Why Job? It seems odd to move from Genesis, after only the first 11 chapters, to the book of Job. Why would we move into Job in our attempt to read the Bible in chronological order - in order in which the events most likely occurred? The book of Job was very likely written much later than the period of the Genesis stories. But, most scholars agree that the life and events of the person Job would have occurred around the time of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). The setting and description of the societal structure of Job’s time most resemble that of the patriarchal period. The language of the story also indicates a much earlier origin, especially the name of God, or lack of the name Yahweh. We find Job before Psalms in our Bible because it is considered a form of wisdom literature, as arethe Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes. The story and themes of Job find parallels in other Ancient Near Eastern writings which were written as far back as 2,000 years before Christ. Some of these likely began as oral accounts of historical events or epic tales which date much earlier than that.
It really is hard to say whether Job was an actual person or acharacter of fiction. Personally, I don’t know if it matters much which way you lean on this question. The message and themes of Job are the real significance. Job addresses the questions of God’s authority and control, how God works in the world, and why people suffer (especially good people). His story affirms that God is sovereign, absolutely in control of all of creation, including Satan himself. In his trials and wrestling with justice and sorrow, Job provides a model and an encouragement to stay faithful and true to God in all things. His account also dispels the false idea that only the righteous will find blessing and prosperity (or in reverse, those who have success must have pleased the gods), and those who suffer or experience great loss must have sinned or angered the gods.
The story opens with this scene of a divine court – God meets with the spiritual beings. In this gathering, Satan appears. We see right away that although Satan has been given room and freedom to roam to and fro about the earth, he is not free to do whatever he wants. God limits his actions; He remains in control of Satan even as he allows him to wreak havoc on certain people, at certain times and in certain ways. As Job loses everything, his friends come to try and console him. You may have heard of the Jewish “shiva” (sitting in mourning following the death of a family member). Job’s friends practice this in sitting with him in the ashes for seven days and nights. Then Job cries in his pain that he wishes he had never been born. Eliphas replies with both encouragement and foolish, unhelpful words. He encourages Job to stop the self-pity and realize that he needs to honor God in both plenty and in his great loss. He also gives the somewhat false hope that all will be restored. But then he hints that Job must have sinned somehow to deserve all this.