Job covered with boils,
from Roadside America
With the exception of Jesus’ resurrection, and the details of creation, perhaps no other Scriptural story is debated as much as the meaning of the book of Job. But who was this man at the center of such a timeless story?
Surprisingly, most scholars agree that Job was a real person. He probably lived at the time of the patriarchs, and one legend says that he was a grand-nephew of Abraham. The book of Job may be the oldest portion of Scripture. That said, no one knows who wrote it, exactly where Uz (Job’s hometown) was, if the entire story is literal or a parable, or much of anything else.
That said, the book itself is full of clues. First, let’s assume that Job was an actual historical figure. The book is written in the style of a logical poem, typical of Wisdom Literature. This alone isn’t a good reason to assume that the characters are fictional. The writer of the book talked about a lot of things that tell us about Job, through his monologues, and conversations with his friends, and God.
Job speaks of hippos and crocodiles. He seems to describe Egyptian boats. He understands the weather, and travel by caravan. He speaks of familiar constellations. We have to assume that Job was intelligent and well-traveled. The book has been credited with containing the most detailed description of mining in Scripture. Job was not your average Joe.
The story, briefly (for anyone who might not know it), is that Job was a wealthy man who served God. But Satan came to God and suggested that if Job were tested by losing the things that were precious to him, that he would renounce God. God granted Satan permission to take anything except Job’s life. So, one by one, Job loses his children, his animals, his land, and even his health. In the middle of the story, three friends come to confront Job about his situation, claiming that he must have sinned to be punished so severely. Job insists that he has not sinned, but that no matter what happens he is never going to renounce his belief in God, and the goodness of God. He gets pretty angry about it all, and begins to sound a little pompous in his insistence of his personal righteousness.
Then God shows up! Confronted with the complete goodness of the Almighty, Job is humbled. After all of the questions as to, “Why did this happen? there is still no answer forthcoming. God simply declares who He is. Job agrees that his own righteousness is nothing, compared to God.
In the end, Job’s wealth is restored, and he is blessed with more children.
This is a brief biography, not an explanation of the meaning of Job’s story. But it is probably safe to say that Job was a man who loved God, and stood firm in his trust in the goodness of God. Yet, when he was confronted with the reality of absolute Righteousness, he recognized his own imperfection, whether or not he had purposely sinned. One author has said that the point of Job’s story is, “it is better to know God than to know answers.”
Job’s most famous one-liner is, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” When life gets tough, whom do we trust?