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From ancient times Jewish tradition has credited Moses with writing Job, most likely around 1440 B.C., making it the oldest book of the Bible. The Hebrew ’Iyyob means “Persecuted One.” Moses as author of Job makes sense; Moses spent considerable time in both Egypt and Midian, which explains the book’s Egyptian references and Arabic influence. Job’s description of God as Creator complements Moses’ creation account in Genesis. Moreover, certain words used in Job and the Pentateuch appear nowhere else in the OT. Some scholars still ascribe the book to Elihu, Solomon, Ezra, or some other anonymous author, citing the book’s dissimilar style to that of the Pentateuch. However, Job’s story differs vastly from Moses’ other books and would understandably require a different approach.

Job's Story

In the Arabian Desert, around the time Moses lived in Midian, people other than Abraham’s descendants worshiped the true God. Job’s culture, however, had a skewed vision of Him; they taught that all suffering was punishment for a specific sin. This philosophy confused Job, as he felt sure he had not sinned and thus could not explain the tragedies that befell him. Interestingly, Job seems to mourn his separation from God more than the loss of his family and wealth.

One scholar calls Job the literary “Matterhorn of the OT.” Written in the poetical form of parallelism, it remains one of the greatest works of Hebrew literature available today. Job’s three friends repetitively champion one point: calamities equal punishment. Elihu offers an only slightly different spin: calamity is discipline. Expressing the same thoughts, the men sometimes even use the same expressions. Job answers each by defending his integrity. When God takes the stage, however, the repetition ceases and every phrase becomes significant.

Job’s story dispels the myth of the “prosperity gospel”—that if you do good you will only experience God’s blessing. Many themes may be mined from Job’s story but the overarching one is, at the risk of sounding glib, that bad things happen to good people. The book’s first few verses provide a backstage pass to the supernatural, revealing the Great Controversy between Satan and God over God’s character. Man falls victim to this controversy when Satan tries to make us doubt God. Though we may misunderstand God at times, He will ultimately reveal His character of love and justice. One thing we are assured of: Satan cannot touch us without God’s permission. God retains power over what Satan can and cannot do. Sometimes, however, God allows suffering in our lives in order to test us or refine our characters.

Today, we still ask, “Why?” There is no satisfactory answer, but the book of Job assures us that God is just and compassionate and stands besides us through it all. We may trust God in all circumstances, as one Bible writer said, “not only when we don’t understand, but because we don’t understand.”
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