The book is commonly thought to be about why people suffer, and that it is a theodicy. If it is either of these, it is not very successful. In the end there is no answer to the question of why there is innocent suffering. And the book is as much antitheodic (decrying the lack of divine justice) as it is theodicy (defending divine justice).
Certainly the book shows us suffering and talks about suffering. But as the quote from Seow suggests, this does not tell us what the book of Job is.
In the Hebrew Canon the book of Job is located in the Writings after Psalms and before Proverbs. These three books have a different set of accents than the rest of the Masoretic Hebrew texts of Scripture. So Job is in the middle of this collection of three books. Much of the book, like Psalms and Proverbs, is poetry.
David R. Jackson asserts that the Book of Job is written in the form of a drama. He suggests that we hear the book like a radio play was presented in the 20th century.
But even such thoughts about the genre of the book do not quite tell us what it is.
The Book of Job is wisdom literature. Perhaps this is the closest that we can get to labeling what we are reading when we read Job. It is in dialogue with the books of Psalms and Proverbs. In particular, Job is a drama taking up the feel of a lament psalm and Job is reacting against a common way the book of Proverbs is interpreted. One issue with the interpretation of Proverbs is knowing what proverb applies, when and how. In Job we find his so-called friends applying theology that is often correct (in the right context) to what is the wrong context. After all, 1 Cor 3:19 quotes Job 5:13 and Hebrews 12:5 quotes Job 5:17 — and both Paul and the author of Hebrews agree with those words uttered by the “friend.”
As wisdom, the Book of Job helps us to appreciate the complexity of trying to discern and live within the divine pattern and order. Enns helpfully noted in class that it is wisdom literature in that it addresses how “the biblical world and our world do not connect.” Job knew that it was not all adding up — he was doing the right things but evil was happening to him. Job, it is worth noting, never is told about the opening scene where the adversary approaches God for someone to test.
Everyone, it appears, agrees that the book is a literary and theological masterpiece. It is one of the most difficult books of Scripture to translate because of the number of words that are not repeated elsewhere. But even if we are not always sure how to render a phrase, we can all see and marvel at the beauty and majesty of the work.
But by far the most interesting explanation of what is happening in the book of Job is that it is a story about Israel as the suffering servant. The oddest part of this take is that Job is a Gentile living in the land of Uz during the time of the patriarchs. Nevertheless, Job is a righteous sufferer and so he shows us something about the righteous remnant of Israel during the exile. Or better yet, Job is a righteous sufferer, who is not perfect and thus gets rebuked by God, but who points us to the One who is the Suffering Servant Messiah: Jesus Christ.