The story of Job offers insight into one of the great mysteries of life.
The account of Job’s suffering has brought comfort and hope over the centuries to many a person perplexed with the heartaches of life.
The book raises the age-old question on whether suffering is a punishment for sin or a development of one’s character. Job is a study in suffering, but few have ever considered the possibility that Job may present a prophetic scenario.
Does not all of the Bible weave a singular pattern presenting God’s great plan of the ages? Like the other prophecies of the Bible, God may have used this ancient book to yield a prophetic prediction of that which would befall His Chosen People down through the centuries.
The word, Job, means “the persecuted one,” and like that ancient sufferer, the Jewish people have seen more agony than any other race or nationality in history.
The Jew has certainly been “the persecuted one.” The world has always been quick to accuse and ridicule the Jew.
The Israelites have always been like a square peg in a round hole – the misfits of humanity – not because of some inferiority, quite the contrary. The Jew has been persecuted in spite of his great contributions to humanity in the fields of art, music, law, government, economics, medicine, science and religion.
The world has been abundantly blessed because of Abraham’s seed, but they do not recognize it, nor do they accept it. Sad to say, there are whole nations that consider the Jew to be like a cancer that must be eliminated from the human race.
From time to time, I receive letters across my desk from people who suggest that I stop taking the side of those “murderous Jews.” In fact, they seem to think that the Israelis are responsible for their continuing conflicts with the Arabs. Not for a moment do they consider placing the blame on those who pulled the triggers.
They blame the Jews for everything! They do not care that it was a Jew who invented the telephone, the television, and many of the miracles of modern medicine. They don’t blame the Arabs for bringing the world to the brink of Armageddon; they blame it on the Jews!
There are some who suggest that today’s Jews are not even Jews. They promote the theory that the tribes were lost to history. They have attempted to trace their migration into Europe, believing the ancient Israelites become the progenitors of the British, French, Germans, etc.
Still, others believe that the Indians of North America were the descendants of the “ten lost tribes.” It seems that everybody is a Jew, but the Jew. When it comes to suffering, however, there is no doubt who wins first prize. Let us observe the life of Job and consider the possibility that his life was a prophetic profile of suffering Israel.
So, Was Job a Gentile?
Some rabbis suggest that Job was a Gentile – one of the very few they could accept as a righteous man, having lived long before Moses.
But was he really a Gentile? The fact that Job lived another 140 years after his restoration seems to suggest that he lived as a contemporary with others in the Bible who lived to between 100 and 150 years old. It is quite possible that he lived during those years when Jacob joined Joseph in Egypt. So why should he have to be a Gentile? Allow me to suggest that he could have been the very person listed in Genesis 46 as one of the sons of Issachar who accompanied Jacob into Egypt:
“And the sons of Issachar: Tola, and Phuvah, and Job…” (Genesis 46:13).
Jacob’s family settled in the land of Goshen, an area covering the fertile delta of the Nile. Job must have been one of those seventy people who accompanied the patriarch into Egypt, otherwise, the earliest collection of Hebrew Scriptures would not have included the story of his life. It does not seem reasonable that the story of a Gentile should be included in an otherwise Jewish book.
If Job was written before Moses, then the book could have been authored in Egypt.
The statement in chapter 1, verse 3, wherein Job is called “…the greatest of all the men of the east,” may simply be a reference to the territory east of Goshen in the northeastern corner of Egypt, rather than some unknown territory east of Canaan. Jeremiah suggests as much.
He places the land of Uz between Egypt and Philistia: Jeremiah 25:19-21
“Pharaoh king of Egypt, and his servants, and his princes, and all his people; “And all the mingled people, and all the kings of the land of UZ, and all the kings of the land of the Philistines, and Ashkelon, and Azzah, and Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod, “Edom, and Moab, and the children of Ammon”
It is quite possible that biblical scholars simply overlooked Jeremiah’s reference to the land of Uz being between Egypt and Philistia. Jeremiah starts out with Egypt, mentions Uz, then writes about the land of the Philistines, whose major cities were Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Ashdod.
Next, he writes of Edom, Moab, and Ammon in successive order from south to north. Jeremiah does not jump around with his geographical references. Therefore, it stands to reason that Jeremiah also mentioned Egypt, Uz and Philistia in correct order from south to north.
The reading of the passage leads one to conclude that Uz was located east of Goshen and may have extended across the Sinai peninsula – as far east as the territory of Edom. The book of Lamentations speaks of Edom dwelling in the land of Uz: Lamentations 4:21
“Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, that dwellest in the land of Uz…”
It is possible that the land of Uz may have been the name of a wide region encompassing many tribes. Job, however, must have lived just east of the Nile delta.
It is quite likely that Job was an Israelite, son of Issachar, and that he grew rich as a keeper of cattle – the very occupation of Jacob’s family when they settled in Egypt.
Just because Job was a man of position, whose wealth was measured in cattle and possessions, does not mean that he confirmed to the picture of roving Chaldean tribesmen in the second millennium B.C.
Just because the Sabeans and Chaldeans robbed him does not mean that he had to live in the Arabian Desert, as some suggest. The Sabeans and Chaldeans traveled the trade routes between Babylon and Egypt regularly.
Northeastern Egypt was right in the middle of the most heavily traveled caravan route extending from Mesopotamia through Egypt and into Africa.
Some think that the book has a strong Aramaic flavor and that Job lived near the center of Aramaic influence. During the second millennium B.C., Aramean tribes settled in the Fertile Crescent from the land of Babylonia to the rivers of Egypt and controlled the caravan routes throughout the Middle East. Evidently, Job lived along a major trade route for these caravans.
When the Sabeans and Chaldeans robbed him, Job did not pursue. He had lived in the Mesopotamia valley, it would have been a simple matter for Job’s friends to round up the culprits. The fact that they did not, suggests that they took the booty too far away – too far for Job to muster an army and go after them.
So, When Was the Book Written?
The book of Job is considered to be the oldest book in the Bible – predating Moses. Job must have lived during the early part of those 230 years that the sons of Jacob occupied the land of Goshen – along the fertile delta of the Nile – having moved there at the invitation of Joseph.
According to Genesis 36:15, Job’s friend, Eliphaz, and his son, Teman, were descendants of Esau, twin brother to Jacob and progenitor of the Edomite people. Geographically, Teman was an Edomite city.
“These were the dukes of the sons of Esau: the sons of Eliphaz the firstborn son of Esau; duke Teman, duke Omar, duke Zepho, duke Kenaz,
“Duke Korah, duke Gatam, and duke Amalek: these are the dukes that came of Eliphaz in the land of Edom …” Genesis 36:15,16.
Teman was the son of Eliphaz and grandson of Esau. Furthermore, a city was named after him. According to Jeremiah 49:7, the city of Teman was once considered to be a center of wisdom:
“Concerning Edom, thus saith the Lord of Hosts; Is wisdom no more in Teman? is counsel perished from the prudent? is their wisdom vanished?”
It is also possible that the book was written some years after Job’s death and during the period of suffering under Egyptian bondage.
It may have been written as an inspiration for the Israelites to
keep trusting in the God of their fathers in
spite of their harsh circumstances.
The story of Job gave hope to an otherwise hopeless people.
It is even possible that someone contemporary with Moses wrote the book – though we have no historical evidence. Whoever wrote this longest narrative of a single man in the Bible had to be quite gifted – an educated author with a flair for writing.
We are told that Job eventually regained his wealth and lived to see four generations:
“After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations.
“So Job died, being old and full of days”
The term “four generations” has a familiar ring to it. That was the number of generations that God mentioned to Abraham when He predicted the Egyptian bondage: Genesis 15:13-16
“And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;
“And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
“And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.
“But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full”
We do not know the age of the Genesis-Job when he and his father, Issachar, moved to Egypt. But he must have been a young man, since Joseph was only in his early thirties. Issachar, himself, could not have been much older than Joseph, being the ninth son of Jacob’s twelve. If listed in the order of their ages, Job was the third son of Issachar, listed among four. So he may have been a young child when the family moved to Egypt.
We are told that Job lived another 140 years after his ordeal and died a rich man – perhaps some years before the onset of Pharaoh’s persecution. The story of his life could have been written as an encouragement for the Israelites who were suffering Egyptian bondage.
There is no mention of Egypt in the book of Job, but that could have been because the writer did not want to stir the waters of a delicate political situation. One may recall, when Moses interrupted Egypt’s tranquility, Pharaoh’s persecution of the Israelites took a distinct turn for the worse.
No one really knows when Job was written. But we cannot dismiss the possibility that Job appealed to a disheartened people facing the heartless antics of the Pharaoh who knew not Joseph. The Israelites were enslaved and made to work for the mad ruler.
The Prophetic Aspects of Job
Job is the story of a suffering man whose hope and destiny lay in the hands of God:
“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job: and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
“And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.
“His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east”
The story of Job is basically this: Job was a man greatly blessed of God because of his righteousness. It seemed that God had a wall of protection around Job and had made him one of the richest men in the world. But the great accuser came before the throne of God and declared that, if given a chance, Job could be made to curse his Creator. Basically, that’s when the persecution of Job began.
Job was not a vile and wicked man.
His persecution was more than just a punishment for sin.
As best we can determine, it was God’s way of testing the ruggedness and durability of His creation.
That is what men do today when a new product is developed. For example, the space shuttle has been through hundreds of rigorous trials, some bordering on abuse, in order to see whether it would stand the test. Once it passed all of the testing, then it was ready to perform the great task for which it was designed.
Such is true of the human race and especially Israel, for God had promised Abraham that through his seed all of the families of the earth would be blessed.
There are some who believe that God has disinherited Israel and that New Testament Christianity has replaced the Chosen People as the heirs to the covenant. Such is not the case, however, for we must remember that even though Job appeared to be forsaken, in the end, he was restored and given a greater position than that which he possessed before his problems began. I am convinced that Job lays out a prophetic scenario for the nation of Israel.
In the story, Job lost everything he had. Satan had claimed that if an ill wind were allowed to blow upon the life of Job he would curse God. In response, the Lord allowed an army of Sabeans to slay his servants and steal his 500 yoke of oxen. At the same time, a fire fell from heaven and destroyed his 7,000 sheep.
Furthermore, soon afterward, a band of Chaldeans stole his 3,000 camels. As if that were not enough, God also allowed a violent wind to destroy the house were his seven sons and three daughters were feasting. There were no survivors. Almost overnight Job lost everything he had.
The devastated Job then arose, tore his mantle, shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground to say: Job 1:21-22
“…the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
“In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly”
If that were not enough, God allowed Job to suffer a physical illness: Job 2:7
“So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord,
and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown”
Thoroughly demoralized, the pitiful Job took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape his boils and sat down among some ashes. The ashes were probably prepared as a disinfectant and cleansing agent for the oozing sores that covered his body. Both Job and his wife were emotionally devastated, not only by their bankruptcy, but also by the loss of their children. Through it all, Job maintained his faith in God, but his wife could not.
“Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die”
Job’s wife seems to be typical of that part of the family of Israel, which could not stand the test. The Israeli people have certainly had their share of those.
It is said that during the days of World War II, in one of the concentration camps, some of the Jewish prisoners put God on trial. They had attorneys for the plaintiff and attorneys for the defendant. A court was convened, and for several days arguments were heard. The accusations were made that God was responsible for all of the problems that beset the Jews. After several days of deliberation, the jury brought in its verdict. They declared that God was guilty. Sounds like that wife of Job. “Give up,” she said. “Curse God, and die.”
I have heard it said that some Jews have prayed, “Oh, God, if we are the Chosen People, please choose somebody else for a while!” Such has been the dilemma of the Jew in the midst of persecution greater than that which has befallen any other race or nationality throughout the annals of history.
In the depths of his illness, Job’s three friends come to comfort him – Eliphaz, the Temanite, Bildad, the Shuhite, and Zophar, the Naamathite.
Unfortunately, they were far from being a comfort to the hurting Job. Prophetically, may I suggest that these three friends appear to represent the three basic divisions of the human race – the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth – who, instead of being a comfort to the persecuted Israel down through the centuries, have taken the place of the accuser.
Eliphaz delivered three speeches, Bildad three, and Zophar two. Following each discourse, Job defended himself. Basically, these three friends had one view of the problem – Job was a hypocrite. Though he appeared to be outwardly good, they believed him to be a wicked man. Otherwise, according to their concept of God, the suffering of Job would be unjust. Job, on the other hand, though he was suffering, would not accuse the justice of God.
Job was faced with the frustrating question: Job 9:2
“…how should man be just with God?”
He continued: Job 9:32-33
“For he is not a man as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.
“Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both”
What a dilemma! Job admits that he has no daysman – no advocate – no lawyer ever, his faith was rewarded by the revelation of a coming Redeemer and by a future resurrection.
“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
“And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God?”
This observation made in the midst of his suffering represents a prophecy of the coming resurrection. It implies a magnificent promise of Christ, who will come someday to raise the dead and save Israel from its dilemma.
Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar believed Job was afflicted because of some great sin he had committed before God. However, there are many sinners in the world who do not suffer as Job suffered. Therefore, the suffering of Job cannot be attributed to some secret sin. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were also sinners before God, and yet they were not afflicted as Job was. Now, to be sure, the Chosen People have suffered because of sin, but there must be a far greater reason for the suffering of Israel.
The three friends of Job, which I believe represent the three divisions of the human race, seem to regard God as small and petty, exacting in His relations with men – basically that God only rewards good and punishes evil. They would look at anyone who is suffering and accuse him of some secret sin. This appears to be a worldwide concept of Jewish suffering. The world is quick to condemn the Jew.
At this point in the story, another man made his appearance – Elihu, the son of Barachel, the Buzite. Elihu presented a better opinion of the problem. His account of God is noble and true. It is noteworthy that in the last chapter, God did not classify him with the other three philosophers.
If Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar represent the three divisions of humanity, and if Job represents the nation of Israel, then who is Elihu and what does he represent in prophecy? It is my opinion that Elihu represents Christianity’s concept of God. The word Elihu means “God of him.” The word Barachel means, “God hath blessed.” These words seem to be descriptive of New Testament Christianity.
On the other hand, Elihu was a Buzite, which means “scorned, despised.” Unfortunately, this too is indicative of Christianity down through the centuries. Christianity has also been the brunt of criticism by an unbelieving world. The opinion of many today is that Christians are trying to shove religion down everybody’s throat, and that ministers are only preaching for money. Yes, just like Elihu the Buzite, Christians are scorned and hated. As a prophetic profile of Christianity, Elihu admitted that he was younger than Job and his three friends.
“And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old;
wherefore I was afraid, and durst not shew you mine opinion”
Just as Elihu considered himself to be younger than the others, even so, Christianity is a relatively young religion – younger than Israel – younger than the human race. If Elihu is a prophetic profile of Christianity, then some of his opinions also reflect the opinions of Christianity. He said of Job and his three friends:
“…there was none of you that convinced Job, or that answered his world:
“Lest ye should say, We have found out wisdom: God thrusteth him down, not man”
Elihu perceived that they could not convince Job of his sin, nor could Job convince them of his innocence. Job’s three friends refused to listen to Job’s defense, for they would not admit that they could possibly be wrong. They considered Job to be suffering because he was a bad man. They did not want to believe that Job could be good.
Such is the world today. It seems that many are not willing to give Israel the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, Elihu accused Job of speaking words without wisdom and multiplying his words without knowledge.
“Job hath spoken without knowledge, and his words were without wisdom”
“Therefore doth Job open his mouth in vain; he multiplieth words without knowledge”
That was not nice of Elihu to accuse Job. When God appeared and began to speak, He accused Elihu of the same thing:
“Who is that that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?”
Elihu was guilty of the same indiscretion he leveled against Job. Such is true, I think, of Christianity. Let us not be so quick to condemn Israel, for we have no right to throw stones.
The appearance of the Lord seems to be a prophetic picture of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in power and great glory.
“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind…”
The Shekinah Glory on the day of Pentecost was described as a rushing mighty wind – tongues like as of fire sat upon each of them. It is the same kind of appearance as was given on Mt. Sinai when God came down in the pillar of cloud and fire.
At the end of Job’s affliction God came to make His judgment, and frankly, He didn’t have much good to say about Job, his three friends, or Elihu. And of Job, He said, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?”
And finally, of Eliphaz and his friends, God said in Job 42:7
“My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath”
God’s wrath kindled here, and it may be a prediction of Armageddon. Please note, disaster was averted when Job prayed for his friends. At this point, God turned the captivity of Job.
He either gave him seven more sons and three more daughters, or He raised his seven sons and three daughters from the dead and returned them to their father. At least it appears to be a prophecy of the future resurrection. Otherwise, the Bible might have said that God gave seven MORE sons and three MORE daughters.
“He had also seven sons and three daughters”
Furthermore, the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning and doubled his riches.
So, who was Job?
He was the ultimate Jew!
He was a prophetic profile of the Chosen People in their suffering and their destiny.
We can be certain that God will turn the captivity of Israel just as He turned the captivity of Job.
From the archives of: Dr. J.R. Church