Lessons from the Book of Job

  Lorraine Day, M.D

Do we develop disease because “we live in a sinful world”? 

“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and shunned evil.”  Job 1:1 

This verse is often used to prove that disease is not our fault, that we develop disease because we live in a sinful world, not because of the way we live, think, act, eat, and handle stress.  This text is used to remove from those who are sick, all responsibility for their own illness.  After all, Job was “perfect” and he developed a terrible illness to the extent he was covered with boils. 

But the word mistranslated “perfect” in this text is the word “blameless.”  The Bible clearly tells us that “all have sinned” – so obviously Job was not “perfect.” 

Was Satan thrown out of heaven before Adam and Eve sinned? 

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan (the adversary) came also among them. 

“And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou?  Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth and from walking up and down in it.”  Job 1:6,7 

Bible scholars believe that Job lived sometime between 2000 B. C. and 1000 B.C., at least two thousand years after creation – and the Garden of Eden.  Many Christians believe that when the serpent – Satan – appeared in the Garden of Eden, he had been thrown out of heaven, never to be allowed to return, even temporarily. 

Clearly, Satan still had access to heaven at the time that Job was alive, and probably still does even today.  But after Satan orchestrated the death of Jesus Christ, he is probably not very welcome among the angels in heaven. 

But the Bible tells us when Satan will be thrown out of heaven for good – never allowed to return.  The book of Revelation is a prophecy of the end times.  In Revelation, Chapter 12, we read: 

“And there was war in heaven: Michael and His angels fought against the dragon: and the dragon fought and his angels,

“And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 

“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”  Rev 12:7-9 

Are sinners consumed with fire in the presence of God? 

In addition, many, if not most, Christians believe that sinners cannot live in the presence of God – and will be immediately consumed with fire at the Second Coming.  Yet Satan, the greatest sinner of all, can stand in the presence of God – unscathed. 

“And the Lord said unto Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect (blameless) and an upright man, one that feareth God and shuns evil?

“Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nothing? 

“Hast not Thou made a hedge of protection about him, and about his house, and about all that he has on every side?  You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 

“But stretch forth your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face. 

“And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he has is in your power; only upon his person put not forth thine hand.  So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.”  Job 1:8-12 

Does Satan have Freewill? 

Christians believe that Satan is an independent being with his own “free will.”  But this passage, as well as an additional similar passage in Job 2:1-6 show that Satan has no “free will.”  He can only do what God allows.  In this instance, God allowed Satan to attack Job’s family and possessions – but not Job.  In the second instance, God allowed Satan to attack Job – but Satan was not allowed to kill Job. 

The obvious conclusion is that Satan is under the total control of God.  Satan can’t do anything unless the Lord allows it, therefore, Satan has NO “free will” and whatever Satan is allowed to do has to be God’s will. 

What caused Job’s illness? 

Job had seven sons and three daughters and great wealth in his thousands of animals: sheep, camels, oxen and donkeys. 

“And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their sisters to eat and to drink with them. 

“And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.  Thus did Job regularly.”  Job 1:4,5 

Job obviously worried about his children and regularly offered sacrifices for them just in case they had committed sin.  Then calamity struck and all of Job’s children were slaughtered. 

“And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house.” Job 1:13 

And the Sabeans attacked the oxen and donkeys and took them away.  And all the servants who cared for the animals were killed.  The sheep, camels and other animals were also stolen, and the house where Job’s children were partying was hit by a great wind, causing the house to collapse, killing all of his children. 

Job had lost everything, but he did not sin by accusing God of wrong-doing.  Instead he said, 

“Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21 

However, in Chapter 3, Job curses the day of his birth and wishes he had never been born.  Then he states: 

“The thing which I greatly feared has come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.”  Job 3:25 

There it is.  Job had fear – he was afraid of a calamity such as this.  Rather than trusting in God, he had fear.  And fear causes stress and stress causes disease.  It triggers the “Fight or Flight” reaction that suppresses the immune system so the body cannot defend itself properly against disease. 

Job’s three friends come to mourn with him 

Eliphaz, the Temanite, speaks first.  He tells Job that God is punishing Job for hidden, unrepented sin and if Job would just repent, God would hear his prayer and his troubles will be over.  (Chapters 4 and 5) 

But Job denies that he has secret sin.  Yet he can’t figure out why these things are happening. (Chapters 6 and 7) 

“Following Job's outburst in which he cursed the day of his birth and wondered why those who long for death continue to live, his three friends begin offering their counsel.  Eliphaz the Temanite starts with expressing his view that the innocent don't suffer, the wicked do.  As support for his position, he refers to a vision that he had.  Chastening Job, Eliphaz then directs Job to seek God's forgiveness, reminding him of the blessings that would come if Job repented (4:1-5:22).  Job defends his rash words as being prompted by his grief, and again expresses his desire for death.  Reproaching his friends as being a "deceitful brook", he challenges them to show him where he has sinned.  He then resumes his complaint, asking God a multitude of questions (6:1-7:21).” http://executableoutlines.com/job/job_04.htm 

Bildad, the Shuhite, speaks second (Chapter 8).  He agrees with Eliphaz and affirms God’s Justice, saying that if Job were pure and upright, God would make Job prosperous.  “Behold, God will not reject a blameless man, neither will he uphold the evil doers.”  Job 8:20 

Bildad is quite appalled by Job's statements, particularly his closing remarks in which Job suggests that God may have been unfair in His dealings with him. Bildad wants Job to stop uttering words that are as a mighty wind. The Jerusalem Bible is probably close to Bildad's feelings when it presents 8:2 as, "Is there no end to those words of yours, to your long-winded blusterings?" Job's speech had been stormy, violent in expression, overwrought and Bildad is right in attesting that it is preposterous God should be considered unjust. Bildad is so alarmed by Job's inference that he repeats the question, with slightly different words, to emphasize the seriousness of the situation. 

But Bildad, despite the validity of his reaction, attempts to adapt it to fit his theology. Here lies Bildad's mistake. His theology was no different to Eliphaz's. The wicked are punished (8:13) and the blameless are blessed. Always. Therefore, for God to be just, the death of Job's children was directly related to their iniquity. Bildad is cold and unsympathetic. He believes he is being analytical and objective and at no time loses his self-control. But does his approach provide any comfort to Job? Did Job actually accuse God with perverting judgment? No. Job may have inferred such but his major problem was his confusion. As God is just, there must be a reason for what is happening. Job cannot discern it. He needs someone to sit down with him and patiently discuss his problem, to put it all in a perspective to assist Job to cope. 

Bildad's attempt to be helpful only adds salt to the wound inflicted by Eliphaz. In 5:3 Eliphaz presented a thinly disguised hypothetical case of a man whose "habitation" (same as "habitation" in 8:6) was once prosperous but is now devastated. Bildad, the objective, clinical commentator, dispenses with analogies and goes straight to the point. What does Bildad provide? 

"If your sons have sinned against Him, He has cast them away for their transgression" (8:4 NKJV). How comforting! Indeed Job's sons may have been sinful as Job had some concerns about them in 1:5. Bildad may have been using this possible truth as a lever to extol Job's superior character. But really, is that the way to make a person feel better. Observe the intent of 8:5-7: "Your children deserved what they got but don't you worry about that! If you are faithful, God will give you plenty more." 

Bildad attempts to be cheerful. In his opinion, all Job has to do is be pure and upright (God had already declared Job to be upright - 1:1,8, 2:3), seek God (Is Bildad critiquing Job's closing comment that when "[God] shalt seek me ... I shall not be" 7:21?), implore favour of the Almighty and, in only a short period of time, Job's house would prosper in proof of his righteousness. "Better than that," encourages Bildad, "Do as I recommend and your new state of prosperity will be superior to what you experienced in former days" (8:7). The irony is that although Bildad's philosophy was wrong his cursory prophecy proved to be resoundingly correct - "So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning" (42:12). 

8:8-10         Go to the ancients - they have the answers 

Bildad, having promoted his theology, now becomes almost modest in his approach and appeals to the wisdom of those who have gone before. In the parenthetical 8:9 Bildad proclaims that, "We sons of yesterday know nothing; our life on earth passes like a shadow.” A noble statement albeit adding nothing to the debate. It is obvious that Bildad will only select the "wisdom" which tallies with his own. All else would undoubtedly be foolishness. 

As so often happens, the weaker the case the more confidently it is stated. "If the ancients support me then I must be right" - this despite the emptiness of their teachings as manifested in 8:11-19. Bildad infers, "They've studied this matter, we must accept their conclusions" - "Apply thyself to that which their fathers have searched out" (8:8 Soncino). Such sentiments should ring alarm bells. While the great Bible scholars, Christadelphians especially, deserve our earnest consideration, they do not warrant slavish deference. 

Bildad has politely requested Job to hear what the ancients have to say but even in this he is being uncomplimentary to Job. He declares that the words of the ancients are instructional and well thought out. The contrast of Job to 8:10 is harsh. Bildad labelled Job's expressions as nothing more than long-winded blusterings (8:2). How easy it is to twist the knife after plunging it in. (The Education of Job, David Baird) http://www.christadelphianbooks.org/dbaird/job/job09.html 

Job again answers (Chapter 10) that he is not perfect but he has lived a righteous life and has no hidden, secret sin that he needs to repent.  He is confused not knowing why these calamities have come upon him. 

Zophar, the Naamathite speaks third (in Chapter 11) and also urges Job to repent.  But that doesn’t help Job end his confusion.  In Chapter 12, Job desires to speak directly to God.  He recognizes that the fate of all nations and the policies of their leaders are ALL under God’s control. 

"Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,  "Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified?" 

Zophar, Job's third friend, had supposedly come to comfort Job in his sorrows. He was not a comfort. He began this scalding reprimand of his friend Job, by saying that he spoke a multitude of words. A multitude of words in Scripture is spoken of as folly, or even sin. He was speaking to Job, as if he was a foolish sinner. He was saying that all of the talk that Job had done would not justify him. 

"Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?"  Job 11:3 

Zophar was the worst of the three friends. He was accusing Job of lying, and even of mocking God.

Job 11:4 "For thou hast said, My doctrine [is] pure, and I am clean in thine eyes." 

He had condemned Job in his heart already. He was speaking of Job's statement that his doctrine was pure. Job knew that he was clean in the eyes of the LORD. We know that he was, too, because that was what God told Satan about Job.

"But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee;"  Job 11:6 "And that he would shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that [they are] double to that which is! Know therefore that God exacteth of thee [less] than thine iniquity [deserveth]."  Job 11:5 

As terrible as the attack of Satan had been on Job, Zophar felt that it was not enough for the sins of Job. Zophar wanted God to speak out loud and condemn Job, where they could all hear it. In God is all Wisdom and Truth. Zophar was saying to Job, that he had no wisdom. He thought if Job had been wise, he would have repented of his sins by now.

"Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?"  Job 11:7 

He was asking Job, if he thought that he really could know God? He was saying that the wisdom and knowledge of Job would not help him to know God. He was telling Job, that in no way could he measure up to the expectations of the Almighty God. Zophar was a tormenter, not a comforter. http://www.lovethelord.com/books/job/11.html 

In Chapter 13, Job is still confused as to his situation but decides to trust God completely saying, 

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him. . . He also shall be my salvation.”  Job 13:15,16 

Finally in Chapter 16, Job reproaches his three friends. 

“Then Job answered ans said, I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all.    Hall your empty words have an end?  Or what provokes you to answer? 

“I could also speak as you do, if you were in my stead, I could heap up words against you and shake my head at you. 

“But, instead, I would strengthen you with my mouth, and give you comfort from my lips that would relieve your grief. . . 

“God has delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over into the hands of the wicked.  I was at ease, but He has shattered me asunder; He has also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for His target. 

“His archers surround me, he pierces my heart, and does not pity me; he pours out my gall upon the ground.

“He breaks me with wound upon wound, He runs upon me like a warrior.

 “My face is flushed from weeping, and on my eyelids is the shadow of death’

“Although there is no injustice in my hands: also my prayer is pure.

“My friends scorn me: but my eye poureth out tears unto God.”  Job, Chapter 16 

In the next few chapters, Job’s friends continue to grieve him by saying that the wicked must be punished, and the wicked will perish, and Eliphaz accuses Job of sin.  But Job, in Chapter 21, contradicts them by saying that in reality, the wicked seem to Prosper – and he again affirms that he has no hidden or secret sin. 

Job continues to declare his righteous life 

“Neither have I gone back from the commandments of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than necessary food. 

“But He is unique, and who can make Him change?  And what He desires, He will do!”  Job 23:12,13 

Here is yet another evidence of God’s will being omnipotent.  “What God desires, He WILL do.”  And His will is that, 

“NONE should perish, but ALL should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 

Obviously, man does not have “freewill.”  It is  God’s will that runs the universe. 

God created Satan (not “Lucifer”) to be the Adversary 

“By His spirit He has adorned the heavens: His hand has formed the crooked serpent.”  Job 26:13 

God did not create a being called Lucifer.  He created the Adversary – Satan, the Devil – to do exactly what he is doing, tempting humanity to test us to see if we are able to stand strong for God. 

The word mistranslated “spirit” throughout the Bible, is actually the word “breath.” 

“And as long as my breath is in me, and my breath (mistranslated spirit) is in my nostrils; my lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit.”  Job 27: 3,4 

Job longs for the past when he was revered and respected 

“Moreover Job continued his discourse, and said, Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God watched over me: 

When his light shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness. . . 

“When I went out to the gate through the city, when I took my seat in the plaza, the young men saw me, and hid themselves: and the aged arose and stood up. 

“The princes refrained from talking, and laid their hand on their mouth.  The voice of the nobles was hushed, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth. . . 

“I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame.  I was a father to the poor, and the case that I knew not I investigated. . . 

“Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel.  After my words they spake not again; and my speech dropped upon them.

“And they waited for me as for the rain; Job, Chapter 29 

Now Job is held in derision.  No one respects him anymore. 

“But now they that are younger than I have me in derision, whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock. . . 

“They were children of fools, yes, children of base and vile men: they were viler than the earth. 

“And now am I their song, yea, I am their byword.  They abhor me, they flee far from me and do not hesitate to spit in my face.”  Job 30:1, 8-10 

Elihu speaks 

Elihu, a much younger man, intervenes in the debate.  He has waited for the older men to speak but now his wrath is aroused.  He is angry at Job because he justified himself rather than God.  And Elihu is angry at Job’s friends because they provided no real answer and yet condemned Job. 

Elihu tells Job that Job is wrong in charging God as his enemy, and says that God is greater than man and not accountable to man.  He proclaims that God is righteous and just in His dealings with man.  God does not do wickedness or pervert justice.  He charges Job with sinning by how he spoke against God, and counsels Job to be patient and wait for God’s justice, for Job has been speaking prematurely and foolishly. 

He proclaims God’s goodness and majesty and states that God’s greatness is beyond comprehension, as seen in the rain cycle, in the thunder, in the snow .  In view of such greatness, what can man teach God? 

Elihu’s closing words  are, “As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him; He is excellent in power, in judgment and abundant justice; He does not oppress. 

In Chapters 32-36, Elihu, a much younger man contradicts Job and talks about the justice of God, God’s majesty, but condemns self-righteousness. 

We are now introduced to a new voice in this discussion.  Having remained silent up to this point because of his youth, Elihu now speaks.  Angry with Job justifying himself rather than God, and by the inability of Job's friends to provide an answer, Elihu feels compelled to speak (32:1-33:7).  He takes issue with Job's claim of innocence while charging God with counting him as His enemy.  He proposes that God often uses various means to keep man from death ("the Pit"),

including chastening with pain.  Therefore Job should be looking at suffering as a disciplinary measure from a loving God, not as a punitive measure from one's enemy (33:8-33). 

The bulk of Elihu's speech then focuses on the justice of God, which Elihu feels Job has maligned.  Elihu charges Job with adding to his sin by multiplying words against God without knowledge (34:1-35:16).  He concludes his speech with an effort to speak on God's behalf and by ascribing righteousness to the Almighty.  This he does by reviewing God's justice and majesty.  The former as seen in His dealings with man, the latter as seen in His dealings in nature.  With an admonition for Job to stand still and consider the wondrous works of God, Elihu

seems to be preparing Job for what is about to follow (36:1-37:24). 

Finally the Lord speaks to Job 

“At last, Job is finally given his desire to have an audience with God. It is not what he expected.  Speaking from a whirlwind, the Lord charges Job with darkening counsel by words without knowledge.  A challenge is then made for Job to answer questions posed to him.  A series of questions follow in rapid succession regarding the creation and nature that certainly contrast God's great power and wisdom with Job's limited ability and understanding.  God ends His first discourse then with a repeated challenge for the one (i.e., Job) who contends with the Almighty and who rebukes God to answer these questions.

Overwhelmed, Job admits his unworthiness and inability to answer.  He admits he has spoken before, but will do so no more (38:1-40:5). 

The Lord is not through with Job, however.  A second discourse begins with another challenge for Job to answer God's questions.  Job is asked whether he truly thinks he can annul God's judgment, or condemn Him so that he can be justified (cf. Elihu's charges, 32:2; 33:8-13).  If Job can thunder with a voice like God's, adorn himself with majesty, splendor, glory and beauty, bring the proud down low, then God would confess that Job could save himself.  To once more illustrate the power and wisdom of God, Job is asked to consider two great creatures, the behemoth and Leviathan.  If man is fearful before them, how then could one stand against God (40:6-41:34)? 

The Lord asks Job about 80 questions and Job has no answers.  It was obvious that God realized that Job needed an “attitude adjustment.”  Job needed to learn that God is God – and Job was not! 

Job's final response is to humbly acknowledge God's ability to do everything, and that no purpose of His can be withheld from Him.  He also confesses that he has spoken of things he did not understand, and beyond his ability to comprehend.  Having now heard and seen God, Job abhors himself and repents (42:1-6).”  Executable Outlines: http://executableoutlines.com/job/job_08.htm 

The goal of the entire book of Job 

In the last Chapter of Job, we  - and Job – finally understand what God’s goal was for all the troubles Job had encountered.  Job said, 

“I know that Thou canst do everything, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge?  Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me which I knew  not. 

“Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will question Thee, and declare Thou unto me. 

“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye hath seen thee.  Wherefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”  Job 42:2-6 

Job had known “about” the Lord, but he had not known the Lord personally.  The Lord had to destroy Job’s false pride, his desire for respect from his peers, his lack of trust in God when he “feared” for his family, and his hubris for not submitting his will to God. 

Job finally “saw” the Lord – His true character, His love for those He has created, and His majestic omnipotence. 

God’s wrath was kindled against Job’s three friends 

God was very unhappy with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar in their assessment of the calamities that came against Job.  They were told by God to offer animal sacrifices for their sin. 

“My wrath is kindled against thee (Eliphaz) and against thy two friends” for you have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job has.  Job 42:7 

But God says nothing against Elihu, the young man, who exalted God as supreme in the life of humanity. 

“So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite went and did according as the Lord commanded them: the Lord also lifted up the face of Job.  Job 42:9 

Before Job’s series of calamities, he had 7 sons and 3 daughters, all of whom were taken away by marauders, as were his 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen and 500 donkeys. (Job 1:2,3) 

“And the Lord restored Jobs losses when he prayed for his friends; also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. . .” Job 42:10 

After Job learned to know the Lord personally through his difficult experience, he had 7 more sons and 3 more daughters, who were the most beautiful in the land. 

“So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning:  for he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, and 1,000 yoke of oxen and 1,000 donkeys.” Job 42:12 

“After this Job lived a hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his son’s sons, even four generations. So Job died, being old and full of days.”  Job 42:16,17 

Job learned that God’s form of “destruction” is not literal fire, but a “destruction” of our own arrogance, our “self”-esteem, our own desire for respect from our peers.  By losing everything he had, by being brought to the lowest point in his life, He finally recognized his need for God to run his life.  He understood that God is in charge, and He can bring anyone to Himself – but God does it through “trouble.”