahweh, as did his friend with the Hebrew name, Elihu.
The author of Job is not bashful with Yahweh's name at all.
Job Outlined (short form)
Job's background revealed (chapters 1-2)
Job regrets that he was born (chapter 3)
First round of speeches (chapters 4-14)
Second round of speeches (chapters 15-21)
Third round of speeches (chapters 22-27)
Wisdom poem (chapter 28)
Job’s final statement (chapters 29-31)
Elihu’s speeches (chapters 32-37)
God’s speeches (chapters 38-41)
Job's restoration fulfilled (chapter 42)