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The authors of the commentary on the book of Job have been deeply impressed by this book. The intense suffering of Job that is described, and his struggle with God over it, have touched us deeply. It felt like we were present at the conversations that Job and his friends had about this.
We have witnessed conversations in heaven between God and satan about Job, which Job was unaware of. We have listened carefully to the orthodox statements of Job’s friends about God and Job’s reaction to them. In his reaction, Job not only speaks about, but also to God. Some statements of Job we have listened to with bated breath. How dare he say this? We have realized that these are utterances by a man who has been pushed to the breaking point by unbearable and hopeless suffering, and that he cannot come up with any explanations for his suffering. The only Person who can tell him that, is the One who has brought it upon him. That is why he rushes to God.
The silence of God during all of the questions that Job fires towards heaven is impressive. God does not allow Himself to be provoked and at the same time He gives Job the space to ask all of his questions and to express his grave doubts concerning God’s righteousness. All these questions and doubts show that he does not let go of God, but clings to Him instead.
When the conversations between Job and his friends have come to an end, a fourth friend steps forward. He too speaks to Job, but adopts a different tone from the other three. Elihu, who is this fourth friend, acts as a mediator between Job and God. Elihu’s contribution is the preparation for God’s speaking to Job. Job does not react to what Elihu says.
God’s appearance to Job has also made a deep impression on us. God showed Job some of the wonders of His creation, and also how He controls everything, and that Job cannot verify what He does. After all, He is God! God does not have to account for His government. Job does not receive an answer to the question on the meaning of suffering. Nor do we. When things happen in our lives that we do not understand, He wants us to learn to trust that He is in complete control and has not lost control of our lives.
Job has become deeply aware of God’s greatness and his own smallness. We have also come to realize this. We hope that this will not be a passing realization. It is our prayer that the reader will experience the same.
Ger de Koning / Tony Jonathan
Middelburg / Arnhem, March 2016 (Translated April 2020)
Introduction to the book of Job
The book of Job is a part of “the sacred writings” (2 Timothy 3:15). Therefore, it is a Divine book. It is “inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-Esther :).
The book of Job belongs to the Old Testament. That is remarkable, because while the Old Testament displays a clear, Jewish character, as an exception this book does not share that characteristic. We can compare this to the letter of James in the New Testament, a letter which, as an exception in the New Testament, displays a clear Jewish character.
It is understandable that this book does not have a Jewish character when we consider that this is the oldest book written in the Old Testament. There are clear indications that it was written in the time of the patriarchs, years before Israel was established as a people. In addition, the subject of this book is about more than the people of Israel, because this is a problem that affects all of humanity, namely the problem of suffering.
The Old Testament can be divided into three parts, namely the Law, the Prophets and the Writings (cf. Luke 24:44). To this day, this is the common Jewish division of the Tanakh – which is the Old Testament. The Law teaches us about God’s thoughts. In the Prophets we hear how God speaks to His people. The Writings describe the experience of the believers in this world.
The book of Job is part of the Writings. While the Psalms, as the most characteristic book of the Writings, speaks of the experiences of Christ and His people in this world, Job, as a non-Jewish book, speaks of the experiences of a believer with regard to the suffering in this world. This is already reflected in the name Job, which is both the title and the name of the main character of the book, and means ‘where is (my) father’. This meaning fits in well with the theme of the book, as Job wonders where God is during his suffering.
The book of Job is about the intense and profound experiences of the individual human being. In it, we discover the absolute insignificance of man in the deepest suffering, amidst the loss of his possessions, the loss of his most loved ones, and the fiery arrows of the reactions of his friends, which have gone right through his soul. However, in the end, we witness the struggle with his own righteousness and lack of understanding of God’s way with him.
When Job has reached that low point in his struggle, an ‘interpreter’ comes who leads him to a higher ground, where he can hear the voice of God. In the encounter with God Himself, he learns to know himself, but above all, God. Finally, this gives him peace in his soul right through suffering. Then comes again the abundant blessing of God and he can also be a blessing for his friends as an intercessor.
These are lessons from the book of Job which we too, as believers living in the modern twenty-first century, still need to learn in order to be, as quoted above, “equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).
On the basis of Scripture there is no doubt as to the historical correctness of the book of Job. His name is mentioned twice in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 14:14; Ezekiel 14:20) and once in the New Testament (James 5:11). In Ezekiel 14 he is presented by the LORD together with Noah and Daniel as someone who is personally a righteous one. The reason is the condition of Israel which has become so bad, that even if these three men would have lived in Israel at that time, they would only save their own lives and not Israel as a nation.
The letter of James sets Job as an example of perseverance. There we see how the end of his history is “the outcome of the Lord’s dealings” literally “the end of the Lord”, which means that the Lord has reached His goal with him. We also see there that we can learn from His history “that the Lord is full of compassion and [is] merciful” (James 5:11). Throughout all the suffering, Job has come to know the LORD personally in a special way (Job 42:5).
Possibly Moses is the author of this book – so according to the Talmud; the Dead Sea scrolls point in the same direction – and is it written even before Genesis. If so, Job is the oldest book in the Bible with the theme of suffering. Old interpreters suggest that Moses wrote this book in Midian, where he was a shepherd for some time (Exodus 2:15-3:1). He would have written it with the intention of comforting and supporting his suffering people in Egypt in their troubles and turning their eyes to the ultimate blessing that God has ready for his people, just as He ultimately blesses Job.
Job lives in the land of Uz, an area of the Edomites (Lamentations 4:21). The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, identifies Job with Jobab, a king of Edom (Genesis 36:33).
Job must have lived before Moses. In Psalm 90, Moses speaks about the age of men. There he says that as a rule, just as is the rule today, it is seventy to eighty years old (Psalms 90:10). Job, however, reaches an arch paternal age of over two hundred years. We can see this from the fact that before his suffering he has ten adult children, while after his suffering he still lives for one hundred and forty years (Job 42:16).
Another indication is that the offerings mentioned in this book are burnt offerings, even in case of sins (Job 1:5; Job 42:8). The distinction in sacrifices is only given by the giving of the Law at Sinai (Leviticus 1-6). We always find burnt offerings in the book of Genesis. Also, the name ‘LORD’ is mentioned relatively sparsely, while the name ‘God’ often occurs.
Job is someone from the Gentiles, he does not belong to Israel. Yet God speaks with him in a way he did not even with an Abraham. This book expresses the great value that a single person has for God, Who is no respecter of persons. The book of Job proves that this interest in a single person is not a retrospective thought of God when Israel has corrupted his way, but that from the beginning God’s interest is in every individual human being, without distinction. It is therefore impossible for the Jew, with the book of Job in his Bible, to say that someone from the pagan nations is not relevant to God.
The book of Job is one of the two most tragic books of the Bible. The other book is the book of Lamentations. That book too has suffering as its main theme. The difference is that Lamentations is about the suffering of an entire people, while the book of Job is about the suffering of one person.
The book of Job gives insight into the enigma of suffering that God brings about on someone in His government, without solving that enigma itself. What we do see, what we do gain insight into, is “the end of the Lord” (James 5:11), or the Lord’s intention with it. It is about questions such as:
1. Why do God-fearing believers suffer?
2. If God is love – and He is! – why does He allow His own to be affected by adversity?
3. How is the suffering of the righteous compatible with the righteousness of God?
As we have seen above, the book shows us the struggle of the puny man with the great problem of suffering. It also allows us to look behind the scenes, in the throne room of the reign of the great, sovereign God of eternity. He is personally involved in the suffering of His creatures in general and of each individual human being in particular. The book appeals to all who are in suffering. Peter in his first letter answers the question of the purpose of suffering, which is “that the proof of your faith, [being] more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).
There is no need to have a long story about the prosperity of Job. Only a few verses are devoted to his prosperity, which serve as a backdrop to everything that happens to him. Contrary to the few words about his prosperity, the Holy Spirit has thought it good to tell us in detail about everything that happens during his tests. He considered this worthwhile for the benefit of all God’s children until the end of time.
Job is the exalted example of a man’s faith in the midst of overwhelming suffering. We see a man learning the lesson of his own nothingness, in the fierce fire of deep trial for robbery, loss, and sickness, who also has to face the rigid philosophy and harsh attacks of his friends. Moreover, he learns to know his own pride, his own righteousness and unbelief. Until an ‘interpreter’, Elihu, is heard, who brings him to the point where he listens to God and teaches the lesson of all centuries that God is only God and that in his acknowledgment of this lies his blessing and that of every human being.
The great problem addressed in this book is the reign of God, who is not directly as with Israel, but indirectly, in providence. A direct government means that God punishes a man’s evil immediately and rewards good deeds immediately. An indirect government, a government in providence, means that it seems that one can do evil unpunished and that good deeds remain unrewarded.
Job’s friends – but also Job himself – understand nothing of God’s government. They assume a direct government of God. They state that Job must have done sin, otherwise he would not suffer so much. A superficial view of life can lead people to judge that they are suffering according to the extent of the sins they have committed. Job’s reaction is also wrong. He does not understand God’s government either. He states that he is innocent and that God makes him suffer unjustly.
Although Job does not sin with his lips, the conversations with his friends do show what is in his heart. Although the friends do not understand God’s government, they do say many true things about that government for other cases. The question that plays in the background for Job and his friends and that brings them to their statements is this: How can God be both good and sovereign when you look at the suffering of the innocent and the prosperity of the evildoer?
It has always been difficult to explain why the wicked prosper, while oppression can so often afflict the God-fearing. This difficulty disappears when we realize that we are living under an indirect government of God. As has already been said, in a direct government, God punishes evil immediately and rewards good immediately. In an indirect government, evil is not punished immediately, although the punishment certainly comes, and good is not rewarded immediately, although the reward certainly comes.
In Psalm 73, Asaph had the same questions until he “came into the sanctuary of God” (Psalms 73:17). Likewise, Job’s questions are brought to an end when he says: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You” (Job 42:5).
The rounds of discussions and the ‘protagonists’
There are three dialogues or rounds of discussions between Job and his friends (Job 4-27) and three monologues: of Job, Elihu and God (Job 29-41). The dialogues and monologues are separated by a speech of Job about wisdom (Job 28).
The ‘protagonists’ in the book are, after Job, his three friends and Elihu. After these five people have spoken, God speaks. He does not speak as Someone Who, after the attempts of the friends and Elihu, makes a final attempt to convince Job. He cannot be compared to any of the previous speakers. He is God and speaks as God. When Job comes face to face with Him, he retracts and repents.
Of those who speak from Job 3 onwards, we can mention some characteristics as an introduction:
1. Eliphaz is the first to respond to Job’s expressions of misery. There are good reasons to assume that Eliphaz is an Edomite. There is talk of an Eliphaz who is the first-born son of Esau. This one has a son named Teman (Genesis 36:4; Genesis 36:15). Several prophets mention Teman as a place or region in Edom (Jeremiah 49:7; Jeremiah 49:20; Ezekiel 25:13; Amos 1:12; Obadiah 1:8-1 Samuel :).
a. Apparently Eliphaz is the oldest of the three friends, because he speaks first. He is also addressed at the end of the book by God as the spokesman of the three (Job 42:7). In his speeches he shows a wider spirit than the others, accepting Job as a God-fearing man, but who has gone astray. Although he shows lack of compassion, he is the only one of the three to show some compassion and respect.
b. In his reactions to Job’s words it appears that he considers everything from his personal experience. We hear this in the words “according to what I have seen” (Job 4:8). He, as the oldest, represents ‘the old school’.
2. Bildad is the second. He is not mentioned in any other book of the Old Testament. He considers Job’s struggle about God’s righteousness as blasphemy. His learning, his knowledge and the tradition of ancient wisdom he uses to prove that Job’s family members have received what they deserve, and he warns Job of the same fate.
Bildad judges the situation of Job from the tradition and authority of antiquity. We hear this in his call to Job: “Please inquire of past generations, and consider the things searched out by their fathers” (Job 8:8). He represents the middle age.
3. Zophar, the third, is the most sarcastic of his friends. His message is that Job must repent or else he will die a horrible death that the evildoers deserve.
Zophar looks at Job from the sphere of law and religion. He says to Job: “If iniquity is in your hand, … do not let wickedness dwell in your tents; then … you would be steadfast and not fear” (Job 11:14-Ezra :). He is convinced of his own sharp judgment, ‘that is how it is and not otherwise’ (Job 11; 20).
4. Job, in his attempts to defend himself because of the suspicions and negative judgments of his friends, indirectly accuses God of injustice (Job 10:7-Ruth :).
5. Elihu is younger than the three friends and therefore keeps himself out of the discussion and waits until they are all finished speaking (Job 32:4-Joshua :). He is a type of Christ as the Mediator. He speaks in the name of God (Job 33:4-Deuteronomy :).
6. When all speakers are silent, God takes the floor. He shows Job His divine wisdom and His power in nature. In contrast, Job sees how completely insignificant he is.
Division of the book
I. Introduction (Job 1-2)
A. Job’s prosperity (Job 1:1-Deuteronomy :)
B. Job tested (Job 1:6-Song of Solomon :; Job 2:1-1 Chronicles :)
1. Satan’s accusation of Job (Job 1:6-2 Kings :)
2. Job remains standing at the loss of family and possessions (Job 1:13-Song of Solomon :)
3. Satan’s further accusations (Job 2:1-Joshua :)
4. Job stands firm in his personal suffering (Job 2:7-2 Samuel :)
5. The arrival of Job’s friends (Job 2:11-1 Chronicles :)
II. The dialogues or the disputes (Job 3-27)
A. Job’s opening complaint (Job 3)
B. The first round of discussions (Job 4-14)
1. Eliphaz (Job 4-5)
2. Job’s reply (Job 6-7)
3. Bildad (Job 8)
4. Job’s reply (Job 9-10)
5. Zophar (Job 11)
6. Job’s reply (Job 12-14)
C. The second round of discussions (Job 15-21)
1. Eliphaz (Job 15)
2. Job’s reply (Job 16-17)
3. Bildad (Job 18)
4. Job’s reply (Job 19)
5. Zophar (Job 20)
6. Job’s reply (Job 21)
D. The third round of interviews (Job 22-26)
1. Eliphaz (Job 22)
2. Job’s reply (Job 23-24)
3. Bildad (Job 25)
4. Job’s reply (Job 26)
E. Job’s closing address to his friends (Job 27)
III. Intermediate chapter on wisdom (Job 28)
IV. The Monologues (Job 29-41)
A. Job’s closing speeches (Job 29-31)
1. Job’s former honor and blessing (Job 29)
2. Job’s current dishonor and suffering (Job 30)
3. Job’s last statement of innocence (Job 31)
B. Elihu’s speeches (Job 32-37)
1. Introduction (Job 32:1-Deuteronomy :)
2. First speech: part 1 (Job 32:6-Song of Solomon :)
3. First speech: part 2 (Job 33)
4. Second speech (Job 34)
5. Third speech (Job 35)
6. Fourth speech (Job 36-37)
C. God speaks to Job (Job 38-42:6)
1. God’s first speech (Job 38-39:30)
2. Job humbles himself (Job 40:1-Deuteronomy :)
3. God’s second speech (Job 40:6-Jeremiah :; Job 41:1-Nahum :)
V. Job’s repentance (Job 42:1-Joshua :)
VI. The ending (Job 42:7-Esther :)
A. God judges (Job 42:7-1 Samuel :)
B. The restoration of Job’s prosperity (Job 42:10-Esther :)
In summary, the book is composed in this way:
1. Job 1-2
The historical introduction containing Job’s godliness and prosperity and his suffering through satan in destroying his possessions, his family and his health.
2. Job 3-31
The dispute between Job and his three friends. It reveals the futility of human reasoning in relation to
a. explaining the ways of God in the disasters that come upon a man;
b the deep-rooted self-righteousness of the human heart.
3. Job 32-37
The testimony of Elihu concerning God’s features of holiness and mercy.
4. Job 38-42:6
The testimony of God Himself from creation through which Job is tested and what brings him into the dust.
5. Job 42:7-Esther :
“The end of the Lord” (James 5:11), that is, the result of God’s ways with Job, Who restores him and gives him a greater blessing than he has lost.
Both the introduction of the book (Job 1-2) and the conclusion of the book (Job 42:7-Esther :) have the character of a narrative, while the conversations in between are poetic. The enigma of suffering is sometimes compared to an embroidery. The narrative shows us the top of the embroidery, as the suffering is seen from heaven, by God. The conversations in verse show us the bottom, the earthly side of suffering, people’s attempts to understand the government of God with regard to suffering.
The Piety and Prosperity of Job
In Job 1:1-Leviticus : we are told the dwelling-place, the name, the eminent characteristics, the family, the possession and the prestige of the principal person of the book. The Holy Spirit does this to show what is taken away from him. We see from what great height he is thrown down and how enormous the pain is that such a fall causes.
The book begins with the words “there was a man” (Job 1:1). There is a man among the many people who live in the time in which the events of the book take place on whom the spotlight is turned. This man lives “in the land of Uz” and is called “Job”. Just as God knows where this man lives and what his name is, He knows that of every man – see, for example, Saul (Acts 9:11) and Simon Peter (Acts 10:5-Joshua :). No one can hide from God in the crowd. For Him there is no nameless mass either, but He is concerned with each individual, He has attention for each individual.
Possibly, as already suggested in the introduction, Job is a king of Edom (Jobab, Genesis 36:33). If so, then his title has been omitted here. It is not about his position in society, but about his place as a man in creation opposite his Creator, opposite God.
There is more to say of Job than just that he is a man who lives in Uz and is called Job. These are external characteristics. Characteristics of this man are also mentioned that make it clear that he is in connection with God and lives in a way that is a joy to God’s heart (Acts 10:34-Habakkuk :). Those are inner characteristics. These characteristics may also be visible in his life, but they come from his inner being, his heart. The virtues that are recorded of him do not come from his own mouth, but are the testimony of the Holy Spirit. God repeats this testimony – and thereby affirms it – in the face of satan (Job 1:8).
1. He is first and foremost “blameless”, that is to say, inwardly perfect, sincere. Job stands right before God. This is so in the midst of suffering, right through the accusations of the three friends and the silence of God.
2. Immediately associated with this, he is said to be “upright”. This is evident from his testimony to those around him. He is not a hypocrite, not an actor. ‘Upright’ means as much as ‘going straight’. “Blameless” is inner. “Upright” is the expression of that. Job has a balanced character.
[This is also reflected in the numbers in Job 1:2, his seven sons and his three daughters. The number 7 is the number of perfection, and the number 3 has to do with revelation and testimony. Compare also the 7,000 sheep and 3,000 camels in Job 1:3].
3. The inner side (blameless) and the outer side (upright) we also have in the two following characteristics. The third characteristic, “fearing God”, is inner. His inner is directed towards God. In his heart is reverence for Him. Further on in the book he says: “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom” (Job 28:28).
4. The fourth characteristic, “turning away from evil”, is outward appearance and indicates an attitude to life that is a consequence of his fear of God. Job confirms this when he says: “And to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).
By the way, all this does not mean that he is sinless (Ecclesiastes 7:20). This is evident from the course of the book.
After we are told how Job is related to God, the blessings of Job are mentioned in his family (Job 1:2). He has seven sons and three daughters. Job sees his children as gifts from God (Job 1:21).
After his relationship with God and the blessing in his family his wealth is listed (Job 1:3). This is done in terms that also describe the wealth of the patriarchs (Genesis 12-13). God has blessed Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but in His grace He is able to go further and bless others as well, even though they have no part in the covenant He made with the patriarchs. God’s grace is not limitable, not restricted.
We see that with Job: Godliness and prosperity go hand in hand. This is not self-evident. People who are doing well are often people who abandon God. That is not the case with Job.
Job and His Children
Except that Job is blessed with many children, he is also blessed with a good bond among them. Children are a blessing. It is an extra blessing if the children also get along well with each other. When the children are out of the house, it is customary for some families to have a family day every year, for example. It is a great privilege when all the children come and like to see each other again.
The sons of Job organize a feast regularly and in turns, to which the sisters are also invited (Job 1:4). There is no evidence to suggest that such feast are to swallow food and drink to get drunk. Unauthorized things are not likely to happen. Job has raised his children to independence and taught them to make good choices. It also seems that Job is not present. It doesn’t make him jealous or bitter. It is good that parents allow their children to meet without them being there.
Although Job was not invited to the feasts, he did not forbid them, but allowed them. That does not mean that he considers them too good for doing wrong things or making wrong choices. This becomes apparent “when the days of feasting had completed their cycle” (Job 1:5). Then he calls them to himself and consecrates them. For this purpose he gets up early in the morning and brings each of them under the power of the burnt offering he brings for each of them. He does this because he believes there is a chance that his children have “cursed God in their hearts”. This is not a one-off action on his part, but he does so “continually”.
We see in Job the involved father. He recognizes that blessing and satiety are the danger of his children ‘cursing’ God in their hearts (Proverbs 30:9). Cursing God means that they disengage themselves from Him and withdraw from Him and His authority. Prosperity and feasting can easily cause us to forget that we are dependent on God. There are also circumstances in which one sometimes comes to statements or actions that one does not come to in normal circumstances.
Although Job is not present at the feasts organized by his children, he is closely involved in them. He is with them in spirit and sympathizes with them. He does not do this as a proud father, but as a father who knows the spiritual dangers to which his children are exposed, especially during family gatherings. It is there that one loses self-control easily. The fact that he knows his children and recognizes the spiritual dangers, shows that he also knows himself. He is a father who realizes that his children have the same sinful nature that he himself has.
Father Job, like the patriarchs, acts like a priest in his family. He rises “early in the morning”, which means that he hurries with the sacrifice. He makes sure that the children are there. Everything indicates that his children do not make any objections. They come and Job consecrates them. That means that he dedicates his children to the LORD again. It also means that he asks about their behavior during feasts. If they have done or said something that is not right, they can confess it. In this way they are consecrated again, i.e. in agreement with God. He then offers a burnt offering for each of them, which in a New Testament perspective means that he places them on the foundation of Christ’s sacrifice.
Job knows his children and does not consider them too good to sin. But he does not only look at outward behavior. He looks deeper. Perhaps they have always behaved well, but in their hearts there has come a deviation from God. That is why he wants to consecrate them and present the offering to them. Job is the committed father who is actively committed to the spiritual welfare of his children. He is conscious of what Solomon later wrote down as a saying, that from the “heart … [flow] the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
Is this the way we look at our children (if we have them), and do we take to heart the mind of their hearts? Is that more important to us than their school results or other achievements? Does that also determine our dealings with God and with them?
Job realizes that his children are only pleasing to God if he places them before Him in the pleasantness of sacrifice. We know that God looks forward in this sacrifice to the work of His Son on the cross of Calvary. Job appeals, as it were, to that sacrifice for his children. That they are his children, the children of the God-fearing and exceptionally blessed Job, has no meaning for him. On the contrary, because they are his children, they are sinners and God’s judgment rests on them (Job 14:4). We must also be well aware of this in relation to our children.
The LORD Reminds Satan of Job
From the earth in Job 1:1-Deuteronomy : we now go to heaven (Job 1:6; cf. 1 Kings 22:19; Isaiah 6:1). In Job 1-2 we find several times a change of scenery. One time we are on earth, the next time we are in heaven. Because we are allowed a glimpse into heaven - that is, into the part of heaven where satan still has access – we learn that the suffering of Job – and of believers in general – is related to a battle in the heavenly places. We are made partakers of a conversation in heaven between the LORD and satan about Job, in which the LORD allows satan to test Job. Job himself knows nothing of this whole conversation.
We, Christians, know from the New Testament that since the ascension of the Lord Jesus we have an opened heaven (see for example the letter to the Hebrews). This conversation gives us light about events on earth that would otherwise remain a mystery to us. It makes it clear to us what the background is to everything that happens on earth, whether it concerns the life of a human being or whether it concerns nations. What happens on earth is governed by heaven. Heaven decides what happens on earth. The friends of Job and Job himself wander because they do not know the heart of God. They try to explain what is happening on earth without knowledge of its heavenly origin.
One day “the sons of God” come to the LORD. Satan is in their midst. We see here that satan has access to the throne room of God. Satan is “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), of the fallen angels. When he is in the throne room, he is always there as “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10; Zechariah 3:1). The angels here are called “sons of God” (e.g. Septuagint, Job 38:7; Genesis 6:1-Exodus :), for God is “the Father of spirits” (Hebrews 12:9), which means that He created them; they came forth from Him. These angels come “to present themselves before the LORD”. They come because they have been summoned by Him to account to Him for their activities. They are there as subordinates (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-Song of Solomon :; Daniel 7:9-2 Chronicles :; Psalms 89:7). The servants must stand (1 Kings 22:19), an attitude that indicates that they are ready to serve.
Further this is about the LORD and satan. The angels are the setting. They stand there and must listen. The LORD begins to speak, not satan. Whoever he calls to Himself must respectfully wait until He speaks. The LORD asks satan where he comes from (Job 1:7). It is clear that it is not a discussion between equal persons. Satan must answer, simply because the LORD asks him something. He is completely subject to Him, just as the whole universe is subject to Him and must obey Him. And like men, they cannot see Him fully, for no one can ever see God (1 Timothy 6:16). Even the seraphs cover their faces when they call out the Name of the three times holy God (Isaiah 6:2-Leviticus :).
Satan hates God, but must nevertheless do what God says and answer. God knows the answer, but He wants us to know it too. With the question “from where do you come?”, God commands satan to account for his activities. The answer shows that satan is a restless roamer, which also indicates that he is not omnipresent, which God is. His roaming about on the earth does not imply anything good. He roams the earth to see who he can hurt. The believer may know that the eyes of the Lord also move to and fro throughout the earth, but then to strongly support him (2 Chronicles 16:9; Zechariah 4:10).
Satan is here by way of exception introduced speaking. This does not happen very often in the Bible, although we do read a lot about him. Three times we read that he says something: here in Job to the LORD, in Genesis 3 to Eve in paradise (Genesis 3:1-Deuteronomy :) and in Matthew 4, and in the parallel place in Luke 4, to the Lord Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-Leviticus :; Matthew 4:6Matthew 4:9; Luke 4:1-Leviticus :; Luke 4:6Luke 4:9-1 Kings :).
In the speaking of satan to Eve in paradise and to the Lord Jesus in the wilderness, we see that these are extremely important situations. With Eve he has had success, through which sin has come into the world. With the Lord Jesus he had no success, through which the work of redemption could be accomplished. Against this background it becomes clear what enormous interests are at stake if he is also introduced into the history of Job. Will he succeed in making Job curse God, or not?
Not satan, but the LORD then directs satan’s attention to Job: “Have you considered My servant Job?” (Job 1:8). The initiative for everything that happens to Job comes from God and not from satan. God knows what His servant Job needs. If He asks satan whether he has also considered Job, it is because He Himself has considered Job. And His testimony is even greater than what is written in Job 1:1. God says here of Job that “there is no one like him on the earth”. This is not to praise Job, but is the result of His connection with God. Surely it must have made Job a special target of satan.
Satan cannot bring anything against God’s testimony about Job. God gives that testimony with a purpose. He also wants to use satan to achieve that purpose. Satan – who is very cunning, but knows nothing of God’s intentions – is only an instrument to fulfill the intentions of God’s grace. God keeps everything under His control, nothing gets out of hand. Everything goes according to His plan. That can be a comfort to us in all circumstances in which we feel a plaything of the evil one. God is at the beginning of it, not the evil one. He also determines the end and not the evil one. Between the beginning and the end is a path that is also determined by God and not by the evil one.
Job is a servant of the LORD. He does not belong to the covenant people of God, but he has his own unique ‘covenant’, his own relationship, with the LORD, and the LORD with him. Twice the LORD calls Job “My servant” (Job 1:8; Job 2:3). And at the end of the book He still calls him thus (Job 42:7-Ruth :). Whatever happens between the beginning and the end, Job appears at the end as a faithful servant.
Satan Challenges the LORD
Satan must answer. He does so entirely according to the incorrigible depravity of his evil nature. He hates not only God, but all who live according to God’s will. He can’t stand it when someone is praised by God, because he himself wants to be praised. We see this in Saul’s attitude toward David. Saul is also jealous of the honor that David gets from the people, while he does not get that much honor (1 Samuel 18:6-:).
Satan cannot deny Job’s piety. What he can do, however, is if “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10) suggests that Job’s piety is not real, but feigned. With his question “does Job fear God for nothing?” (Job 1:9), he expresses the assumption that Job has good reason to fear God. Job fears God, not for Whom God is, but only because of the benefits it brings (Job 1:10). ‘Look’, he says to God, ‘all that you have given Job: protection of his family and all that he has; prosperity in all that he does; his territory is expanding. Quite logically, he fears You.’
Then satan comes up with a proposal (Job 1:11) that also shows his wicked nature and his cunning (2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Corinthians 11:14; Ephesians 6:11). He challenges God to put forth His hand against Job and take away everything He has blessed him with. It is remarkable that satan does not tell God if God will allow him to take everything from Job. Satan also knows that everything is in God’s hand. God must turn his hand against Job to take everything away from him. Job later rightly says: “The LORD has given and the LORD has taken away” (Job 1:21).
Satan says as it were: ‘Take away all these benefits, then something else will turn out!’ He supposes that Job will curse God right in His face for losing everything. Satan supposes that Job’s devotion is the result of God’s blessing. This shows that he is not omniscient, which God is. Satan questions both the uprightness of Job and the righteousness of God He shows in blessing him.
We see this reflected in the main characters of the book:
1. The friends of Job question his uprightness. They are sure that he has sinned in secret, but that he does not want to admit it.
2. Job, because he suffers innocently, cannot understand how God can allow him to suffer so. He therefore doubts God’s righteousness.
The big question in the book of Job is whether Job will curse God or not. Satan wants to use all the suffering in our lives to separate us from God, while God wants to use the suffering to get to know Him and ourselves better. Satan wants us to get worse, while God wants us to get better. If Job would curse God, Job would not be the loser, but God. However, God sees in Job what satan does not see: perseverance.
God allows satan to storm Job (Job 1:12). He gives everything of Job into the hand of satan, showing that satan is not omnipotent, which God is. It is remarkable that in Job 1:11 satan speaks about God putting forth His hand against Job and that God now allows satan to put out his hand against Job. This shows that the hand of God is above the hand of satan. We therefore do not take the suffering from ‘the second hand’, that of satan, but from ‘the first hand’, that of God.
At the same time God determines the limit of the actions of satan. He also says that he may not put forth his hand against Job himself. Satan will therefore not exceed that limit by a millimeter. Without God the Father, no sparrow will fall to the earth, and even the hairs of our heads are all numbered (Matthew 10:29-Obadiah :).
Satan departs “from the presence of the LORD”, as it also says of Cain (Genesis 4:16), pleased with what he may do and what he will do quickly (cf. Luke 22:31-Jonah :). We see here that in heaven decisions are made, of which the consequences become visible in events on earth.
Job Loses His Possessions and His Children
From heaven we go back to earth. There will come a day (Job 1:13) when disasters will strike the life of Job. It is an “evil day” (Ephesians 6:13), a day which according to its content follows the day when the sons of God came to the LORD (Job 1:6). Satan is in a hurry to perform his evil work, but he also knows how to wait for the right moment. In the disasters that occur in Job’s life, we hear or see nothing of satan himself, yet the disasters are his work.
The day when satan will carry out his evil intentions has been carefully chosen by him. It is a day when the children of Job are all together again to eat and drink (cf. Job 1:4). Job will again feel richly blessed if he knows them together and at the same time realizes the spiritual dangers of such a gathering (cf. Job 1:5). It brings him, as usual, to intercede for his children. He looks forward to consecrating them again and offering a burnt offering for each of them when they have finished their feast.
Job is cruelly disturbed in his pious deliberations in the presence of God by a messenger who brings him a doomsday message (Job 1:14). The messenger reports to him a disaster that has come upon him. He tells of the oxen that were ploughing – from which we can see that it is autumn – and of the donkeys that were feeding in peace and therefore did not wander around. The servants looked after them. Everything speaks of care and a sense of responsibility for the work.
There is no carelessness or negligence, yet in this scene of peace and quiet a rough gang of Sabeans penetrated. They rob oxen and donkeys and kill the servants (Job 1:15). It shows that our prudence and thoughtfulness cannot prevent disasters from happening to us at times (cf. Psalms 127:1). It can happen at times when we handle our possessions responsibly.
This first disaster strikes Job in one of the evidences of his prosperity (Job 1:3). It is the means by which he gained prosperity (Proverbs 14:4). Only one of those who faithfully guard these means is spared. This is not because he is ‘lucky’ that the disaster did not affect him. He is spared as an eyewitness to be able to report in detail to Job what he has seen happen. This servant has not hearsay it.
While the witness has not yet completed his account of the disaster, a second messenger arrives (Job 1:16). The speed with which satan acts shows his malevolent desire to overpower Job and overload him with grief. Job has no chance of coming to terms with the shock of the disaster that has struck him and of recovering from it. Disasters become more difficult to bear the faster they succeed each other.
The servant who comes to tell Job about the second disaster is the only one who barely escaped the disaster, and also with the intention of telling Job about it as an eyewitness. This second disaster was not caused by a gang of robbers, like the first one, but by “the fire of God … from heaven”.
The escaped servant speaks of ‘the fire of God from heaven’. Like Job, he doesn’t know that satan is behind it. Satan is the prince of the power of the air and has received permission from God to use this fire against Job. The fire has hit Job’s sheep and destroyed another proof of his prosperity (Job 1:3), as well as the servants who took care of them, except for this one.
The destruction of the sheep affects Job in his source of clothing and food. The fire of God speaks of His judgment. It reminds us of what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24) and to the men of King Ahaziah who are to capture Elijah (2 Kings 1:9-:).
The escaped servant has not yet finished speaking about the horrors caused by God’s fire, when another messenger is coming (Job 1:17). He interrupts his predecessor to inform Job of another disaster that has hit him. In this disaster, the third, people play a role again. This time it is Chaldeans. They have robbed the three thousand camels that Job possesses (Job 1:3) and killed the servants with the sword. In order to rob that enormous amount of camels, the Chaldeans had divided into three bands. With this loss, Job was hit in his trading expedition. Also here one of the servants is spared to tell Job.
Job is not given the opportunity to think about what happened, because without a break, even while the third messenger is still reporting, a fourth messenger comes forward. This messenger, too, immediately begins to tell what has happened. He tells Job about his sons and daughters, who were eating and drinking “in their oldest brother’s house” and how a great wind had suddenly come up from the east – “from across the wilderness” – which struck the house from all sides and caused it to collapse, resulting in the death of all his children (Job 1:18-Psalms :).
The fourth and final disaster is, like the second, another natural disaster caused by satan. We see here again that the prince of the power of the air – though under the permission of God – uses natural elements against one of God’s servants. We also see this in the storm on the lake that is being punished by the Lord Jesus (Mark 4:39). The Lord punishes that storm because it was unleashed by satan with the intention of killing Him and His own. The Lord does not punish acts of God.
This last disaster is also the worst. All the children of Job are killed. The only one who has escaped is a servant to bring the calamity to Job. Job always prayed for his children, they had a good relationship with each other, yet they all die prematurely – “the young people” –, suddenly and at the same time.
It indeed is hard that Bildad insinuates in his first speech that their deaths are the result of committed sins (Job 8:4). This harsh judgment proves that he has little feeling. Who, like Job, has ever buried ten children on the same day and stood at the graves of his ten children? A suffering unfathomable to us must have plagued his heart.
The tidings of the disasters reach Job in an unprecedented rapid succession. The misery piles up to unprecedented heights in a very short time. Not only do the disasters follow one another without a break, but they intertwine, because one has not yet finished speaking when the other is already beginning to tell. While Job listens to the last part of the report of one disaster, another disaster penetrates into the ongoing story. The disasters reinforce each other. The burden is unbearable.
Reaction of Job to His Loss
Job’s reaction shows his deep mourning and intense sorrow, but also his submission (Job 1:20). He stands up to tear his robe and shave his head as signs of his mourning and sorrow (cf. Genesis 37:34; Joshua 7:6; Ezra 9:3; Ezra 9:5). Then he falls to the ground, not in despair, but to bow down in adoration before the LORD. From one moment to the next Job has fallen down from happiness and prosperity, and is plunged into sorrow and poverty. But he hath not fallen down from the love of God into the cursing of God.
Someone’s response to a disaster that hits him reveals what spirit or mind is in him (Job 1:21). Job did not forget to honor God when he was prosperous. Now that he is in misery, that mind continues to characterize him. Job acknowledges that all that he possessed was given to him by God. He also acknowledges God’s right to take back what he has given (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:14; 1 Timothy 6:7).
Job does not say: ‘The LORD has given, the Sabaeans have taken’, or: ‘The LORD has made me rich, and the devil has made me poor’. Our tendency is to dwell on the external causes of our difficulties. Job doesn’t do that. He doesn’t look at the Sabaeans or the storm. He recognizes that the hand of God controls all of this – only he doesn’t yet realize that it is a loving hand.
The way in which Job accepts this loss puts satan in the wrong. Job’s reaction makes it clear that his piety was not in his own interest. His piety remains, even now that everything has been taken away from him, and he does not withdraw his trust in God. Satan wanted to drive a wedge between Job and God. The effect is that Job is driven closer to God. Instead of saying goodbye to God, Job praises him.
Accepting evil from the hand of the LORD is not the same as saying that the LORD caused evil. What Job says gives no ground for the assumption that God is the Author of evil, its origin, which suggests that evil comes from Him. There is “no darkness in Him” (1 John 1:5) and He tempts no one to do evil (James 1:13). It does mean that the LORD in His unfathomable wisdom has allowed it because it fits into His plan.
The statement of Job, “the LORD has given and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD”, has always been a comfort to many believers who had to lose dear relatives. However, grace is needed to repeat it in faith. It must not become a flag that does not cover the charge, a word that is imitated purely rationally or out of a faint resignation.
The fact that God created man with the ability to sin does not mean that He laid the principle of sin in man from within Himself. If it says that He creates evil (Isaiah 45:7), it has to do with the punishment for sin. In this context it is also good to quote a word from Amos: “If a calamity occurs in a city has not the Lord done it?” (Amos 3:6). It is always, and certainly here, necessary to see the connection with the verses around it. Then it becomes clear that God is not the Processor, the Author of sin. Evil has a punitive character here. The idea that God would work sin is completely misplaced in all respects.
The closing verse (Job 1:22) testifies that Job does not sin with his lips. He is not sinless, which he knows well himself (Job 9:20), but he does not commit the sin of attributing absurd things to God. If we can’t reconcile things, it doesn’t mean they are absurd. Job does not understand God’s actions, but he does not call God to account for them. Later he will.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Job 1". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
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