Job 3 Summary

Let’s open our Bibles to the third chapter of the book of Job. (For this Job 3 Summary) 

Let’s start by reminding ourselves of the message of the book of Job. It’s this: When we can’t understand God’s ways, we must trust his wisdom. 

And in the first chapter of the book of Job we saw that Job could fairly well understand God’s ways. Job did right and God blessed him. 

But then the rest of those two chapters went downhill for Job. Everything was taken from him – his children, his wealth, and his health. 

And now, after seven days of sitting with his friends in complete silence, Job will speak and express his grief in this chapter. And he’ll inform us that he neither understands God’s ways nor really is he having a very easy time trusting God’s wisdom. 

Job 3 Summary | Introduction | 1-2 

So, in verses 1 and 2, we start with the introduction to what we’re going to see in the rest of chapter 3. 

KJV Job 3:1 After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his [i.e., birth…] day. 

3:2 And Job spake, and said, 

Now, even though we were just told in chapters 1 and 2 that Job didn’t sin with his mouth – yet, we’re going to see him start to open his mouth and use it to speak in a manner that indicates very clearly that Job does not understand God’s ways – a manner that is also tending to indicate that at this point he’s struggling to trust God’s wisdom. 

In chapters 1 and 2, Job refused to curse God. And yet, we’re going to see him in chapter 3 curse the day of his birth. 

And before we enter this section of poetry that takes up the bulk of this book – we need to consider whether this kind of conversation could actually take place in real life. 

Have you ever wondered about that? How three guys could stand around and spin poetry to one another? 

Because, when we English-speaking folk think of poetry, we’re thinking of rhyming primarily. And it takes a lot of work to make the last word in each of your lines rhyme. And despite its difficulty, there are some who can do this with some success. But it’s rare and exceptional to be able to make more than a few of your statements rhyme – in an impromptu discussion. 

So, how is it that Job and his friends are able to spin poetry here?  

Let’s consider a few things that will help us understand this. 

First, we do need to remember that these four men sat together silently for seven days. It could be that they were planning their statements as they sat and did literally nothing for an entire week. 

Second, this is Hebrew poetry – not English. If there’s rhyming, it’s likely incidental – or due to the fact that so many Hebrew words end in the same sounds. 

So, Job and his friends are not creating statements that rhyme. Rather, the Hebrew poetry they’re creating is rich in imagery and in parallelism. 

And, while those two literary devices aren’t easy – in my estimation, they’re not nearly as difficult as making the last word in each sentence rhyme with the previous one. 

We’ll look ahead to verse 3 quick to see this Hebrew poetry in action. 

Job says, “Let the day perish wherein I was born.” And he doesn’t need to follow that up by adding a line that ends with a word like “scorn” or “torn” or whatever else. No, he follows it up with a concept that is very similar. 

His poetry consists of him then speaking of night. Which of course is the opposite of day. He’s looking at the entire day of his birth and considers in one line the daylight part of it. And then in the next line he considers the nighttime part of it. So, that’s a parallelism that’s antithetical – he’s putting opposites together. 

So, that’s what he does with the first part of each statement. But the second part of each statement he basically uses a synonym – something similar. So, in the first sentence he speaks of his birth. And the second line, he speaks of something fairly similar – his conception. Not identical – mind you – about nine months apart in time – but similar – related concepts. 

And this is the nature of the poetry that these men produce on-the-fly. I think it’s easier in some ways than trying to think of words that rhyme. Instead of looking for precise little words that rhyme, these poets are going to be looking for broad concepts that are similar or different from one another. 

You can try this at lunch. Husbands, speak of your wife’s delightful cooking in Hebrew poetical form. Say something like this…  

“Dear, this chicken is so juicy.
My beloved wife, the desert contains just the right amount of sweetness!” 

Or maybe something better than that. And if you do that, you’ve entered into something of what Job and his three friends do here in this book. 

And actually, parents, you’ve probably already done this kind of poetical speaking to your children. Because, it turns out that this kind of speaking just sometimes comes out of us when we’re highly emotional. 

So, have you ever said something like… 

“My child, your room is a disaster area.
Is there no room left in your dresser, that everything is on the floor? 

There are hangers in your closet, you know.
Surely you’re aware of the fact that dirty clothing goes in the hamper.” 

And on and on with that one. If that sounds familiar, then you know that emotionally-charged situations naturally bring out the Hebrew poet in most of us. We make a statement and then elaborate on it. 

And, of course, Job and his three friends were likely rather skilled in applying this kind of speech, whereas we’re mostly amateurs. And yet, for me, it’s totally believable that these four men – and then Elihu toward the end – all five of these men really did speak this way to one another – yes, with some thought and perhaps 7 or so days of preparation – there would have been more time for Job to prepare of course. But with all of these considerations taken together, it’s believable that these men spoke this way. 

And so, with those thoughts considered, now we enter the poetry section of the book of Job. 

Job 3 Summary | Day and Night Cursed | 3-9 

And to start off, Job is going to curse both the day and the night that were associated with his conception and eventual birth in verses 3 through 9. 

3:3 Let the day perish wherein I was born,
and the night [in which it was/which] said, There is a [man child/boy/man] conceived. 

So, Job is in such a frame of mind that – if it were possible – he would have the whole process of his conception and birth reversed. 

He starts by wishing he had never been born. And then he goes back even further and wishes that his mother would never have conceived him. 

And of course, this is wishful thinking. It makes no sense. A day can’t literally perish – let alone one that has already been played out decades earlier. 

And so, we learn here that oftentimes people who are suffering – and especially those whose suffering is severe – they start entertaining the impossible in their minds. 

Oh, if only I had never taken that job – or married that man – or happened to be in that place at that very time!” are the kind of words you will hear the sufferer speak. And these are ultimately vain thoughts. The man or woman who utters them is totally incapable of changing anything that God has allowed into his or her life. 

When you can’t understand God’s ways – or when you even want to retroactively change them – you MUST trust God’s wisdom. 

Job 3 Summary | Day | 4-5 

Now, Job further speaks of the day of his birth in verses 4 and 5. 

3:4 Let that day be darkness;
let not God [regard/care for] it [from above/on high],
neither let the light shine upon it. 

3:5 Let darkness and [the shadow of death/black gloom/the deepest shadow] [stain/claim] it;
let a cloud [dwell/settle] upon it;
let [the blackness of/whatever blackens] the day terrify it. 

So, Job wishes for the day of his birth to be obscured in darkness. We see him reference that idea several times in verses 4 and 5. He speaks of darkness, of light not shining on that day, of darkness and the shadow of death, of a cloud, and of blackness. 

And of course the day of one’s birth is typically a day of great joy. What parent in here – when he receives a child into this world – is full of inner darkness and gloom? No – it’s a day of rejoicing. 

But, in light of what Job has experienced – the loss of everything including his health – he is now in the frame of mind where he could wish – poetically – for the day of his birth to be exactly how he currently feels – dark, gloomy, cloudy, without any regard from God, and even terrified. 

Job 3 Summary | Night | 6-9 

And then Job returns to considering the night of his conception that was mentioned back in verse 3 once more in verses 6-9. 

3:6 As for that night, let darkness [seize upon/seize] it;
let it not [be joined unto/rejoice among/be included amonth] the days of the year,
let it not [come into/enter among] the number of the months. 

3:7 [Lo/Behold/Indeed], let that night be [solitary/barren],
let no [joyful voice/shout of joy] [come therein/enter it/penetrate it]. 

3:8 Let them curse it that curse the day,
who are [ready/prepared] to [raise up their/rouse] [mourning/Leviathan]. 

3:9 Let the stars of the twilight thereof be [dark/darkened];
let it [look/wait] for [day…] light, but [have/find] none;
neither let it see the [dawning of the day/breaking dawn/first rays of dawn]: 

So, Job wants that night to be shrouded in darkness. And beyond that, he wishes that it could be erased from history. He wants it retroactively to not appear in the record of days or within the months of history. 

He wishes that that night could become silent and solitary. Not a time of looking back with joy and rejoicing – but a time to observe total silence. 

He even goes so far as to encourage those who curse the day to curse the night of his conception. And this could be speaking of those who curse the day of his birth – which he was speaking of in the last several verses. Or it could be speaking of those who are just kind of worthless fellows who just like to curse the day. 

But if any of you have a modern English version, you see that the word translated as “mourning” in the KJV is translated in your version as Leviathan. And that’s actually a transliteration of the Hebrew word there. And so, some have suggested that Job is referencing sorcerers of his day who would claim to be able to rouse this legendary sea monster – and he’s saying that these strange men may feel free to curse the night of his conception. 

At any rate, Job is calling on some group of people generally to do just that – to curse the night of his conception. 

And even the light that brightens the end of night – the stars – Job wishes that those could be retroactively darkened. 

He considers that time when daylight started to break after that night and he wishes that it could just have stayed dark. As if it were a person who was waiting for someone – in this case, light personified – but that someone never comes. 

Job 3 Summary | Birth | 10-12 

But why? Why is Job wishing these fanciful things on the day and night associated with his coming into this world? That’s what Job answers in verses 10-12. 

3:10 Because it shut not up the doors of my mother’s womb,
nor hid [sorrow/trouble] from mine eyes. 

3:11 Why died I not [from the womb/at birth]?
why did I not [give up the ghost/expire] when I came out of the [belly/womb]? 

3:12 Why did the knees [prevent/receive/welcome] me?
or why the breasts that I should [suck/nurse]? 

So, we notice this step-by-step mindset that Job is revealing. He starts with wishing that his mother had never conceived him. But she did. 

And so he wishes that – even though he was conceived – that he might have died right when he emerged from the womb. But that didn’t happen. 

In fact, there were knees there to catch him from falling to the ground – and a God-given source of nourishment to keep him alive from there! 

So, there’s this progression of what would have happened if he would have never been born.  

But since he was, then what would it have been like if he died at birth.  

But since that didn’t happen, what about if he would have been neglected when he entered the world?  

But that didn’t happen either. 

And I think this is a really interesting phenomenon of regret that we see in people who are suffering. The sufferer tends to look for a retroactive solution at every step. And of course – it doesn’t help at all. It’s not productive thinking. It does nothing to address the problem. And yet, when we humans undergo suffering we can tend to do this. 

My friend who lost two precious sons in a car accident in August this year – the two times I’ve spoken to him since then he’s engaged mostly in this kind of speech when I talk to him.  

He rehearses all the steps leading up to the car accident. He wonders, “what if?” And he wonders it from every imaginable angle.  

He has calculated the distance from such-and-such a point to the point of the accident. He considers what if his car was going slower or what if the other car was going faster or even what if they had hit a dog they saw on the side of the road so that they would have been delayed from that intersection. What if he hadn’t moved the car seat of the oldest son the night before? What if his eyes were glued to the road every second leading up to that accident? What if he had traveled a different road that he was more familiar with? What if his wife was more aware of the situation? What if…? 

These questions have been on my friend’s mind constantly. And it’s not surprising – because it’s that very kind of thinking that we see expressed by Job, the original sufferer. 

Is this kind of thinking fruitful? No.  

Is it understandable? Yes.  

And it’s something to move beyond on the part of the one who’s suffering. And yet – it’s not something that can be speedily moved beyond for someone who has undergone tremendous suffering. 

Job 3 Summary | Death | 13-19 

So, Job has considered the day and night. He’s just considered birth. And so, now he’s going to take several verses to consider the opposite of birth – death – in verses 13-19. 

If Job had died, the following would be the case – in his mind… 

3:13 For now should I have lain [still/down] and been quiet,
I should have slept: then had I been at [rest/peace], 

So, Job views death as rest. Or that’s what he says. 

And this is a good place to note that what Job and his friends say in these sections is probably not the material that is best to form our thinking when it comes to theological reality. In other words, if Job and his friends are just exuding their inner emotional turmoil – then what they say is not what we should use to prove this-or-that idea about God or death or life or sin or whatever else. 

In fact, in Layton Talbert’s book on Job – Beyond Suffering – he references a commentator named Walvoord who says that there’s enough material in the book of Job to produce a full systematic theology.  

Now, systematic theologies of course cover every topic the Bible speaks of – the church, the end times and afterlife, sin, man, Christ, God, angels, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, etc.  

And maybe this man is right – and I guess we’ll see as we study this book. And yet, I have to think that most of this material that he claims could fill a systematic theology book is in need of serious filtering by us before we accept it.  

For example, most of what Job’s friends say is just flat wrong – at least in how they apply it to Job’s case. And I think we see what Job says – especially about God – you would not want to appear in a systematic theology book in the section labeled “Theology Proper.” Why? Because he doesn’t really understand God’s ways and he’s having a lot of trouble trusting God’s wisdom! 

So, I say, go elsewhere for theologically correct statements. And then go to the book of Job to see a man suffering to reconcile his systematic theology of God with the realities of life in this sin-cursed world. And Job and his friends all get it wrong a lot before God ultimately sets them straight. 

So, when Job here pictures death as just this excellent time of rest – he’s at least oversimplifying it. He’s comparing non-existence to his present existence and because his life is so bad now he’s just yearning for death. 

And – as strange as it sounds – Job starts to imagine the kinds of friends he’d have if he were dead – in the next three verses. Job envisions himself in death as being… 

3:14 With kings and counsellors of the earth,
which [built/rebuilt] [desolate places/ruins/places now desolate] for themselves; 

3:15 Or with princes that had gold,
who filled their [houses/palaces] with silver: 

3:16 Or as [an hidden/a discarded/a buried] [untimely birth/miscarriage/stillborn infant] I had not been;
as infants which never saw light. 

So, Job pictures himself being dead along with kings, princes, and stillborns. 

And in every case, Job considers the vanity and emptiness of the lives of these folks. 

The kings built places. And you know the kind of places that kings build. Luxurious. Opulent. A marvel to behold. … But now these men are dead. And their beautiful buildings are desolate. They’re ruins. How empty. 

The princes hoarded silver. They fill their huge palaces with their money. And yet – they too are now dead. And who cares about their silver? How empty. 

Or Job considers the stillborn. The baby who is born – but is dead. 

And these groups of people – whose lives were ultimately so empty – whether they lived to become royalty or they never even saw the light of day – these individuals Job pictures as being with him in death. They’ll all have their rest together. 

And surely, Job feels a kinship with these individuals who have experienced emptiness in life. We remember how much Job lost. Things seemed to be going so well with him. And then, disaster. 

And if Job’s life were to end right at this point, surely he’d feel as if his life had been as empty and meaningless as these groups – dead kings, dead princes, dead babies. 

Then, in the next three verses, Job pictures death as the great equalizer that makes all sorts of people equal. 

3:17 There the wicked cease from [troubling/raging/turmoil];
and there the weary be at rest. 

3:18 There the prisoners [rest/are at ease/relax] together;
they hear not the voice of the [oppressor/taskmaster]. 

3:19 The small and great are there;
and the servant is free from his master. 

So, it’s like Job views everything being set at equilibrium in death.  

For example, the wicked – where is he off-balance? Well, he does wrong. But in death, this kind of man ceases from troubling. He’s set at equilibrium – in Job’s mind. 

Prisoners in this life in Job’s days were off-balance in the fact that there’s no rest for them. They’re being driven along by oppressors. But that all gets set right in death. No more oppressors and nothing but rest. 

Small and great, servant and master are all there together. There were distinctions between them on the earth in life. But in death, there is no distinction. Death is the great equalizer. Death – in Job’s mind – sets everything at 0 – at equilibrium. 

Job 3 Summary | Life | 20-23 

So, Job has verbally mused on day and night, birth and death. And now in verses 20-23 he’s going to consider life – but in a very negative light. He asks… 

3:20 Wherefore is light given to him [that is in misery/who suffers],
and life unto the bitter in soul; 

And, by the way – that’s Job. He laments the fact that he’s given life because he’s so miserable. 

3:21 Which [long/wait] for death, but [it cometh not/there is none];
and [dig/search] for it more than for hid treasures; 

And again, this is Job. Job’s not being theoretical here and pondering why other people suffer. He’s not thinking about the sufferings of others right now – he’s thinking about his own misery and suffering. 

So, Job is longing for death. And look at the way he describes himself as if he were actually digging for death like someone would dig for wealth. How valuable in Job’s sight had death become.  

How strange! 

And yet, that’s what extreme suffering will do to a man. 

Here’s how Job continues to view himself in relation to death… 

3:22 Which rejoice [exceedingly/greatly], and [are glad/exult],
when they can find the grave? 

And in a way, this way of thinking is so perverse. Who rejoices about death? Who is glad for death? That’s not how God created it. Who thinks like this?? 

Well – Job – that’s who! The man whose life is so bitter and full of suffering. 

And my friend whose boys passed away in that car accident – when I’ve spoken to him, he’s not dwelt very much on this idea – and yet, I’ve heard him state that he wishes he would have died instead of his boys. 

And we can all sympathize and imagine the feeling. 

For Job’s situation, compare the trouble he went through as compared to what his children experienced.  

His children died. And it would be an understatement to say that that was unpleasant for them.  

And yet, that’s a relatively easy path compared to the father who is left behind to be filled with regret and pain and sorrow and anger. Who’s left behind to struggle with reconciling the confusing actions of a loving and powerful God who allows suffering into his life. 

And so, Job’s grief is understandable. And yet, it’s twisted – to view death as something that’s desirable. 

And then Job asks one more question in regard to death and he brings God into the picture explicitly in verse 23. 

3:23 Why is light given to a man whose way is hid,
and whom God hath hedged in? 

God has hidden Job’s ways so that Job cannot understand what God’s doing. God has trapped Job – hedged him in. 

Job doesn’t understand his own ways – let alone God’s ways. And according to the message of this book, this is the time when he needs to trust God’s wisdom. And yet, I think we’re not seeing very much encouragement that Job is doing that at this point. 

Job 3 Summary | Circumstances | 24-26 

Well, why is Job asking such morbid questions about life? That’s what he’s going to explain in verses 24-26. Job’s circumstances cause him to prefer death to living. 

3:24 For my [sighing/groaning] cometh [before I eat/at the sight of my food/in place of my food],
and my [roarings/cries/groanings] [are poured out/flow forth] like the waters. 

And why is Job roaring and sighing? Why are his verbal expressions of grief so severe? 

3:25 For the [i.e., very…] thing which I [greatly feared/dreaded] [is come upon/has happened to] me,
and that which I [was afraid of/dread] [is come unto/befalls] me. 

And it did. Job expressed fear originally that his children would curse God. How much more would he have feared their premature death? And yet – that very reality and so much more has come upon Job. 

3:26 I [was/am] not [in safety/at ease],
neither [had/have] I [rest/quietness],
neither [was/am/can] I [quiet/rest];
[yet/but] trouble [came/comes/has come upon me]. 

There’s no safety, rest, or quiet in Job’s life. Trouble has come and has not relented.  

And in every case in which Job was suffering, there was no remedy. He could not get his kids back. His stuff was all gone and gone forever. He had no remedy for his health – the best he could do was to scrape the infected pus off of his skin to try in vain to minimize the infection spreading. There’s no remedy. 

So, that’s Job opening lament. He’s obviously grieving. He’s not thinking right. He doesn’t understand God’s ways.  

So, it’s a good thing that he has three good friends who can help encourage him to trust God’s wisdom. 

Right? I mean, we saw in chapter two that these men came in order to comfort and encourage Job.  

We’ll see how well they do next time. 

Job 2 Commentary

We continue our study in the Book of Job in the second chapter. Job, chapter 2. (Our Job 2 Commentary)

Last time in chapter 1 we saw Job’s righteous character. We also saw the multiple blessings that God had bestowed upon him. He was righteous and rich. Wealthy and wise in the Bible sense of the word. He mingled faith with the fear of the Lord.

But then God gathered a group of angels together and Satan was there as well. God pointed out Job to Satan and Satan retorted that Job worships God only for the stuff that God gives him. So, we saw God grant authority to Satan to take everything Job had.

Job lost his sheep, oxen, donkeys, and camels – all in one day. And on that same day – his ten children – who got along together so well and whom Job was so concerned for their spiritual state before the Lord – those children were taken from him in an instant.

And so, Job started to experience the message of this book. Remember the message of the book of Job is that When we can’t understand God’s ways, we must trust his wisdom.

Job started off this book understanding God’s ways. Blessings for obedience. Simple. But now, despite his continued obedience, his blessings have all been taken away. That’s hard to understand.

It is hard to understand. Think about God’s word overall. Think about the book of Proverbs that really does seem to generally promise blessings for obedience. Think about the end of Deuteronomy which certainly promises blessings for obedience – and in the context, to the nation of Israel under the Mosaic Law. So, God’s word seems to promise blessings for obedience.

God’s character also would indicate that he blesses obedience. He hates disobedience and commands obedience to him. So, you’d think that he would never bless disobedience and that he would always reward obedience to himself.

That would make sense. God’s ways would always make sense to us, if this always happened.

And yet – our experience – and the experience of our brother Job – would dictate that God doesn’t always work that way. There are times when his ways are beyond our understanding. We sometimes can’t understand his ways.

And so, what do we do when we can’t understand God’s ways? … We need to trust his wisdom.

When our obedience to him doesn’t immediately turn into blessing for us, we need to consider that God has a host of wise reasons for that being the case. What is he working behind the scenes through our suffering that we have no idea about?

And that’s what was happening with Job in chapter 1. He had no clue that Satan had challenged God. Satan asserted that the only reason that Job worshipped God is because – basically – God bribed him with those blessings.

Satan insinuates a few unseemly things about both God and Job. First, that God is not worthy of disinterested worship. That no one would worship God for the simple fact that he’s God. No – Satan says – God needs to bribe people so that they will worship him.

Second, Satan asserts that Job himself is just worshipping God so that God will give him stuff. Job’s moral integrity is motivated only by what he can get out of the deal.

And none of this did Job know. He had no clue these things were going on behind the scenes. And it’s not to say that every time we suffer, it’s the result of a heavenly wager as to whether you will keep worshipping God for nothing. But the point is – we don’t know. We don’t understand God’s ways in numerous situations. He is higher than we are. And so, we do well to trust his wisdom always – even when his ways don’t make sense to us.

And, so, here in the second chapter of the book of Job, we’ll see transpire a few more events that make it impossible for Job to understand God’s ways – and be driven to trust his wisdom.

And one of the members of our church was absent last week for the first chapter of Job. And I comforted him that he’ll hear a lot of the same things this week that we studied last week. That’s because a number of the elements we saw in chapter 1 reappear in chapter 2.

Angelic Gathering #2

So, just like in chapter 1, now in chapter 2 we have a gathering of the angelic beings.

Setting the Scene

And the author of this book sets the scene in verse 1.

KJV Job 2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD,

and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.

Sons of God

Now, I had mentioned last time that these sons of God were angels. And we actually see this phrase “sons of God” in Genesis chapter 6. That’s where – before the flood – apparently the sons of God were marrying the daughters of men and producing these beings called Nephilim that were apparently giants.

And I know I just opened up a whole can of worms because now we’re all wondering how that could even happen – that humans and angels could produce offspring. And we can’t really do anything at this point to answer that question or a host of others that we might have about that situation in Genesis 6.

But my point in bringing that chapter to our minds is that these “sons of God” in Genesis 6 are apparently non-human. They are sons – not of man – but of God. They’re heavenly – not earthly. Like I said – and like others think – these beings in Genesis 6 and now here in Job 1 and 2 are angels.

There’s also a statement in Job chapter 38 in which a phrase very similar to what we see in Job 1 and 2 and Genesis 6 is used. There in Job 38, God is answering Job and says that at the creation of the world, the “sons of God” “shouted for joy.” God puts those “sons of God” in parallel to the “morning stars” which “sang together” during creation.

So, those are our five references to “sons of God” in Scripture – Genesis 6 (two times), Job 1, Job 2, and Job 38. They’re apparently angelic beings.

And we’re given more reason to believe that these sons of God are angelic because Satan is there with them. Though Satan is a fallen angel, yet he still is an angel.

And so, just as the rest of the angels would apparently report for duty to the Lord, so too would Satan.

Satan

And remember that the word “Satan” means something in Hebrew. It means “adversary.” And that word is used elsewhere in Scripture to mean that very thing.

The angel of the Lord was a “satan” to Balaam the false prophet as he went to attempt to curse Israel at Balak’s request in Numbers 22.

When David defected to the Philistines, the commanders of that army were concerned that David would become to them a “satan” in the battle in 1Sa 29.

In 1Ki 11 we hear of three separate “satans” that God raised up to challenge Solomon because of his idolatry toward the end of his life.

But 16 of the 28 times that satan appears in the Old Testament it’s referring to “THE” Satan. In fact, in Hebrew, the article is affixed to the front of the word. Like he’s THE adversary – the ultimate opponent of God and his people.

In the book of Zechariah alone THE Satan is mentioned 4 times.

So, the term satan in the Old Testament can refer to an enemy or adversary in general – especially when it doesn’t have the article in Hebrew. But 16 times it’s referring to the Devil – the Serpent of Old.

And then actually 33 times that word is transliterated from Hebrew into Greek in the New Testament as satanas and it always refers to this personal devil who opposes God’s work and his people.

God’s Question to Satan #1

And the Lord has a question for this adversary of his in verse 2.

2:2 And the LORD said unto Satan,

[From whence comest thou/Where have you come from]?

And once more, we can remind ourselves that God knows the answer to this question. He’s not asking to gain information.

Someone has said that God’s questions are often didactic. They’re teaching opportunities. They’re leading questions.

Think of God asking Adam where he was after he had eaten the forbidden fruit and was hiding from God. Did God know where Adam was? Yes. Why did he ask Adam where he was then? To get a response from Adam.

Or think of God asking Cain where his brother Abel was. God knew the answer – but he wanted Cain to be faced with the awful fact of what he did.

Or think of God asking Jonah the prophet if he had a right to be angry about the plant that God killed that was formerly giving the reluctant prophet shade.

And the questions go on and on. God often asks questions – not because he doesn’t know the answer – but because he wants the person he’s asking to consider the answer and the ramifications of that answer.

So, too, with Satan – God wants Satan to consider how he’s going to answer the question of where he’s been.

Satan’s Response to God #1

And Satan has an answer. And it’s the exact same answer as he gave God in chapter 1.

And Satan answered the LORD, and said,

From [going to and fro/roaming about] in the earth, and from walking [up and down/around] in it.

Satan’s answer doesn’t suggest aimlessness. As if he’s just wandering around on the earth.

No, it suggests purposeful scouting-out of the place. He’s been all over the earth.

And his purposes are not neutral or innocent at all. He walks around like a roaring lion. And this lion is looking for prey. He’s seeking to devour people – as it were.

He seeks to tempt people to disobey the Lord. To do their own thing and totally disregard the Lord – just like he does.

God’s Question to Satan #2

And so, God uses his directed question to lead Satan to realize this – that in all the earth – that Satan so loves to roam around in and try to make people fall – there is one man that he’s surely taken notice of as being different from the rest.

2:3 And the LORD said unto Satan,

Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a [perfect/blameless/pure] and an upright man, one that feareth God, and [escheweth/turning away from] evil?

And we heard all of this said of Job by the Lord back in chapter 1. Surely Satan noticed this one as he was going about the earth. There’s none like Job in all of that earth that unfortunately Satan has access to roam about in.

Satan himself turned from the Lord so long ago and he seeks to bring others with him and have them follow his rebellious ways. And yet, Satan could not get a foothold in Job’s life.

And this was the case despite what happened last time in chapter 1. Satan insinuated that Job would stop worshipping God and become just like Satan basically if God withheld and took material blessing from Job.

So, God and Satan – in some mysterious combination – through natural disasters and human agents – took from Job his sheep, oxen, donkeys, camels, and children. All in one day.

And we saw how Job reacted to those calamities in his life. But here’s God verifying what we’ve already seen in chapter 1. Satan was wrong. Job still worships God – and he does it for nothing. And he does it even when God’s ways don’t make sense to Job.

and still he holdeth fast his integrity, [although/so that] thou [movedst/incited] me against him, to [destroy/ruin] him without cause.

And note here the divine responsibility behind suffering of godly people. Satan plays a large role in Job’s suffering. And yet, God speaks of being moved against Job. God speaks of himself ruining Job.

There are several levels of responsibility here. For example, in chapter 1, the Sabeans and Chaldeans really did take Job’s livestock. They were responsible for those actions. But who were they moved by to do this? Satan. But who authorized Satan to do this? The buck stops with God. God could have said “no.” He didn’t. He authorized the attack.

The “fire from God” and the wind from the dessert also played their part in Job’s ruin. I am supposing that Satan had authority over those things as well. And yet, ultimately, God authorized Satan to use those elements to ruin Job.

But who bears the ultimate responsibility for the suffering of the godly Job – as he admits here in verse 3? It’s the Lord.

Satan’s Response to God #2

Well, Satan’s not satisfied that Job is really worshipping God for nothing. Surely, Job must still have some ulterior motive. Yes – Satan is quite sure that he can explain Job’s lack of cursing God for his calamities!

2:4 And Satan answered the LORD, and said,

Skin for skin,
[yea/yes], all that a man hath will he give for his life.

2:5 But put forth thine hand now,
and [touch/strike] his bone and his flesh,

and he will [i.e., no doubt…] curse thee to thy face.

And so, Satan’s first explanation for Job’s worshiping God back in chapter 1 was that God gave him all of these possessions – and so who wouldn’t worship the Lord for giving so many good things to a person? But if you take the stuff away, then the person will turn on the Lord.

(For more information on Satan’s statement “skin for skin” see our Skin for Skin Job article.)

So, the Lord allowed Satan to take all of Job’s earthly things. And Job still worshiped.

Now, Satan points to what the Lord did not allow him to touch last time – Job’s own body.

You may have heard the idea from someone else – or even thought it yourself – that if you have your health you have everything.

Well, that’s Satan’s idea. It’s one thing to have stuff taken away from you. But health? Now, that’s something that people will gladly give everything to maintain. And when our health is taken from us, we can get extremely bitter against the Lord.

It’s as if Satan could take out an imaginary balance and weigh health on the one scale and “all that a man hath” – sheep, oxen, camels, donkey, children – and the health will tip the scales decidedly.

And so, Satan actually has two assertions. First, a person will give anything to keep his life. And second, if God takes your health you will stop worshipping him.

You can agree with Satan’s first assertion. I think it generally is true that most people will give just about anything to maintain their health and to save their life. That’s one reason why the United States’ health care industry is booming. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that fact – it’s just an indication that what Satan says about people trying to maintain their life and health is generally true.

And I think unfortunately that generally Satan’s second assertion is true. When God allows people to undergo trials with their health – their dedication to him is often strained – and many times can just give way.

God’s Response to Satan #3

But, the Lord actually isn’t worried about that happening with Job. So, verse 6.

KJV Job 2:6 And the LORD said unto Satan,

Behold, he is in [thine hand/your power]; [but/only] [save/spare/preserve] his life.

So, God gives Job over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. And he is allowed to destroy Job’s flesh only to the point where Job is still living.

Satan’s Activities #2

And so, with God’s authorization, Satan goes and afflicts Job’s body.

KJV Job 2:7 ¶ So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD,

and [smote/afflicted] Job with [sore boils/a malignant ulcer] from the sole of his foot unto [his crown/the top of his head].

So, Job develops these boils – some sort of painful skin condition. And it’s all over his body.

Job’s Response #2

And here’s Job response to that new affliction in his life.

2:8 And he took him a [potsherd/shard of broken pottery] to scrape himself withal;

and he sat down among the ashes.

The statement about the potsherd is innocent-sounding enough. But when you think about it, it’s quite awful.

Why did Job not just scratch himself with his fingernails? Well – as unpleasant as it sounds – what I understand is that these boils – this skin condition of Job – would ooze pus. The pus was probably infectious and so Job was trying to both relieve his skin pain and keep that infectious pus from spreading to other parts of his skin.

The picture is a pitiful one. And it gets worse – because Job is sitting among the ashes.

This would have been our equivalent of the city dump. It’s where trash was brought and burned. Thus the ashes – from the burnt out garbage.

Wife’s Response

So, Job’s physical situation is as bad as it can get. Add to that our remembrance of all that he lost in chapter 1.

Well, what else can go wrong in this man’s life? This. We know that Job had ten children. And of course, for a man to have children, he needs a … wife. We haven’t heard anything about Job’s wife yet. And it was probably best that way, but she decides to speak in verse 9.

2:9 ¶ Then said his wife unto him,

Dost thou still [retain/hold fast/hold firmly to] thine integrity?

curse God, and die.

By the way, one thing we can learn from Job’s wife here is that oftentimes the suffering of a married person can be just as hard – sometimes even harder – on his spouse as it is on the sufferer himself.

God made marriage to be a union between one man and one woman. The husband who loves his own wife loves himself. The two shall become one flesh.

My point is that a married couple is really so united that when one suffers the other suffers. God made it that way.

And yet – with all of that said – this statement of Job’s wife is shocking. This woman – who no doubt had been a godly wife and mother for years or decades is just coming unhinged.

And she’s tempting Job with the very thing that Satan is hoping for – that he would curse God as a result of God’s taking Job’s things and now Job’s health from him. She’s urging him to do the very thing that Job had hoped with all of his heart that his children wouldn’t do.

She’s wrong. She shouldn’t be saying this to Job. A man or woman who is suffering doesn’t need any more reason to abandon the Lord. And Job is going to tell her as much in verse 10.

2:10 But he said unto her,

Thou speakest as one of the [foolish/godless] women speaketh.

What? shall we receive good at the hand of God,
and shall we not receive [evil/adversity]?

Now, Job is not saying that his wife is foolish. Neither is that foolishness speaking of silliness. It’s speaking of ungodliness – of even idolatry. And Job is saying that Job’s wife is speaking AS one of the foolish women. She’s speaking like them. She has historically not been one. But she is now adopting their attitude and values as a result of his suffering.

And Job speaks the truth. He recognizes God’s right to give both good things and things from our perspective that are not good. They’re “evil” in that sense.

And I don’t know about you, but I think that Job’s response is really commendable.

He has nothing. His health is ruined. His wife is now tempting him and not standing strong with him. He lives in the city dump with an awful and infectious skin condition. His children are all dead. His livestock is all gone.

And yet, he’s teaching his wife how to think right in the midst of suffering. He continues to worship the Lord. He’s worshipping the Lord for nothing. Trusting God’s wisdom – even when he can’t understand God’s ways.

Evaluation of Job’s Response

And we know that’s the right way to think about Job’s response thus far because of the last statement in verse 10.

In all this did not Job sin [with his lips/by what he said].

Job’s Three Friends

And just when it seems like Job is all alone in this world, he has three visitors come to see him in verse 11.

2:11 ¶ Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this [evil/adversity] that was come upon him, they came every one from his own [place/country];

Eliphaz the Temanite, and
Bildad the Shuhite, and
Zophar the Naamathite:

for they had made an appointment together to come
to [mourn/sympathize] with him and
to [comfort/console] him.

Several things to note here.

First, we don’t really know two of the three places mentioned here. Teman was somewhere near ancient Edom – which was southeast of Israel. But the other two places are sort of unknown. Thankfully, knowing those locations is not at all important to the study of this book.

Second, I think that when Job’s friends come to mind, we assume that their motive was to come and afflict Job. But, that’s not the case at all. Look back at why they came to Job. They heard of his affliction and they came with the express purpose of mourning with and comforting Job.

Now, they will end up being a great source of agitation for Job, but these men did come with a kind and loving purpose.

If we read this book with new eyes – as if we had never read this before – we’re encouraged at the arrival of these dear folks. These wonderful friends are coming to help Job. Job’s wife wasn’t much help to poor Job. But these friends really ought to have some effective ministry with this godly righteous man.

But it’s one thing to plan to visit and counsel someone who’s suffering. It’s something very different to actually effectively comfort and mourn with someone who is suffering – especially when his suffering is so severe and so unlike what you’ve experienced.

And that’s what these three friends are faced with in verse 12.

2:12 And when they [lifted up their eyes/gazed intently] [afar off/at a distance], and [knew/recognized] him not,

they [lifted up/raised] their voice, and wept;

and they [rent/tore] every one his [mantle/robe],

and [sprinkled/threw] dust [upon/over] their heads toward heaven.

Part of the outward signs of grief that these friends show was no doubt planned. But the text also indicates that the extent of Job’s suffering was shocking to them – something beyond what they had expected. They didn’t recognize him. That’s how bad his physical affliction had been.

So, the friends begin to mourn with Job in verse 13.

2:13 So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights,

[and/yet] none spake a word unto him:

for they saw that his [grief/pain] was very great.

And it’s hard to tell if they did the right thing or not here. Should they have spoken? Was it right for them to remain silent?

I tend to think that what they’re doing here is OK. I visited my friend whose oldest and youngest children died in a car accident about a month ago – which was about 1 month after the accident. And he kept verbally working through the events of the accident in detail. And I was aware of my total lack of ability to say anything that would help this man. Maybe someone else could have had some words to comfort him – but these situations are not easy.

And so, I tend to think that the friends were fine to remain silent with Job. I think that was part of their mourning with him.

And really, I think that we can see later on in the next chapter and beyond that all of these people might have been better off if they had all remained silent for the whole book. But then – of course the book of Job would be about 5 chapters rather than 42 and God doesn’t waste words and so we can be thankful for the abundance of words that God breathed out in this inspired book of Scripture. We can be sure that through those words we’ll receive doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.

And where these four – Job and his friends – will all go wrong – wherever they do go wrong in the book – is when they fail to trust God’s wisdom when they don’t understand his ways.

So, we end chapter 2 of this book with Job still trusting God’s wisdom. The friends probably aren’t doing so even from the outset. But one thing is clear. None of these men understand God’s ways.

And we’ll see Job expressing that fact starting in chapter 3 next time.

Job 1 Commentary

Turn in your Bible to the book of Job.

We’ll be studying just the first chapter of Job today.

Now, the message that the book of Job teaches us is When We Can’t Understand God’s Ways, We Must Trust His Wisdom.” And Job starts off this book in the first chapter pretty well understanding God’s ways. And he even expresses that he trusts God’s wisdom. But all of that is seriously tested later on – especially starting in chapter 3.

So, let’s study Job, chapter 1.

To begin with, we read of Job’s location, name, and personal character in relation to God in verse 1.

Intro to Job

KJV Job 1:1 ¶ There was a man in the land of Uz [ngutz],

whose name was Job;

and that man was [perfect/blameless/pure] and upright, and one that feared God, and [eschewed/turned away from] evil.

So, Job’s location is Uz. This was apparently just north of Edom – which was southeast of Israel. That is to say – outside of Israel. The men we’ll hear from then are Gentiles rather than Jews.

And this verse doesn’t say, but it’s likely that the events of this book take place in the patriarchal period – the time when Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived.

And then the author of this book focuses on Job’s character that we always need to keep in mind as we study this book. Job is blameless and pure. He really fears God. He really does turn away from evil.

As we see Job’s friends later on impugn Job’s character and assert that Job’s sin causes his suffering – we know better. We know that the divine author of this book testifies to Job’s blamelessness.

So, now that we have a glimpse into Job’s whereabouts and character, we’ll hear about the possessions that God blessed him with in verses 2 and 3.

Possessions

KJV Job 1:2 And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.

KJV Job 1:3 His [substance/possessions] also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred [she asses/female donkeys], and a very great household;

so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.

So, when it came to children, Job was blessed with many. When it came to livestock, Job had an abundance of sheep, oxen, camels, and donkeys. And when it came to the overall homestead – which would have included servants – Job’s was “very great.”

He had it all. To the point where he was considered the greatest. The greatest. Everyone in the area would have known about Job in his day. His would have been something like a household name. And he would have been world-renowned – not just for his stuff, but for his godliness.

And this intersection of wealth and piety is a pretty lonely one. Many times those who are godly are poor. Those who are wealthy tend to be ungodly. It’s hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

But that’s not the case with Job. He was righteous and rich.

And so, we’ve seen his riches. Now – in verses 4 and 5 we see his righteousness.

Job’s Piety

KJV Job 1:4 [And/Now] his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.

KJV Job 1:5 And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and [sanctified/consecrated] them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all:

for Job said,

It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.

Thus did Job continually.

So, apparently Job’s sons would have all of their siblings over to eat. And this was a regular pattern. Each of the seven sons would have the nine other siblings over. I’m not sure if this was happening every day of every week or if it was spread out throughout a month – but the point is that they would be eating at each other’s houses. They liked each other! They had a good family relationship.

But the even bigger point is that Job was concerned for them. Yes – they had a really good relationship with one another. But you know what Job was more concerned for? That they had a good relationship with God.

He would sacrifice for them – just in case they sinned. He was acting as a priest for them – which reinforces the idea that they were outside of Israel and before the Mosaic Law. If they lived in Israel under the Mosaic Law, then the law prescribed priests in a Tabernacle or Temple. Job here is just sacrificing to the true God – but he’s doing it by himself outside any Temple. He’s a priest for his family.

He could be happy enough with his riches and his family. But he’s most concerned about the spiritual aspects of life.

This man is commendable to all of us. Now, I read a commentary that said that Job was basically a little overwrought in his spiritual activities. Like, basically, Job is showing an unhealthy level of concern for his family’s spiritual state. Perhaps Job – said this commentator – is showing that his view of God is deficient. Like, Job is driven into an almost slave-like mentality where he’s basically operating under fear of God’s reprisal for the least pretense of sin.

But I just don’t think that’s the right way to interpret Job’s actions. That’s surely not the way that the narrator wants us to view Job’s activities. I mean – we’ve already been told that Job is pure and upright. He fears God. He turns from evil. I just don’t think that the way we’ve been introduced to Job allows us to think of his activity as superstition or driven by an unwholesome fear.

So, with that, we have the end of the first little section in this book where we’ve been introduced to Job. Without question, we walk away from that with a real sense that Job is a totally righteous and blessed man.

But that righteousness will be tested in the rest of this book – and especially in the rest of this chapter and chapter 2.

Angelic Gathering #1

Because beginning in chapter 1 and verse 6 we have God calling together a gathering of angelic beings.

Setting the Scene

The scene is set for this in verse 6.

KJV Job 1:6 ¶ Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.

This phrase “sons of God” is basically equivalent to “angels.” And we don’t hear a thing about any of these beings beyond the fact that Satan is there with them.

And this is in Hebrew “the Satan.” The adversary. He’s Job’s adversary – but even more foundationally – he’s God’s adversary.

If God is for something…he’s against it. If God loves something…the Satan hates it.

And God has a question for this enemy of his in verse 7.

God’s Question to Satan #1

KJV Job 1:7 And the LORD said unto Satan,

Whence comest thou?

God is asking Satan where he came from – not because he didn’t know. God knows all things. But God wants Satan to tell him where he’s been. And Satan responds.

Satan’s Response to God #1

Then Satan answered the LORD, and said,

From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

OK, Satan was on the earth. He wasn’t in another galaxy. He wasn’t anywhere else in God’s creation besides on earth. I would imagine that Satan doesn’t spend much time anywhere else besides on this earth. But I suppose he could be somewhere else – otherwise God wouldn’t need to ask him.

At any rate, we might wonder why God – knowing that Satan was walking around on the earth – why he asked Satan where he was.

It’s because God was leading into this question.

God’s Question to Satan #2

KJV Job 1:8 And the LORD said unto Satan,

Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

It’s like – Oh, OK, since you were there, Satan – since you were visiting the earth where so many centuries ago, you tempted Adam and Eve and were so influential in the marring of everything there – hey, have you considered one man who isn’t going your way? Have you thought about Job, Satan – you old rebel? He fears me, whereas you don’t. He turns from evil, whereas you embrace it all the time. He puts you to shame.

But – of course – the adversary is not going to just let God shine light on his own rebellion. As is his custom, he’s going to accuse and insinuate falsehoods against Job.

Satan’s Response to God #2

KJV Job 1:9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said,

Doth Job fear God for nought?

Satan’s insinuation? No, of course Job doesn’t fear God for nothing.

Well, then, why – according to Satan – does Job fear God?

KJV Job 1:10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.

In other words, Yahweh – you’ve bought Job off! That’s the only reason he serves you – you make his life easy and you bless him in every way!

So, in Satan’s mind – here’s the real test that will prove that this man Job doesn’t serve God for nothing.

KJV Job 1:11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.

Now, Satan proposes that Job will do exactly what Job was so fearful that his own children would do – curse God. Only, Job was afraid that his kids had cursed God secretly – in their heart. But Satan is hopeful that Job will curse God publicly and unashamedly – to his face.

So, if you take away all that a righteous man has, will he still worship God? Satan says no.

And I think he’s right for a number of people in American Christianity. The whole premise of a lot of what passes for Christianity today is that you worship God because he makes you wealthy and he gives you perfect health. And when those things are taken from these so-called Christians, it’s inevitable that they say goodbye to God. They were really only worshipping the money anyway – the stuff that God gave them.

But what about us? If this heavenly interaction were going on right now about you, is there something that Satan could suggest that would cause you to “curse God?” What if he took all your stuff? What if he made your home life difficult? What if he let your health deteriorate? Would you abandon him?

Well, God allows Job to be tested.

God’s Response to Satan #3

KJV Job 1:12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand.

Satan’s Departure

So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.

Now, it’s interesting and something to watch and consider that Satan told God to put forth his hand against Job. But then God tells Satan that everything Job has is in Satan’s power.

So, who is the one inflicting the injury upon Job? Is it Satan or is it God?

The answer actually isn’t so clear. Last time in our study I made a statement that basically Satan was the one who harmed Job – not God. But I think that we’re going to see in the second chapter of the book of Job that God actually takes some responsibility for harming Job.

I think it goes like this – Satan can’t do anything apart from the Lord’s permission. And sometimes the Lord permits Satan to harm people. And when he does, God himself takes some responsibility for the results.

Calamitous Results #1

And so, now, starting in verse 13 we’re going to see some of the calamitous results of this heavenly wager. God is saying that Job will keep his integrity and still worship him even if he doesn’t bless him materially. Satan believes that the only reason Job is worshipping God is because of the material blessings that God has given him.

Setting the Scene

The scene is set in verse 13.

KJV Job 1:13 ¶ And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:

OK, there they are all together – happy and healthy and enjoying God’s blessings. Blessings of family and of food and drink.

But then – tragedy strikes in four separate incidents that are too much to be coincidental.

Sabeans Take Oxen and Donkeys, Kill Servants

KJV Job 1:14 And there came a messenger unto Job, and said,

The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:

KJV Job 1:15 And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away;

yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword;

and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Now, I’m not sure where Job might be physically at this point. Probably at his home, taking care of his household. He would have just finished sacrificing for his children – since they’re back with their oldest brother and I’m just kind of assuming that they went from oldest to youngest in the order of their visiting.

But wherever Job was, this messenger came to him and told him what happened to his oxen and donkeys. And recall that he had 500 yoke – or pairs – of oxen and 500 female donkeys.

But these Sabeans took them all in one shot. These are likely marauding groups from Sheba or the desert area east of Edom. Oxen would have been plowing around winter time. And when the servants of Job’s “very great” household rose up to defend their master’s oxen and donkeys, the Sabeans killed them.

And now out of all that stuff – numerous people, 1000 or so oxen, and 500 or more donkeys – only this one messenger is left.

I’d say that that’s great loss.

But at least Job still has 7,000 sheep… Or, does he?

“Fire of God” Kills Sheep and Servants

KJV Job 1:16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said,

The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them;

and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

So, first it was the Sabeans. Now it’s this “fire of God” – that is, lightning. Lightning came down from heaven and burned up all of Jobs’ 7,000 sheep plus many more of his servants.

And it’s one thing to have human agents inflicting suffering. It’s another thing to have a natural occurrence bring the suffering. You can blame the Sabeans for dong you wrong – but whom do you blame when lightning strikes?

Yeah, God. And that’s of course what Satan was wanting Job to do – blame God and let bitterness get a hold in his life to the point he abandons God.

Well, the sheep, oxen, donkeys, and many servants are gone.

At least Job has the 3,000 camels…

Chaldeans Take Camels, Kill Servants

KJV Job 1:17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said,

The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away,

yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword;

and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Now, we saw in the book of Jeremiah that the Babylonians were also called Chaldeans. And so, these people from the far east in Babylon came and divided into three groups in order to catch Job’s 3,000 camels. Maybe 1,000 camels for each group.

And of course, Job’s loyal servants would have risen up and defended their master’s property, but the Chaldeans overpowered them and killed them.

Wow, all of Job’s stuff is gone – camels, sheep, oxen, donkeys, and probably almost all of his servants.

I don’t know how you would compare this to modern life – but it’s something like all of your retirement and personal savings accounts somehow just totally become emptied by a stock market crash – and just then your car stops working – while you also find out that you’ve been fired from your job – oh, and it just so happens that a bunch of your friends and co-workers have died in a terrorist attack.

Well, at least Job still has his family.

Winds Kills Children

KJV Job 1:18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said,

Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:

KJV Job 1:19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young [men/people], and they are dead;

and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

All dead. All 10 of his children in an instant – gone.

And that leaves Job with almost nothing in this life. The Sabeans, lightning, Chaldeans, and wind from the wilderness east of Edom took everything from him. And behind all of that is… a sovereign God.

Almost everything that God had given Job – he now took away from him in an instant.

What’s Job’s response? Remember what Satan thought? Cursing God to his face. Does that happen?

Job’s Response #1

KJV Job 1:20 ¶ Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and […] worshipped,

KJV Job 1:21 And said,

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.

So, Job grieves. That’s what he’s doing when he tears his clothing and shaves his head.

But then he worships. He worships God “for nothing.” Job recognizes that he entered this world with absolutely nothing. And he also knows that’s exactly how he’s going to leave this life. He can’t take anything with him. He knows that.

He also knows that everything he had – God gave him.

And at the same time – Job recognizes that it’s ultimately God who has taken those things away. Satan played a part – and Job doesn’t know anything about that at this point. But it’s God whom Job acknowledges as taking these things from him. And God himself will also acknowledge that in chapter 2.

Well, how’s that for a response to this kind of suffering? Here’s what God thinks of it.

KJV Job 1:22 ¶ In all this Job sinned not, nor [charged God foolishly/did he blame God/did he charge God with moral impropriety].

Literally, Job did not “give unseemliness or unsavoriness to God.” He did not consider that what God had done was wrong or inappropriate in any way.

That’s a good response. Job can’t understand God’s ways. But he is trusting God’s wisdom. And next time, we’ll see if Job can continue to hold his composure in the face of more heart-rending suffering.

Job Bible Study

Open your Bibles to the Book of Job. The 18th book of the Bible.

We’re going to be embarking on the study of this ancient wisdom book in the Old Testament.

And it’s always dangerous to make predictions about the length of these studies, but I would guess that we’re going to be studying this book somewhere between 26 and 42 weeks.

Why Study Job?

And that leads us to our first question – why study the book of Job?

Why take the time in Sunday School to week-after-week devote ourselves to this book and to trying to understand it better?

It’s because we all sense that there’s something we need from this book – but we might not understand what that is, really.

It’s probably been the case in your life – as it has been in mine – that as soon as you’re struggling with the seeming injustices of life that you reach for this book – either with your hands or in your heart.

Your spouse is physically not well – or your children have gone astray from the Lord – or someone close to you dies tragically – or you experience persecution – or you find yourself in a country and a world where mass murders are committed with increasing frequency – or things happen in the broad context of the Church that you just can’t understand…

And we all turn our focus to a God that we know is all-powerful – and he’s good. And yet… evil is a reality in this world that he created as good.

And we can’t fathom why a good and powerful God allows evil.

And we think to ourselves – doesn’t the book of Job say something about that??

And so, we reach for the book of Job. And we start reading. And… it’s confusing.

Why Studying Job is Hard

And that brings us to consider why the book of Job is confusing and why we often can’t seem to really profit from it as we turn to it in our times of struggles and trials and needs.

We tend to start off in the book of Job pretty well as we’re immediately confronted with narrative – a story – in the first two chapters of Job. Who doesn’t love a story? Everyone loves stories. And that’s what we’re met with immediately in the book of Job.

But then…chapter after chapter of poetry given by men with unusual names – like Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. And some of what they say sounds true and right. But then it appears that what they’re saying doesn’t apply to Job’s unique situation.

And then – of course – we have Job who starts off with not sinning with his mouth. But as we go along in the book it seems like maybe he does sin with his mouth. And yet at the end of the book God says that he spoke what is right – in contrast to his three friends.

And what do you do with Elihu? He’s the younger man that starts speaking toward the end of the book after the three friends can’t seem to find anything more to say to Job. Is Elihu right? Or is he just as wrong as the friends? Or… is the truth somewhere in between?

Then – after that – God appears in a whirlwind to Job and we expect to hear him answer some of Job’s accusations – or at least explain to Job why he was suffering. But all God does is ask Job a bunch of questions. He never explains his ways in Job’s life.

Lastly, without explanation, God restores everything that Job had at the beginning of the book.

And that’s the end.

And so, I think we’re still left wondering why a powerful and loving God allows for evil in this world. The book of Job has done nothing – in our minds – to address that issue.

Or has it?

Structure of Job

This book has a definite message to those who suffer – and really, to everyone.

But to get to that message we need to examine the structure of this book. This book does have a structure! You and I might tend to get lost in the trees and not be able to see the whole forest as we’re trudging through this book of 42 chapters. So, let’s get the structure of the book of Job in our minds so that – as we’re in any one particular area of this book – we’re able to see where we are in the context.

You can turn to these passages as I note them if you’d like or you can just jot down notes or just listen and try to comprehend the outline of this book.

Prologue 1-2

Chapter 1 and verse 1 starts the book with a narrative – a story. And this continues to the end of chapter 2. This story starts out highlighting how totally righteous and good Job is. There’s no question about Job’s integrity. From there we have God assembling angelic beings and Satan is there. God brings Job to Satan’s attention and Satan accuses Job of worshipping God for what God gives him. So, the Lord allows Satan to destroy his possessions and children.

And Job responds righteously to these trials.

So, we have a second instance of God gathering angelic beings together and once again asking Satan to consider the righteous Job. Satan now asks to afflict Job’s body. Surely then Job will stop worshipping the Lord. So, God allows him to touch Job’s body. And even though Job’s wife wants Job to abandon God, Job will not.

Chapter 2 ends with Job’s three friends coming to comfort him. And they sit silent with him for seven days.

That’s where the story ends at the close of chapter 2.

From there to the end of chapter 31, we have poetic dialog and debate.

Job’s Lament

So, chapter 3 has Job cursing the day of his birth. It’s his bitter lament.

Three Cycles

Then starting in chapter 4 we witness the start of three cycles of debate between the friends and Job.

Cycle 1 takes up chapters 4-14. Cycle 2 is chapters 15-21. And Cycle 3 is chapters 22-27.

And each cycle goes in order. First Eliphaz speaks. Then Job responds. Next, Bildad speaks. Then Job responds. And finally, Zophar speaks. And Job responds.

Except, actually in the third cycle, Job doesn’t let Zophar – the last of those three speakers – talk at all.

So, let’s quickly run through the dialogs of these three cycles so that we can note them in our minds and – if it’s helpful – in our Bibles.

Cycle 1

Cycle 1 – Chapters 4 – 14.

Look at chapter 4, verse 1. “Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said…” And he’ll speak to the end of chapter 5.

Then Job responds in chapter 6, verse 1. “But Job answered and said…” And he does so to the end of chapter 7.

And in this section, Job accuses God of scaring him with dreams and terrifying him with visions. He asks when God will just leave him alone. And he asks God why he’s set him as his target. But what Job doesn’t realize is that – although God allowed for these things to happen – God is not the one doing it. Job, then, is accusing God wrongfully.

Next, it’s Bildad’s turn. Chapter 8, verse 1 – “Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said…” And he takes up all of chapter 8.

And Job responds to Bildad in chapter 9, verse 1 – “Then Job answered and said…” And that goes to the end of chapter 10.

In this section we see Job accusing God of “multiplying [his] wounds without cause,” not letting him breathe, and filling him with bitterness. Job claims that God laughs at the trials of the innocent. He also pictures himself in a court setting with the Lord wherein he would defend himself before the Lord. He wants to appear before God and demand to know why God is contending with him. Job accuses God of oppressing him. And Job says that God hunts him like a lion.

Last, in this first cycle of debate and dialog, Zophar speaks starting in chapter 11 and verse 1 – “Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said…” And he finishes out chapter 11.

Then Job responds to him in chapters 12-14 as verse 1 of chapter 12 tells us – “And Job answered and said…”

And what Job ends up saying among other things is that he demands to have his case heard by God. And yet – Job here also expresses faith in the Lord – that though God slay him, yet will Job trust in him.

And so, that’s the end of the first cycle of speeches from these four men.

Cycle 2

Next, Cycle 2 – Chapters 15 – 21.

And just like in the first cycle, we have Eliphaz start this one in chapter 15, verse 1 – “Then answered Eliphaz the Temanite, and said…”

Job’s response starts in chapter 16, verse 1 – “Then Job answered and said…”

Here, Job accuses God of making him weary. He also seems to call God his enemy who gnashes his teeth upon him – or at least that God has given Job over to such people that are his enemies. He says again that God has made him a target. Job even says that God pierces his kidneys and pours out his gall. But on the other hand, Job expresses his belief that he has an intercessor in heaven.

So, then, Bildad gives it a second try in chapter 18, verse 1 – “Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said…”

And Job responds to him in chapter 19, verse 1 – “Then Job answered and said…”

And here, Job says that God has wronged him. He says that God’s anger burns against him and that God considers him his enemy. He says that the hand of God has struck him. But this is also the section in which Job utters his confidence that his redeemer lives and that in his flesh he will see God.

And the last of the three friends – Zophar – starts giving his opinion once more in chapter 20, verse 1 – “Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said…”

And then Job responds in chapter 21.

And very interestingly, I can’t find a single accusation against God in that chapter. Job is just directly addressing Zophar’s inaccurate statements.

And that’s the end of the second cycle of speeches by Job and his three friends. It’s the same exact pattern as we saw in the first cycle. Eliphaz first, then Job – second is Bildad, then Job – and last is Zophar, and then Job.

Cycle 3

And last, Cycle 3 – Chapters 22 – 27.

As you can guess, Eliphaz begins this last cycle in chapter 22, verse 1 – “Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said…”

And, of course, Job has a rebuttal in chapter 23, verse 1 – “Then Job answered and said…”

And in this section, Job says that he wishes he could find God’s residence so that he could come with his arguments and argue with God. He laments that God is so hard to find. Job accuses God of terrifying him once more. Job then overviews the injustice of this world and then accuses God of basically ignoring it.

Then, Bildad chimes in once more in chapter 25, verse 1 – “Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said…”

And Job for the last time responds in chapter 26, verse 1 – “But Job answered and said…”

And you would then expect Zophar to have one last thing to say. But actually, it seems that Job doesn’t let him express his wrong opinions in this third cycle. We don’t hear from Zophar again.

Rather, Job’s last message extends from chapter 26, verse 1 to the end of chapter 31. Now, some have said that the author of this book – whether it’s Job or Elihu – whom we’ll see in a little bit – or even Solomon perhaps takes a chapter in this section to praise wisdom. But others think this is Job himself speaking all the way through these six chapters.

At any rate, in this last speech of Job, he accuses God of denying him justice and making his life bitter. He says that God has afflicted him. He accuses God of flinging him into the mud and of not hearing Job. He says that God is cruel. Job calls God his adversary and demands to be heard by him.

And that’s the end of the three cycles of dialog and debate.

Elihu

Then something unexpected happens. A man named Elihu – whom we knew nothing about – shows up and starts talking in chapter 32, verse 1 where we read…

So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 2 Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God. 3 Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job. 4 Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he. 5 When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, then his wrath was kindled. 6 ¶ And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not shew you mine opinion…

Now, some think that Elihu speaks the truth. Others think that he’s just as wrong as Job’s three friends. And still others think that there is some mixture of truth and error in what he says. So, discovering what Elihu is saying and evaluating whether he’s right or not will be one of the joys of studying this book.

And there’s plenty of material to evaluate with Elihu – because he speaks for six chapters from chapter 32 to chapter 37.

Epiphany

Well, finally, what we’ve all been waiting for – and what this book and it’s seemingly-unending cycles and dialogs seem to build an anticipation for in us is that God speaks. He does so from chapter 38 to chapter 42, verse 6 – which starts like this – “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said…”

And whatever else was said in this book to this point and however we’re supposed to interpret the comments of Job, his friends, and Elihu in the dialog section – we know this – that what is said in this section from the Lord is absolutely correct. The three friends are all wrong in how they apply truth to Job’s situation. Elihu may or may not be correct. On a number of occasions, we’ll see that Job isn’t right – insofar as he accuses God of being unjust. We’ve seen some of that. But what God says here is infallible.

And here’s what’s so strange for us about this section of God’s speech. If this book is all about why the righteous suffer, then God doesn’t say a word about this supposed central question of this book. Which is why this book is NOT about seeking to answer the question of why the righteous suffer. God just asks a bunch of questions that are intended to show Job that Job himself is limited in his understanding.

So, why does God want Job to see that he’s limited in his wisdom and understanding?

Well, it’s because Job – through those cycles of dialog that we’ll give careful attention to in the weeks to come – he starts questioning God’s handling of his situation.

He questions God’s justice. If Job is righteous – and we know that he is from the first two chapters of the book already – then why is he suffering? Because in Job’s mind and in the minds of his three friends and probably even in Elihu’s mind – if you’re righteous, God should bless you. If you sin, then your reward is what happened to Job.

But Job is righteous. And yet, he’s suffering like a sinner would supposedly suffer. And there are two tracks to take from there. Either Job is really an awful sinner – and we know he wasn’t. Or God is unjust. Because he’s treating Job as if Job were a sinner.

And that’s why God needs to break in on the scene and set the record straight. God doesn’t respond to Job’s accusations of his being unjust in his dealings with Job. God doesn’t let Job in on Satan’s challenge. God doesn’t tell Job anything.

Instead, God points to himself and contrasts himself with Job. God shows Job that he knows everything – whereas Job is so limited in his knowledge.

And it’s not only knowledge wherein Job is deficient. Job is also far inferior to God in power – in ability.

God is all-powerful and he’s all-wise. He understands everything. He knows what he’s doing.

In contrast – Job – who started to accuse God of injustice in this book – is limited in his knowledge and in his ability – which led him to accuse God in the first place.

Message of Job

And so here is the message of the book of Job – to everyone – including those who are suffering in this world.

There are times in life when we just don’t get it. We don’t understand why evil wins. We don’t understand why sweet innocent babies sometimes meet an untimely end in the grizzliest of ways. We don’t know why God allows his servants to experience hardships and sorrows and hair-rising perplexities.

And we never will know in this life – and we never will understand – and this book of Job is not going to explain it for you.

Instead, this is what God through the book of Job is going to teach you and me. When we can’t understand God’s ways, we must trust his wisdom.

Neither Job, nor his friends, nor Elihu understood God’s ways. But that’s not where they all go wrong in this book. Where they all go wrong is that they don’t respond to their lack of understanding by trusting God’s wisdom.

Just over two months ago, a family that we know in Watertown was driving to a wedding up north. They had three children. I coached the oldest in soccer. He was a sweet boy. But his dad – who knows Christ – ran a stop sign at just the wrong time and a van hit their vehicle and killed their oldest and youngest children.

I tell you – I didn’t understand God’s ways in this incident. And I still don’t. But – when I can’t understand God’s ways, I must trust his wisdom.

Was God in control of that tragedy? Yes.

And we see that in Job’s life. Could God have stopped Satan? Yes. In fact, God could just have not mentioned Job at all. Instead, God puts Job before Satan so that Satan is given the opportunity to attack him.

When tragedy strikes – God is still in control.

But why does he do it? You don’t know and I don’t know – and we never will. And the book of Job teaches us that that’s OK.

And when we can’t understand God’s ways – they are God’s ways – when we don’t understand them, we trust God’s wisdom.

When we don’t understand our current political climate – we trust God’s wisdom. When we don’t understand why we don’t seem to have enough money – we trust God’s wisdom. When our kids stray from the truth – when people leave our church – or even leave the faith completely – when we’re slandered – we must trust God’s wisdom.

When we can’t understand God’s ways, we must trust God’s wisdom.

That’s the message of the book of Job that we’ll constantly be reminding ourselves of in the next several months of studying this book. And I trust it’s the message that each one of us will be constantly living out more and more in our lives by God’s grace.