The Book of Job: Chapters 1-27, Biblical study by J. I. Packer
Week 1 | Introduction
Week 2 | Job 1 – 2
In the first verse, Job is described as “blameless” and “upright.” He feared God and shunned evil. Regardless of everything else, we are assured that Job has these qualities. The opening chapters of Job establishes his godly character above all else. Isn’t that the first thing that you want people to say about you? That you were a godly person, blameless, and upright in everything that you did - not that you have lots of possessions, wealth, children, or legacy.
Job’s possessions included:
Job offers burnt offerings for his children, in order to purify them in case they have any un-absolved sins. Job cared about his family’s spirituality and their right relationship with God. Not only was Job blameless, but he also wanted his entire family to be blameless before God. He was willing to offer sacrifices to God and give away a portion of his wealth for this family’s salvation. That’s a true leader. That’s the true leader of a household.
What blessing do I enjoy in my relationship with God? That’s a really good question! The Lord has given me consciousness, intelligence, athleticism, and work ethic. I have a healthy brain and a healthy body, and for these things I am extremely thankful! Since I am supposed to give my first fruits to God, I think this means that I commit the first of my mental and physical energies to Him – not just the first part of my financial income. Using my gifts for God also means not indulging in excessive alcohol and it means being physically disciplined with my body and being mentally disciplined with my thoughts. I should be giving my energy first to God!
When Satan approaches God, we actually learn quite a bit about the relationship between God and Satan. Most significantly, I think it is worth noting that Satan is accountable to God. Before Satan can inflict pain on Job, he first has to ask God for permission. Satan must ask God for permission – that’s cool! We can also determine that Satan is not all-knowing and that he does not know the future. If Satan knew about the extent of Job’s devotion, then he would not have challenged God. Similarly, if Satan could see the future, then he would have known that testing Job would backfire. Satan is not all-knowing; God is. Satan is not capable of knowing the future; God is. Satan is not sovereign; God is. Satan is not omni-present; God is.
The first thing that Job loses are his oxen and donkeys. Then, he loses his servants. Only one servant escaped to report the catastrophes to Job. Then, a second servant came to tell Job that he lost his sheep plus more servants. Then, a third messenger came and told Job that he lost his camels and servants. Finally, a fourth messenger told Job that there was a great wind, which caused his oldest son’s house to collapse and consequently killed all of Job’s sons and daughters. Job lost everything that was mentioned earlier: oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, servants, sons, and daughters.
Job responds to his losses by tearing his robe and shaving his head in grief. Then, he recognizes that everything belongs to God, and he also praises the Lord. During his first set of losses, Job is grieved, but his faith in the Lord does not falter. Satan asserts that Job has no reason to fear the Lord, because God has given everything to Job. However, contrary to Satan’s assertion, we learn that Job has a right fear of God, and we also learn that God has the power to take everything away.
God has no reason to inflict pain or punishment on Job. Yet, by the request of Satan, God inflicts extreme pain on Job. God honors Satan’s request to punish Job. Does Satan have the ability to make requests of God? Yes. So do we. We can make requests of God, and we can be confident that God has the power to say “yes” to our requests. Satan, with God’s blessings, covers Job’s body with sores, because Satan thinks that this act will cause Job to curse God. It does not. Job never curses God. In fact, Job’s conclusion is that God should be worshipped all the time, despite the situation.
Job’s wife tells him to “curse God and die.” Obviously, Job’s wife did not have the same level of faith as Job. In the next verse, Job calls his wife “foolish.” Sometimes, it is acceptable to rebuke your spouse when he/she is not following God’s instructions. Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, observe his suffering, and they come to spend time with him in order to offer comfort and sympathy. They sat with Job for 7 days and 7 nights, and during this time, they said not a single word. That’s impressive friendship!
Week 3 | Job 3
In Job chapter 3, Job contemplates a life without a relationship with God. Why does Job wish that he was never born? If he was not born, then he would not experience such extreme pain. The joys of life do not, in his opinion, compensate for the turmoil of life. At this point, life is so devoid of joy and happiness that it is not worth living. Job does not explicitly curse God, but he does gets angry at God. Job never curses God. It shows that no matter how difficult life gets, Job’s foundation, which is God, cannot be moved. God is Job’s firm foundation, and Job’s faith cannot be shaken.
Job is in so much despair that he wishes the darkness would overpower his days. He is kind of describing the end times, I think. It is the opposite of creation. Darkness is eclipsing light. There is no joy. Job wants God to end everything.
Job refers to the Biblical sea monster, the Leviathan, to say that he does not care if evil prevails. The most evil thing in the world can arise from the deep, and it will make no difference to Job. His suffering and pain cannot be any greater, even if the Leviathan, which is the most evil and frightful creature that the Biblical people knew about, arose.
Job longs for death. He wants to enter the place filled with “kings and counselors” of the earth. It is not a heavenly place. But Job feels that at least it is different than his current situation; his current situation cannot be any worse. Any place would be better. Job feels like he is being unnecessarily punished by, and pushed unnecessarily hard by, God, who Job compares to a slave-driver.
Satan claims that God placed a hedge of blessings around Job. In Job 3:23, Job feels like God has restricted his life by hedging it in. Job understands that God has a hedge around his life and that God is in complete control. But at the moment, Job feels like it is a negative hedge. He recognizes God’s authority, but he thinks perhaps things would be better if he had the freedom to move outside that hedge.
Is Job fearful that he might lose God’s favor? What does he fear most? He fears God and shuns evil. Does he fear God most? Does he fear the absolute power of God? He knows that God is all-powerful, and because he recognizes this, Job knows that God can make life terrible and miserable beyond measure. Therefore, he fears God’s wrath most. And in this moment, he feels like he is experiencing God’s wrath. His greatest fears are realized.
What is special about the poetry of this book? Poetry is generally easier to remember than prose. And it is more beautiful to listen to. Poetry is typically more emotional. Perhaps the poetry is intended to be an emotional touch to help us relate to Job and feel Job’s pain.
Here is a quality of God that I found interesting. God will challenge Job’s claims. But God will not scold or condemn Job for speaking boldly and frustratingly. God challenges Job but never condemns. Why doesn’t God condemn/judge Job? Because Job’s foundation remains firm. He may not have a full understanding of God’s character, and that’s ok because none of us do. But Job never curses God or loses faith in God’s omnipotence. God’s goal is to teach Job, not to condemn him.
Week 4 | Job 4 - 14
Eliphaz clearly implies that Job is not innocent. He implies that Job is being punished for some sin. Although Eliphaz’s assumption is wrong, I like how Eliphaz concludes chapter 5 by saying that God blesses the man who suffers correction. God heals, rescues, and gives peace. These things will be given to Job following Job’s repentance. But first, Eliphaz claims, Job must repent of his sin. God says that Job is blameless. Therefore, Eliphaz’s conclusion is incorrect. Unfortunately, Eliphaz has no way of knowing this. He is simply trying to help his friend.
Eliphaz’s vision was not from God. At the end of Job, God criticizes Eliphaz for misrepresentation. Was this an honest mistake by Eliphaz? Is it possible that those visions were planted by Satan?
Job feels criticized and abandoned by his friends. Sometimes words fail to accomplish what we what them to. Eliphaz wants to comfort and help Job, but instead, Job sees no value in Eliphaz’s words. The solution, I think, is to simply ask God for the correct words to say. Eliphaz said words that originated from a vision planted by Satan. These were clearly the wrong words. Maybe failing to pray and ask God is an invitation for Satan?
Job wishes to die, because he believes that he will never experience any more pleasure or joy in his lifetime. When the rest of life is only suffering – when there is no hope – then that is the time to die. Life is only worth living if there is joy and hope and the potential for good times. At this moment, Job feels that none of these are true.
Initially, Job thinks that he is burden to God. But then he wonders why God is punishing him. If Job did something terrible, then surely God could either simply forgive the offense or kill him. Why would God choose punishment over forgiveness or death?
Bildad, like Eliphaz, argues that God would not punish a just, pure, and upright man. Therefore, Job must be unjust. Bildad and Eliphaz assume that people suffer only as a result of their sins. Bildad re-iterates what Eliphaz said and adds nothing new to the conversation.
Job considers taking God to court, but Job does not actually expect to take God to court. Job says that he would never be able to answer God, because God is too powerful and too wise. This part reminded me about C.S. Lewis’s book, “Till We Have Faces.” The whole point of Lewis’s book is that we cannot articulate our pains well enough to confront God. We might be in ineffable anguish, but we do not know why God acts the way that he does, and we do not know enough to question God. We cannot possibly articulate our arguments against God in a way that is meaningful or productive.
Job concludes that God must punish both the innocent and the wicked. Does it seem good for God to oppress the work of His hands? Man’s body and mind are not the same as God’s, so is it possible that God would reject man for this reason? God knows that Job is not guilty and that he has power over Job. If God knows these things, then there is no reason for oppression. God spent much time and effort shaping and forming man, so it does not make sense to destroy a creation that he spent so much time on.
Zophar tells Job to confess his sin to God. Zophar’s argument is the same as Bildad’s and Eliphaz’s – that Job was suffering because of sin. However, Zophar’s words are more accusing and blunter. Since Job is not suffering because of sin, it is difficult to see any value in Zophar’s words.
Jobs’ friends believed that suffering and grief must be a punishment for sin. Eliminate the sin – eliminate the suffering. We know that God is gracious and forgives our sins when we ask him to. However, we also know that God gives us undeserved favors. Jesus died on the cross. That is an example of an undeserved favor. Job’s friends believed that God can only grant grace and forgiveness if we deserve it. I agree that it is best if we recognize our sins and ask for forgiveness first, but God is not too proud to grant us undeserved gifts and favors. He is not too proud to die for us. He did not deserve death. We did not ask for it. But the Father gave us Jesus’s life anyway. It is encouraging to remember that God will pursue us with undeserved favor, even if we fail to ask God for his grace. God grants grace regardless. He is not too proud to pursue sinners. I don’t think Job’s friends recognized how incredibly humble our God is – humble enough to give us grave even when we don’t deserve it.
“Does not long life bring understanding?” God has been alive longer than any of, so surely, he has more wisdom that us. Does God accumulate wisdom over time? Just like men accumulate wisdom over time? I don’t know the answer to this. In Job 12, Job lists many situations that display God’s power. God can make fools of judges and he can disarm the mighty. If God tears something down, then it cannot be rebuilt. God’s word is the last word. He can take away a person’s position or ability. He can control the seas and the darkness. God can do things that simply make no sense to us. How can a wise man lose his discernment? I don’t know, but God can do it. How can God destroy a wholly powerful nation? I don’t know, but God can do it. There is so much about God that we do not know or understand. Job’s suffering is something similar that we do not understand.
Job becomes so confident that he is blameless and sinless before God that he is willing to confront God. He wants to question God in court, because he firmly believes that he is blameless. Job rebukes his friends. He says that true wisdom would be for them to remain silent. Job has a righteous anger against his friends. There is a time to be humble and a time to admit when you are wrong, but there is also time to argue when you are right. Admit your faults, but also defend your rights. In this book, Job is right, and he knows it, and he defends himself. How do I get discernment like Job? How do I know for sure, with absolute certainty, that I am right before God? Good question. I do not know. As Job hears more and more foolish words from his friends, his confidence in his position increases, and he becomes more and more willing to confront God about the situation.
Week 5 | Job 15 - 21
Eliphaz argues that Job is no longer pious and that Job no longer fears the Lord. Eliphaz claims that sin is dictating Job’s words and that Job is trying to place himself above God. Furthermore, Eliphaz fears that if piety had no reward, then every person would live in darkness and pain, because God would be displeased with everyone.
Eliphaz argues that every person is sinful and that God knows all of our sins, so we need to admit our sins to God. You are broken, Job. We are all broken. Eliphaz concludes by describing how wicked men are punished by God. “All his days the wicked man suffers torment.” [Job 15:20] This is not true. Are all the things that befall evil men a result of them shaking their fists at God? Again, this is not true. Clearly, evil men can and do have success in this world. So why is Eliphaz so intent on sticking to this argument? I think it is the only thing that he knows; he does not know any other theology nor does he know how to help his friends. I think that Eliphaz is seeing his friend suffer, and as a friend, Eliphaz wants to help eliminate Job’s suffering. However, I think that Eliphaz is wrong by maintaining his “I am right” attitude.
Job feels like God has turned against him. He feels like God is attacking/assailing him, even though he has done nothing wrong.
Job calls God his “advocate” and “witness.” Job has full faith in God’s competence as his advocate, who is “in heaven” and “on high.” Clearly, Job’s faith is not placed in mere mortals or situations. At this point, Job accepts that his worldly possessions are gone. He has lost his family and possessions. But he still has hope! He says that hoping only for the grave is pointless. I’m not sure what he is hoping for here, but it is clear that he is beginning to accept his situation and abandon his longings for death.
Bildad thinks that Job thinks that his friends are nothing more than stupid cattle. Bildad is assuming that he is correct and understands all of God’s plans and designs. Bildad assumes that he is right.
Job is one of the oldest characters in the Bible; therefore, he is one of the first to speak about Jesus’s resurrection. Job was confident that one day he would see God. How did he know this? Job wants his words to be recorded, because he wants everybody to know that despite his miserable situation, his faith and trust in God remained firm. He was confident that his body would decay but that he would still meet God one day. Job hopes for life after his physical body is mutilated. He never loses his faith in God. How did Job acquire such a deep understating about God? How can I acquire this level of intimacy and wisdom? Pray for it!
Is Job speaking “rightly?” That’s a tough question! Proverbs is filled with verses about reckless and hasty words. None of these proverbs have anything positive to say about reckless words. This is a good reminder to be patient and gentle with our words.
Zophar says that “mirth of the wicked is brief.” He wrongly assumes that Job’s misfortune is proof for Job’s wickedness. In this chapter, Zophar describes all of the terrible things that will happen to a man who opposes God. Zophar adds nothing new in this chapter; he only elaborates on what forms punishment can take.
I think it is interesting to note that all of Zophar’s references to God focus on God’s punishment, that Bildad rarely references God in his speeches, and that Eliphaz mentions God only to describe how God punishes evil men. On the other hand, Job talks directly to God and mentions God frequently during his speeches. Job references God frequently, whereas his friends do not. Furthermore, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar all critique Job. In return, Job also criticizes his friends. Although they all poke fun at one another, Job speaks about God and to God during his monologues, whereas the friends speak to Job, not to God. Not once during the speeches of any of Job’s friends do they speak directly to God; they always speak to Job, and they blame Job for his situation. This is interesting! I never realized this point. I think that it is valuable to speak directly to God, whether our words are filled with praise, questions, criticism, or complaints. Talk to God! Job talks to God in all of these ways; his friends, none.
Even wicked people grow old and prosper. Wicked men can have success just as much as righteous men can have success. Therefore, the arguments of Job’s friends cannot be correct.
Week 6 | Job 22 - 27
These chapters contain round 3 of the debate. In these chapters, Job’s friends add nothing new to their arguments. Job maintains his frustrations, and Job’s friends maintain their theology.
In Eliphaz’s third and final speech, Eliphaz argues that no man can be a benefit to God. God already has everything and He already knows everything. He does not need help. Then, Eliphaz proceeds to list some potential sins that Job might have committed. None of them are true. Job was fully righteous and blameless. Clearly, Eliphaz respected God and thought he understood how to live a godly lifestyle. And in many ways, he probably did. But on this particular topic, in which Eliphaz claims that suffering is a consequence of sinful actions, he was wrong. We must always remember that there is lots we don’t know and that we can often be wrong. Do not be self-righteous at the expense of others.
What if Job confessed an “imaginary” sin in order to appease his friends? Then, Job would be lying to his friends in an attempt to stop their pestering. This lie would be a sin. Job refuses to lie. He speaks honestly about what he knows.
Job wants to take his case before God. As he thinks more about it, he cannot see any sin in his life that must be confessed. Therefore, he grows more confident that he is blameless. The problem however is that God cannot be taken to court. Job says that he cannot find God no matter how far he looks or how deep he searches. God cannot be challenged, because God has complete power and complete control. Job searches, but he cannot find. This gives him fear. He fears God, because he knows that he has zero control and that God can do whatever God pleases, and that Job is completely powerless to contest his Lord.
Job says that men wait for God’s judgement, but God’s judgement does not come on our timelines. For this reason, men can get away with many evil acts: steal flocks, drive away neighbor’s belongings, bully the needy, banish the poor, leave the poor naked, steal children, do not give food to the hungry.
Job gives some examples of what evil men do in the absence of Gob’s timely judgement. Then, Job shifts to saying that men rebel against the light and choose to sin in the darkness, where their evils cannot be seen. But God will ultimately punish the wicked. God’s power will eventually overwhelm them, even though it may occur after the grave. The big idea, I think, is that we do not always see God’s punishments or rewards on this earth. To us, it can appear that evil men are successful or that righteous men are punished unjustly. But we do not see God’s larger plan nor can we know what happens after the grave. Through it all, God is all-powerful and just.
In Bildad’s short and final speech, he argues that all of creation, including man, is displeasing to God. No! God said that his creation was good. In Psalms, David praises God’s creations. Nowhere does God say that the “moon is not bright” or that the “stars are not pure.” Bildad appears to be placing words in God’s mouth. These are not the words of our Farther. Father, my prayer is that you would speak to me, that I would listen, and that I would speak only true words. Amen.
Job literally mocks Bildad. Job says that Bildad’s words do nothing to help the powerless, they do nothing to save the weak, they offer no wisdom, and they offer no insight. Ouch, these are some harsh words. Job then says that Bildad’s words did not come from the Spirit. They were not from God. Wisdom comes from God only. All other sources of wisdom are faulty and fragile. “The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom.”
When dealing with people, it is more important to love and understand them than to analyze them or give advice. Why do we so often want to give advice? I think that it stems from an attitude of superiority. I have more knowledge than you, so I’m going to give you advice. I think that giving advice makes us feel superior and intelligent.
God’s creation is stable and secure. To demonstrate this point, Job describes the sky, earth, water, clouds, moon, horizon, and sea. God’s ability to create and maintain these things is the just the beginning of his power. The full extent of God’s power cannot be realized. By God’s power, the defeat of the “crooked, gliding, and fleeting” serpent is certain.