Date: ca. 10th century BC
This book is one of the most difficult and interesting of the Old Testament. It addresses a fundamental question of human existence. Why do people suffer, when God has everything in His hand? The book is a long poem about a man who in a short time loses everything he owned. He sits like an outcast on a garbage dump near the city, waiting to die. Three friends come to comfort him. In the background the Will of God and the challenge of Satan play a role.
The first theme of his friends' speeches is Job's sinfulness. All three friends say:
Almighty GOD gives him only what he deserves.
Eliphaz: a mystic.
Bildad: a traditionalist.
Zofar: a dogmatist.
They represent different approaches to this problem of suffering. Job also has a vision. He answers them and ends with an appeal to his God: If he kills me, I keep hoping in him (13:15). He longs for a life of rest and peace after death.
The second theme of the following discourses emphasizes the judgment of God on the wicked. It does not occur to the 3 friends that there is something mysterious about life and simple answers are not enough. Job's response, from his suffering, culminates in 19:23-29, where he expresses his faith in GOD and the future: Out of my flesh [shall I] behold GOD.
The third theme of the following discourses is the wisdom and government of God. Job is an ignorant and has no right to complain to God. He declares again that he did not deserve so much misfortune.
A new person comes, his name is Elihu. He looks at the problem from a different angle. Job has grown proud in his heart and that it is partly the cause of his misfortune.
God answers immediately, before anyone can respond. The 3 friends, Elihu and Job are completely wrong. They do not know all the facts and are incapable of making judgments. Their efforts to justify God are inadequate, due to lack of knowledge. Attempts to justify oneself fail for lack of sincerity. God can only give right judgment and that is what Job needs to learn. Only when we have nothing left do we know: God is enough!
When Job had learned this, he was comforted and his riches restored: And the LORD blessed the life of Job more than the former (42:12).
Among the many themes in this book, 2 stand out strongly:
1. The majesty of God.
2. Human limitations and need.
If we continue to see these 2 realities in the right proportion, we need little in the time of need. There will be a solution to our problems when we see God as He really is.
1. Prologue in Heaven (1:1-2:13),
2. 1st speeches (3:1-14:22),
3. 2nd Speeches (15:1-21:34),
4. 3rd Speeches (22:1-31:40),
5. Speech of Elihu (32:1-37:24),
6. Answer from GOD (38:1-42:6),
7. Epilogue (42:7-17).