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Profiles of the Prophets: Job

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Faithfulness in the face of pain and suffering distinguished through the ages the example of Job, the ancient man, "perfect and upright, and one that feared God." (Job 1:1.)

Job was a wealthy patriarch, "the greatest of the men of the east" (Job 1:3) who lived in the land of Uz, that some Bible scholars believe lies in an area east of the Lebanons, a mountain range north of the land of Israel. He may have lived about 400 B.C. (Bible Dictionary, p. 502.)Job lost his material possessions and his children in a calamitous day because of bandits, lightening, and a windstorm. His loss was overwhelming: seven sons and three daughters, 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen and 500 donkeys. Job's grief from his loss was inconsolable, but that loss, severe as it was, was soon followed by "sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown." (Job 2:7.)

Job's pitiful situation presented an age-old question: "Why must men suffer?" Job's three friends soon visited and that question was eventually explored at length.

After his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, sat with him for seven days and nights without speaking, Job vented his grief by cursing the day of his birth.

His friends began to ask probing questions and imply that Job should repent because only wickedness could bring such calamities. Job's replies have become classic. "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither," (Job 1:21) and "Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10.)

The first friend, Eliphaz, asked that "where were the righteous cut off?" (Job 4:7) and "shall a mortal man be more just than God?" (Job 4:17.)

Job responded by lamenting further his fate: "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and are spent without hope." (Job 7:6.)

Bildad again questioned Job's righteousness by asking, "doth God pervert justice?" and then asserted, "Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man." (Job 8:3,20.)

Job replied that God is great and just, but that "My soul is weary of life. . . . Thou knowest I am not wicked; and there is not that can deliver out of thine hand." He adds, "If I be wicked, woe unto me; and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head. I am full of confusion; therefore see thou mine affliction; for it increaseth." (Job 10:15-16.) Yet he confesses of God, "thy visitation hath preserved my spirit." (Job 10:12.)

Zophar next spoke and counseled Job to repent: "If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles." (Job 11:14.)

Job responded that he was mocked of his neighbors and asserted that indeed God rules "the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind." (Job 12:10.)

In his despair, Job declared: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." (Job 13:15.) He noted the shortness of life, that a man "cometh forth like a flower and is cut down: he fleeth as a shadow, and continueth not." (Job 14:2.)

Then Job asked, "If a man die, shall he live again? (Job 14:14.)

As Job's friends continued to remonstrate against him, he replied that "my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high." (Job 16:19.)

At this point, he gave perhaps his most well-known testimony:

"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter days upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." (Job 19:25-26.)

Job did acknowledge that the wicked prosper in this life, but noted that those are "in the terrors of the shadow of death." (Job 24:17.) These terrors, he said, await the unjust at death. (Job 27:20.)

After further discussion, "the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and told him, "Gird up now thy loins like a man" (Job 40:7) and instructed him to "cast abroad the rage of thy wrath." (Job 40:11.)

Job repented of his words, "Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:6.)

The Lord then expressed displeasure at Job's friends and required them to repent and to ask Job to pray for them.

Job's account concludes with his receiving even more than he had at first, with seven sons and three daughters and 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen and donkeys.