©  Jeff Stacey   |   Last updated: 10 October 2016


[GENESIS 6:9 – 11:26,  JOB]


3B(JOB)(intro)1  In what Era did Job live?

The first question to be answered is when did Job live?  This needs to be known in order to decide which Era and its theological “rules of the game” applied to him.  The following facts about the Book of Job are relevant:-

#  Job lived for at least 200 years [2B31(e)] which was longer than Abraham (175 years) or any of his descendants (maximum was Isaac, 180 years).  Instead Job’s lifespan was comparable to those of Abraham’s father Terah (205 years) and his preceding three generations, Serug, Reu and Peleg (230-239 years), but much shorter than their forebears (433-969 years).

#  Wealth, territory, large numbers of children and servants, flocks and herds and long life were the indications of God’s blessing and favour for:-

–  Abraham Gen 12:2,5,7,16,  13:1-2,6,14-15,16-17,  25:7-8

–  Isaac Gen 25:5,  26:3,4,12-14,22-23,24,  35:28-29

–  Jacob Gen 32:4-5a,  33:1b,2,  35:11,12,  47:28

Job also experienced similar prosperity Job 1:2-3,10b,  42:12-13,14-15,16-17.

#  Job acted as a priest for his family and others by sacrificing burnt offerings Job 1:5 (see also Job 42:8,9) in a similar way to Noah and Abraham Gen 8:20,  12:7b,8b,  13:4,18b.

#  God’s descriptions of Job Job 1:1b,8b,  2:3b were basically the same as for Noah and Abraham Gen 6:9,  7:1b,  15:6,  17:1,  26:5.

#  There are no indications in the Book of Job or elsewhere in the Bible that Job was included in God’s chosen people under His Covenant with Abraham.  But the Covenant with Noah [3A8] could have applied to him and all people in the Book of Job.

#  The fact that Job spoke of God as “the LORD” (YahwehJob 1:21b,  12:9 does not necessarily mean that he lived later than Abraham, as using this name to “call upon God” began as early as the days of Seth Gen 4:26b.  God as “the LORD” is only used once Job 12:9 in all the debates and monologues (JOB 3 – 37), but a total of 24 times in the prologue (JOB 1-2), God’s responses (JOB 38:1 – 42:6) and the epilogue (JOB 42:7-17).  This at least implies that the final compiler/author of the book was an Israelite.

#  Spread throughout the Book of Job are about 100 unknown Hebrew words as well as some unusual Hebrew grammatical forms.  These could have been retained from earlier sources.  But this cannot be proved since no other comparable records or literature now exist.

#  Archaeologists have discovered several ancient documents from nearby Babylonia, Sumeria and Ugarit, dated in the second millennium BC, which have some similar themes to those in the Book of Job.

#  Raiding by Sabean and Chaldean tribes Job 1:15,17 fits in with what is known from archaeology about similar activities during the period of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

#  The Book of Job is one of the “Wisdom” books of the Old Testament.  The other main ones are Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.  The Song of Solomon and some of the Psalms (Psalm 1, 32, 34, 37, 49, 73, 112, 127-8, 133) also belong to this type or genre of writings.  These are known to have been compiled in the period c.950-400BC, although some psalms and proverbs came from earlier sources.

#  The OT Hebrew text of the Book of Job contains fourteen references to “the satan” Job 1:6-9,12,  2:1-4,6-7.  Zechariah (written c.520-518BC) also refers three times to “the satan” Zech 3:1-2.  But Chronicles (written 430BC) refers once to “Satan” without the preceding “the”, as a name rather than just a descriptive title 1Chron 21:1.

Several of the above facts indicate that the Book of Job obviously intended to place the life of Job in a setting generally around the times after Noah but either prior to or at a similar time to Abraham.  But Bible research experts have not been able to agree on definite dates for when Job lived.  Most of them have regarded the Book of Job in its present form as having been finally compiled, composed and edited by person(s) unknown during the wisdom literature period.  So researchers variously break it up into suggested earlier sections with later additions and insertions.1

Yet this does not exclude the possibility of it including or being drawn from more ancient sources.  Such prior material may only have been reworked into poetic form at a later time, with the theme of “wisdom” being emphasised.  Therefore Job could actually have lived at or before the time of Abraham.

As there are no references to the Covenant with Abraham, I have placed Job in the Era covered by the Covenant with Noah.  So the saga of Job is taken to be a further dramatic case study of how one man’s heart-commitment to God was acutely tested in extreme circumstances, under the theological “rules of the game” that applied after the FLOOD [3B20].   As will be seen, the Book of Job addressed several complex and crucial issues raised by those “rules” and how they were actually to work out in practice.

3B(JOB)(intro)2  Who was Job and where did he live?

Job lived “in the land of Uz” Job 1:1a “among all the people of the East” Job 1:3b.  Uz was the first of the four sons of Aram Gen 10:23 (see also 1 Chron 1:17b).2  Aram was the fifth son of Shem Gen 10:22 who was one of Noah’s three sons Gen 9:18a,  10:1,21a.

The descendants of Shem had lived in “the eastern hill country” Gen 10:30-31.  It could be assumed that “the land of Uz” was a particular part of that territory occupied by the descendants of Shem’s grandson Uz.

So Job was probably a member of the clan of Uz.  As Abraham was a descendant of Shem’s third son Arphaxad, he and Job would have been distant relatives, as descendants of Shem.

The specific location of the land of Uz is unknown.  But it is generally thought to have been a large territory east of the Jordan which included Edom in the south Lam 4:21a and the Aramean lands in the north.3

God had declared prophetically through Noah that He was “the LORD, the God of Shem” [3B27(c)].  This implied that in some sense God had chosen the clan of Noah’s second son Shem to be specially connected with Him.  This could have provided a basis for God referring to Job as “my servant” Job 1:8a,  2:3a even though he was not a descendant of Abraham.  Alternatively, “my servant” could have been simply a reference to Job’s servant-like obedient responses to God.

3B(JOB)(intro)3  Charts 1A to 3B:  The information about God and the history so far: Charts 1A to 3B

The information about God and the history for the first three Eras are summarized in the Introductions to Charts 2A, 3A and 3B  [2A(intro)1, 3A(intro)1 and 3B(intro)1]

God’s judgment by the FLOOD was followed by His “new start” for the Earth and its people.  He established His Covenant with them (Chart 3A).  But Chart 3B showed that this new beginning was soon corrupted again by the people’s sin.  When they faced further acute heart-testing situations [3B24(a)] their initial reactions [3B25] and responses [3B26, 3B28 and 3B30] followed the same pattern as seen in Chart 2B.  Again the majority chose not to carry out God’s Covenantal Commission.  Even Noah at times responded with a divided heart-commitment to obeying God! [3B28].

Yet in grace [3A8(h)] and true to His UNCONDITIONAL blessing [3A6], Covenantal declaration [3A8(sub-title)] and promises [3A9] God did not again destroy all these rebellious people.  Nevertheless at times He brought trouble and judgment upon them [3B29 and 3B31].  Ultimately He confused the speech of all people and scattered them over the Earth [3B31(b)].  So the core problem remained.  The heart-inclination of all people was still to do evil rather than good Gen 8:21c.

Job lived in this post-FLOOD Era and was acutely heart-tested under the theological “rules of the game” of that time [3B20]. 

3B(JOB)(intro)4   Chart 3B(JOB)

Chart 3B(JOB) is based on the Book of Job.  But it does include some references to GEN 6:9 – 11:26 that deal with Era 3 and its preceding Eras.  Era 4 is also considered, but only for placing Job historically.

3B(JOB)(intro)5  The structure of the Book of Job and key issues raised

The Book of Job is in three parts.  It begins with a prologue all in prose (JOB 1:1 – 2:13) except for a short poem (JOB 1:21).  This is followed by a long series of speeches all in Hebrew poetry (JOB 3:1 – 42:6) except for a short prose section (JOB 32:1-6a).  The ending is a brief epilogue, again in prose (JOB 42:7-17).

The prologue first outlines scenes from the prosperous rural life of Job and his family of ten children Job 1:2-4.  He was a unique man of great moral integrity Job 1:1b.  He consistently did what was right and good Job 1:5.  Two scenes follow depicting “angelic audiences with God” Job 1:6-12,  2:1-6.  These resulted in the Satan causing the catastrophic losses of Job’s family, possessions and health.  Because Job was “blameless and upright”, these calamities raised some apparent theological contradictions.  The grappling with these issues by Job and others is the central issue in the rest of the book [see 3B(JOB)27(a)(ii)].

The long poetic central section (JOB 3:1 – 42:6) is initially a series of dialogues between Job and three of his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.  Each told Job two or three times why they thought he had suffered his calamities and he replied to them (JOB 4:1 – 31:40).  Then a younger fourth man, Elihu, added his opinions but Job did not reply (JOB 32:1 – 37:24).  However, neither they nor Job knew about the Satan’s two prior audiences with God.  Finally God spoke twice to Job (JOB 38:1 – 40:2, 40:6 – 41:34) and Job briefly and humbly replied Job 40:3-5,  42:1-6.

The prose epilogue provides a simple resolution of the whole saga.  God endorsed all that Job had said but rebuked Job’s three friends for their mistaken opinions! Job 42:7.  God instructed them to go to Job and offer sacrifices Job 42:8.  After Job had prayed for them God forgave them Job 42:9.  God made no response to Elihu.  The book concludes with God vindicating Job’s integrity by bestowing upon him even greater favour and prosperity than at first Job 42:10-17.  

The intervening severe situations showed that God and His responses to good and evil people were more complex than was previously understood by the current “conventional wisdom”.  It was not just a simple matter of cause-and-effect, or “reap what you sow”. . .

3B(JOB)(intro)6  A book full of unanswered questions!

By my count (of the NIV text) there are about 299 separate questions in the 42 chapters of the Book of Job!  The statistics are as follows:

DirectGodthe Satan4
the SatanGod2
Job’s wifeJob1
Jobhis wife1
Joball three friends1
Elihuthe three friends13
Total direct questions:216
Jobindefinite (God?)22
Total rhetorical/propositional questions:83
Total all questions:299

Job asked a total of 124 questions (41% of all questions) and God asked Job a total of 86 direct questions (29%).  Job finally replied that he had no answer to any of God’s questions! Job 40:3-5.  When further interrogated by God, Job simply repented for having spoken of things he did not understand Job 42:3-6.

Most of the remaining questions were asked in the course of the dialogue debates between Job, his three friends and Elihu.  These included 83 (28%) that were either rhetorical questions, or propositions put forward in the form of questions.  Job and the four men gave few direct answers to any of the questions that they posed to each other.

Obviously this massive questioning is a teaching method.  Job and his critics were sorely tested about their understanding of God and His ways.  The reader is also challenged to search for answers (and to realise that most of God’s questions are humanly unanswerable! JOB 38 – 41).  The Bible is meant to be where to look, along with personal experiences and observations of life, including discussions (or arguments!) with others.  That is the core concept and intended role of all the biblical “wisdom” literature.

3B(JOB)(intro)7  The quest for true “wisdom”

The whole poetic central section has characteristics that are typical of the OT wisdom literature.  The frequent occurrences of the words “wisdom” (23), “wise” (10) and “wiser” (1) indicate the preoccupation of the Book of Job with this subject.  These occurrences are spread over most of the characters, being used by Eliphaz (6), Bildad (0), Zophar (3), Elihu (8), Job (13) and the Lord (4).  The core summary of true wisdom, as emphasised in all of the OT wisdom literature, is also central in this book Job 28:28.  It comes within Job’s final speech (JOB 26-31) at the end of a long section (JOB 28:1-28) that asks where true wisdom can be found Job 28:12,20.  This core principle is also mentioned elsewhere Job 1:9,  23:13-16,  31:23.

3B(JOB)(intro)8   Job and God’s primary purpose  

The Book of Job as we have it does not appear to contain any other theological material typical of the later “wisdom” literature.  Instead it maintains a consistent focus upon the basic theological issues raised by the prologue.  It is an extended study of a group of five men all grappling with their knowledge of God.  This was in their responses to Job’s acute heart-testing situations, which were initiated by God Himself.  

This focus is highly significant in relation to God’s primary purpose.  God was intentionally making Himself more fully known TO them, THROUGH the sufferings of Job and the theological dilemmas this caused for them all.

From this perspective, the two long speeches by God Himself (JOB 38:1 – 40:2, 40:6 – 41:34) are the main content of the book.  They contain much detail about the transcendent nature of God.  This was to teach Job and his four critics (and all later readers of Job) to more fully know God AS HE REALLY IS and then respond to Him appropriately.

3B(JOB)(intro)9  Controversial issues

There are several controversial matters, as follows:

#  How could the author know about the prologue’s scenes of angelic audiences with God?  Job 1:6-12,  2:1-6

#  How was it possible for the Satan, being totally evil, to have access to God and direct dialogues with Him?  Job 1:6-12,  2:1-6

#  How could a loving and just God give permission to the Satan to attack “blameless and upright” Job?  Job 1:1,12,  2:3,6

#  Why did God not tell Job that he was being tested in order to refute the Satan’s accusations?  (JOB 38:1 – 41:34)

#  If Job’s friends set out to comfort and sympathise with him and wept at his great suffering, how then could they later criticize, accuse, rebuke and condemn him so ruthlessly?  Job 2:11-12

#  How could Job insist on his righteous integrity Job 6:10,22-24,29b-30a,  9:21a,  12:4b,  13:15,18-19,23,  16:17,  23:4-7,10-12,  27:3-6,11,  29:11-17,  30:25,  31:1-40 yet he frequently:-

– was suicidal Job 3:21-22,  6:8-9,  7:15-16,  14:13,  17:13-16

– accused God of unjustly attacking and oppressing him Job 3:23,  6:4,  7:11-21,  9:16-18,22-24,28-35,  10:2-9,13-18,  13:20-27,  14:18-22,  16:7-14,  17:6,  19:6-22,  23:2-5,13-16,  27:2,  30:11,18-22

– condemned and ridiculed his friends for their opinions  Job 6:14-29,  12:2,5,7-9,  13:4-13,  16:2-3,10-11,  17:4-5,10,  19:2-3,19,21-22,28-29,  21:2-5,27,34,  26:2-4,  27:7,11-12,  30:1,9-14

Answers to some of these questions are given in the detailed explanations.

3B(JOB)(intro)9  How to summarise Job?

Job is a long and detailed book.  Hence it was difficult to decide how to summarise it under the Chart 3B framework.

Due to there being a lot of repetition it would have been possible to reduce all of the speeches into single summaries for each speaker.  But this would require selection of only a few widely separated key passages or verses.  It would also have lost the interacting threads of argument and the often colourful, vehement outbursts in the ongoing debates.  So it would have become rather independent of the text of the biblical book.

That is something I aim to avoid.  I want everything I write to be able to be evaluated by readers easily and directly from the relevant verses of the Bible.  So the detailed explanations keep in step with the chapters of Job.  

Continue to 3B(JOB)20


1.  Job 15:19 could be a reference to the Israelites’ possession of Canaan.  But being in brackets also suggests that this statement was inserted later. (Return to reading).

2.  Another man named Uz was the eldest of the 8 sons of Milcah (Gen 22:20-23) the daughter of Abraham’s brother Haran and wife of Nahor (Gen 11:27,29).  A further man named Uz (Gen 36:28, also 1Chron 1:42) was a son of Dishan, a descendant of Seir the Horite.  They lived in the land of Seir in Edom (Gen 36:20-21,30).  It is likely that these two later men had been named after the first Uz, the patriarch of their tribe.(Return to reading).

3. See the footnote on Job 1:1 in The NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), page 735.(Return to reading).