Job Introduction

Job  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 11
Listen from:
FROM its size, and a rapid glance at its contents, we would judge that the book of Job is a very important part of the word of God. Yet how much it is neglected by most; an intimate familiarity even with its contents is the exception rather than the rule.
Unquestionably the treasures of New Testament truth claim our first attention. The life, teachings, sacrificial death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ; the work of the Holy Spirit in establishing the Church on its broad Christian basis; the Epistles, unfolding the wondrous truths of redemption in its individual and corporate aspects—these must have a place in every Christian heart in precedence over all other revelations of truth. But so far from this making us indifferent to the Old Testament, it will beget a hunger which will lead us to search afresh for “things new and old” in its pages. Let us then take up anew the record of God’s dealings with His servant in olden times, and find how needed and unchanged are its lessons for the present.
Job is one of the poetical books, called in Scripture “the Psalms.” With “the Law and the Prophets,” these form the entire Old Testament Scriptures (Luke 24:4444And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. (Luke 24:44)). This group of poetical books was called by the Jews Kethubim, “the writings.” In the fourfold division of the Old Testament, with which many are familiar—the Books of the Law, the Prophetic History, the Prophets, and Books of Experience—we find Job belonging to the last group. Arranging these experimental books according to their subjects, we have them as follows:
1. THE PSALMS — the experiences of the godly in Israel, and of Christ, in view of the varied sufferings at the hand of man and of God, with the outlook toward the future kingdom.
2. JOB — the experience of a righteous man in learning deliverance from himself.
3. THE SONG OF SOLOMON — the experiences of the remnant in Israel and of the individual in relation to the love of Christ.
4. ECCLESIASTES — the experiences of a wise man vainly seeking for good in the world.
5. PROVERBS — wisdom for the path, the garnered experience of faith enlightened by revelation. Naturally, the Psalms are the fullest and most varied of these experimental books, with the special charm of revealing “the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.” They are dispensational, prophetic, and therefore strongly Jewish, using the term in a good sense. The Song and Proverbs have the national characteristics, in a lesser degree, and Ecclesiastes perhaps least of the four.
In Job we pass entirely out of the national atmosphere into what we may call Gentile, or at least patriarchal, modes of thought and speech. The dispensational features are completely in the background—seen only in the light of other scriptures, and in a secondary way. This leaves us with a book of intense individuality, in which we see a man learning the lesson of his own nothingness, in the fierce fire of deep affliction, by “the messenger of Satan” —through loss, bereavement and disease—fighting single-handed against the crude philosophy and cruel attacks of his friends; above all, with his own proud, unsubdued self-righteousness and unbelief, until “an interpreter” is heard, who leads him to the point where he listens to God and learns the lesson of all the ages, that He alone is God, and therein lies his blessing.
May we turn aside from the mad rush of the present day, causing even God’s people to have superficial views and experiences, when restless activity even in service so often hinders meditation and the learning of what self is in the presence of God, and sit down with this suffering man and his friends to learn our lesson too.
Many preliminary questions of interest and importance might claim our attention, but to these we can only give a few words.
First, Is Job a real or a fictitious character? Scripture replies by associating him with Noah and Daniel (Ezek. 14:14, 2014Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God. (Ezekiel 14:14)
20Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness. (Ezekiel 14:20)
), and James refers to his well-known trials and patience, and to “the end of the Lord” (Jas. 5:1111Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. (James 5:11)) That the book is a magnificent piece of poetry, cast in a strikingly dramatic form, does not in the least imply that it is not absolutely true. Indeed, in God’s word poetry must be truth, and there is nothing grander than the sublime dramas in which the setting is heaven and earth, and the participants are God, the angels, Satan and man. There is no room for fancy here, because the truth is grander than all the imaginations of men.
Next, who is the author of the book? GOD. Some have ascribed it to Moses, or possibly some earlier writer, and undoubtedly the general tone of the book suits the patriarchal age. Moses, who wrote the 90th psalm, certainly had sufficient knowledge and versatility to be the human instrument, and during his stay in the land of Midian may have found this book or gathered its materials. Others have associated the book with the writers of Solomon’s time, and it cannot be denied that there is much in its pages that reminds us of Solomon in the Proverbs. In general theme it may be associated with that time when the experiences of God’s people were being gathered by inspired men. The knowledge of Jehovah, and of sacrifice, shows that its author must have been in the light of revelation—could not have been a heathen in the ordinary sense of the word. For how feeble for instance are the thoughts of Homer when compared with what we find here. We rest therefore in the all-sufficient fact that it is a most important portion of that Word given by inspiration of God and “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” It need hardly be added that inspiration does not give infallibility to the various statements of Job and his friends, but insures the accuracy of the record of those statements—a vast difference, which annihilation and other systems failing to see, would claim divine sanction for human error.
Geographical and other questions need not detain us long. Uz is believed, by competent authority (the elder Delitzsch), to lie west of Babylon and east of Palestine; perhaps, to the northeast of Idumea. This country, with fertile grazing lands, broken by great stretches of rocks, with the desert near (the land of the inhabitants of Seir when dislodged from their original territory) is the suited home of Job and his friends. These outward details are however of minor importance, given in part of the first verse, where at once we plunge into the narrative which forms the introduction to the book.
The book divides naturally into five parts, of unequal length, which seem to correspond in theme with the numerical significance of their order. The first and last of these divisions are historical, very brief and concise, giving us the introduction and the conclusion; these are written in prose. The main part of the book is poetry of a high order, rising into the sublime, and tender in many of its parts. Three divisions are found here: the controversy of Job and his friends, the testimony of Elihu, and the answer of Jehovah. The five divisions may therefore be given as follows:
1. Chaps. 1, 2. The historical introduction: Job’s piety and prosperity; his sufferings at the hand of Satan—in his possessions, his family and his person.
2. Chaps. 3-31. The controversies of Job and his three friends, exhibiting the futility of human reason in explaining God’s ways in affliction, and the deep-rooted self-righteousness of man’s heart.
3. Chaps. 32-37. The manifestation of God’s character of holiness and of mercy, as exhibited in the testimony of Elihu.
4. Chaps. 38-42:6. Jehovah’s testimony from creation, testing Job and bringing him into the dust.
5. Chap. 42:7-17. “The end of the Lord:” the result of the divine ways with Job, restoring him to greater blessing than before.
It need hardly be said that we shall not find the full light of truth as we now enjoy it. The veil hangs before the holiest of God’s presence, now revealed in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. But there are wondrous glimpses of the glory not yet revealed, and faith in the living God shines brightly at times. With New Testament guidance we find the same principles of light and of love lying beneath the covering. This will come out as we proceed, the Lord graciously enlightening and enabling.