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A Survey of the Book of Job

[The following are notes from a class I recently taught on a survey of the Hebrew Poetry books.]

Job is recognized as the literary masterpiece even by secular standards.

Author and historical setting: (see my article “When and Where did Job Live”for a more elaborate discussion on what follows at https://truthwatchers.com/when-and-where-did-job-live/ )

  • Conservative commentators will place Job during the Patriarch period. My evaluation sets it contemporary with Moses and the wilderness wandering.
  • The author is not established but has been speculated from Job himself, Moses or Solomon. I would suggest Joshua.
  • Modern consensus among scholars agree the location is Edom (Lam 4:21).

Date of Job:

After locating Job in Edom (Lamentations 4:21) as well as the plenty of references to different nations, we know it occurred after the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), and before the Babylonian exile since Ezekiel mentions Job (Ezekiel 14:14, 20).

Job’s long life offers no argument for when he lived. For example, Joseph live to be 110 (Genesis 50:26), Moses live to be 120 (Deuteronomy 34:7), and Jehoiada lived 130 years old (2 Chronicles 24:15). This is close to a 1,200 years difference with the assumption of those closer to the patriarchs should have lived longer, but the exact reverse is true. Further issues of speculating the era he lived in based on the longevity of his life is it does not match as smoothly as scholars attempt to make it appear. Placing Job’s death at the age 200 or 210, recognize Terah died at 205 (Genesis 11:32), Abraham at 175 (Genesis 25:7), Isaac at 180 (Genesis  35:28), Jacob at 147 (Genesis 47:28-29). We would therefore expect Job to have lived before Abraham when considering lifespans.

Job had indicated that the common lifespan during his days was normally short (Job 7:1; 14:1-2). Bildad seemed to indicate the briefness of life was in contrast to “the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their father: (For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow:)” (Job 8:8-9). Job being approximately 50-60 at the time of his affliction was younger than his friends, but indicated he was past his youth (Job 13: 26; 29:8). Job had wrinkles (Job 16:8) and was only expecting to live a few more years (Job 16:22; 17:1, 11-16).

Several personal and place names in the book were originated during the patriarchal period but need distant time to produce the growth into people groups. Examples include Sheba, a grandson of Abraham (Gen. 25:3), and the Sabeans from Sheba (Job 1:15; 6:19) are presented as a populous people group. Tema, another grandson of Abraham (Gen. 25:15), and Tema, a location in Arabia (Job 6:19) populated by the descendants of Tema. Being called a “Temanite” implies a large people group. Consider the fact that the 70 descendants of Jacob that entered Egypt were not as of yet called Israelites but were to become Israelites during the centuries in Egypt (Exodus 1:5-7). The word “Israelites” is first used in Exodus 9:7; so if Sheba and Tema were contemporaries with Jacob/Israel, we may more reasonably assumes centuries having passed to establish them as populated people groups.

The absence of the Mosaic law in the book of Job is an argument from silence. Job was a gentile; why would we expect to find references to the Mosaic law? Though there does seem to be clearly expressed knowledge of the Mosaic law of not keeping clothing as a pledge past the sun setting (Exodus 22:26; Deuteronomy 24:13 cf. Job 22:6; 24:7, 10). We would not expect Job to bring sacrifices to the Tabernacle or offer Jewish style of sacrifices.

Further intrigue is the phrase, “Job continued his parable” (Job 27:1; 29:1) is almost identical grammatically to Balaam who “took up his parable” (Numbers 23:7, 18; 24:3,15, 20, 21, 23). Further correlation with Balaam is seen in Job offering burnt offerings according to the number of all his sons, which is seven (Job 1:4-5); as well as seven bullocks and rams for his friends (Job 42:8); which is similar to Balaam’s custom (Numbers 23:1). This was not commanded in the Mosaic law but accommodated for by God when He spoke to Balaam and also Job. If this was the common cultural custom outside of Israel, then placing Job as a contemporary with Balaam (i.e., during the Exodus/Wandering) would make more sense.

Job 12:23-24 presents evidence that Job was aware of the Red Sea crossing and wilderness wandering. The comment in Job 13:1-3 that Job has seen this himself would imply he has seen the Israelites wandering through the wilderness. God’s speaking to Job about hail being for battle and war (Job 38:22-23) suggest either the hail judgement on Egypt (Exodus 9:18) or Joshua’s campaign as he conquered the land of Canaan (Joshua 10:11). Job 34:20 seems to be depicting the tenth plague on Egypt. This suggests that Job and his friends heard about God’s working to judge Egypt and overthrow Pharaoh at the Red Sea which explains their conversion to monotheism.

Many of the rare Hebrew words used in Job are objects mentioned primarily during the Exodus/wandering period. Consider the word “sapphire” (Job 28:6, 16) is used in Exodus (Exodus 24:10; 28:18; 39:11) with other references appearing in a non-literal sense. The “onyx” (Job 28:16) is mentioned 10 times elsewhere, primarily in Exodus with the exception of three other references (Genesis 2:12; 1 Chronicles 29:2; Ezekiel 28:3). “Topaz” (Job 28:19) is only used in Exodus 28:17; 39:10; and Ezekiel 28:13. The word “reed” (Job 40:21) is also strongly suggestive of Exodus. All these seem to indicate the author being familiar with the objects that were seen during the wilderness wandering.

Therefore, the internal evidence of the book itself would reveal Job as a contemporary with Moses and Joshua and the event taking place in the book occurred during the wilderness wandering shortly after the Red Sea crossing.

Theme of Job:

The theme is Why do righteous men suffer? Answer: “The book of Job addresses the issues of the suffering of people who are righteous…. an intellectual solution is not really given. A spiritual solution is given; namely, the absolute sovereignty of God.” (Paul N. Benware, Survey of the Old Testament, Moody Publishers (Chicago, IL: 2003), p. 166), but the answer is deeper than merely evoking God’s sovereignty.

I. Prologue (Job 1-2)

1. Job’s character (Job 1:1-5)

A. 1st dialogue in Spiritual realm (Job 1:6-12)

B. Satan’s 1st attack (Job 1:13-19)

C. Job’s response to loss (Job 1:20-22)

A. 2nd dialogue in spiritual realm (Job 2:1-6)

B. Satan’s 2nd attack (Job 2:7)

C. Job’s 2nd response (Job 2:8-10)

2. Job’s friends (Job 2:11-13)

Satan’s accuses Job to God (1:9 “for naught”) which God turns back onto Satan (2:3 “without cause”) which is the same in Hebrew. The important observation is that Job’s suffering is caused because events taking place in the spiritual realm. The reader knows this but Job and his friends do not.

It is also revealed to the reader that Satan’s attack continues throughout the book in the dialogues of Job’s friends (Job 4:12-21; cf. Job 7:14-15).

It is important to keep in mind the need to be cautious as these friends of Job are often quoted as authoritative, but God says their words were wrong (Job 42:7) causing the book of Job to be commonly quoted out of context. The error of Job’s friends is their insistence that Job’s suffering is because of his sin.

II. Dialogue between Job and his friends (Job 3:1-42:6)

A. Job 1st discourse (Job 3:1-26)

1. 1st round of debate (Job 4:1-14:22)

a. Eliphaz 1st discourse (Job 4:1-5:27

b. Job rebuttal (Job 6:1-7:21)

a. Bildad 1st discourse (Job 8:1-22)

b. Job rebuttal (Job 9:1-10:22)

a. Zophar 1st discourse (Job 11:20)

b. Job rebuttal (Job 12:1-13:28)

2. 2nd round of debate (Job 15:1-21:34)

a. Eliphaz 2nd discourse (Job 15:1-35)

b. Job rebuttal (Job 16:1-17:16)

a. Bildad 2nd discourse (Job 18:1-22)

b. Job rebuttal (Job 19:1-29)

a. Zophar 2nd discourse (Job 20:1-29)

b. Job rebuttal (Job 21:1-34)

3. 3rd round of debate (Job 22:1-26:14)

a. Eliphaz 3rd discourse (Job 22:1-30)

b. Job rebuttal (Job 23:1-24:25)

a. Bildad 3rd discourse (Job 25:2-6)

b. Job rebuttal (Job 26:1-31:40)

a. Elihu discourse (Job 32:1-37:24)

III. God speaks (Job 38:1-41:34)

IV. Epilogue (Job 42:1-17)

The climax of these discourses is God’s slurry of rhetorical question to Job about creation. The conclusive point is: if man cannot have absolute knowledge about the physical observable created world then how can man understand what is occurring in the spiritual realm which also effects the physical realm.

The high point of the book is Job’s submission to God’s will with the understanding that man cannot know God’s purpose for every event in life (Job 42:1-6). However, this is developed and evident through the chiastic structures of the book.

Chiastic Structures in Job:


A. Introduction: Job lives a righteous life (Job 1:1)

B. Job’s children: Seven sons and three daughters (Job 1:2)

C. Job’s flocks: 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 donkeys (Job 1:3)

D. Parties of Job’s family members (they are brothers and sisters) (Job 1:4-5)

E. Job’s afflictions (Job 1:6-2:10)

F. Three friends (names listed) come to console Job (Job 2:11)

G. Friends silent seven days and seven nights (Job 2:12-13)


G’. Friends rebuked for words; must offer seven bulls and seven rams (Job 42:7-8)

F’. Three friends (names listed) come to Job to ask for help (Job 42:9)

E’. Job’s afflictions are reversed (Job 42:10)

D’. Party of Job’s family members (his brothers and sisters) (Job 42:11)

C’. Job’s flocks: 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 oxen, 1,000 donkeys (Job 42:12)

B’. Job’s children: Seven sons and three daughters (Job 42:13-15)

A’. Conclusion: Job dies old and full of days (Job 42:16-17)

Chiasm of the Book of Job as a Unit:

A. Prologue (Job 1:1-5)

B. First Discourse Between God and the Satan (Job 1:6-22)

C. Second Discourse Between God and the Satan (Job 2:1-10)

D. Job’s Three Friends (Job 2:11-13)

E. Job Continues His Speech (Job 27)(Job 27:1 Moreover Job continued his parable, and said …)

X. The Excellency of Wisdom (Job 28)

E’. Job’s Continues His speech (Job 29-31)(Job 29:1 Moreover Job continued his parable, and said …)

D’. Three Friends Replaced by Elihu (Job 32:1-5)

C’. The Lord’s First Speech (Job 38:1-40:2) – Job’s response (Job 40:3-5)

B’. The Lord’s Second Speech (Job 40:6-41:34) – Job’s response (Job 42:1-6)

A’. Epilogue (Job 42:7-17)

This reveals the pivot point of the book is the discourse on Wisdom in chapter 28. It is central to properly understand this chapter to know what the book’s intended message is.

Chiasm in chapter 28:

A. (Job 28:1-3) “and searcheth out ”

B. (Job 28:4) “The flood . . . even the waters”

C. (Job 28:5-6) “the earth”

D. (Job 28:7-11) “. . . [God’s] eye seeth every precious thing . . . things hid he brings into light.

E. (Job 28:12-14) “But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?”

F. (Job 28:15-16) “[Wisdom] cannot be got for gold . . . cannot be valued with gold”

G. (Job 28:17) “The gold and the crystal cannot equal it . . . [nor] for jewels of fine gold.

 X. (Job 28:18) “for the price of wisdom is above rubies.”

G’. (Job 28:19a) “The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it.”

F’. (Job 28:19b) “neither shall it be valued with pure gold.”

E’. (Job 28:20-22) “Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?”

D’. (Job 28:23) “God understandeth . . . and he knoweth”

C’. (Job 28:24) “the ends of the earth”

B’. (Job 28:25) “he weigheth the waters”

A’. (Job 28:26-27) “and searched it out.”

Concluding lesson (Job 28:28): “And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”

a. fear of the Lord

b. is wisdom

a. depart from evil

b. is understanding

Thus the climax of the central chapter is the message about the fear of God! The fear of God is paralleled to “departing from evil” (cf. Ecc. 12:13-14; Ex. 20:20).

The central focus and theme of chapter 28 is Wisdom is precious (a rare commodity) in “the earth” (vv. 2, 5, 24); and only God knows where it is to be found (see vv. 12, 20, 23-28). Job acknowledges only God has Wisdom being evident in creation which man cannot understand completely. God expounds this same point to Job in His discourse (Job 38:1-41:34)

This is the common message of Wisdom poetry (see Pro 3:13-15; 20:15).

We are dependent upon God’s revelation to man to understand there is a spiritual realm that does affect the physical realm so we will never fully understand what is occurring in the earth without God’s revelation. All science and philosophy must be understood in light of God’s word.

Heath Henning
Heath Henning
Heath heads the Set Free addictions ministry on Friday nights at Mukwonago Baptist Church and is involved in evangelism on the University of Wisconsin Whitewater campus, offering his expertise in apologetics at the weekly Set Free Bible Study every Tuesday evening. He currently lives in East Troy, Wisconsin with his wife and nine children. Read Heath Henning's Testimony

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