Select Page

It may sound obvious but it is important to begin with this simple statement: The book tells us about a man named Job.  “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.  There were born to him seven sons and three daughters.  He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:1-3).  So Job was a Gentile (living in the land of Uz).  Job is described as “blameless and upright” — this does not mean he was sinless, rather it means that he was in right relationship with God.  Job offered sacrifices that God accepted for his sins – both those he was aware of and those he did not even know.  And Job was healthy, wealthy and wise.  He had ten children including seven sons and a huge number of livestock and servants.

The next couple verses give us some helpful background to the story that will unfold shortly: “His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.  And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt sacrifices according to the number of them all.  For Job said, ‘It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.’  Thus Job did continually” (Job 1:4-5).  This prepares us for them to be killed in such a gathering.  But these two verses are more than general background — they tell us something about Job and his priorities.  Here is a picture of a man who leads his household in the ways of God – a man who deeply cares for his children and their relationship with God.

 

Satan

Then we have the introduction of a character known as “the Satan” — Hebrew for “the adversary.”  The setting is the divine court of God and “the adversary” came among the “sons of God” when they presented themselves before YHWH.  And YHWH asked Satan, “From where have you come?”  And the adversary describes himself as having been “going to and fro on the earth, and…walking up and down on it.”  And YHWH said to the adversary, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil.”  So now we have had the narrator and God Himself both tell us how exemplary Job is.  But the adversary suggests that Job has no reason to do anything else.  Satan says, “Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side?”  So the adversary asserts that the reason Job is not cursing God like most of humanity is that he is protected by God and blessed with great wealth by God.  And so YHWH allows the adversary to test Job.  Only YHWH puts a limitation on this test, He says, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand.  Only against him do not stretch out your hand.”  So the adversary went away from the presence of YHWH.

The Four-Fold Attack on Job

And after that scene in heaven, we have a scene on earth which begins by noting that Job’s sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house – again preparing us for their death.

Their death would come in the fourth report.  This is the wisdom pattern of 3+1 where the real punch is the +1.  The loss that Job feels the greatest and worst is that of his children. 

The attacks were as follows:

1. Sabeans against oxen, donkeys, and servants;

2. Fire of God fell from heaven against the sheep and servants;

3. Chaldeans (Babylonians) against camels and servants;

4. Great wind strikes the house killing Job’s sons and daughters. 

In each case there was one servant who escaped to come tell Job what had happened.

Also note the pattern – destruction by a nation, “act of God,” destruction by a nation, “act of God.” 

Job, no doubt greatly lamented the loss of his possessions and servants, but the loss of his children must have hit him the hardest.

Nevertheless, note his response to the four-fold attack: “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.  And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return.  YHWH gave, and YHWH has taken away, blessed be the name of YHWH.’  In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:20-22).  Tearing his robe and shaving his head were signs of great grieving and lamentation.  Even so, he worshiped God.

Second Scene in the Court of God

And we see a reprise of the earlier scene in the court of God as the sons of God and the adversary all come to present themselves before YHWH.  The story repeats as YHWH asks the adversary where he came from, the adversary gives the same answer as before, and YHWH says again, “Have you considered my servant Job…?” the same line as before except now adding: “He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason” (see Job 2:3).  Now the adversary will be able to test Job again with the limitation that he cannot take Job’s life.  So the adversary went out from the presence of YHWH.

Second Scene on Earth

The second scene with Job shows him struck with “loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.  And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes” (Job 2:7-8).  And we see his wife tempt Job to “curse God and die.”  And like before we see his response, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive ‘evil.’”  Here Job is not charging God with wrong but just the opposite.  In Hebrew the word translated “evil” has a broader semantic domain than “evil” does in English.  The word in Hebrew includes the ideas of disaster and the like.  He is not accusing God of doing “evil” in the narrow sense of doing something wrong.  This is confirmed by the following evaluation much like the one before: “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.  They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him.  And when they saw him from a distance they did not recognize him.  And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven.  And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:11-13).  (Recall the suffering servant imagery of Isaiah 52:13-14 regarding his appearance.)  This marks a shift in the narrative – these three friends were most helpful to Job during these seven days and seven nights, not so much after this time.

Chapters 3-37 are all interactions between these three friends (plus one) and Job.  Since Job is innocent, these three friends’ words are all a temptation for Job to curse God.  They take over the role of the adversary.

Reflection Questions:

What assumptions do you make when you hear of bad thing after bad thing happening to someone else?

Do you fear God for no reason?

What would you do if in a similar situation to that of Job?

He was quick to dismiss his wife as talking foolishly, would you?  Do you think that he will be able to see the foolishness of his wise friends? {jcomments}

Structure:

Note then that the alternating pattern we saw with the four attacks also is the organizing pattern for the whole of the prologue.  After the introduction, there are four scenes and the scenes alternate from heaven, earth, heaven, earth.

%d bloggers like this: