Home  |  Old Testament Studies  |  Job Table of Contents  |  Previous Section  |  Next Section  |

JOB 1

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Job's Character and Wealth Job and His Family in Uz The Prologue
(1:1-2:13)
Satan Tests Job God Tests Job
(1:1-2:13)
1:1-5 1:1-3 1:1-5 1:1-3 1:1-5
  1:4-5   1:4-5  
  Satan Attacks Job's Character      
1:6-12 1:6-12 1:6-12 1:6-7a 1:6-12
      1:7b  
      1:8  
      1:9-11  
      1:12  
Satan Allowed To Test Job Job Loses His Property and Children   Job's Children and Wealth are Destroyed  
1:13-19 1:13-19 1:13-19 1:13-15 1:13-19
      1:16  
      1:17  
      1:18-19  
1:20-21
(21)
1:20-21
(21)
1:20-21 1:20-21 1:20-21
(21)
1:22 1:22 1:22 1:22 1:22

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Job 1-2 is prose, while Job 3:1-42:6 is poetic.

 

B. The heavenly council of Job 1-2 is introduced as a way to understand the poetic chapters.

 

C. "The" accuser (Satan, see SPECIAL TOPIC: SATAN and Special Topic: Personal Evil) is introduced in these opening chapters but is never mentioned again, even in the prose conclusion (i.e., Job 42:7-17). This is surprising.

 

D. I have come to believe that the main theological issue of Job is not "the suffering of an innocent righteous man," but "the righteousness and justice of YHWH." Does He deal with mankind in a fair way? Can the OT presentation of a merciful, loving God (cf. Exod. 34:6-7) be justified in an apparently unfair and violent world? Does the doctrine of divine sovereignty over all things explain the current conditions on earth?

 

E. The author, in my opinion, was a sage/wise man at court during the period of the Judean monarchy who took an account of an ancient, God-fearer (Job is not from Israel) who suffered terrible trials but maintained his innocence to present his message. The theme is developed theologically and written in a dramatic literary, poetic presentation.

I think it is a literary drama of a historical event. The reasons for this are:

1. a conflict between "the two ways" theology (cf. Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1) and daily human life

2. the question over how a sovereign, loving God can allow human suffering, especially undeserved, innocent suffering

3. the theological issue of the true character of God in light of #1 and #2

4. God allowing, yea directing, human suffering to prove a point to "the accuser"

5. the death of many other innocent, godly people (i.e., Job's sons, daughters, and their families, as well as many faithful servants)

6. the appearance of Satan (i.e., the heavenly council; see a good article in Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, pp. 50-53, 172) in the prologue but no mention of him again throughout the poems or the prose conclusion

7. the restoration of Job based on the very ambiguous theological issue (i.e., "the two ways") that caused the book to be written

 

F. The fact that Job's godly character is clearly established in Job 1:1 and by YHWH in 1:8, challenges the traditional theology of the "two ways." Job is not sinless but also he is not an intentional sinner! His terrible ordeal cannot be explained by covenant disobedience.

1. he was not part of the covenant but his book addresses Israel's faith

2. he was an obedient, godly person (i.e., "blameless," lived up to his understanding of God's will and way)

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1:1-5
 1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. 2Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. 3His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east. 4His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, "Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." Thus Job did continually.

1:1 "There was a man" Job 1 and 2 were written in prose and set the theological and historical stage for the dialogue between Job and his friends in Job 3-37.

Both AB and the UBS Handbook assert that this phrase is not used to introduce the genre of "historical narrative" (see Special Topic: Historical Narrative), but is common in introducing a story (i.e., 2 Sam. 12:1; Esther 2:5).

However, the Tyndale OT Commentary, Job, p. 78, says the phrase is used in both

1. a parable – 2 Sam. 12:1

2. a historical account – 1 Sam. 25:2

so the genre is indeterminable.

▣ "the land of Uz" There have been several theories related to the geographical location of this region.

1. Edom – Genesis 36; Jer. 25:20; Lam. 4:21

2. Aram – Gen. 10:23; 22:21

3. Josephus (Antiq. 1.6.4) says it was northeast of the Sea of Galilee

 

Although we do not know the exact location, a site in the trans-Jordan area is best. See Introduction VII. Historical Setting.  Job is not an Israelite.

▣ "Job" There have been several theories concerning the etymology of this name.

1. from the Hebrew root for "enemy" (BDB 33)

2. from the Arabic root for "one who repents" (AB, p. 6)

3. from the Ugaritic root, "where is my father?"

Job is mentioned in Ezek. 14:14,20 along with two other well known wise men.

Notice how this non-Israelite is characterized.

1. blameless – BDB 1070

2. upright – BDB 449

3. fearing God (Elohim) – 431, KB 432, Qal active participle

4. turning away from evil – BDB 693, KB 747, Qal active participle

God initiated the conversation with "the" accuser in relation to this faithful follower (see YHWH's words in Job 1:8). The goodness of Job accentuates the unfair attack on him.

The death of his children (and servants) has forced me to think of this book in literary terms. Is Job's life more valuable to God than his children's lives or the servants' lives? The only books in the OT that I think are "historical dramas" are

1. Jonah

2. Job

3. the first eleven chapters of Genesis

The basic hermeneutical principle is, "take everything literally until something in the text points toward a figurative meaning." God's and Satan's discussions, Job's unfair treatment, and the death of all his children by violent means point in the direction of literary, not literal. Also the fact that most of the book is poetry is a textual marker of a literary presentation to make a theological point.

One of my favorite authors, John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary (p. 69) says

"As a side note, we must remember that this is a thought experiment in a literary scenario. It is pointless to wring our hands over the sad fate of Job's innocent family, for the challenge does not focus on his family and their innocence, but on God's work in the world. The children simply represent the blessing of God, like Job's cattle. This is not to suggest they are no better than cattle; rather, it warns us that we are losing our way if we decide to advocate their cause and press a complaint against God on their behalf. Their fate is part of the challenge to God's policies, but not its focus."

▣ "blameless, upright" These two terms are often together in the OT (cf. Ps. 25:21; 37:37). They speak of moral rectitude and compliance with the religious light of the day, see Special Topic: Blameless, Innocent, Guiltless, Without Reproach.

The adjective "upright" (BDB 449) has the basic meaning of that which is "straight." This is parallel to the Hebrew concept of "righteousness." See Special Topic: Righteousness.

These two terms, used to characterize Job's life and faith, do not imply sinlessness (cf. Job 10:6; 14:16-17), but a volitional conformance to his understanding of God's will for his life and family.

I saw a quote online (sorry, I have forgotten where and who) that described "blameless" as

1. not sinless

2. sin refers to one's relationship with God (vertical)

3. blameless focuses on one's relationship with other humans (horizontal; i.e., family, friends, servants, etc.)

 

▣ "fearing God and turning away from evil" See Genesis 22:12 for the same description used of Abraham. Notice there is a reverence toward God and a lifestyle that reflects this reverence.

The term "fear" (BDB 431, KB 432, Qal active participle) describes a person who has reverence for God. See Special Topic: Fear.

The description of Job in Job 1:1 and 8 clearly shows that non-covenant people can live lives pleasing to God (i.e., also note Noah, Gen. 6:9). To assert that all humans are so damaged in the Fall (i.e., Genesis 3) that they cannot choose to act in godly ways and form strong faith commitments is a theological overstatement!

1:2 "seven sons and three daughters" This was the ideal family in the ancient world. There were more sons than daughters and seven was the perfect number. See Special Topic: Symbolic Numbers in Scripture.

1:3 "His possessions" This man is presented as one of the wealthiest men of the East. This shows that material possessions are not evil in and of themselves. The list of these possessions describes a semi-nomadic existence.

One of the main theological issues of the book is the validity of the covenant "blessings and cursings" of the Mosaic covenant (i.e., Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30). The promise of prosperity in this life for obedience and poverty/destruction for disobedience in this life, is often called "the two ways" (cf. Psalm 1). How can this be true in light of the reality of the prosperity of the wicked (cf. Psalm 73) and the poverty, sickness, and misery of the godly poor?

▣ "thousand" This Hebrew word can have a literal or figurative sense. See Special Topic: Thousand (eleph).

These numbers may be a literary way of expressing Job's great wealth and large number of servants (i.e., "the greatest of all the men of the east," Job 1:3).

▣ "that man was the greatest of all men of the east" This involves both moral rectitude and physical wealth. The "men of the east" (lit. "sons of the east") refers to the semi-nomadic peoples of the ANE. Job would have been a person of renown for his wealth and because of it, considered wise and godly.

1:4 "on his day" There has been much discussion about the phrase. Some relate it to their birthdays, the transition to manhood, while other commentators relate it to an annual feast day.

▣ "they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them" This does not suggest a wild riotous party but a close family relationship where the daughters are treated with equal dignity as the sons.

1:5 "consecrate them" This is the verb (BDB 872, KB 1073, Piel imperfect with waw) form of kadosh (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HOLY).

▣ "Offering burnt offerings" This shows that the historical setting of Job is very early (i.e., second millennium b.c.). This reflects a patriarchal period before the development of a priesthood.

Also note the concept of sacrifice predates the Exodus (see Gen. 4:3-6; 8:20-21).

▣ "Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts" This is the basic religious purpose behind the Day of Atonement (cf. Leviticus 16). It would reflect "unintentional sin."

The word translated "cursed" is literally "blessed" (BDB 138, KB 159, Piel perfect) used in a special sense (cf. Job 1:11; 2:5,9; 1 Kgs. 21:10,13).

For "heart" see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART, which is a Hebrew idiom for the person.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1:6-12
 6Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7The Lord said to Satan, "From where do you come?" Then Satan answered the Lord and said, "From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it." 8The Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil." 9Then Satan answered the Lord, "Does Job fear God for nothing? 10Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face." 12Then the Lord said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him." So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord.

1:6 "the sons of God" In the OT the singular "son of God" can refer to Israel, the King of Israel, and the Messiah, while the plural, "the Sons of God" always refers to the angels (cf. Gen. 6:2). The term Elohim by itself often refers to the "angels" (cf. Psalm 29:1-2; 82:1; 89:5,7; 97:7). See Special Topic: The sons of God in Genesis 6.

▣ "came to present themselves" This (BDB 426, KB 927, Hithpael infinitive construct) implies standing before a king ready for service.

▣ "came to present themselves before the Lord" This seems to be a reference to "the heavenly council" of angels who serve YHWH, and possibly "national angels" (cf. Deut. 32:8 in the LXX and Daniel 10).

This council is assumed in

1. the "us" statements of Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7

2. Micaiah's vision of 1 Kgs. 22:19-23; 2 Chr. 18:18-22

3. Neh. 9:6

4. Ps. 82:1,6; 89:5-7 (different name for "God")

5. the "us" of Isa. 6:8 (see #1)

6. Zech. 3:1-2; Satan appears again before YHWH

For "Lord," see YHWH in the SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

▣ "Satan" This is literally, "the Accuser." This is a Hebrew term that speaks of "adversary" or "accuser" (BDB 966). See SPECIAL TOPIC: SATAN and SPECIAL TOPIC: PERSONAL EVIL. The implication is that Satan was one of the sons of God who had free access to the throne of God. Although Satan, in Job 1 and 2, sets the stage for Job's troubles (i.e., so suffering and violence is not directly attributed to YHWH), he forms a minor personage in the overall structure of the book and does not appear anywhere else in the poetic section nor in the epilogue. He is a literary foil so that Job can dialogue with Hebrew sages and God.

1:7 "The Lord said to Satan" The use of the term YHWH is limited in this book, as in other books of Wisdom Literature. Normally other, more general, terms for Deity in the ANE are used, such as El, Eloah, Elohim.

▣ "From where do you come" God is not asking the question because of lack of knowledge but as a Hebrew idiom for, "what do you want?"

▣ "From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it" This is an idiomatic phrase for Satan's full knowledge of events on planet earth (cf. Zech. 1:10,11; 6:7). Earth has already become a sphere of Satan's influence (cf. 1 Pet. 5:8). Satan is an angelic being tasked by YHWH to test mankind. He is a servant in the OT, not an enemy (see A. B. Davidson, OT Theology, pp. 300-306).

1:8 "My servant, Job" This is an honorific title used of Moses, Joshua, David, and many of the prophets. Notice that God chose the best, most righteous, man to endure suffering—the purpose being to show the faith of fallen mankind, even in crisis. See Special Topic: My Servant.

1:9 "Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing'" Satan's accusation was that Job loved and served God only because of God's blessings and protection. I wonder how often this is true of modern believers.

This rhetorical question expects a "no" answer. It is the heart of "the two ways." Obedience brings God's blessing and disobedience brings destruction.

The question is really about motives. Do faithful followers obey to receive rewards or do they obey because they love and honor God? "The two ways" does not distinguish between the two motives. It is possible to have obedience but with a self-seeking motive (i.e., some Pharisees, all legalists).

One other point, does God not know the motives? Is there really limited knowledge with God? The Bible clearly asserts that God knows the inner thoughts and motives of humans (cf. 1 Sam. 2:3; 16:7; 1 Kgs. 8:39; 1 Chr. 28:9; Pro. 16:2; 21:2; 24:12; Jer. 11:20; 17:10; 20:12; Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24; Rom. 8:27).

1:10 "a hedge" This term (BDB 962 I, KB 1312, Qal perfect) would refer to an enclosure or boundary fence made of thorn bushes. It denoted strong protection.

1:11 "put forth Your hand now" Satan is a created being and acts only at God's behest. There is only one ultimate cause in the OT—God, both good and evil, light and dark, come from Him (cf. Isa. 45:7; Amos 3:6). See SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM.

This verse has two Qal imperatives, which are requests of Satan for YHWH to act against Job. Notice it is God who must give permission for Satan to act (cf. Job 1:12).

This whole encounter in the midst of the heavenly council was

1. initiated by YHWH

2. permitted by YHWH

for a purpose. The real question is, "what is that purpose?"

1. to show the limits of "the two ways" Mosaic covenant

2. to show the character of YHWH

3. to show the lasting results of the Fall, even on faithful followers

 

1:12 YHWH allows Satan to test Job but with limits (i.e., take his possessions but do not touch him physically).

Notice that his children are listed among his possessions (Job 1:2-3). This is surprising to moderns but was an aspect of ANE culture, especially for a rich, powerful person.

The terrible events are standardized in literary form (i.e., "a messenger came and said. . .I alone have escaped to tell you"). Notice that heaven and earth, north and south, animate and inanimate are involved in rapid succession (i.e., for literary effect). See the Genre section of the Introduction.

John H. Walton, NIV Application Commentary, p. 70, says that each of these disasters would have been recognized as part of the "cursing" section of Deut. 28:31-35 (which is a passage related to "the two ways," cf. Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1:13-19
 13Now on the day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, 14a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." 16While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you." 17While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three bands and made a raid on the camels and took them and slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." 18While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, 19and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you."

1:13 "Now on the day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house" This would be the very day that Job offered sacrifices for them (cf. Job 1:5).

▣ "drinking wine" See SPECIAL TOPIC: Wine and Strong Drink.

1:15 "the Sabeans" The ABD (p. 861) suggests there are three (possibly related) groups of Arabs who are designated by this term.

1. from Nubia, cf. Isa. 45:14

2. from the same tribal group as the Queen of Sheba (i.e., Yemen), cf. Joel 3:8

3. from trans-Jordan area near Tema, mentioned as "Saba" in the Assyrian inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon II; note the connection of "Dedan" with "Sheba" in Gen. 25:3.

 

1:16 "The fire of God" This seems to refer to lightning (cf. 2 Kgs. 1:12) or some supernatural act of judgment (cf. Gen. 19:24; Lev. 10:2; Num. 11:1-3; 1 Kgs. 18:38).

▣ "heaven" See SPECIAL TOPIC: HEAVEN.

1:17 "The Chaldeans" This seems to refer to a racial group from the Fertile Crescent. Later, the term can refer to wise men (cf. Dan. 2:2). See Special Topic: Chaldeans.

1:19 "a great wind" This seems to be some kind of strong desert wind (cf. Jer. 13:24). It was a targeted supernatural event.

▣ "the four corners of the house" This house (BDB 108) must have been more than a large tent. Some supporting structure falling is what killed the children (whether married or not is uncertain).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1:20-21
 20Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21He said,
 Naked I came from my mother's womb,
 And naked I shall return there.
 The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
 Blessed be the name of the Lord."

1:20 "Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped" These were signs of mourning amidst worship and trust in God. The shaving of the head was later condemned because of its association with pagan practices. There is no sign of condemnation here, which speaks of its early date. Notice that Job is extremely sad but not bitter.

See SPECIAL TOPIC: GRIEVING RITES.

NASB,
NKJV,
NRSV,
JPSOA"worshiped"
TEV"threw himself face down on the ground"
NJB"prostrated himself"
NET Bible"with his face to the ground"
REB"prostrate on the ground"

The Hebrew verb (BDB 1005, KB 295, Hishtaphel [in OT Parsing Guide], but Hithpael [in Analytical Key to the OT] imperfect). The basic meaning is to fall face down to the ground. The motive must be determined from the context.

1. was Job worshiping

2. did Job stagger and fall to the ground from shock

3. was it a sign of reverence to a superior

Job's words imply #1.

1:21 "Naked I came from my mother's womb

And naked I shall return there" This may relate to the concept of humans being created in the earth (cf. Ps. 139:13,15). Notice that Job did not assign blame, either to the forces of nature, his own servants, or the attackers. For Job there is one ultimate source—the God who he knew and worshiped.

▣ "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.

Blessed be the name of the Lord" Here the name of God, "YHWH," and the phrase, "the name of the Lord" (Adoni), are synonymous. See SPECIAL TOPIC: "THE NAME" of YHWH.

Notice the very thing "the accuser" suggested (i.e., that Job would "curse" God) is found to be false! The same Hebrew word, "bless" (BDB 138) is used in several senses.

1. YHWH has "blessed" Job, Job 1:10 (Qal perfect)

2. used as euphemism in Job 1:5,11 for "curse" (cf. Job 2:5,9)

3. Job, after the terrible events, "blessed" the name of YHWH, Job 1:21

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1:22
 22Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.

1:22 "Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God" Job did not speak evil of God at this point; however, as he reflected on these experiences, he began to question the conflict between (1) his view of God as merciful, loving, kind, protective and (2) the validity of "the two ways" (cf. Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1).

NASB"blame"
NKJV,
NRSV"change with wrong"
NJB, JPSOA"reproach"
REB"ascribe any fault"

The rare (only three occurrences in the OT) feminine noun (BDB 1074, cf. Job 24:12; Jer. 23:13) means "unsavoriness" or "unseemliness." It was obvious that (1) the timing; (2) the different forms; and (3) geographical directions all pointed to a supernatural series of planned events. Job did not understand (i.e., and never would), but he trusted YHWH. This same type of summary statement describing Job is found in Job 2:10.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the central theological issue of the book of Job?

2. Is Job historical narrative or historical drama?

3. Is "the accuser" of Job 1-2 to be identified with Satan/the devil of the NT?

4. How do you view the death of Job's children (and their families, assumed) and the many servants?

5. Why does YHWH initiate the conversation about Job with the accuser?

6. Why does the name YHWH appear only (with one exception) in the prose opening and close?

 

Home  |  Old Testament Studies  |  JobTable of Contents  |  Previous Section  |  Next Section  |