Job - Session Two – Study Plan
I. Re-cap and Introduction – Let’s pay close attention to the trajectory of Job’s reactions to his experiences. He was quite bitter when he began to feel extraordinary pain. Follow closely, though, the manner and the subject of his words and feelings as the story proceeds.
A. Chapter 28 is extraordinary. It’s a widely celebrated poem and is worth reading in its entirety. Let’s look at least at verses 12-28.
Job 28: 12-28
12 “But where shall wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?
13 Mortals do not know the way to it,
and it is not found in the land of the living.
14 The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’
and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
15 It cannot be gotten for gold,
and silver cannot be weighed out as its price.
16 It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
in precious onyx or sapphire.
17 Gold and glass cannot equal it,
nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold.
18 No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal;
the price of wisdom is above pearls.
19 The chrysolite of Ethiopia cannot compare with it,
nor can it be valued in pure gold.
20 “Where then does wisdom come from?
And where is the place of understanding?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of all living,
and concealed from the birds of the air.
22 Abaddon and Death say,
‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’
23 “God understands the way to it,
and he knows its place.
24 For he looks to the ends of the earth,
and sees everything under the heavens.
25 When he gave to the wind its weight,
and apportioned out the waters by measure;
26 when he made a decree for the rain,
and a way for the thunderbolt;
27 then he saw it and declared it;
he established it, and searched it out.
28 And he said to humankind,
‘Truly, the awe of the Lord, that is wisdom;
and to depart from evil is understanding.’”
What’s the path to wisdom, and how do we know we understand it?
B. We’re not going to stop at Chapters 29 and 30, but I commend them to you to read and ponder. They’re extraordinarily beautiful text relating to Job’s earlier successful years and his pained current years.
C. Chapter 31 portrays a wonderful account of ethical ideals. Can you identify its main components?
D. Chapters 32-37 introduce a new character to the discussion – Elihu. For a variety of reasons, most scholars think this was added much later. He seems unsatisfied with Job’s case but also unhappy with the friends’ arguments.
1. Read 32:7-9
7 I said, ‘Let days speak,
and many years teach wisdom.’
8 But truly it is the spirit in a mortal,
the breath of the Almighty, that makes for understanding.
9 It is not the old that are wise,
nor the aged that understand what is right.
What does this teach us about wisdom?
2. Read 33:12-23; 34:12,19, 21, 28, 35; 35:3; 36:5-6
12 “But in this you are not right. I will answer you:
God is greater than any mortal.
13 Why do you contend against him,
saying, ‘He will answer none of my words’?
14 For God speaks in one way,
and in two, though people do not perceive it.
15 In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on mortals,
while they slumber on their beds,
16 then he opens their ears,
and terrifies them with warnings,
17 that he may turn them aside from their deeds,
and keep them from pride,
18 to spare their souls from the Pit,
their lives from traversing the River.
19 They are also chastened with pain upon their beds,
and with continual strife in their bones,
20 so that their lives loathe bread,
and their appetites dainty food.
21 Their flesh is so wasted away that it cannot be seen;
and their bones, once invisible, now stick out.
22 Their souls draw near the Pit,
and their lives to those who bring death.
23 Then, if there should be for one of them an angel,
a mediator, one of a thousand,
one who declares a person upright,
Job 34:12,19, 21, 28, 35
12 Of a truth, God will not do wickedly,
and the Almighty will not pervert justice.
19 who shows no partiality to nobles,
nor regards the rich more than the poor,
for they are all the work of his hands?
21 “For his eyes are upon the ways of mortals,
and he sees all their steps.
28 so that they caused the cry of the poor to come to him,
35 ‘Job speaks without knowledge,
his words are without insight.’
Seemingly more respectful and not directly accusing Job of being a sinner, Elihu presents his case against Job. What is it? Does it make sense?
E. God intervenes! Out of the storm. 38:1. What might that mean?
38:1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
F. What does it mean when God refers to one (Job?) who gives murky counsel, with words without knowledge?
G. What does God reveal in chapters 38-41 that responds to Job’s challenge/questions?
God may be saying man should play a part in furthering righteousness and impeding wickedness. 40:7-14. Man should “gird his loins like a hero” and act. (38:3) (Look at verses 40:11-13 in particular.)
7 “Gird up your loins like a man; I will question you, and you declare to me.
8 Will you even put me in the wrong?
Will you condemn me that you may be justified?
9 Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?
10 Deck yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor.
11 Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
and look on all who are proud, and abase them.
12 Look on all who are proud, and bring them low;
tread down the wicked where they stand.
13 Hide them all in the dust together;
bind their faces in the world below.
14 Then I will also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can give you victory.
What is God saying here? Is God saying, “Have at it, big boy? You can’t do it. Maybe you’ll see how difficult it is even for Me to do.” OR “this is an enterprise that only I can deliver.” (Many commentators believe this and argue for it by noting the context in which it’s made).
OR is God inviting Job to join in the effort? Further, Job should begin this attack on the proud with himself! God’s willingness to praise Job for doing so suggests this possibility.
What questions does God not answer directly?
H. Read 40:3-5;
3 Then Job answered the Lord:
4 “See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
twice, but will proceed no further.”
1 Then Job answered the Lord:
2 “I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4 ‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.’
5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
6 therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
What is Job’s response?
I. Read 42:7.
7 After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.
God rebukes the three friends yet welcomes their atonement. Why?
J. Read 42:10-17.
10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money[a] and a gold ring. 12 The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. 15 In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16 After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. 17 And Job died, old and full of days.
What do we make of the story’s resolution – with the restoration of Job’s wealth and his “new” family (remember Ramban’s account of the early family’s story).
III. Conclusion - As we wrap up our study of this book, let’s discuss the most difficult questions that arise from our study:
What do we make of the book? Are we pained or enlightened? Why would God abuse a good person so? Is this the work of a loving God? What answers did we find? What did we not find? Your conclusion is…?
Finally, it might be useful to look at the fascinating work of the poet, Robert Frost, who endeavored to write what might be a new, final chapter of the book as a sort of play, entitled, The Masque of Reason. In it, Job and his wife are still questioning and upset with God for the trial. And God responds to them:
1. God: “I’ve had you on my mind a thousand years to thank you someday for the way you helped me establish once and for all the principle there’s no connection man can reason out between his just desserts and what he gets.
Virtue may fail and wickedness succeed.
’Twas a great demonstration we put on…
Too long I’ve owed you this apology for the apparently unmeaning sorrow you were afflicted with in those old days, but it was the essence of the trial you shouldn’t understand at the time. It had to seem unmeaning to have meaning.
And it came out all right. I have no doubt you realize by now the part you played to stultify the Deuteronomist and change the tenor of religious thought. My thanks to you for releasing me from moral bondage to the human race.
The only free will there at first was man’s, who could do good or evil as he chose. I had no choice, but I must follow him with forfeits and rewards he understood - unless I liked to suffer loss of worship. I had to prosper good and punish evil. You changed all that. You set me free to reign. You are the Emancipator of your God, And as such I promote you to a saint.”
Do you see what Frost is arguing? Describe it? And then, from a traditional religious perspective, criticize it.
2. Job remains dissatisfied and says:
“But what is all this secrecy about?
I fail to see what…satisfaction a God can find in laughing at how badly men fumble at the possibilities when left to guess forever for themselves. The chances are when there’s so much pretense of metaphysical profundity the obscurity’s a fraud to cover nothing.
I’ve come to think no so-called hidden value’s worth going after…We don’t know where we are, or who we are. We don’t know one another; don’t know You…
You could end this by simply coming out and saying plainly and unequivocally whether there’s any part of man immortal, yet You don’t speak. Let fools bemuse themselves by being baffled for the sake of being. I’m sick of the artificial puzzle.”
To which, Job’s wife says, “You won’t get answers out of God.”
And God says, “My kingdom, what an outbreak!”
Before we get God’s longer response, what do you make of Job’s complaint?
3. God then gives a longer response:
“Job, you must understand my provocation. The tempter comes to me, and I am tempted.
I’ve had about enough of his derision of what I valued most in human nature.
He thinks he’s smart. He thinks he can convince me it is no different with my followers from what it is with his. Both serve for pay. Disinterestedness never did exist and if it did, it wouldn’t be a virtue. Neither would fairness. You have heard the doctrine. It’s on the increase.
He could count on no one. I could count on you. I wanted him forced to acknowledge so much. I gave you over to him, but with safeguards. I took care of you.
And before you died I trust I made it clear I took your side against your comforters in their contention you must be wicked to deserve such pain…”
God continues the case He had begun to make earlier. What’s he saying? I think it’s compelling, don’t you? But there’s a price to be paid, isn’t there?