According to some historical studies, the events in the book of Job take place long before the enslavement in Egypt, long before the kings of Israel, and even before the covenant God made with Abraham. In my chronological Bible study, it breaks off at Genesis 11 to move through the entire book of Job.
The saga is a long and sad one, full of bitter arguments, judgments, justifications, and mourning. So great is the grief, Job and his so called friends sit for days in ashes without saying a word. But once they did begin to speak, look out! The debate is endless. Did Job get what he deserved? Or is he just and righteous?
The book begins with telling of Job’s prosperity and happiness, of his family and property. It’s not a perfect set up, as Job does feel the need to offer sacrifices for any sins his children might have committed. But overall, he has a heart toward God. So great is his uprightness in the sight of God, that Satan presents a heavenly challenge. Thus begins the woes of Job, where he eventually loses everything and the conversations between him, his wife and his friends begin.
The question of “why” is at the heart of each conversation. The friends try to blame it on Job’s wickedness. Job claims righteousness and lays the blame at the feet of God. And God answers, leaving the final conclusion to be drawn by Job himself.
The book of Job addresses the age old question, why? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do the righteous suffer?
Several interesting points pop out on a surface read of this book. Job loses his property, his wealth and his children, yet still worships God without hesitation. But then his health is struck and he lives in such complete misery he can do little but sit in ashes and scrap his raw skin with broken pottery. This is when his attitude changes, making me wonder at the connection with physical and spiritual health. While well in body, Job was able to stand the tremendous losses. But once his health was attacked, he loses sight of the sovereignty of God and bemoans the date of his birth. “I wish I’d never been born,” George Bailey echoed thousands of years later in the film, It’s a Wonderful Life.
After seven days of silence, the debate begins as Job spills his guts, all his inner thoughts. Why not? God knows anyway and can’t do anymore to Job than what’s already been done. But his three friends, who seemingly kindly sit with him in the ashes seven days, attempt to shoot down his arguments one by one. The debate goes on, with indications there were attempted interruptions. Then, an interesting and sometimes overlooked speaker joins in.
Elihu is the youngest of the men, and holds his tongue during the long discourse. But when they all fell silent, he steps in because,
“…the wrath of Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, was aroused against Job; his wrath was aroused because he justified himself rather than God.
Also against his three friends his wrath was aroused, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job.” Job 32:2-3, NKJV
Elihu brings out several points, none of which I’m going to claim are right or wrong. But it’s interesting how in the end, God chastens Job and his three friends, but does not do so to Elihu. Just an interesting point that stood out at the end of the book.
But before that, God Himself enters the conversation through a whirlwind and answers Job directly. He doesn’t just lecture him, He asks questions, questions to let Job come to his own conclusion of the sovereignty, omnipotence and great mercy of God.
In that, Job and all his friends, learn the answer to that age old question of, why? But it wasn’t over yet. All were called to repent, offer sacrifices and pray.
“So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did as the LORD commanded them; for the LORD had accepted Job.
And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Job 42:9-10, NKJV
Do we still ask “why” today? Absolutely. We live in a fallen world, and sometimes, the answer lies only with the all-knowing God. Where better, as Job learned, to place all our faith?