Current Questions for the Study of Job

Chris —  July 17, 2014

Job And His Friends - Ilya Yefimovich-RepinWhich “Job” questions are most important for pastors when preaching Job? Are there any “Job questions” in the below list that aren’t important?

Immersed in Job as I am, one notices a number of questions that come up in “evangelical” literature. The discussion of these questions is lengthy! Some of these questions may make us mad – – and some should make us mad- – but be assured: these questions are repeatedly and increasingly discussed in evangelical circles. And, to one degree or another, they are important! How we come down on some of them will shape how we face the inevitable suffering of life.

These are not all of the questions – – these are just the ones that I can come up off the “top of my head” after studying Job in recent months. Remember – – this is a blog – – a working document where I jot down some of my thoughts when studying. I welcome your comments, though I may wait until the series begins in October to address them!

  1. Is Job historical? Did the events really take place or is the book a “thought experiment”? Is it important for those with a high view of Scripture to believe that the book is historical?
  2. Is “the Satan” Satan? Or is he a different adversary?
  3. Did God know how Job would respond in advance or was God also waiting to see what would happen?
  4. Is it important to identify the leviathan and behemoth as biological creatures? Or is it legitimate to allow that they resembled actual creatures with characteristics of ancient mythic creatures?
  5. Is the book of Job making the point that there are reasons for suffering though they may be beyond our comprehension? Or is the book making the point that sometimes there just aren’t reasons for suffering?
  6. Did the character Job say chapter 28? Or is this an interlude – – a comment by the author?
  7. How appropriate is it to immediately point to Christ from the text of Job? Is it responsible exposition of Scripture to proclaim Christ as the solution to Job’s longings (as in 9:32 ff, 19:25 ff) or was this merely Job’s unrighteous longing for someone to defend him?
  8. When preaching Job, how much time should be spent in presenting a theodicy?
  9. What is the place of Elihu? Should he be lumped together with the other “friends” or is it possible that he is a prophetic voice?
  10. How important is the dating of the book of Job?
  11. Did Job influence Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant?
  12. Did Job believe at all in an after-life? Is he longing for “resurrection” at points? Or did he have absolutely no conception of the after-life?

Below is my current bibliography for Job. An * indicates those sources I have consulted the most in recent days, or am at least alluding to with the above questions.

*Anderson, Francis I. Job. Edited by D. J. Wiseman. Vol. 13. The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1976.
*Ash, Christopher. Job: The Wisdom of the Cross. Preaching the Word. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014.
*Clines, David J.A. Job 1-20. Edited by David A. Hubbard, Glenn W. Barker, and John D.W. Watts. Vol. 17a. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, 1989.
———. Job 21-37. Edited by David A. Hubbard, Glenn W. Barker, and John D.W. Watts. Vol. 18a. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, 2006.
———. Job 38-42. Edited by David A. Hubbard, Glenn W. Barker, and John D.W. Watts. Vol. 18b. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, 2011.
“Credo Magazine » Reflections on the Loss of Our Daughter (Fred Zaspel).” Accessed May 1, 2014.
Estes, Daniel J. Job. Teach the Text Commentary Series. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013.
Guinness, Os. Unspeakable: Facing Up to Evil in an Age of Genocide and Terror. San Francisco: Harper, 2005.
*Hartley, John E. The Book of Job. Edited by R.K. Harrison. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.
*Keller, Timothy. “My Faith: The Danger of Asking God ‘Why Me?’” CNN Belief Blog. Accessed June 15, 2014.
*———. Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering. New York: Dutton, 2013.
*Kidner, Derek. The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes: An Introduction to Wisdom Literature. Downers Grove: IVP, 1985.
*Longman, Tremper III. Job. Edited by Tremper III Longman. Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012.
Peterson, Eugene H. Job: Led By Suffering to the Heart of God. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1996.
*Piper, John. The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God. Wheaton: Crossway, 2002.
*Trueman, Carl. “Any Place for the God of Job?” Reformation 21, February 6, 2013.
Tsevat, M. “The Meaning of the Book of Job.” Hebrew Union College Annual 37 (1966): 73–106.
Viberg, A. “Job.” In New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, edited by T. Desmond Alexander, Brian S. Rosner, D.A. Carson, Graeme Goldsworthy, and Steve Carter, 200–203. Downers Grove: IVP, 2000.
*Walton, John H. Job. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012.
*Wilson, Gerald H. Job. Edited by Robert L. Jr. Hubbard and Robert K. Johnston. New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 2007.
*Yancey, Philip. “A Fresh Look at the Book of Job.” In Sitting with Job: Selected Studies on the Book of Job, edited by Roy B. Zuck, 141–49. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992.
Zuck, Roy. Job. Chicago: Moody Press, 1978.
Zuck, Roy B. Sitting with Job: Selected Studies on the Book of Job. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992.
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6 responses to Current Questions for the Study of Job

  1. Hey Chris,

    What are your plans for Job as far as number of sermons? I love the book of Job and am looking forward to hearing what you have to say. Not sure if you ever listen to other preachers in your own personal study but my friend, Brian Borgman, preached through Job a while back. He is a fantastic preacher.


  2. Wow! That is some hefty list! The book of Job surely does raise questions about the God’s goodness and about evil. How could God allow Satan to take everything but Job’s life from him? You are searching out wisdom in a big way and I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Over the years I’ve done a lot of thinking and wondering too, trying to view Job from the perspective of the whole of the Bible. The biggest questions for me were the very questions Job asked and more. Like, what’s going on?

    Why was Satan allowed to test Job — a really good man? Didn’t God already know what he would choose? Was God demonstrating to the spirit realm that a man who truly loves Him will continue to love Him and what is good whether he is touched by evil or not? Because as Christians, evil still touches us. We still get sick, and children die, and sometimes we are judged unfairly, like Job. I’ve been there.

    Maybe we all experience the knowledge of good and evil for a reason. I have wondered if it doesn’t have more to do with the age to come when God establishes His kingdom and where no evil can reside.

    I’ve considered that we’re free agents, and have the ability to choose whether or not to serve God. And that only through having a choice can we ever love or serve God from the heart. Whether angel or human, we’re able to choose. Satan chose not to serve God, and he could only make that choice because he was free to do so. Somehow I think that in eternity we will always have that choice because true service and love is always voluntary.

    Over the years I’ve heard people say we probably won’t remember anything of the earth in God’s kingdom, but I am inclined to think we will. Maybe evil exists here so that in eternity we will remember the horror of sin and disobedience and always want to choose good. Maybe knowing sin’s consequences — the pain, hardship, sorrow, agony and tears, we will look back and remember how it was.

    Maybe this explains why we have all suffered, even though it wasn’t through us but through Adam and Eve that sin entered the world. We didn’t take the fruit — why do we have to suffer? Maybe it is because God wanted us to taste the bitterness of evil for a short time, that we might not choose it for an eternity.

    If we go back farther, back to the beginning, where evil first entered in, and there choose God, maybe we will be doing what Job himself did. He chose loyalty to God. He chose to believe Him and do right. Evil didn’t make him renounce God. It led to a greater blessing. Maybe this is the lesson, whether Job was fictional, or whether he really existed. Job chose God even when stripped of every blessing. Even when evil overpowered him, he would not curse God. Satan sifted Job until there was practically nothing left of his life. And he has demanded permission to sift us all like wheat.

    I’m just bouncing this off you (you don’t have to put it on the site). I’ve not heard anyone probe these questions, but maybe it is in one of the books you have been reading. It would be great to know if someone else has also talked about this!

    Have a blessed day, Chris!

  3. Great thoughts! I am going to read more carefully tomorrow. Spent most of the day in the car. Thanks so much for interacting. It really helps.

  4. Ah yes – car time – a chance to maybe collect your thoughts?

    You know what I also find especially intriguing about Job? Job repents of questioning God even though God gives no explanation whatsoever for the evil that has befallen him. In the end Job realizes how foolish he was and repents.

    He acknowledged God’s very great power and awesome majesty. (Who was he to demand that the King of all creation give an account to him?)

    Job’s questions? Never answered. And He doesn’t really answer ours either. Instead He calls us to the obedience that comes from faith. Paul puts it very plainly in Romans 9:20, “Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? …” When Job realized his mistake he stopped his mouth. 😀

  5. yes Debra. That moves to the heart of the book: a god small enough to be comprehensively understood is not God – – big enough to be worshiped.

  6. Taj,

    Sorry – – somehow I missed your comment earlier.

    Planning the # of sermons has been one of the hardest things. I’m not sure how many I am going to do. At least 8 in the Fall and I may come back to it in the winter.