We will take several weeks to introduce the book of Job.

This wisdom book is not often preached in Sunday morning services. As wisdom literature, it should be preached differently than epistles.

The main character of this book of the Bible is God. The central human character is Job. Its theme is often misdiagnosed. Job's friends talk a lot about God, but often inaccurately. Job's suffering actually takes up little space in the content of the book.

The Setting

The location of the land of Uz (Job 1:1) is not known. It might have been southeast of Jerusalem.

The Human Character

Job is described superlatively in Job 1:1-8. His children are highlighted because good relationships with and among children is often an indication of God-fearing parents (verse 4). Notice what God says about Job at the end of the book (Job 42:7-9). His accepted, righteous position before God never changed.

In Job 29 and 31, Job lists proof that he fears God. We can compile a list of at least 11 virtues that God-fearing people practice from these chapters.

Job was misdiagnosed by his friends; but more troubling, God was misunderstood and misrepresented.

Everyone endures suffering. Each person is probably carrying a heavy burden on any given day. When comforting those afflicted in the church, we must always assume they are God-fearing people. We should assume faith and growth, then continue to grow in Christ-likeness together. Satan's best tactics are to discourage and isolate; do not let that happen.

The Book

The book of Job is where many deeply afflicted people go for comfort. It remains divinely relevant today even among nonreligious audiences for those who are suffering. Layton Talbert quotes Thomas Carlyle saying, "There is nothing written in the Bible or out of it of equal literary merit when it comes to facing life's troubles." Tennyson also called Job "the greatest poem of ancient or modern times." Its enduring influence is evident in the literary, musical, and art world. Walvoord said "the knowledge of Job and his friends about God and his ways is proof that prior to written Scripture, God had revealed himself in definite form. The book of Job furnishes sufficient material in itself for a well rounded systematic theology, biblical theology and indicates God had not left himself without adequate testimony, even in Job's time."

The style of the book intertwines the theological with the dramatic and literary. It traces the transformation of the main human character using primarily poetry, bookended by sections of prose. It contains a prologue, dialogue, monologue, and epilogue.

The Time Period

The author of the book of Job is unknown, and the time of writing is debated. Most think it was probably written about 2000 BC, placing it in the patriarchal period, pre-Mosaic. The characters are probably not Jewish; they may be Aramaic. Job was likely from Northern Arabia. Though his friends spoke much inaccurately about God, they were still good friends (Job 2:11-13). They loved God, knew faith, and were growing even without the written Word of God. This is another example that God mercifully demonstrated himself outside the Jewish people throughout the Old Testament.

The book may have been written during the Solomonic time along with other wisdom literature. It uses patriarchal names for God along with the covenant name of Yahweh. This could indicate that like Genesis, it was written by a later author who under inspiration accurately captured events that happened much earlier.

How to Read Job

This book of the Bible can be difficult to read because it is wisdom literature containing multiple genres. The following tips will help you understand it better:

  • Be patient. Just keep reading.
  • Try to read the whole book in 1 sitting. Depending on your reading speed, it could take 2-5 hours. If you can't, try to read it all in 1 day. This will help you catch the movement and process of the book.
  • Read sympathetically. Notice faith and growth in the characters as they wrestle through problems.
  • Try reading a different version of the Bible than you're used to. (Make sure it's still a reliable literal translation.) This helps you avoid getting stuck or lazy in your reading, allowing you to enjoy and understand the text more.
  • Write a general summary of each section while you read.