Falkirk Free Church
Lectures in the Faith 2015 -2016
Job : How God treats his Friends
I, the LORD, create good and evil
Job has been widely recognised as one of the peaks of the Biblical landscape : "the grandest thing ever written with a pen" ( Thomas Carlyle); " the greatest poem of ancient or modern literature" ( Alfred Tennyson). The challenge of its theology and its power to reach the depths of darkness and scale the heights and the volcanic passions and provocative questions and its refusal to accept easy answers remain a constant source of amazement. The language is almost unique in its grandeur and intensity.
Who and when?
The author is unknown but may have been a wisdom teacher at Solomon's court. Such men were often also administrators and prominent in the lives of their communities (see Ch 9:7-17) as well as being poets and familiar with other cultures . The setting is patriarchal but there is no reference to the history or cultic system of ancient Israel.
The book is clearly a unity. The prose tale (Chs 1&2 and 42:7-17) clearly cannot stand on their own . The poetry also needs an adequate cause . The book operates on two levels : the story of what happens to Job and the orchestration of these events in the heavenly court.
The speeches are included in the narrative framework but there is a clear build up of tension and drama culminating in Yahweh's speeches from the whirlwind.
At its simplest there is a threefold structure :
Prologue (1:1 -2:13)
Speeches (3:1 - 42:6)
The speeches can be further subdivided:
Opening Soliloquy (3:1-26)
First Speech Cycle (4:1 -14:22) - Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar speak and Job responds
Second Speech Cycle (15:1 -21:34) - similar pattern
Third Speech Cycle (22:1 -27:33) - more disjointed - Zophar does not speak
Hymn to Wisdom (28:1-28)
Job insists on his innocence (29:1 - 31:40)
Elihu's speeches (32:1 -37:24)
Yahweh's speeches (38:1- 41:34)
Job's reply (42:1-6)
What kind of book is it?
Not exactly a drama although there are considerable dramatic elements. In many ways almost every kind of literature in the OT is present: narrative; lyrics; hymns; proverbs , all of which are skilfully blended. The use of imagery is one of the clues to the book's overall meaning.
Debate is also too narrow for there is little real development of argument. The truth is that it cannot be narrowed down to one genre and we need to respond with imagination and openness.
The overall meaning
Plainly there is an emphasis on suffering and particularly the suffering of the righteous which seems to contradict The emphases of Deuteronomy, Psalm1 and Proverbs seem to be contradicted. However, a close reading of these books show that blessing is always a result of grace and that in a fallen world suffering is universal.
The book in fact is not so much about suffering per se as about creation, providence and knowing God and how suffering, evil and fallenness relate to these matters. Creation and its mysteries, including the mystery of evil is at the heart of the book.
Chs 1 and 2
This sets the scene for the poetry which follows .We might use as a title " I. the LORD, create good and evil (Isa 45:7)
Receiving good and evil - Job is both blessed and battered - not sin but evil and fallenness - real faith and real suffering - the man of Ps 1
Ruling justly - Mysterious providence (2:10) - heavenly court or divine council ( see also I Kgs 228ff; Isa 6:8
Raging relentlessy - the place of Satan - where does he go after Ch 2? - evil and God's power
Teaching the book as a whole - not necessarily helpful to those who are suffering
The problem of the Friends -see Ch 42:7 - how do we deal with their contributions?
No neat answers - mystery remains.- The cry from the Cross both sums up the problem.and points to the answer