Christian Churches of God
The Story of Job
(Edition 2.0 20060320-20061214)
In the land of Uz there lived a man named Job. He was blameless and upright and he feared God and shunned evil. This paper has been adapted from Chapters 57 and 58 of The Bible Story Volume III by Basil Wolverton, published by Ambassador College Press.
Christian Churches of God
PO Box 369, WODEN ACT 2606, AUSTRALIA
(Copyright ã 2006 Christian Churches of God, ed. Wade Cox)
This paper may be freely copied and distributed provided it is copied in total with no alterations or deletions. The publisher’s name and address and the copyright notice must be included. No charge may be levied on recipients of distributed copies. Brief quotations may be embodied in critical articles and reviews without breaching copyright.
This paper is available from the World Wide Web page:
The Story of Job
The main character of this story from the books of the Old Testament is Job. Most of the words of the book are spoken by Job and his counsellors, but Job was not the author (Job 1:1). It appears that Moses wrote the Book of Job.
Job was a son of Issachar (Gen. 46:13) and therefore a grandson of Jacob. Issachar was the tribe that most clearly understood God’s calendar. Not only did Job know the One True God, he also knew the correct days on which to worship God.
Job is often pictured as an Arabian who ruled a domain – the land of Uz – extending to the Euphrates River. Job was the greatest man of character in that eastern land (Job 1:3).
As for being a wizard, Job wasn't exactly that. Probably he earned that title because he was a very wise man and a skilled engineer (Job 3:11-15; 29:21-25).
The outstanding thing about Job was that he followed God's Laws and used his power to protect the helpless (Job 29:7-17). He used his influence in favour of the One True God, at the same time working to destroy belief in the pagan gods (Job 29:20-22, 25).
The part of Job's life related in Scripture had to do with the maturing years of his life. He had become a more famous and respected man than he had been before. He was wealthier than ever, owning seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, a thousand oxen and five hundred donkeys. Job owned many buildings, and much land for his animals' grazing. He also had a very fine home, and buildings and tents in which his servants, hired hands and shepherds lived (Job 1:3).
Job's greatest treasure, however, was his ten grown children – seven sons and three daughters. They had comfortable homes of their own in which they often gathered to hold dinner parties and birthday banquets. Job noted that they were having a lot of parties and he felt they might be sinning. Therefore, he often made sacrifices on their behalf. His constant prayers to God were that the Creator would be merciful to his family (Job 1:4-5). It does not appear that Job attended these birthday parties where they kept "their day". Birthdays and birthday parties have a pagan origin. See the paper Birthdays (No. 287).
People have long been taught a lie that there is a big battle going on between the forces of good and evil with God as the champion of good and Satan as the champion of evil. Thus, it would seem to be a long war between God and Satan, with each one taking turns at dodging powerful blows from the other, and this process repeated century after century until God finally strikes a final, victorious blow that causes everything to turn out right.
God limits Satan's power
That isn't the situation. God is Ruler of the universe and everything in it (Dan. l 4:17, 25, 32; Job 38:1-19). Satan is the god or prince of this world (Eph. 2:2). He is under God's power and authority. He can do only what God allows him to do. In other words, God can and does allow evil to occur by giving Satan permission to tempt or try people who need to learn lessons, but God lets Satan go only so far in doing certain things.
God keeps an eye on all the angels, including the fallen angels, or demons. If He calls them before Him to report, they must obey, including Satan.
At this time, during Job's life, Satan came with other angels to report to God and was asked what he had been doing. His answer was that he had been walking around and looking at the Earth. He couldn't successfully lie to God. Roaming was what he had been doing for a long time with his demons, looking for opportunities to separate men from God (Job 1:6-7).
"If you have been everywhere on Earth, then you must have noticed that a man by the name of Job is one of my most obedient servants," God said to Satan. "What do you think of him?"
"I know the man," Satan replied. "I am aware that you have given him great ability, power and wealth. At the same time you have protected him and his family from trouble, disease and death. He knows that these blessings have come from you, so he works at being faithful to you. But take this prosperity and comfort away from him, and he will turn away from you. In fact, he will curse you!" (Job 1:8-11). Notice how Satan admitted God is all-powerful and fully able to protect Job from him.
"You would like to destroy this man's faith," God remarked. "I'm going to give you the opportunity to test him. Deal with him as you choose, but don't do him any bodily harm" (v. 12). Notice how God set a limit on Satan's evil, and let him go only so far in tempting and trying Job. What Satan didn't know was that God was using him to teach Job a much-needed lesson. But Satan thought he was getting a chance to destroy one of God's servants. Satan departed, anxious to bring trouble to one of God's most faithful followers. It wasn't much later that Job, examining a part of his orchard, was startled by the noisy approach of one of his ploughmen.
Sudden destruction came
"We were ploughing your fields on the east border," the man said excitedly, "when suddenly a band of mounted Sabeans rushed at us! They killed all the men except me, and took all the oxen and all the donkeys that were grazing nearby!"
Before the shocked Job could express himself, another of his men wearily ran up to tell him that a series of big lightning bolts had struck where all the sheep and sheepherders had been gathered, that all the sheep had been killed and that he was the only man to escape.
This second man hadn't finished giving his sad news when a third man hurried toward Job, waving his arms and shouting.
"Three bands of Chaldeans attacked the camel grazing grounds!" the frightened man said. "They killed your men, then took all three thousand camels! I managed to escape to report to you!" (Job 1:13-17.)
These three reports left Job in stunned silence. He could scarcely believe that such a great loss could come so suddenly. Slowly and dazedly he sat down with his back to a tree trunk. Suddenly he was aware that a fourth man was standing over him, talking and waving his hands wildly.
Job shuddered at the thought that shot into his mind. With all his livestock gone, any other evil report would have to concern his family!
A grievous tragedy
I know who you are," Job told the man. "You are one of the servants from the household of my oldest son. What unhappy news do you have to give me?"
"You must not have heard what I just said, sir," the sad-faced servant observed. "It grieves me to repeat that all your sons and daughters have just been crushed to death in the collapse of your oldest son's home!" (Job 1:18-19).
This was the supreme blow to Job, though by this time he wasn't too surprised at the terrible news. Painfully he raised his gaze to meet the eyes of the trembling servant.
"How did it happen?" Job asked. "All your sons and daughters were gathered for a dinner party at your oldest son's home," the servant explained. "All of them were inside, happily eating and drinking. Suddenly a whirlwind descended on the house, snatched it up from its foundation then dashed it with such force that it was smashed flat. I was only a short distance from the house, bringing in some fresh fruit for the diners, and I was knocked to the ground. I struggled up, rushed to the wrecked home and tore away enough debris, with the help of neighbours, to find that your seven sons and three daughters were all dead!"
Job rose shakily to his feet and walked slowly toward his home. On the way he ripped his coat open. At that moment his wife looked out of the house to view this act, which in the ancient East was a sign of great grief.
"What's happened?" Job's wife called out as she ran to meet him.
When Job told her, she sobbingly accompanied him to the house. Job tried to comfort her, but he wasn't very successful. He left her by herself, shaved his head, went outdoors and prostrated himself, lying face forward on the ground. The head shaving was also an ancient sign of grief, though no more peculiar, perhaps, than our dwindling present-day custom of wearing black clothes and black armbands during and after funerals.
Job refused to grumble
"I came into this world naked and without possessions," Job murmured. "It's only fair that I should go out of it without possessions. While I have been here, God has allowed me many good things, and I thank Him and bless Him for all of them!"
Job had a good attitude toward God, even though God had allowed Satan to take away his wealth, his children, and his happiness. However, Satan had not been able to make Job commit the sin of complaining against God (Job 1:20-22).
Some time later, when the angels again came before God to report their activities, God questioned Satan as He had before.
"I am well aware of what you have done to my servant Job," God reminded Satan. "No doubt you have noticed that his grief at the loss you have caused him has not resulted in his cursing me, as you said it would."
"He has remained faithful only because you haven't allowed me to afflict his body," was Satan's reply. "If a man is suffering great physical pain, insomuch that he thinks that death might result, he will do anything to save himself. Allow me to bring sickness on Job and he will quickly give up his obedient ways and turn to cursing you."
"We shall see if you are wrong again," God said. "You may do what you choose with Job, except that you may not bring him to his death" (Job 2:1-6).
Dismissed, Satan returned to Earth, pleased because he once more had been given an opportunity to see if he could turn Job against his Creator. He now had permission to take away Job's health and his last remaining source of income.
One morning when Job awakened he was alarmed to find that he was extremely sore all over his body. At first neither he nor his wife had any idea why he felt so sore, but within a few hours his skin was lumpy with swelling boils!
Agony added to grief
This was how Satan had chosen to strike at Job, though Job had no knowledge of why or how the terrible agonizingly-painful sores had so suddenly developed from the top of his head to the soles of his feet.
The mere sight of the skin eruptions was so offensive that Job was embarrassed even in the company of his wife. And he was in such pain he could not even think of fulfilling his duties. While another man ran the business, Job could not collect the monies due to him. Thus, Job became completely poor without a way to earn a living. He didn't want to sit or lie around his home and see his wife's expressions of disgust. He decided to leave his home and go to an ash dump not far away. There Job took a piece of pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes (Job 2:7-8).
Sitting in ashes in those days was a sign of humility, which is knowing our place and not thinking too highly of ourself.
Job and his wife now had a very bitter life, with no children and no income – and with Job's health gone. Whereas Job had previously been a wealthy and important man, he now found himself without anything and with few friends. Even his relatives had nothing more to do with him. He had suddenly become a social outcast because his friends thought God had put him under a curse, and his acquaintances could no longer regard him as wealthy. True to his promise, God had allowed Satan to take EVERYTHING away from Job (Job 2:6).
In spite of his wife's arguments that he was being silly, Job continued to stay at the ash heap. Even on that soft mound he was miserable, because whether he sat or lay down, the boils were intensely painful with the slightest pressure on them.
Late one night Job's wife went out to the ash heap. She was ashamed to go during daylight because Job had been such a prominent man and had suffered such great loss that it seemed to some that he might have lost his mind. Job's wife would have been distressed to know that neighbours were watching her. Instead of comforting her husband, she started yelling at him.
And now -- a nagging wife!
"Why do you insist on squatting there in the filth of this dump while I am at my wits' end wondering how to make ends meet?" she scolded. "Why must you embarrass me this way? If you think that you are about to die, why do it in a place like this?"
Job continued to sit in silence, which was soon broken again.
"I should think you would have more consideration for me, the woman who gave you ten children," Job's wife went on. "What would you have done without me? Is this any place for a man, even though a lot of people have forgotten you by now?"
Job said nothing. "You're hopeless!" cried his wife. "Go on with your prayers! You're only adding to your misery by being out here. And no matter how many days you sit here blessing God, you'll die! Why don't you curse God so He will destroy you and put you out of your misery?" (Job 2:9). Job not only had lost his wealth, children, health, power, influence, honour, dignity and friends but also had now lost the respect of his wife.
Job's wife sobbingly turned to leave, but Job straightened up and spoke sharply.
"You talk foolishly," Job told her sternly. "You sound like a young woman who has grievously sinned while still in her father's house. Why should we complain when troubles come? God has done many wonderful things for us. Should we expect to go all through our lives without any troubles? Do we believe that God should shower us with nothing but the pleasant things? Should we shake our fists at our Creator whenever He temporarily takes back some of the many good things that belong to Him in the first place? No! We should be thankful and uncomplaining, no matter what happens!" (v. 10).
Job's wife realised that it would be a waste of effort to argue with a man with such a good attitude toward God, and she walked away into the darkness.
A few friends remain
Because of his high office in life, Job had many acquaintances who were wealthy and well educated. When word went around the land about Job's condition, most of these acquaintances of Job wondered why a man who was so obedient to his God should fall into such misfortune and misery. Almost all of them then deserted him.
However, of the many who knew him well, three who were close friends of Job planned to meet and visit him together (v. 11). The names of these men were Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, and they came from territories not far distant.
The combined caravans of the three arrived at Job's rather neglected home to find that only his wife was there.
"You'll find my husband sitting or lying out in the city ash heap not far from here," she stiffly informed the visitors.
The three friends of Job instructed their servants to encamp not far from the ash dump. Then they set out on foot toward the lone figure they could see in the distance. They were accompanied by a younger man named Elihu who was also well-educated and intelligent, and who, because of his great admiration for Job's well-known accomplishments, had asked to join the three friends (Job 32:2).
Even when the visitors were only a few yards from Job, they couldn't recognise him because of the boils on his face and the amount of weight he had lost. His condition was so much worse than they had imagined that they thought he was very close to death. They wept with grief at the sight of him. Now they could understand that there was more than one reason why Job had chosen to spend his time on an ash heap. His hundreds of very sore running boils made it almost necessary.
According to the customs of the times, the three men ripped their tunics and tossed dust on their heads in grief (Job 2:12).
Elihu respectfully stood nearby while Eliphaz, Zophar and Bildad – who were older men – stepped close to Job. Job peered up through swollen eyelids at his friends. He could not touch them in welcome, and it was too painful for him to show his appreciation for their presence by trying to get up. He was touched that they had come to comfort him, but all he did was lift his hands and nod to each. Then he lowered his head and sat in silence. Job's friends were so amazed to see how horrifyingly miserable he was that they sat down with him in shocked silence to share his agony.
That silence lasted a whole week, during which the men sat with Job both day and night (v. 13). At the end of seven days and seven nights without any conversation, Job painfully straightened up and suddenly spoke from swollen lips.
"Let the day perish and be forgotten when I was born!" he cried out. "Let that day be cursed! Let not God include it in the days of the month or year!" (Job 3).
Controversy over the cause of Job's condition
Job's friends were surprised at this sudden outburst, but they were also relieved to know that Job had at long last chosen to speak. Job continued to talk for several minutes, describing how death would be better than the bitter grief of his condition. Some of his remarks caused his friends to suspect him of some hidden sin, and as soon as Job had finished, Eliphaz spoke out.
"I must say what I think," he started out. "You have instructed my people in living and in building character, but now that trouble has come to you, you faint. If you are being punished because of some kind of trouble you have run into, turn to God. If God is correcting you, don't be unhappy about it. He will see you through adversity and trial, and you shall be full of years before you die" (Job chapters 4 and 5).
Eliphaz had much more to say, some of which, in turn, prompted Job to speak more.
"I thought you came here to comfort me," he declared, "but now you are scolding me and charging me with being a wicked man!" (Job chapters 6 and 7).
Job continued for a time, and when he had temporarily finished, Bildad had much to say in correcting him. As soon as Job had answered him, Zophar spoke out. He too reproved Job, who then spoke up for himself. This ended the first of a series of three unusual conversations. During the next two of these debate-type discussions there was more reproof from Job's friends and more defence from Job. These three friends insisted that God was punishing Job for being sinful. Job insisted God was punishing him without a reason. Even today when people become sick other people try to maintain that they have sinned and that is why they are sick. This is not the way God works or thinks.
Job was like many people today who say they are so good they always do what is right just because they love God. The Bible says this is not true (Jer. 17:9; Jer. 10:23; Pro. 12:15; Psa. 39:5; 1Jn. 2:4; Jn. 14:15). Throughout these conversations between Job and his three friends, which were written in the Bible in a splendid poetic form, Job continually insisted that he was without sin and had no reason for repentance (Job, chapters 8 through 31).
At last the three older friends all gave up trying to answer Job because of what appeared to be his self-righteous attitude (Job 32:1). This gave young Elihu an opportunity to say what he thought.
"You have tried to justify yourself instead of God," he courteously and respectfully but clearly told Job. "As for you three friends, you have criticised Job without being able to answer his self-justification" (Job 32:2-22).
Elihu went on to talk with much wisdom for one so relatively young, reminding these older men that the Spirit of God, not human reason, gives us the true answers to problems. He continued to reprove and correct all four men for being in error in some of the things they had said. Yet he did not deal harshly with Job (Job 33:7). His marvellous remarks, as written in chapters 33, 34, 35, 36 and 37 of the Book of Job make up some of the most profound sayings in the Bible. He showed these men that Job's error was not in some secret sin he was hiding – as they supposed – but in giving credit to himself instead of God, for the righteous deeds God had inspired him to do, and in thinking he could EARN salvation by good works.
Elihu knew that man's righteousness is no better than filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). The three older friends had spoken of God's right to punish men for sins. Elihu spoke of God's willingness to be merciful and give salvation to those who repent. (See also Psalm 103:10-14.) There seemed no more to say or do, so the four men wearily prepared to leave.
Although it was daytime, the sky had been turning dark for some time. It was evident that some kind of rough weather was about to occur. Overhead the clouds began to whirl and boil. The little group on the ash heap suddenly heard the moaning sound of the winds. Job looked up, but he didn't move. Realising it was useless to run, the other four men stood quite still, though not without fear. However, some curious people who had gathered near the ash heap ran for their lives.
God convicts Job
Somehow the winds seemed to envelop the five men – not to harm them, but to gently cut them off from their surroundings. There was strong wind all around, but not on the ash heap (Job 38:1).
Then a great voice clearly came out of the encircling wind (v. 2). Startled, Job began to get up, but suddenly he fell face down when he realised that he was being addressed. The other four men were so frightened they also lay down, bowing their heads to the ground.
"Who is it who pretends to speak about the most profound matters of God, but who lacks knowledge of such things?" the mighty voice of the Lord, the Angel of God, asked (Job 38; 39; 40:1-2).
Job felt ashamed under the stinging words as the voice went on to compare the puny learning and undertakings of man with the all-knowing wisdom and tremendous creative power of God. He reminded Job that only God is a great Creator. When the Lord at last stopped speaking, Job cried out:
"I admit I am evil and defiled, and I don't have the wisdom to answer you!" (Job 40:3-5).
The Lord then reminded Job that he could not save himself – that only God has salvation to give – and that all of man's power comes from God, and man amounts to nothing without God (Job 40:6-14).
The Lord continued to point out how much man has yet to learn, even about the creatures that exist on this planet, and that no one except the Creator has any real conception of what is required to create and control such creatures (Job 40:15-24; Job 41). When the Lord ceased speaking, Job finally saw himself as a very worthless sinner, who needed God's mercy just as much as anyone else did. Job then took the opportunity to express himself again, while continuing to lie on the ash heap.
Job finally repents
"I repent that I spoke as I did," he said. "I realise now that you know everything and can do everything and that I said things I did not understand. I hate myself for considering myself too wise, too creative and too righteous, when I am really nothing more than dust and ashes!" (Job 42:1-6).
The Lord then spoke to Eliphaz, who was the oldest of Job's three friends.
"I am very displeased with you three," he said. "You have not spoken to me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now get seven bullocks and seven rams and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering. My servant Job will then pray for you. If you fail to do this, I shall deal harshly with you!" (vv. 7-8).
The three men obeyed. The burnt offering was made, Job prayed for his friends and God accepted all that was done (v. 9). As for Elihu, he had neither falsely accused Job nor misrepresented God's justice. He had spoken well, and God didn't require an offering from him.
Job's miserable condition left him as suddenly as it had come on. Immediately after he prayed for his three friends, the sore, itching, running boils dwindled away and were healed without scars. Job once more was comfortable and healthy. From then on, as though by a miracle, everything came his way. His brothers, sisters and friends who had left him turned back to him to visit and comfort him and brought gifts of money and jewellery. He bought livestock, and they increased so well that in time he was twice as wealthy as he had ever been before! (vv. 10-12). Besides doubling the number of animals he had owned, an even greater physical blessing came upon him.
It was a new family. God gave Job and his wife seven more sons and three more daughters, and his daughters were known as the fairest in the land (vv. 13-15).
Job did have grown children when this great trouble happened to him, but after that he lived many more years to see his children's children to the fourth generation (vv. 16-17).
Down through the centuries Job has become known as the most patient man who ever lived. It would be more fitting, however, to recognise him for what the Bible points him out to be – perhaps the most self-righteous man who ever lived. Being self-righteous doesn't always mean looking down on others as being miserable sinners while seeing one’s self as being pretty good. In Job's case, it meant that he was so conscious and proud of being obedient that he felt he was without sin, and that his great suffering came without a reason.
Job had some lessons to learn about himself and his Creator but he did not give up on God. He remained firm in his beliefs and his trust in God, even though everyone else was against him.
The happy ending to this story was that after much trial Job was able to see his faults and was willing to repent. It was his repentance that brought an end to his great trial. Job offered sacrifices for his so-called friends who wrongly accused him. We are reminded here that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute (or harass) us (Mat. 5:44). Also look at the paper Understanding the Beatitudes (No. CB27).
This important human experience might have been totally lost to us today. But God instructed Moses, during the wilderness wandering, that Job's account of his suffering should become Holy Scripture – a vital part of the Bible's "Old Testament," for our use today.