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Book of Job

Book of Job
by Timothy Kenney, PhD

The book of Job is divided into 42 chapters and offers the most profound treatment of the problem of evil ever found in world literature. The author questions the traditional view found in some Psalms and in writings from the Historical Books covered in our previous articles, that the good prosper in this life and the wicked are punished. He sees that life does not always work out that way, for often the wicked prosper and the good suffer. If God is good, which He is, then how is this possible?

In the first two chapters we learn that Job, a wealthy and pious man, was deprived of his children and all his possessions, and afflicted with a serious disease, in order that a dispute between Yahweh and Satan about the sincerity of Job's virtue might be settled. There follows a long dialogue between Job and his four wise friends about whether or not Job's sufferings are the result of his sins. Job protests his innocence from beginning to end. His friends argue that he must have sinned because he is now being punished.

The climax is reached in Chapter 38 when Yahweh speaks twice, Job answers and submits to God totally. The story ends happily when God blessed Job, restores him to his former state of prosperity, and increases his wealth twofold.

Job comes to realize that human reason alone and wisdom cannot solve the riddle of evil. In his words to Job, God stresses the point that, if he cannot fathom the mysteries of the visible creation, then it should be clear that he cannot understand God's mysterious ways with man. So the book does not offer a theoretical solution to the problem of evil. Job's experience is presented not as a way to understand evil, but as a way to live with it and through it.

As a result of his experience of God, Job is able to live with evil. The conclusion of the book of Job is that only faith in God and his goodness makes evil tolerable. From nature and revelation man can know something about God, but ultimately God and His ways with man are and remain mysterious. This does not relegate wisdom or serious reasoning inconsequential or futile. On the contrary, it is through faith, with complete trust in God, as the only way to bridge the gap between the temporal world of man's limited knowledge and abilities, and the eternal life of God, with His unfathomable mysteries that can reach man in his darkest hour.

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The Book of Job can be outlined from four narrative perspectives.

Chapters 1-2 tell of Job's affliction. God allows Satan to test Job, a righteous man. Through no fault of his own Job loses his family, wealth, and his health.

Chapters 3-37 consist of three cycles of dialogues concerning divine justice. Job has three friends who come to comfort him. They argue that people suffer because of wrongdoing. Therefore, Job must be afflicted because of what he or his children have done. Job rejects this idea and insists that his suffering is undeserved and therefore unjust. A fourth friend concludes the cycles by arguing that God uses pain to bring repentance.

Chapters 38-41 relate God's response. God shows Job the wonders of creation. While Job is preoccupied with his own suffering, God cares for the whole created order in ways that Job cannot fathom.

Finally, in Chapter 42, Job's repentance and restoration is told. Job turns from his accusations against God and prays that God will be merciful to his friends. In the end, Job is blessed with a new family, wealth, and long life.

The next article in our biblical journey will take us to the Book of Psalms.

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