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The Book of Job, Background

Quick Rundown
            The Book of Job is an account of a good man who suffers total disaster – at the request of Satan. Job loses all his children and property and is afflicted with a nasty disease. Then in three series of poetic dialogues the author shows how Job’s friends and Job himself react to these calamities. In the end, God Himself, whose dealings with the human race have been a prominent part of the discussions, appears to Job for their own intimate discussion.
            The friends of Job explain his suffering from traditional religious perspective. Since the assumption is that God always rewards good and punishes evil, the sufferings of Job can only mean that he has sinned. But for Job this is too simple since Job has done nothing wrong on record, and thus is not deserving of such cruel punishment. In fact, Job is an unusually good and righteous man and even he himself cannot understand how God can let so much evil happen to someone like himself. So, he boldly challenges God. While he does not lose his faith, he does long to be justified before God to regain his honor as a good man.
            God does not give an answer to Job’s inquiry of vindication, but he does respond by overwhelming Job with a poetic picture of His divine power and wisdom. Job then humbly acknowledges God as all-wise and great, and repents of the wild and angry words he used. The conclusion is captured by how Job has really sensed that God is greater than traditional religion has depicted Him.

            As with other books of the Bible, Job bears the name of the narrative’s primary character. This name might have been derived from the Hebrew word for “persecution,” thus meaning “persecuted one,” or from an Arabic word meaning “repent,” thus bearing the name “repentant one.” The author recounts an era in the life of Job, in which he was tested and the character of God was revealed. New Testament writers directly quote Job two times (Ro 11:35; 1Co 3:19), plus Ezekiel 14:14,20 and James 5:11 show Job was a real person.

Author and Date

           The book does not name its author. Job is an unlikely candidate because the book’s message rests on Job’s ignorance of the events that occurred in heaven as the related to his ordeal. One Talmudic tradition suggests Moses as author since the land of Uz (1:1) was adjacent to Midian where Moses lived for 40 years, and he could have obtained a record of the story there. Solomon is also a good possibility due to the similarity of content with parts of the book of Ecclesiastes, as well as the fact that Solomon wrote the other Wisdom books (except Psalms, and he did author Pss 72; 127). Though he lived long after Job, Solomon could have written about events that occurred long before his own time, in much the same manner as Moses was inspired to write about Adam and Eve. Elihu, Isaiah, Hezekiah, Jeremiah, and Ezra have also been suggested as possible authors, but without support.
            The date of the book’s writing may be much later than the events recorded therein. This conclusion is based on: 1) Job’s age (42:16; 2) his life span of nearly 200 years (42:16) which fits the patriarchal period (Abraham lived 175 years; Genesis 25:7); 3) the social unit being the patriarchal family; 4) the Chaldeans who murdered Job’s servants (1:17) were nomads and had not yet become city dwellers; 5) Job’s wealth being measured in livestock rather than gold and silver (1:3; 42:12); 6) Job’s priestly functions within his family of Moses. The events of Job’s odyssey appear to be patriarchal. Job, on the other hand, seemed to know about Adam (31:33) and the Noahic flood (12:15). These cultural/historical features found in the book appear to place the events chronologically at a time probably after Babel (Ge 11:1-9) but before or contemporaneous with Abraham (Genesis 11:27…).

Background and Settings
            This book begins with a scene in heaven that explains everything to the reader (1:6-2:10). Job was suffering because God was contesting with Satan. Job never knew that, nor did any of his friends, so thy all struggled to explain suffering from the perspective of their ignorance, until finally Job rested in nothing but faith in God’s goodness and the hope of His redemption. That God vindicated his trust is the culminating message of the book. When there are no rational theological explanations for disaster and pain, trust God.
Historical and Theological Themes
            The occasion and events that follow Job’s sufferings present significant questions for the faith of believers in all ages. Why does Job serve God? Job is heralded for his righteousness, being compared with Noah and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14-20), and for his spiritual endurance (James 5:11). Several other questions are alluded to throughout Job’s ordeal, for instance, “Why do the righteous suffer?” Though an answer to that question may seem important, the book does not set forth such an answer. Job never knew the reasons for his suffering and neither did his friends. The righteous sufferer does not appear to learn about any of the heavenly court debates between God and Satan that precipitated his pain. In fact, when finally confronted by the Lord of the universe, Job put his hand over his mouth and said nothing. Job’s silent response in no way trivialized the intense pain and loss he had endured. It merely underscored the importance of trusting God’s purposes during suffering because suffering, like all other human experiences, is directed by perfect divine wisdom. In the end, the lesson learned was that one may never know the specific reason for his suffering; but one must trust in Sovereign God. That is the real answer to suffering.
            The book treats two major themes and many other minor ones, both in the narrative framework of the prologue (chapter 1 and 2) and epilogue (42:7-17), and in the poetic account of Job’s torment that lies in-between (31-42:6). A key to understanding the first theme of the book is to notice the debate between God and Satan in heaven and how it connects with 3 cycles of earthly debates between Job and his friends. God wanted to prove the character of believers to Satan and to all demons, angels, and people. The accusations are by Satan, who indicated God’s claims of Job’s righteousness as being untested, if not questionable. Satan’s confidence that he could turn Job against God came, no doubt, from the fact that he had led the holy angels to rebel with him. Satan thought he could destroy Job’s faith in God by inflicting suffering on him, thus showing in principle that saving faith could be shattered. God released Satan to make his point if he could, but he failed, as true faith in God proved unbreakable. Even Job’s wife told him to curse God (2:9), but he refused; his faith in God never failed (13:15). Satan tried to do the same to Peter (Luke 22:31-34) and was unsuccessful in destroying Peter’s faith (John 21:15-19). When Satan has unleased all that he can to destroy saving faith, it stands firm (Romans 8:31-39). In the end, God proved His point with Satan that saving faith can’t be destroyed no matter how much trouble a saint suffers, or how incomprehensible and undeserved it seems.
            A second and related theme concerns proving the character of God to men. Does this sort of ordeal, in which God and His opponent Satan square off, with righteous Job as the test case, suggest that God is lacking in compassion and mercy toward Job? Not at all. As James says, “You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (James 5:11). It was to prove the very opposite (42:10-17). Job says, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (2:10). God’s servant does not deny that he has suffered. He does not deny his suffering is a result of sin. Nor does he understand why he suffers, however. Job simply commits his ordeal with a devout heart of worship and humility (42:5,6) to a sovereign and perfectly wise Creator – and that was what God wanted him to learn in this conflict with Satan. In the end, God flooded Job with more blessings than he had ever known.
            The major reality of the book is the inscrutable mystery of innocent suffering. God ordains that His children walk in sorrow and pain, sometimes because of sin (reference Numbers 12:10-12), sometimes for chastening (reference Hebrews 12:5-12), sometimes for strengthening (reference 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; 1 Peter 5:10), and sometimes to give opportunity to reveal His comfort and grace (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). But there are times when the compelling issue in the suffering of the saints is unknowable because it is for a heavenly purpose that those on earth can’t discern (reference Exodus 4:11; John 9:1-3).
            Job and his friends wanted to analyze the suffering and look for causes and solutions. Using all of their sound theology and insight into the situation, they searched for answers, but found only useless and wrong ideas, for which God and Satan was unknown to them. They thought they knew all the answers, but they only intensified the dilemma by their insistent ignorance.
            By spreading out some of the elements of this great theme, we can see the following truths in Job’s experience:
1) There are matters going on in heaven with God that believers know nothing about; yet, they affect their lives;
2) Even the best effort at explaining the issues of life can be useless;
3) God’s people do suffer. Bad things happen all the time to good people, so one cannot judge a person’s spirituality by his painful circumstances or successes;
4) Even though God seems far away, perseverance in faith is a most notable virtue since God is good and one can safely leave his life in His hands;
5) The believer in the midst of suffering should not abandon God, but draw near to Him, so out of the fellowship can come the comfort – without the explanation; and
6) Suffering may be intense, but it will ultimately end for the righteous and God will bless abundantly.

Interpretive Challenges
            The most critical interpretive challenge involves the book’s primary message. Although often thought to be the pressing issue of the book, the question of why Job suffers is never revealed to Job, thought the reader knows that it involves God’s proving a point to Satan – a matter which completely transcends Job’s ability to understand. James’ commentary on Job’s case (James 5:11) draws the conclusion that it was to show God’s compassion and mercy, but without apology, offers no explanation for Job’s specific ordeal. Readers find themselves, putting their proverbial hands over their mouths, with no right to question or accuse the all-wise and all-powerful Creator, who will do as He pleases, and in so doing both proves His points in the spiritual realm to angels and demons while defining His compassion and mercy. Engaging in “theodicy,” i.e. man’s attempt to defend God’s involvement in calamity and suffering, is shown to be appropriate in these circumstances, though in the end, it is apparent that God does not need nor want a human advocate. The book of Job poignantly illustrates Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…”
            The nature of Job’s guilt and innocence raises perplexing questions. God declared Job perfect, upright, fearing God, and shunning evil (1:1). But Job’s comforters raised a critical question based on Job’s ordeal: Had not Job sinned? On several occasions, Job readily admitted to having sinned (7:21; 13:26). But Job questioned the extent of his sin as compared to the severity of his suffering. God rebuked Job in the end for his demands to be vindicated of the comforter’s accusations (38-41). But He also declared that what Job said was correct and what the comforters said was wrong (42:7).
            Another challenge comes in keeping separate the pre-understandings that Job and his comforters brought to Job’s ordeal. At the outset, all agreed that God punishes evil, rewards obedience, and no exceptions are possible. Job, due to his suffering innocently, was forced to conclude that exceptions are possible in that the righteous suffer also. He also observed that the wicked prosper. These are more than small exceptions to the rule, thus forcing Job to rethink his simple understanding about God’s sovereign interaction with His people. The type of wisdom Job come to embrace was not dependent merely on the promise of reward or punishment. The long, peevish, disputes between Job and his accusers were attempts to reconcile the perceived inequities of God’s retribution in Job’s experiences. Such an empirical method is dangerous. In the end, God offered no explanation to Job, but rather called all parties to a deeper level of trust in the Creator, who rules over a sin-confused world with power and authority directed by perfect wisdom and mercy.
            Understanding this book requires 1) understanding the nature of wisdom, particularly the difference between man’s wisdom and God’s and 2) admitting that Job and his friends lacked the divine wisdom to interpret Job’s circumstance accurately, though his friends kept trying while Job learned to be content in God’s sovereignty and mercy. The turning point or resolution for this matter is found in Job 28 where the character of divine wisdom is explained: divine wisdom rare and priceless; man cannot hope to purchase it; and God possesses it all. We may not know what is going on in heaven or what God’s purposes are, but we must trust Him. Because of this, the matter of believers suffering takes a back seat to the matter of divine wisdom.

I.  The Dilemma (1:1-2:13)
A.    Introduction to Job (1:1-5)
B.    Divine Debates with Satan (1:6-2:10)
C.    Arrival of Friends (2:11-13)

            II. The Debates (3:1-37:24)
A.    The First Cycle (3:-14:22)
1.     Job’s first speech expresses despair (3:1-26)
2.    Eliphaz’s first speech kindly protests and urges humility and repentance (4:1-5:27)
3.    Job’s reply to Eliphaz expresses anguish and questions the trials, asking for sympathy in his pain (6:1-7:21)
4.    Bildad’s first speech accuses Job of impugning God (8:1-22)
5.     Job’s response to Bildad admits he is not perfect, but may protest what seems unfair (9:1-10:22)
6.    Zophar’s first speech tells Job to get right with God (11:1-20)
7.     Job’s response to Zophar tells his friends they are wrong and only God knows and will, hopefully, speak to him (12:1-14:22)
B.    The Second Cycle (15:1-21:34)
1.     Eliphaz’s second speech accuses Job of presumption and disregarding the wisdom of the ancients (15:1-35)
2.    Job’s response to Eliphaz appeals to God against his unjust accusers (16:1-17:16)
3.    Bildad’s second speech tells Job he is suffering just what he deserves (18:1-21)
4.    Job’s response to Bildad cries out to God for pity (19:1-29)
5.     Zophar’s second speech accuses Job of rejecting God by questioning His justice (20:1-29)
6.    Job’s response to Zophar says he is out of touch with reality (21:1-34)
C.    The Third Cycle (22:1-26:14)
1.     Eliphaz’s third speech denounces Job’s criticism of God’s justice (22:1-30)
2.    Job’s response to Eliphaz is that God knows he is without guilt, and yet in His providence and refining purpose He permits temporary success for the wicked (23:1-24:25)
3.    Bildad’s third speech scoffs at Job’s direct appeal to God (25:1-6)
4.    Job’s response to Bildad is that God is indeed perfectly wise and absolutely sovereign, but not simplistic as they thought (26:1-14)
D.   The Final Defense of Job (27:1-31:40)
1.     Job’s first monologue affirms his righteousness and that man can’t discover God’s wisdom (27:1-28:28)
2.    Job’s second monologue remembers his past, describes his present, defends his innocence, and asks for God to defend him (29:1-31:40)
E.    The Speeches of Elihu (32:1-37:24)
1.     Elihu enters into the debate to break the impasse (32:1-22)
2.    Elihu charges Job with presumption in criticizing God, not recognizing that God may have a loving purpose, even in allowing Job to suffer (33:1-33)
3.    Elihu declares that Job has impugned God’s integrity by claiming that it does not pay to lead a godly life (34:1-37)
4.    Elihu urges Job to wait patiently for the Lord (35:1-16)
5.     Elihu believes that God is disciplining Job (36:1-21)
6.    Elihu urges that human observers can hardly expect to understand adequately God’s dealings in administering justice and mercy (36:22-37:24)

              III.         The Deliverance (38:1-42:17)
A.    God interrogates Job (38:1-41:34)
1.     God’s first response to Job (38:1-40:2)
2.    Job’s answer to God (40:3-5)
3.    God’s second response to Job (406-41:34)
B.    Job Confesses, Worships, and is Vindicated (42:1-17)
1.     Job passes judgment upon himself (42:1-6)
2.    God rebukes Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar (42:7-9)
3.    God restores Job’s family, wealth, and long life (42:10-17)

MacArthur Study Bible, NASB, Updated Edition. 2006. Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson. La Habra, CA.
The Book of Amos, Background

Quick Rundown
            At this point, things are really good for the Kingdom of Israel. Amos prophesied during a time of great prosperity, notable religious piety, and apparent security. But the good times are limited only to the rich who have total disregard for the poor. They go on living without the slightest compassion or alacrity toward God’s Word. Amos also saw that justice and righteousness was a privilege only the wealthy enjoyed. Furthermore, disobedience toward God was manifested by insincere religious observance. Apparently, these compounded sins are the final straw and the Lord has had enough of His people’s utter wickedness. So, the prophet Amos has been personally called upon by God to warn Israel and the nations that God is bringing total ruin upon Israel. Interestingly, though Amos is a Minor Prophet (by book size), his is the most detailed and graphic from beginning to end.

            As with each Minor Prophet, the title comes from the name of the prophet to whom God gave His message (Amos 1:1). Amos’ name means “burden” or “burden-bearer.” He is not to be confused with Amoz (“stout, strong”), the father of Isaiah (Isaiah 1:1).

Author and Date
            Amos was from Tekoah, a small village 10 miles South of Jerusalem. He was the only prophet to give his occupation before declaring his divine commission. He was not of priestly or noble descent, but worked as a “sheepherder” (Amos 1:1; ref. 2 Kings 3:4) and a “grower of sycamore figs” (Amos 7:14), and was a contemporary of Jonah (2 Kings 14:25), Hosea (Hosea 1:1), and Isaiah (Isaiah 1:1). The date of writing is mid-eighth century B.C., during the reigns of Uzziah, king of Judah (ca. 790-739 B.C.) and Jeroboam II, king of Israel (ca. 793-753 B.C.), two years before a memorable earthquake (Amos 1:1; ref. Zechariah 14:5).

Background and Settings
            Amos was a Judean prophet called to deliver a message primarily to the northern tribes of Israel (7:15). Politically, it was a time of prosperity under the long and secure reign of Jeroboam II who, following the example of his father Joash (2 Kings 13:25), significantly “restored the border of Israel” (2 Kings 14:25). It was also a time of peace with both Judah (Amos 5:5) and their more distant neighbors; the ever-present menace of Assyria was subdued, possibly because of Ninevah’s repentance at the preaching of Jonah (Johan 3:10). Spiritually, however, it was a time of rampant corruption and moral decay (Amos 4:1; 5:10-13; 2 Kings 14:24).

Historical and Theological Themes
            Amos addresses Israel’s two primary sins: 1) an absence of true worship, and 2) a lack of justice. Amid their ritualistic performance of worship, they were not pursuing the Lord with their hearts (Amos 4:4, 5; 5:4-6), nor following His standard of justice with their neighbors (5:10-13; 6:12). This apostasy, evidenced by continual, willful rejection of the prophetic message of Amos, is promised divine judgment. Because of His covenant, however, the Lord will not abandon Israel altogether, but will bring future restoration to the righteous remnant (Amos 9:7-15).

Interpretive Challenges
            In Amos 9:11, the Lord promised that He “will raise up the fallen booth of David.” At the Jerusalem Council, convened to discuss whether Gentiles should be allowed into the church without requiring circumcision, James quotes this passage (Acts 15:15,16) to support Peter’s report of how God had taken “from among the Gentiles a people for His name” (Acts 15:14). Some have thus concluded that the passage was fulfilled in Jesus, the greater Son of David, through whom the dynasty of David was reestablished. The Acts reference, however, is best seen as an illustration of Amos’ words and not the fulfillment. The temporal allusions to a future time (“In that day,” Amos 9:11), when Israel will “possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations” (Amos 9:12), when the Lord will “plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them” (Amos 9:15), all make it clear that the prophet is speaking of Messiah’s return at the Second Advent to sit upon the throne of David (ref Isaiah 9:7), not the establishment of the church by the apostles.

I. Judgments Against the Nations (1:1-2:16)
      A.    Introduction (1:1,2)
            B.    Against Israel’s Enemies (1:3-2:3)
            C.    Against Judah (2:4,5)
            D.   Against Israel (2:6-16)
II. Condemnations Against Israel (3:1-6:14)
            A.    Sin of Irresponsibility (3:1-15)
            B.    Sin of Idolatry (4:1-13)
            C.    Sin of Moral/Ethical Decay (5:1-6:14)
III. Visions of Judgment and Restoration (7:1-9:15)
            A.    The Lord Will Spare (7:1-6)
1.     Vision of locusts (7:1-3)
2.    Vision of fire (7:4-6)
            B.    The Lord Will No Longer Spare (7:7-9:10)
1.     Vision of the plumb line (7:7-9)
2.    Historical interlude (7:10-17)
3.    Vision of the fruit basket (8:1-14)
4.    Vision of the altar (9:1-10)
            C.    The Lord Will Restore (9:11-15)

MacArthur Study Bible, NASB, Updated Edition. 2006. Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson. La Habra, CA.

About Me

Hi! My name is Stanley and I'm a Bible student at the Dallas Theological Seminary. This is one portion of my ministry. I am a graduate of Liberty University and my endeavor is to humbly, zealously, and perseveringly serve the Lord through the best opportunities available. The next portion of my life is geared toward serving as an Army Chaplain. My family and I live in Dallas, Texas. I've been married to my wife Thelma for eleven years and we have two precious sons. The Lord Jesus is our Master and we live our lives committed to walking alongside, and serving Him and God's glorious and everlasting purposes. Our prayer for you is that God will grace your passions, prayers, and intellect: to be informed, transformed, and desirous to know Him deeper every day through His loving, miraculous, unchangeable, and unchanging letter to us - His Word. Blessings!

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