Job: A Commentary Style Study Part 2

In the book, God Himself neither denies being committed to rewarding the pious, nor does He confirm it; He only claims authorship of all things.

Welcome to Job: A Commentary Style Study Part 2

This study will be the main part of our Job study; Part one having been just a simple outline of how the book (as we know it in our modern Bibles) is laid out. Part 3 is going to be focusing more on the different ancient translations on the book. we will additionally, see if any of the ancient Christian and Hebrew teachers have any thoughts or commentary available of the book of Job. Part 3 is simply to add perspective through the lens of how the ancients approached the book in their way of thought and teaching.

When I study a figure, subject, or book in the Bible, one of my first instincts is to investigate how that figure, subject, or book relates to the rest of the Bible. I often proceed with this by doing word studies on whatever name or topic I am studying. In this study, we will start with a simple word study, investigating any references of Job (outside of the book attributed to him) that may shed some added information on him and his character. From there we will take a closer look at what happened in the story. My method of study usually contains less of a teaching style and more of just a simple presentation of facts as I see them, leaving it open for each one to build upon it in their own way, and see what additional elements of inspiration each one can extract on their own.

A Word Study on Job

The Name 'Job' is mentioned 59 times in the traditional Bible, 56 of which falls in the book of Job itself. The other three instances are found in Ezekiel 14:14, Ezekiel 14:20, and James 5:11. In Ezekiel, Job is noted for his righteousness among two others in the passage: Noah, and Daniel. In James, he is used as an exemplar of suffering and by the compassion and mercy of God, was blessed for his endurance and perseverance.

Introduction to the Book of Job

The book of Job functions as a dialogue containing a mix of story and poetry. It consists of elements of lament and disputation and explores themes of suffering and righteousness. The central question that kicks off the story narrative, revolves around the motivation behind Job’s faithfulness to Yahweh (Job 1:8–9). Does Job’s trust in God derive from his many God-given blessings, or because he values God for being God (Job 1:10–11)?

This challenge is brought forth to God by Satan, after God highlights Job's blameless and upright character; One who fears God and shuns evil. As God gives Satan permission to strip Job of wealth and health, Job becomes a test case for the question at hand. Through this test, he wrestles with the conflict of suffering undeservedly, but his belief in Yahweh remains faithful, and in the end, he is held up by God as an example of true piety.


The story of Job is set in patriarchal times when wealth was measured in camels and female donkeys (Compare Job 1:3 with Genesis 12:16, 24:64, 30:43, 37:25). Job’s lifestyle reflects those of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12–50), indicating that it is set during the same time period (2100–2000 BC).


The story is, further, set in the land of Uz (Job 1:1). The location of the land of Uz is not precisely known. It may have been a general term for the Near East. Uz as a place name is only mentioned in two other places in the Old Testament; Jeremiah 25:20 and Lamentations 4:21. A southern location is implied in Lamentations, where the 'Daughter of Edom' dwells in the land of Uz. This possibility fits with the hometown of one of Job’s friends, Eliphaz the Temanite (Job 2:11). Teman is mentioned as a place name in six different references in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 49:7, Ezekiel 25:13, Amos 1:12, Obadiah 9, Habakkuk 3:3). In three of those instances, Teman is addressed right with Edom. Jeremiah 49:7, refers to Teman as a city in Edom whose residents were known for their wisdom. Pliny the Younger, and early church scholars (Eusebius and Jerome) associate Teman with Nabataean territory near the city of Petra in present day Jordan.

The mention, “people of the East” (Job 1:3) in Semitic languages usually refers to the inhabitants of the region east of Byblos where seminomadic Semites lived. This is how the term is used in the Egyptian Story of Sinuhe from the early second millennium BC. In Genesis 29:1 the term refers to Arameans living along the northern Euphrates River, in Isaiah 11:14 to the Edomites, Moabites and Ammonites, and in Judges 6:3, to the Midianites. In sum, the “people of the East” appears to be a general broader locational term such as that of “Uz.”

Structure: Story

The book opens with the story prologue (Job 1:1–2:13). Job is depicted as a devout father, husband, and worshiper of Yahweh (Job 1:1–5).

The story then shifts to Yahweh presiding over His heavenly council (Job 1:6-12). As we've touched on in the introduction, after God highlights Job’s upright behavior, "the satan” figure (Hebrew for the accuser), asks whether Job’s piety is because of his prosperous circumstances. To test this question, (or perhaps to prove His "rightness") Yahweh gives the accuser permission to strip Job of all he has.

After losing his wealth and children, Job still does not forsake Yahweh. Job then additionally, loses his health, but even after this second test, he will not curse Yahweh. Instead, his response is a pious one: "Shall we receive the good at the hand of God and not the bad" (Job 2:10)?

The prologue section ends with three friends arriving to comfort Job. They sit with him for a week in silence, before the poetic dialogue between Job and these three friends begins, and then continues for over 30 chapters.

At the end of the book, the story returns in an 'epilogue' in which the friends are rebuked by God for not having spoken what is right in contrast to Job (Job 42:7). Job then intercedes for them by doing a sacrifice. His goods are restored in double quantity, and he is given a new family.

Job is said to have lived a long and fulfilled life.

Structure: Poetry

The poetic material makes up the bulk of the book. If you take a closer look at the book from a bird's eye view (click here), you will see three cycles of speeches. The first two cycles have matching structures: a friend speaks, and Job responds.  The third cycle of speeches departs from the pattern established in the first two cycles; It doesn’t include an obvious speech from Zophar but instead a new friend enters the picture and gives a speech.

The poetry section consists of laments by Job and dialogue with his friends (Job 4–31). In the dialogue, Job and the friends debate the nature of retributive justice: Is it always true that the righteous are rewarded and the wicked are punished by God? Why did all this calamity fall on Job in this way? Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, argue that this principle always holds true, even when the opposite appears to be the case.

Job argues that his experience of losing everything has made him question this principle. For him, God has become more like an enemy than a friend (Job 19:6-12).

Throughout all the speeches, Jobs friends remain assertive that God is 'just' in measuring out rewards and punishes according to a person's good or bad deeds. Each friend has his own distinctive contribution of perspective on how God works His method of justice.

Eliphaz suggests that Job’s impatience results from a loss of perspective (Job 4:1–6) and then offers an “orthodox” assessment of the situation in which below is laid out in three touchpoints:
•God causes no one to suffer innocently but repays humans according to their deeds and misdeeds (Job 4:7–11).
•Humans are never perfect. If God cannot even trust his heavenly servants; If He even charges His angels with error; How much more those who are made of dust, and dwell in houses of clay? Therefore, humans must be expected to endure some suffering as a result of their imperfection (Job 4:12–21).
•Suffering must be seen as God’s means of shaping and teaching the human soul (Job 5:17–27).

Bildad agrees that God punishes the wicked, he emphasizes that God cuts off sinners altogether (Job 8:4), bringing them to death. Job, however, still lives, indicating that his sin is light, and if he would simply humble himself and earnestly seek God, he would be heard and made to prosper again (Job 8:5-6).

Zophar asserts that while people cannot know all that they have done to merit punishment, God does; Job deserves his suffering, he just doesn’t know what God knows and withholds (Job 11:5–6).

In more than 10 laments, Job holds scorn for all of these positions. In his own speeches, however, it becomes clear that he does agree with his friends, that God should - and does - reward the righteous and punish the wicked. In their own ways, Job and his friends repeatedly assert this same basic understanding of God. The only difference between Job and his friends is that they place their trust in different figures to be righteous: The friends assign that quality to God, and Job, knowing himself, boldly asserts his innocents and assigns it to himself; arguing that God lacks righteousness and should be called to account for it (Job 31:35).

A fourth friend, Elihu, who was not previously introduced, enters the narrative. He is represented as a youth who didn’t want to speak out in the presence of his older, wiser colleagues (Job 32:4-6). In Elihu's speech, he brings a rather new perspective and emphasis on the elusive nature of God.

This point about the elusive nature of God is taken up when God enters the picture next in the poetry narrative. He stresses His power and otherness from human beings. Who are humans to judge God or try to limit Him? The speeches include descriptions of wild animals whose ways are known only to God, including that of two mythological beasts - the Leviathan and the Behemoth (Job 40: 15-24, 41:1-34) - both were overcome by God at creation. God's emphasis is that He creates and sustains the world in all its grandeur and magnificence. How can He be held to account by human principles of justice?

These questions about the relationship between the creator God and human beings give the book its real profundity and theological depth. Job’s response is to surrender in two separate acknowledgements of his lack of understanding (Job 40:3–5; Job 42:1–6). The experience of the greatness of God seems to have quieted him in his first response; in the second, he humbles himself in dust and ashes. The questions of the justice, or injustice, of God and the problem of unjust human suffering are no longer at the forefront of concern.

As all the speeches and poems draw to a close, God rebukes Job’s three friends; Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, for how they spoke wrongly (interestingly no rebuke is given for the fourth friend Elihu) and goes on to reward Job with double his former wealth and a new family to replace the one he lost. This ending leaves us with the picture of a God that indeed seems committed to retributive justice, yet oddly at the same time, censuring some of the firmest believers in that theological perspective, while rewarding Job for his boldness. The book concludes on this note, leaving the reader without a definitive answer to the question of whether or not God Himself, always lives by the method of retributive justice. In the book, God Himself neither denies being committed to rewarding the pious, nor does He confirm it; He only claims authorship of all things.

Some Closing Thoughts

In the long dialogue between Job and his friends, Job wrestled with the paradox of seemingly unjust suffering. Job’s cries resulted in his requesting an advocate before Yahweh and proclaiming with certainty that his redeemer lives and will stand on the earth (Job 9:33 Job 19:25-27). This points forward to Jesus’ role.

Today just as Job's prophecy foretold, Jesus is our advocate to the Father always interceding on our behalf (see 1 John 2:1)
Today we often still face the same angst surrounding the discussion of suffering and righteousness.

As human suffering still continues in our world today, we are often compelled to consider the same central question, that is so evident behind Job’s story; Will we believe in Yahweh, no matter what; Even when we don't understand His ways?

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Want To Get Updates?

Enter your email to receive the latest posts in your inbox!