Job 1 – “The First Test”

sreb-07-destroyedhouseHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Job 1 recounts how Job, a pious and wealthy man, is tested in order to see if his piety is a result of his prosperity. God allows the Satan to kill Job’s children and liquidate his possesions, but Job nevertheless remains faithful.

II. Photo
Messengers tell Job about the calamities that have befallen him: “This one was still speaking when another [messenger came to Job] and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother when suddenly a mighty wind came from the wilderness. It struck the four corners of the house so that it collapsed upon the young people and they died; I alone have escaped to tell you.’” (vv. 18-19)

III. Important Verses
v. 1: There was a man in the land of Uz named Job. That man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.
vv. 8-11: The LORD said to the Adversary, “Have you noticed My servant Job? There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil!” The Adversary answered the LORD, “Does Job not have good reason to fear God? Why, it is You who have fenced him round, him and his household and all that he has. You have blessed his efforts so that his possessions spread out in the land. But lay Your hand upon all that he has and he will surely blaspheme You to Your face.”
vv. 20-22: Then Job arose, tore his robe, cut off his hair, and threw himself on the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the LORD has given, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” For all that, Job did not sin nor did he cast reproach on God.

IV. Outline
1. Job’s piety
2-3. Job’s good fortune
4-5. Job’s piety
6-12. The wager between God and Satan
13-19. Job’s wealth and family is destroyed
20-22. Job accepts the decree and praises God

V. Comment
The book of Job is made up of 39 chapters of poetic discourse (3:1-42:6) framed by three chapters of prosaic narrative (1:1-2:13, 42:7-17). The first chapter alternates its setting between earth, where Job is at first prosperous and later punished, and heaven, where God and the Satan decide to test Job’s piety. In terms of structure, many of the scenes are introduced by the words wayehi hayom “one day…” (see vv. 6, 13, 2:1), vv. 14-19 use uniform phraseology, and vv. 1, 8 describe Job in the same way.

Clines writes (p. 8), “In the prologue, the two fundamental data indispensable for the book as a whole are presented. First, Job is a righteous man; second, he is suffering undeservedly, and that at God’s hand, or at least with God’s permission. From these data the whole issue of the book arises.” What is the book’s primary issue? Clines quotes Fohrer (p. 9), “The concern of this narrative, as of the book as a whole, is not the problem of suffering, but the behavior of people in their experiencing and enduring suffering… not the problem of theodicy, but of human existence in suffering.”

The book begins by saying, “There was a man in the land of Uz named Job.” The place ‘utz is only mentioned twice elsewhere, once in Jer. 25:20 and once in Lam. 4:21 which says, “Rejoice and exult, Fair Edom, Who dwell in the land of Uz! To you, too, the cup shall pass, You shall get drunk and expose your nakedness.” The relationship between Uz and the Edomites (who lived in the wilderness below the Dead Sea to the west of Arabia) is important: it indicates that Uz was probably located in northwest Arabia. Clines writes, “Further support for a situation in or near Edom may be given by the occurrence of the personal name Uz in an Edomite genealogy (Gen 36:28 = 1 Chr 1:42), and by the probability that most of the personal names in Job have an Edomite origin (see on 2:11). Further, the personal name Uz is linked in Gen 22:21 with the name Buz, which appears in Jer 25:23 as a place name associated with Dedan and Tema, towns in northwest Arabia and thus not far south of Edom.” It is also interesting that the Septuagint’s lengthy ending to the book explicitly states that Job (a) lived on the edge of Arabia, and (b) ruled over the Edomites: “…  [Job] is described in the Syriac book as living in the land of Ausis on the borders of Idumea and Arabia: and his name before was Jobab; and having taken an Arabian wife, he begot a son whose name was Ennon. And he himself was the son of his father Zare, one of the sons of Esau, and of his mother Bosorrha, so that he was the fifth from Abraam. And these were the kings who reigned in Edom, which country he also ruled over…” (LXX 42:17).

Regarding Job’s ethnicity, Clines writes (p. 10), “The importance of the name Uz lies not in where such a place is, but in where it is not. Israelites themselves may not have known its precise location, but they will have known, as we do, that it is not in Israel. The name therefore signifies that the action has a horizon that is not peculiarly Israelite. It does not mean that Job necessarily is a foreigner, for most Jews of the exilic period and beyond—if that is the time of the book’s composition—lived outside the borders of Israel, and the patriarchs themselves—since that is ostensibly the time in which the story is set—were almost as often to be found outside the land as within it. The Book of Job simply does not say whether or not Job is an Israelite; by leaving open the question of his race, the book effectively makes his experience transcend the distinction between Israelite and non-Israelite, Jew and non-Jew. We do not know that the storyteller had such a conscious intention, but such is the effect he has created.”

Before getting to the crux of the chapter, two more geographical points are in order. V. 15 describes how the sheva’ “Sabeans” steal Job’s cattle. Who were the Sabeans? Anchor Bible Dictionary (“Sabeans,” Vol. V, p. 861) writes that the term refers to different groups in Tanach, but “the peoples here are a N Arabian group in the vicinity of Tema (Job 6:19), an oasis city which is often associated with Dedan (Isa 21:13–14; Jer 25:23; cf. Gen 10:7 and 25:3).” V. 17 describes how the kasdim “Chaldeans” steal Job’s camels. Who were the Chaldeans? While the Chaldeans were a group of people in Mesopotamia who attacked Judah from a long distance (see Ezek. 23:23, Hab. 1:6), the group mentioned here was probably a group of local marauders.

V. 1 describes Job: “That man was blameless and upright (tom weyashar); he feared God and shunned evil (sar mera’).” These are traits lauded in the Wisdom literature of Tanach. For instance, Prov. 2:21 says, “For the upright (yesharim) will inhabit the earth, The blameless (temimim) will remain in it,” and Ps. 37:37 says, “Mark the blameless (tom), note the upright (yashar), for there is a future for the man of integrity.” The phrases “feared God” and “shunned evil” appear together in many places, albeit with the Tetragrammaton in place of the name ‘elohim. For instance, Prov. 3:7 says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and shun evil (sur mera’).” Also see Prov. 14:16, 16:16.

In v. 8 God describes Job using the same terminology as v. 1, but adds the phrase ‘avdi “my servant”: “The LORD said to the Adversary, ‘Have you noticed My servant Job? There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil!’” This appellation is given to righteous people such as Moses (more than 40 times, e.g. Num. 12:7-8) and the patriarchs (Ex 32:13, Deut 9:27). Given the fact that Job might have been a non-Israelite, it is interesting that the term ‘avdi is also given to a non-Israelite in Jer. 25:9: “I am going to send for all the peoples of the north — declares the LORD — and for My servant (‘avdi), King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, and bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all those nations roundabout. I will exterminate them and make them a desolation, an object of hissing — ruins for all time.” It is also interesteing that v. 8’s phrase ‘ein kamohu “there is no one like him” is almost exclusively used to describe God (e.g. 1 Kings 8:23, Jer 10:6, etc., but see 1 Sam 10:24 where the phrase is applied to Saul).

In v. 9 the Satan makes his major point: “The Adversary answered the LORD, ‘Does Job not have good reason to fear God?’” God agrees that Job has never been tested, and allows Satan to do anything but “lay a hand upon him” (v. 12). The next verses describe how Job’s fortune and children are lost, and how Job mourns in response: “Then Job arose, tore his robe, cut off his hair, and threw himself on the ground and worshiped” (v. 20). Tearing one’s robe and cutting one’s hair seem to have been normal mourning rite (for cutting clothes see Gen. 37:29, 2 Sam. 1:2, etc.; for cutting hair see Isa. 15:2, Amos 8:10, and Mic. 1:16 where gaz “shearing” is equated with the qorchah “baldness”). It is interesting that causing baldness (qorchah) is forbidden in Deut. 14:1. “You are children of the LORD your God. You shall not gash yourselves or shave the front of your heads (qorchah) because of the dead.”

Through it all Job does not lose his faith: “[Job] said, ‘Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the LORD has given, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.’” (v. 20) This phrase has an interesting parallel in the more pessimistic Eccl. 5:14, “Another grave evil is this: He must depart just as he came. As he came out of his mother’s womb, so must he depart at last, naked as he came. He can take nothing of his wealth to carry with him.” The phrase “blessed be the name of the LORD” in our v. 20 appears in Ps. 113:2 “ Let the name of the LORD be blessed now and forever.”

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

Clines, Job 1-20 (Word Biblical Commentary)

Anchor Bible Dictionary (“Sabeans,” “Chaldeans”)

Photo taken from http://advocacynet.org/blogs/media/blogs/peoplesrebrenica/sreb-07-destroyedhouse.jpg

2 thoughts on “Job 1 – “The First Test”

  • You might be interested in this online commentary “Putting God on Trial: The Biblical Book of Job” (http://www.bookofjob.org) as supplementary or background material for your study of the Book of Job. It is not a sin to question God, to demand answers from God. There is a time and a place for such things. It is written by a Canadian criminal defense lawyer, now a Crown prosecutor, and it explores the legal and moral dynamics of the Book of Job with particular emphasis on the distinction between causal responsibility and moral blameworthiness embedded in Job’s Oath of Innocence. It is highly praised by Job scholars (Clines, Janzen, Habel) and the Review of Biblical Literature, all of whose reviews are on the website. It is also taught in 262 US high schools in 40 states through Chapter 17 in The Bible and Its Influence. The author is an evangelical Christian, denominationally Anglican. He is also the Canadian Director for the Mortimer J. Adler Centre for the Study of the Great Ideas, a Chicago-based think tank.

  • I cannot decide whether Job was arrogant or truly servant-like. Arrogance might be the case if he, Job, was the pure one who via his own righteousness took it upon himself to save his children. Arrogance or perceived arrogance could have made him a tempting target for Satan. The servant position might be that he was Tobit-like, trying to do whatever he could to help his children who he suspected/knew lived a less-than-God-pleasing lifestyle.

    Either way, it works in a very masterful book. In my Bible study classes, every third or fourth session someone would bring up [the book of] Job.

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