Introduction to Job
Except for the first eleven chapters of Genesis, which almost certainly were originally written by Adam, Noah, the sons of Noah, and Terah, then eventually edited by Moses (compare with “Introduction” to Genesis), the book of Job is probably the oldest book in the Bible. It contains more references to Creation, the Flood and other primeval events than any book of the Bible except Genesis, and provides more insight into the age-long conflict between God and Satan than almost any other book. Remarkably, it also seems to contain more modern scientific insights than any other book of the Bible.
Uniform Jewish tradition ascribed the book of Job to Moses and also accepted it as part of the true canon of Scripture. This ascription seems quite reasonable if Moses is regarded as the editor and original sponsor of Job’s book rather than its author. Undoubtedly Job himself was the original author (Job 19:23,24), writing down his memoirs, so to speak, after his restoration to health and prosperity. Moses most likely came into possession of Job’s record during his forty-year exile from Egypt in the land of Midian (not far from Job’s own homeland in Uz), and quickly recognized its great importance, perhaps slightly editing it for the benefit of his own contemporaries. It was all probably similar to how he compiled and organized the primeval records from which he has also given us the book of Genesis.
Job, according to God’s own testimony, was the most righteous and godly man in the world, at least up to that time (Job 1:8; 2:3). That he was a real historical person, and not just a fictional character in a great dramatic poem, as some have alleged, is confirmed in Ezekiel 14:14,20, and James 5:11. Paul quotes from Job 5:13 in I Corinthians 3:19.
Job evidently lived about the time of Abraham. It is significant that, despite the prevalent ancient tradition of Moses’ connection with the book, the book of Job nowhere mentions the Mosaic laws or even the children of Israel. It clearly was written well before the time of Jacob (“Israel”). The land of Uz, where Job lived as “the greatest of all the men of the east” (Job 1:3, a geographical reference probably inserted by Moses, since Uz was east of Midian) and “dwelt as a king in the army” (Job 29:25), was later to become the land of Edom (compare Lamentations 4:21). Quite possibly it was originally settled by Uz himself, who was a grandson of Shem (Genesis 10:22,23). The antiquity of the time of Job is further indicated by the fact that he probably lived at least two hundred years (Job 42:16), longer even than Abraham (Genesis 25:7).
Job’s book is considered a masterpiece of literature, even by those who reject its historicity and/or its divine inspiration. Its pervasive theme—one of interest in all times and places—is the mystery of the suffering of the righteous in a world created by a righteous and omnipotent God. However, though this may be the theme of the book, that is not its purpose, for the book never answers that question. Even God, in His remarkable four-chapter monologue (Job 38–41) at the end of the book, never even mentions the question at all. Rather, God emphasizes the vital importance of the doctrine of special creation and the sovereign right of the Creator to use and test His creatures as He wills. He is never unjust and never capricious, and we must simply rest and rejoice in that fact by faith.
1:1 land of Uz. The land of Uz is mentioned in Lamentations 4:21 as home to the “daughter of Edom.” Edom was the same as Esau, brother of Jacob, who later moved into the region, around the southern end of the Dead Sea. It was possibly named after Uz, the grandson of Seir the Horite (Genesis 36:20-21, 28), who gave his own name to Mount Seir, in the land of Edom. He, in turn, may have been named after Uz, the grandson of the patriarch Shem (Genesis 10:21-23). Alternatively, the latter may himself have first settled this region.
1:1 Job. Job was a real person, as confirmed in both Old and New Testaments (Ezekiel 14:14,20; James 5:11), despite the contention of religious liberals that he was only a mythological character. The entire context of Job’s narrative is clearly in the patriarchal age, probably the time of Abraham or earlier. Jacob had a grandson named Job (Genesis 46:13) and there are several Jobabs in the Bible (e.g., Genesis 36:33), but all of these clearly lived after the time of this Job. Some have suggested that Job was either Shem or Melchizedek, but these are mere speculations. Job’s narrative stands all alone, probably the oldest book of the Bible, except for the first eleven chapters of Genesis.
1:1 perfect and upright. Job was the world’s most righteous and godly man since Noah and before Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14,20). This introductory statement was twice confirmed by God Himself (Job 1:8; 2:3). He was also “the greatest of all the men of the east” (Job 1:3), probably the most wealthy and influential man in all the “nations” of the region.
1:1 eschewed. Old English for “shunned.”
1:5 offered burnt offerings. Even though Job was “perfect and upright,” he was careful to offer sacrificial offerings regularly, both for himself and his family, recognizing that their sins, whether willful sins or sins done in ignorance, required sacrifice of innocent substitutes and the shedding of blood as an atonement. This was obviously before the giving of the Mosaic law and establishment of the Levitical offerings, so Job was acting in accord with earlier revelation (Job 23:12). Note also that, in the patriarchal system of the age before Moses, Job was acting as the priestly mediator for his family before the Lord.
1:6 sons of God. This remarkable vision can only have been given to Job (or the author of Job’s record) by special revelation after his sufferings and subsequent restoration. The angels are called “sons of God” (Hebrew bene elohim) because they had no parents as such, but were directly created by God (see also Genesis 6:2; Job 2:1; 38:7). Adam was called “the son of God” (Luke 3:38) for the same reason.
1:6 Satan. This is the Bible’s earliest identification of Satan by name, assuming the traditional antiquity of the book of Job (compare I Chronicles 21:1). The name Satan means “accuser” or “adversary,” and he is “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10); this recorded attack on Job is typical of Satan’s attacks. Note also that, despite his primeval rebellion and fall (Ezekiel 28:13-17), he was still able to go among the other sons of God, to make his accusations before God.
1:7 walking up and down. Note I Peter 5:8: “The devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” On this occasion, he was seeking the most righteous man in the earth, hoping to defeat God’s plan for mankind by tempting such a man to reject His Creator and Savior.
1:12 in thy power. Satan here is proposing a scientific experiment, as it were, testing Job’s professed faith in God by causing him to suffer great loss. God is allowing it, at least in Job’s case, knowing that Job’s faith will not fail, thus demonstrating to “the principalities and powers in the heavenly places...the manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:10).
1:21 return thither. Job was obviously not expecting to return to his mother’s womb. He was “worshipping” when he spoke these words (Job 1:20), acknowledging that his soul had come from God and would return to God. Note also that when Job blessed the name of “the LORD,” he was using the name Jehovah. He knew God as Redeemer as well as the Creator God (Elohim).
1:22 sinned not. It is evident from this verse that questioning God, or blaming him, when circumstances go against a believer, is sin. Job suffered probably more than anyone in history (except Christ), yet he continued to trust in God. With the greatest wealth in the whole region, he suddenly became the poorest man; with a wonderful family of ten children, he suddenly lost them all. Nevertheless, his faith persevered.