Date and Setting Most conservative scholars believe that the book of Job is at least as old as the time of Abraham. Since the book contains no reference to the established worship system in effect from the time of Moses, it is assumed that the events occurred at least during the patriarchal period. Its setting is in the land of Uz. We are not certain where that was located, although many believe that it was in Arabia. It could be anywhere, and everyone who reads the book can associate with it.
Prologue In Job 1:1, we are introduced to Job, a man blameless and
upright. He feared God and eschewed evil. He had seven sons and
three daughters, and was very wealthy. In material possessions he
lacked for nothing.
Satan’s challenge After introducing us to Job and his various religious practices, the Holy Spirit pulls back the curtain of heaven and allows
us to listen to a conversation which takes place between
God and Satan. In reply to God’s question as to where he has been,
Satan responds that he has been walking throughout the earth (vs. 7).
God then threw down the gauntlet of challenge: “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth?” Satan’s response represents the greatest calumny against God that had ever been delivered. Its gist was that a person who served and loved God was interested only in His rewards. According to Satan, no one would love God just because of who He is. If you were not so good to him, Satan insinuated to God, Job would curse You to Your face. To prove him wrong, God threw down the gauntlet: “All that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand.”
Loss Satan departed and tragedy began to fall upon Job like a
trip hammer in rapid staccato blows. The Sabians attacked
(vs. 15), fire fell (vs. 16), the Chaldeans raided (vs. 17), the house
was blown down and killed all his children (vs. 18). Each report came on the heels of the preceding one. In a few minutes time, Job learned of the loss of all he valued: possessions, crops, animals, servants, children. Yet, he did not curse God or shake his fist at Him. Instead, he tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell to the ground. His statement in verse 21 is the answer to the most profound issue of human existence. “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither. the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away,
blessed be the name of the Lord.
We will find that much of the content of the book of Job revolved
around the concept of theodicy. Theodicy comes from two Greek words, theos, meaning God, and dice, meaning justice. In other words, how can we vindicate the justice of God in relation to evil? How can we justify God’s holiness and the existence of evil? It is the continuing theme throughout the book.
Job had lost all his possessions but still had his health.
Chapter 2 pulls back the curtain once again and we are now
listening to another meeting in the heavenlies. God pointed out that
Job “holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to de-story him without cause “ (vs. 3). “No wonder,” is Satan’s reply, “You have not touched him physically. “ “Put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.” (vs. 5) Again God gave Satan a limited power: “Behold, he is in thine hand, but save his life” (vs. 6). Satan then inflicted Job with boils from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Job sat out on an ash heap and scraped himself with a potsherd (a piece of broken pottery), the only thing available to scrape the scabs from his body. By this time, even his wife had experienced too much, and said, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.“ Later on we will find Job beginning to question and challenge God, and to vacillate between despair and trust. But, at this point, his integrity is intact. He responded to his wife: “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh”. And verse 10 adds, “Job did not sin with his lips.”
Job’s Comforters Job had three friends who heard of his calamity. I believe they were also righteous men. Remembering from our study of the Imprecatory Psalms, the mentality of the eastern mind, they believed suffering had to be God’s judgment on sin in the individual’s life. If Job were truly righteous, all this could not have been happening. We know differently because we were witnesses to the two conversations in heaven, but Job did not know about them. He will go through the entire ordeal and never learn why it happened. Nor did his friends ever know. In their eyes, Job had to be a sinner. Their position and their theology were shaken to the core because they believed that if Job were righteous and all this had befallen him, they also might experience sudden calamity. They had to prove that there was sin in Job’s life in order to vindicate their eastern theology.
At first because of the boils and dust, they did not recognize him.
They wept and tore their robes and threw dust on their heads in typical oriental mourning. They sat on the ground for seven days and seven nights, not saying a word. Do you know anyone who would sit with you a full week because he grieved with and for you? I cannot recall this ever happening m my lifetime. Sometimes my heart longs for a return to the kind of personal relationships where people really care about people. In their own way, Job’s friends cared about him. Their unselfish behavior demonstrated their genuine concern and compassion.
Dialogue and Debate Job 3:1 to 41:34 is a series of dialogues among a small group of eastern sheiks sitting in typical eastern fashion and discussing the verities of life. It was Job who broke the seven-day silence by cursing the day he was born. At that point, his state of mind was the lowest it will be throughout the book. It is revealed in such statements as “Let the day perish wherein I was born “ (3:3); “Why died I not from the womb?”(vs. 11); “Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery?” (vs. 20).
The motif begins in chapter 4 and is a continuing cycle of speeches.
Eliphaz will speak and Job will give his rebuttal. Bilded will speak and
Job will respond. Zophar will speak and Job will answer. Then: Eliphaz-Job; Bildad-Job; Zophar-Job; throughout. Then, communication deteriorates and Zophar does not respond. Throughout the cycle, each man tried to discover what was wrong in Job’s life. It was thrust and parry, thrust and parry, as if they were in a fencing match. In chapter 4, Ehphaz began by suggesting that Job could not take for himself the counsel he had offered others in trouble. Verse 3: “Thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands.“ Verse 5: “But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled.“ Verse 7: “Who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?”
In verse 12 Eliphaz used an age-old method of referring to an
occult experience in order to impress others with his religious authority. Does this sound familiar?
Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received
a little thereof. In thoughts from the visions of the night, when
deep sleep falleth on men, Fear came upon me, and trembling,
which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before
my face, the hair of my flesh stood up: It stood still, but I could
not discern the form thereof- an image was before mine eyes,
there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying, Shall mortal man
be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker?
With this story of an occult, spiritist experience, Eliphaz attempted
to justify his argument and add validity to his claim.
His accusations continued in chapter 5. Verse 17: “Happy is the man
whom God correcteth: therefore despise not the chastening of the Almighty.“
Verse 27: “We have searched it, so it is, hear it, and know thou it for thy good.“ In other words, We have checked it out, Job.
In chapter 6 Job was not so much answering Eliphaz as he was
venting his anguish and remorse over the current situation. Then
beginning in 7: 11, he unleashed a series of rhetorical questions,
complaining with all the bitterness of his soul.
In chapter 8 Bilded picked up the dialogue and accused Job of
producing nothing but a big wind. Verses 2 and 20 sum up his argument
How long wilt thou speak these things? and how long shall the
words of thy mouth be like a strong wind? ... Behold, God will
not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evildoers.
Job’s retort to Bilded in chapter 9 is sarcastic agreement. Finally,
in 10:1 he mourned, “My soul is weary of my life,“ and continued to ex-press the depths of his depression. In chapter 11, Zophar took up the challenge by accusing Job of talking too much. “Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full
of talk be justified?” (vs. 2). Verses 13-15 sum up his argument.
If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward
him; if iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not
wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles. For then shalt thou lift
up thy face without spot, yea, thou shalt be steadfast and shalt
Job’s lament and response to that statement continues through
chapter 14. Then in chapter 15, Eliphaz began the second cycle of
speeches. He no longer showed the courtesy of his first speech but
accused Job of being full of hot air saying in verse 2, “Should a wise man utter vain knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind?” He has now joined the others in his disdain of Job. He asked, “What knowest thou, that we know not? what understandest thou, which is not in us?” (vs. 9). In other words, You do not have all the answers, Job. And he went on to rebuke him even more severely.
Job’s reply in chapter 16 was that he was sick of their useless
talk. Shall vain words have an end? or what emboldeneth thee
that thou answerest? I also could speak as ye do: if your soul
were in my soul’s stead, I could heap up words against you,
and shake mine head at you.
Job wished they could exchange places and that he could be the
one to speak to them. They were not helping him with their words.
After a few speeches that contained high thoughts and elevated ideas, Job had begun to sink back into despair. In 17: 1 he complained: “My breath is corrupt, my days are extinct, the graves are ready for me.“ He was ready to die. Bildad’s next speech is recorded in chapter 18, and in it he showed no patience with Job. Beginning in verse 5, he discussed the horrible fate of the wicked. Then Job responded in chapter 19 and after the crushing burden of the heavy words of his friends, he begged for pity, saying, “How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words? ... And be it indeed that I have erred, mine error remaineth with myself.“ “Help me,” he begged. Finding no pity, he cried out in verses 25 and 26: “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And
though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.“
What a tremendous prophecy of the coming Redeemer! The Hebrew
word is the same used in the book of Ruth, Goel. It can be translated
redeemer, avenger, Indicator or defender. Job needed all of these!
Zophar’s reply in chapter 20 was one of uncontrollable anger and
Job responded to him by declaring them all wrong. In chapter 21, he
defended his philosophy and theology. The third cycle of speeches
begins in chapter 22 with Eliphaz unleashing a scathing accusation. In verses 4-9, he gives a detailed catalogue of sins which he believed Job had committed, and summarized his argument in verse 29. Job’s response is recorded in chapters 23 and 24.
Deterioration and Despair In chapter 25, Bilded speaks briefly. Communication among the group had broken down and deteriorated into arguments ad hominem, with accusations and slanderous remarks. Job responded in chapter 26, then paused as if waiting for Zophar to speak. Eliphaz has had three speeches, Bilded has had three speeches, but Zophar has had only two. When Zophar did not respond, Job began again in chapter 27.
Unable to reconcile his suffering with his integrity, Job (chapter
29) turned his mind to the wisdom of God. Although he seemed to be at the end of his rope, he burst forth with a beautiful poem in chapter 29: “Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me. “ How job longed for the time when his children were around him, when his servants met his needs, and he had food and good health. But those days were gone, he was out on the ashes, and his friends were reviling him. He lamented, “I cry unto thee, and thou dost not hear me” (30:20). Finally, in chapter 31, Job initiated the ancient oriental final proof of honesty by calling down a curse on himself from Heaven if he is guilty. This method of self-incrimination, or self-exoneration, in Job’s culture was more meaningful than swearing before a jury. The punishment for perjury against God held more terrifying consequences than perjury before a human jury.
As he categorized the different activities for which he wished judgment if he were guilty, they were in specific answer to the listing by Eliphaz (chapter 22) of which he believed Job to be guilty.
The seriousness of Job’s oath in chapter 31 cannot be overestimated.
He enumerated a series of “ifs” and following each “if”, he pronounced a curse on himself if he were guilty of the thing he mentioned.
Verse 5: If I have walked with vanity
6: Let me be weighed in an even balance.
7: If my step hath turned out of the way
8: Then let me sow and another eat.
9: If mine heart have been deceived by a woman
10: Then let my wife grind unto another.
13: If I did despise the cause of my manservant
16: If I have withheld the poor from their desire
19: If I have seen any perish for want of clothing
20: If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless
22: Let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade.
Job, fully confident of his innocence, finally said in chapter 31:40,
“The words of Job are ended.“ He closed the argument. He must either
suffer the sanctions he had called down upon himself or else be acquitted.
Enter Elihu In chapter 32, we are introduced to Efihu, a fourth individual who was present, evidently listening from the sidelines. Chapter 32 begins by saying, So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu ... against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God.
Elihu began to speak out self-righteously, making four speeches
between Job 32:1 and 37:24. His first speech lasted through chapter 33.
His second takes all of chapter 34, and the third all of chapter 35. The
fourth is chapters 36 and 37. Elihu forms a transition between the
speeches of Job, his friends, and the Theophany of God when He answered Job out of the whirlwind. Interestingly enough, God did not
rebuke Elihu, as we will read in chapter 42.
God Reveals Himself The Lord began in 38:3 by demanding, “Gird up now thy loins like a man.” This was the challenge of an ancient belt wrestler. It was another way of saying, “It is time to get down to business, Job!” With that introduction, God enumerated His wonders to Job. In chapter 39, He described how His creation scorned man. In chapters 40 and 41 He asks, “How can you contend with God when you cannot even match the creatures I have made?”
Epilogue Chapter 42 is the epilogue. Job confessed to the Lord, “I know that thou canst do every thing.“ Having come face to face with God, Job’s response is like that of Moses, Joshua, and Isaiah centuries later. In 42:5, Job said, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear. but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. After that repenting and confession, the Lord rebuked Eliphaz, Bilded, and Zophar, but not Elihu. He commanded them to offer sacrifices, “ and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him I will accept. Lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant job “ (vs. 8). Verse 10 says, “The Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends. “ Job was a gracious man considering how much he had suffered from the comments and dagger-like remarks of his three “friends.” “So the Lord
blessed the latter end of job more than his beginning” (vs. 12). Notice that
he ended with twice as much as he had at the start. “So Job died,
being old and full of days” (vs. 17).
In the book of Job, we have the answer as to why the righteous
suffer. But Job never knew why he suffered. In effect, what God had said to him was, “You Will just have to trust Me, Job.”
XLIII LIVING AND LOVING
ECCLESIASTES The book of Ecclesiastics contains the philosophy of a man who had everything. Chapter 1:1 identifies the author as “the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. “ The only person who qualifies is King Solomon. Certainly, Solomon had the wherewithal to do anything and everything he desired. His wealth was incalculable. Probably no one ever had more wives and concubines; he must have known everything possible about love and the relationships between men and women. His philosophy, as recorded in Ecclesiastics, was simply: “I have tried everything and nothing is worth anything. Vanity of vanities, everything is vain, or futile-empty. “ “What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?” he asked. “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever” (vss. 3 and 4).
Like 0ld Man River, it just keeps rolling along. The sun rises, the sun
sets, everything happens over and over, so what is it all about anyway? These statements summarize Solomon’s queries in a twentieth century context. In verses 13 and 14 he admitted,
I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning
all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath
God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. I have
seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold,
all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
In chapter 2: 1, he described another pursuit: “I said in mine heart,
Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy Pleasure: and,
behold, this also is vanity”. There was no pleasure in work; there was no pleasure in fun; there was no pleasure in futile enjoyment. The hedonistic life-style was simply vanity: Pleasure accomplished nothing. He tried creativity and materialism (vss. 4-8). “I builded me houses ... I mage me gardens ... I got me servants ... and ... cattle .... I gathered me also silver and gold and ... treasure. “ Once again, Solomon discovered it all to be vanity. Imagine! Solomon was a man who had everything: pleasure, beautiful women, creative pursuits, gold and silver, but in verse 17 he finally concluded. “I hated life. “ It was a striving after wind. Verse 18: “I hated all my labor ... because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. “ He had realized that “you can’t take it with you.”
Chapter 3 begins Solomon’s second discourse in which he came to terms with the laws which govern fife. Chapters 1:1-2:26 describe the vanity of human endeavor “under the sun. “ In chapter 3 he determined, from a human view- point, that there is an appointed time for everything and for every event under heaven.
His third discourse extends from 6:1 through 8:17. The central
theme is that there is no satisfaction in earthly goods. Finally, in the
fourth discourse (9:1-12:8), Solomon has realized that God will deal
with the injustices of this life. The entire book is summed up in 12: 1:
“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.”
In the end, Solomon was an old man who had tried everything.
He had not lived in the hokmah wisdom of Proverbs. His world-view
had developed around a self-centered approach to fife. He had been an egocentric person. As he looked back over his life, he realized that it had been empty, vain, futile, because it had been done outside of a proper relationship with God. The counsel given by this old man who had everything and had tried everything when he looked back over his fife was, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth “-while there is still time.
Song of Solomon The final book in the collection of poetry is the Song of Solomon, sometimes called Canticles. Through the centuries, this little book has been looked at in many ways. Some see it as allegorical, which is probably not a good interpretation. The best approach is a combination of literal and typical interpretation. Literally, it is probably a single short incident in Solomon’s life with a simple country girl. As typology, it typifies the love relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church. Despite his failures, Solomon was in some aspects, a type of Christ.
Because of the intimate nature of the book, as it relates to the
personal relationship between a man and a woman, the old rabbinical requirement was that a man must attain the age of thirty before he was allowed to read it. It is, in my opinion, a wonderful book for a husband and wife to read as they share intimate times and moments together. It is a beautiful way to worship God through His inspired Word with a book designed for use by both husband and wife.
In addition to being used for this purpose, it demonstrates the love of
Christ for His Church, and shows how the Church should
respond to the love of her Master and heavenly Bridegroom.
Some interesting sidelights are that the Song of Solomon
mentions some twenty-one varieties of flora. It also contains fifteen
species of fauna. It provides extensive examples of royal luxury with its use of silver and gold and purple. The book contains no evidence of the division of the kingdom so the logical author is King Solomon, and historically it carries that title.
XLIV THE KINGDOM DIVIDED
Beginning with I Kings 12, we have a new era in Israel’s
history. Namely, the nation will be divided into a northern kingdom
called Israel, and a southern kingdom called Judah. They will be two
separate nations with a common border just as are Canada and the
United States. In addition, they will develop two distinct religious
systems, two distinct political systems, and two distinct military
These divided kingdoms continued for 209 years, from their
inception in 931 B.C., until 722 B.C. when the Assyrians invaded and
dispersed the kingdom of Israel among the nations. During those
209 years, Israel and Judah had various relationships. Sometimes they fought with one another as if each were a common enemy; sometimes they formed an alliance against another enemy; at other times they were friendly. The reader will also discover that common personal names were used by the royalty of both kingdoms.