All that is known of the history of Job is found in the book bearing his name. He lived in the land of Uz, which was probably named after Uz, or Huz (the Hebrew is the same), the son of Nahor, Abraham's brother. Another link with that family is also found in that Elihu was the son of Barachel the Buzite, for Buz was the brother of Huz. Genesis 22:21
. The land of Uz is supposed to be in the S.E. of Palestine toward Arabia Deserta. Job is called "the greatest of all the men of the east." No date is given to the book, but there being no reference in it to the law, or to Israel, makes it probable that Job lived in patriarchal times, as the name Almighty, which was revealed to Abraham, was known to Job, his three friends, and Elihu. He is described as "perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil;" yet he suffered the loss of all his property; his children were killed; and his body was grievously afflicted. The great problem of the book is, the government of God, not directly as with Israel, but providentially in a world into which sin and death had entered, and where Satan, if permitted of God, can exercise his antagonistic power. God's dealings with men in government and chastening are for good; but this brings out another question, How can man be just with God? — a question answered only in the gospel.
Job's three friends entirely misunderstood this government of God, asserting that he must have been doing evil or he would not have been thus dealt with. Job resented their judgement of him, and in justifying himself blamed God in His ways with him. The key to this part of the book is that Job was being tested: his heart was being searched that his true state might be brought out, and that he might learn to know God in His wisdom and power, and that His ways are in view of blessing to man.
The testing, all came from God: it was He who introduced Job to the notice of Satan, in the wonderful vision of the unseen, where the 'sons of God' presented themselves before God. Satan was ever ready to afflict man and to impute motives; but he was foiled. When all Job's property and his sons and daughters were swept away, still he worshipped, saying the Lord who gave was the Lord who had taken away; and he blessed the name of the Lord. Then, when his body was full of sores, his wife was used of Satan to try and induce him to curse God; but he replied, "What! shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" "In all this did not Job sin with his lips." Satan was defeated, and he is not again mentioned in the book.
Then come Job's three friends, and though thus far he had not sinned with his lips , yet his friends bring out what was in his heart. Though they did not understand God's government with him, and falsely accused him, they said many right things as to that government in other cases. In short, Eliphaz went upon personal experience. He said "I have seen they that plough iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same." Job 4:8
. Bildad is the voice of tradition and the authority of antiquity. He said, "Enquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers." Job 8:8
. Zophar exhibited law and religiousness. He said, "If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, . . . . then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot." Job 11:14,15
All this led Job to assert his integrity as among men. He said to God, "Thou knowest that I am not wicked; and there is none that can deliver out of thine hand. Thine hands have made me, and fashioned me together round about; yet thou dost destroy me." Job 10:7,8
. "I will maintain mine own ways before him . . . . behold now, I have ordered my cause: I know that I shall be justified." Job 13:15,18
. Then, provoked by the suspicions and misjudgement of his friends, he falsely judged God, saying, "God hath delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over into the hands of the wicked." "Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but there is no judgement." "Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity." Job 16:11
; Job 19:7
; Job 31:6
. Yet, as before God, he owned, "If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me;" and again, "If I wash myself with snow-water, and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch and mine own clothes shall abhor me." Job 9:20-30,31
. But the unsolved question in Job's mind was, Why should God set his heart upon man? He so great, and man so fleeting and wretched: why would not God let him alone to fill out his day? For Job had the sense that it was God who was dealing with him, and that he was not suffering from ordinary providential causes. His friends could not explain it.
Elihu then came forward: he is a type of Christ as mediator, and spoke on God's behalf. He said, "The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life . . . . . I am according to thy wish in God's stead." Job 33:4-6
. He showed that Job was not just in justifying himself rather than God. He spoke of God's dealings with mankind; how He speaks to man, even in dreams, to give him instruction; and if there be an interpreter, one among a thousand, who can show him how his soul can stand in truth before God, he may be delivered from going down to the pit; for God has found a ransom. God chastises man to bring him into subjection, so that He may be favourable to him.
In Job 36 Elihu ascribes righteousness to his Maker, and assures Jobthat "He that is perfect in knowledge is with thee." God despiseth not any and He withdraweth not His eyes from the righteous; and if they areafflicted it is for their blessing. He closes with dwelling on the incomprehensible power of God.
God Himself then takes up the case of Job, and, by speaking of the acts of His own divine wisdom and power in nature, shows by contrast the utter insignificance of Job. As to the wisdom of God's ways, would Job pretend to instruct Him? Job replied 'I am vile ,' and is silent. God continues to argue with him, "Wilt thou disannul my judgement? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?" And He again points to His power in nature. Job confesses that he had uttered what he understood not: things too wonderful for him, which he knew not. He said, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
Job had now learned the lesson God intended to teach him: he is in his proper place of nothingness before God. There God can take him up. In 1Cor. 1Christ is seen to be the wisdom and power of God when man is brought to nothing by the cross. Job had seen God, and all was changed. God reproved Job's friends: they had not spoken of Him what was right as Job had. They must take a sacrifice, and Job must pray for them: Job was God's servant, and him God would accept. God blessed his latter end more than the beginning: he had great possessions, and seven sons and three daughters. He lived after his restoration 140 years.
Twice Job is mentioned along with Noah and Daniel in connection with 'righteousness' when the state of Israel had become so iniquitous that if these three men had been there, even their righteousness would have delivered their own souls only, but would not have saved so much as a son or a daughter. Ezekiel 14:14,20
. Job is also held up as an example of endurance, and as showing what the end of the Lord is, that He is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. James 5:11