Date and Context

For the book of Job, we are first going to consider the date and context. This is because the date and context in which the book was written colors our view of authorship, audience, and literary context. Some scholars have proposed that Job was written as early as the patriarchal times (the times of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob described in Genesis) and some have suggested as late as the post-exilic period (between 499 - 400 B.C. after Israel had returned from the exile). I think the events recorded in the book of Job occurred in the time of that Patriarchs and that the book was written no later than the time of Moses (although it was probably written during the time of the patriarchs). This argument is based on the claim that Job lived 140 years after the events described in the book of Job (see Job 42:16), the language used throughout the book is similar to the language used in the book of Genesis (for example, the use of the word "Eloah" and "El" for God), and Job's role as a 'priestly' intercessor in Job 42:7-10 is similar to that of Abraham in Genesis 20:17. Also, Elihu, who enters the scene in Job 32, is called a "Buzite" (Job 32:2) and Buz is mentioned in Genesis 22:20-21 as one of Abraham's nephews. These facts suggest that the book of Job was written early in biblical history. For this summary, I operate under this assumption.

Authorship and Audience

As the text gives no mention of the author and there is no historical evidence, the author is ultimately unknown.

If I had to suggest an author, I think Elihu is the most probable author. Elihu is the only one in the story who is not rebuked by God or Job (unlike Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Job's wife) and most of what he says is theologically accurate.

The book of Job is not addressed specifically to any person or group and contains relatively few historical and geographical references in the book that would 'anchor' it to a specific audience. In this sense, the book of Job is for all mankind. This is supported by the fact that three of the main characters (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) are not Israelites. Also, notice how Job is introduced in Job 1:1 with the generic phrase "There was a man...". It appears the book of Job is intended for all mankind.

Literary Context

Assuming Job is the first, written revelation from God that we have today, Job is an introduction to the Bible. This is true not only chronologically, but also thematically as the book makes foundational assertions and provides the questions that will guide us for the rest of scripture.


I. Prologue: Two Heavenly Court Scenes [1 - 2:10]

A. Introduction to Job [1:1-5]

B. First Trial [1:6-22]

  1. Heavenly Scene [1:6-12]

  2. Earthly Scene [1:13-22]

    • Trials Brought on Job [1:13-19]

    • Job's Reaction: Worship (thus, vindicating God) [1:20-22]

C. Second Trial [2:1-10]

  1. Heavenly Scene [2:1-6]

  2. Earthly Scene [2:7-10]

    • Job Losses His Health [2:7-8]

    • Advice from Job's Wife: "Curse God and die!" [2:9]

    • Job's Reaction: Humble Acceptance (thus, vindicating God) [2:10]

II. Dialog Between Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Job1: Earthly Court Scene [2:11 - 28]

A. Arrival of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar and Opening Statement from Job [2:11 3:26]

B. Cycle 1: Defending the TRP2 in Light of the Nature of God [3 - 14]

C. Cycle 2: Defending the TRP2 in Light of the Nature of Sin [15 - 20]

D. Cycle 3: Defending the TRP2 in Light of the Nature of Job [21 - 27]

E. Concluding Monologue: Job on the Source of Wisdom [28]

III Closing Arguments [29 - 42:6]

A. Job Defends His Own Integrity [29 - 31]

B. Elihu Rebukes Job and Defends God's Integrity [32 - 37]

C. God Answers Job [38 - 42:6]

IV. Epilogue [42:7-17]

Theological Theme(s)

  • The Rightness of God. The primary theme of the book of Job deals with the question: "Is God right?". That is: "Is God right (or synonymously: just) in allowing the trials to come upon Job?". Once the dialog between Job and his friends begins, this is the central question that drives most of their discussion. Job's friends attempt to defend and prove the rightness of God by saying that God always punishes evil in this life and always blesses good in this life (I'm calling this principle the Temporal Response Principle2 (TRP)). Job, who posed the initial questions about the rightness of God in 3:20-26, does not accept the TRP and dismantles their arguments. This means that the bulk of the book of Job is spent seeking answers rather than receiving them. Towards the end, the responses from Elihu and God establish God's authority, power, and right to do that which He pleases. Even still, Job is never told exactly why he suffered and we never learn how God's rightness and justice related specifically to Job's suffering. We do learn, however, that God is wise, just, and in control of the entire universe.
  • God is the Source of Wisdom. Throughout the various dialogs and responses in this book (which make up chapters 3 - 42:6), the fundamental question is: "How do you know?". When Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar attempt to defend God's actions, we ought to be asking ourselves how they know the position they are defending to be true. For example, in Job 4:7 Eliphaz opens with the rhetorical questions: "who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed?". I argue that most people want this to be true, but how do we know whether or not it is true? The book of Job is not just about what is being said, but also on what grounds it is being said; that is, epistemology is central to the book of Job. How can man know what is true about how God and the world work? How can man know if God is right? When it comes to questions of who God is and what he is doing/will do, we inherently have very little insight and need knowledge from something outside of ourselves. This is the basis of divine revelation as an epistemology. Our limited powers of observation and cognition cannot even come close to fully observing or discerning what God is like, so He reveals Himself to us that we might know Him. As Job notes in Job 28, God as the source of all wisdom and, thus, the source from which our understanding must be derived. The book of Job introduces and establishes the importance of divine revelation.


  • Many people think Job is all about suffering. The book of Job certainly involves suffering as a critical component of the narrative and dialog, but it does not do Job justice to say that the book is about suffering. When humans suffer, it forces us to ask bigger questions. The book of Job is about these bigger questions. Specifically, is God right to allow good people to suffer and the wicked to prosper?
  • When reading Job, keep in mind that many of the questions brought up throughout the book are not answered (at least not directly in the book of Job). For example, Job never learns why he suffered. We never hear a robust explanation of why a Just God can let the wicked prosper, even for a short time. As I mentioned in the "Date and Context" section, if the book of Job is one of the earliest, recorded revelations from God, it has an introductory role in laying the groundwork for what will be answered later in the Bible. Does Job ever get the mediator he asks for in Job 9:30-35? Does Job ever get the resurrection he asks wants so badly in 14:13-17?
  • Job 28:1-11 describes the mining technology available at Job's time. It is quite amazing how sophisticated it is. There appears to be some form of dynamite (28:9), scaffolding/rigging (28:4), and an accurate understanding of geology (28:5).
  • Job's rebuke of his friends in Job 13:5-12 and God's indictment of them in 42:7 ought to be warnings to Christians today. Teachers, preachers, counselors, apologists, and lay people must be careful not to misrepresent God, even out of good intentions. We must always be accountable to divine revelation as our ultimate standard and must be honest enough to distinguish between our deductions and opinions and God's revelation to us.
  • Job 27 can be a bit confusing (specifically Job 27:7-23). Is Job affirming the TRP? In this chapter, Job is describing what happens to the godless man after death. Verse 8 introduces this notion and Job continues to describe what it will be like for the wicked after death in verses 13-23.
  • It is critical to note that a fundamental shift in Job's argument occurs in Job 31. In this chapter, Job shifts from defending himself to affirming his own, inherent righteousness and bringing God's justice and awareness into question. For example, verse 1-4 are a perfect example of this. In verse 1, he establishes his righteousness. In verse 2 and 3, he suggests that God punishes only the wicked. And in verse 4, he comes to the conclusion that it must be God's perception and knowledge that is faulty. This same pattern is mirrored throughout this chapter. This is why Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar stop answering Job (32:1) and why Elihu is outraged (32:1).


1. There is a summary of the dialog between Job and his friends here.

2. TRP stands for the "Temporal Response Principle" which encapsulates the fundamental argument presented by Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. This principle states that God will (and even must) respond with punishment in this world for those who do evil. It also includes the converse: that God will respond with blessings in this world for those who do good.

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