Job is one of the few books in the Hebrew Bible that isn’t named for the first words of the text. This book is called “Iyyowb” in Hebrew which means “hated one” or “persecuted one.” Most scholars think that this book was written by Moses. It is the first of our 5 poetical books of wisdom. The purpose of the book is to show God’s wisdom, the wisdom of His ways, His benevolence and also to answer the age-old question: why do bad things happen to good people? (Short answer: there are no good people - only God is good.)
The preceding 17 books barely mentioned righteousness, but Job has 22 occurrences of the word. This will obviously be a theme here. Tzaddik means righteous, from the 18th Hebrew letter Tzaddi.
Job lives in Uz which is another word play as Uz means “take counsel” and if you’re already familiar with the story of Job you know that he takes counsel from his friends after suffering family tragedy, financial losses and health problems. The description of Job depicts a righteous man. He was blameless and upright, feared God and shunned evil. The word shunned here is the translation of the Hebrew word “suwr” and is a verb that means to turn away, to go away, to desert, to quit, to keep far from, to stop, to take away, to remove. Job shows us how to be righteous: just shun evil.
Job is wealthy. He is pious and devout and vigilant keeping his family right with the Lord. He makes the appropriate sacrifices for his children, just in case.
Satan’s contention is he thinks that Job is God-fearing because things are good, but he will certainly reject God if things go bad. He probably believes that because it seems so true even today. People are happy with God if things are good, but how many people do you know who get mad at God and quit going to church when they suffer a loss like the death of a child?
Job gets the worst possible news. Notice how quickly the tragedies follow one another. He must have been absolutely devastated. What does he do?
Read verses 20-22 of chapter 1:
20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Wow! Learn from this. He praised God! He did not blame God!
Chapter 2 presents Job’s second test and this time Satan afflicts him with sores and even his wife tells him to curse God and die, but Job says in verse 10 “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” So Job holds onto his righteousness and maybe we see a little self-righteousness, too. It’s important to also note that it is Satan who causes Job’s troubles, not the Lord, though He allows it. Next Job’s three friends come and sit with him silently for a week before Job speaks. In chapter 3 Job curses the day he was born and does it to the tune of 26 verses in poetic form. Then his friends speak. First it’s Eliphaz whose name means “God is strong”, followed by Bildad, “son of contention” and finally Zophar, “chatterer.” To sum up, this is what they say:
1. Suffering is the result of sin so Job must have sinned.
2. The greater the suffering, the greater the sin must have been so Job must have been a big sinner.
3. Job should repent of his sins for God to restore his happiness. They warn him not to justify himself or he will just delay things.
4. They acknowledge that oftentimes the sinful prosper, but it’s temporary and justice will eventually come through.
Job's answers to his friends are as follows:
1. He believes that a righteous man can be afflicted obviously because of his circumstances. He thinks his friends are wrong to accuse him of sin. He doesn’t understand the why, but he accepts God’s will. He believes he will eventually be able to justify himself and to complain as well.
2. Later Job takes back some of his statements and tends to agree that God generally afflicts the wicked and blesses the righteous. He does, however, insist that there are exceptions, his case in point.
3. He believes that it is our job to worship and adore God even when suffering undeservedly and we should not judge those who complain against God.
Throughout the book some important questions are asked: Why was I born? How can man be just with God? If a man dies will he live again? Let’s look at some of what Job learns. Read chapter 14: 14 – 17:
14 If someone dies, will they live again?
All the days of my hard service
I will wait for my renewal to come.
15 You will call and I will answer you;
you will long for the creature your hands have made.
16 Surely then you will count my steps
but not keep track of my sin.
17 My offenses will be sealed up in a bag;
you will cover over my sin.
What a great hope Job has! He trusted that the Lord would long for him, His creation, and that He would not keep track of Job’s sins, sealing them up and covering them. Now read more about the certainty that Job felt (vs. 25 – 27):
25 I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
I know that my Redeemer lives. I am just as certain as Job. Notice that he says the redeemer will stand on earth. I believe that. Notice that even after the skin has been destroyed, Job expects to be back in the flesh to see God. I have that same knowledge.
Continuing on, a new character speaks up. It is Elihu, which means “God of him” and he has some important statements to make. First we’ll start with chapter 33, verses 3 and 4:
3 My words come from an upright heart;
my lips sincerely speak what I know.
4 The Spirit of God has made me;
the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Elihu’s credentials are self-evident. He goes on in the rest of the chapter to explain that God may speak through dreams and visions to turn man away from evil and to preserve his soul.
But, in actuality, we deserve every bad thing that happens to us and worse. In 34: 10 – 15 Elihu says:
10 “So listen to me, you men of understanding.
Far be it from God to do evil,
from the Almighty to do wrong.
11 He repays everyone for what they have done;
he brings on them what their conduct deserves.
12 It is unthinkable that God would do wrong,
that the Almighty would pervert justice.
13 Who appointed him over the earth?
Who put him in charge of the whole world?
14 If it were his intention
and he withdrew his spirit and breath,
15 all humanity would perish together
and mankind would return to the dust.
Reread those last two verses. What do they say to you?
Elihu says in 36:26 that God is great and beyond our understanding. What an understatement.
In Job’s speeches, Job said that he wanted to meet God and that he wanted God to act as a judge. He believed that God would then declare that Job was innocent. However, Job did think that God caused his woes and he even spoke about God as if he were a cruel enemy and unfair.
Finally the Lord answers in chapters 38 – 41. He does not explain Job’s troubles. Instead, He teaches. He gives a list of His mighty works such as laying out the earth’s foundation, the seas, the clouds, the gates of death, the rain, the snow, the stars, all animal life and so on. Then he speaks to Job out of the storm and asks if Job is as mighty as God and says that if he were then he could save himself. Read 40: 9 – 14:
9 Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
11 Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low,
12 look at all who are proud and humble them,
crush the wicked where they stand.
13 Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
14 Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you.
The Lord really lays it out pretty plainly: we cannot save ourselves.
In the last chapter Job is contrite; he has learned his lesson and repents, whereupon the Lord blesses him more than He had before.
Of the 30 verses in this book that use the tzaddi word righteous or righteousness my favorite is 33:26:
26 then that person can pray to God and find favor with him, they will see God’s face and shout for joy; he will restore them to full well-being.
Wait a minute, where’s the word “righteousness”? The NIV translation uses “well-being” instead of “righteousness” which is the actual literal word. Sometimes you have to do some comparisons. Here is the same verse in the King James version:
26He shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him: and he shall see his face with joy: for he will render unto man his righteousness.