40706Fw: studies on the book of job
- May 22, 2014Today's introductory study is a general look at the book from a literary perspective. For those of you who aren't familiar with the book of Job, I would encourage you to read this powerful book at your earliest convenience. However to get started with the study, here is a brief synopsis:
Job is a wealthy man who loses all of his wealth, each of his 10 children, and eventually, even his health. Completely discouraged, Job laments his loses and tries to understand why God has done this to him. Three friends come on the scene to "console" Job. There are variations in the messages of the three friends, but essentially they are all telling Job that he has sinned against God, otherwise this wouldn't have happened to him. In the end of the Book, God appears, speaks to Job and his friends, Job is healed, the three friends are rebuked, and Job goes on to regain twice as much wealth as before, and 10 more children are born to him.
Though the book of Job may seem like a strange piece of literature in our day and age, it actually is quite characteristic of literature of the day. Even the subject matter is typical of the day, and there are many similar pieces of literature that have been found. We'll take a quick look at just three of these:
From the second half of the second millennium BC comes a poem entitled, "I will praise the Lord of Wisdom." In this poem, a pious sufferer, Shubshi-meshre-Shakkan, considers himself helpless before his god Marduk. He laments about friends having abandoned him, and like Job, he exhaustively describes his physical afflictions. He is then delivered after having seen three godlike persons in his dreams.*
Another, even older text, sometimes called, "A Man and His God", describes the lament of a young man who is suffering from terrible but unspecified disease. The text is not complete, but it is clear that he wrestles with the question of how he may have sinned against his god. He concludes that he has committed blasphemy, he repents, and his god pronounces a blessing on him.**
Yet another text from approximately 1000 BC, commonly called "The Babylonian Theodicy", is a dialogue between a sufferer and his friend, bemoaning his fate and the treatment he has received from the gods. Like Job, he complains that the wicked have no problems, but he, who has always been generous and devout, has been cursed. His friend responds by telling him that he doesn't fully understand the ways of the gods, that they are mysterious.***
All three of these examples are similar in style and mentality to the Biblical book, but there are several important differences between these non-biblical examples and Job. Non-biblical pieces of wisdom literature tend to focus on omens, magical spells, and dreams, and they tend to be quite superficial in nature. In contrast, the book of Job contains no ritual or magical elements. Instead, Job is healed by God Himself, and this, only after he has heard and understood God's responses to the questions he has raised.
As you read this book you will see that Job wrestles with three fundamental issues, issues that are also vital to our walk with God:
1. God has sovereign governance in the world;
2. The righteous do, indeed, suffer;
3. All blessings come from God's hand, and He sends His rain on the rich as well as on the poor.
And how do these fundamental teachings match up to what the rest of the Bible has to teach?
1. The Bible teaches that God is sovereign: "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and Hisways past finding out!" (Rom 11:33 NKJV)
2. The Bible tells us that followers of Jesus WILL suffer: "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword." (Matt 10:34-35 NKJV) and we are even told to rejoice in our suffering (See James 1:2, Rom 5:3-5, etc.)
3. The Bible is clear that all blessings come from the hand of God, and He pours them out without hesitation on the good and the bad alike: "For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matt 5:45-46 NKJV)