Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The problem of Job

I did not bring anything else to read in the train yesterday on my way to and fro work, other than my bible and I decided to read the book of Job. I had posted in March 12 that I am beginning to understand why Job.

But I have not finished it. I am not good in reading poetry, I get lost not knowing what they are trying to say or imply. So I went looking and found quite a good article in www.bible.org entitled An Argument of the Book of Job by David Malick. Here are some of the things he mentioned:

“The reasons for suffering in a person's life are not necessarily related to human explanations of personal unrighteousness, but are within the scope of God's good and powerful providence resulting in the defeat of evil and glory to himself.”

There are 3 rounds of speeches in Job, with each increasing in intensity:

Round 1: deals with Job’s limits of understanding
It generally affirms that God punishes the wicked and blesses the good, therefore Job should repent.

Round 2: deals with Job’s limit of power
It is more specific affirming that the wicked, and thus Job, suffer and will perish.

Round 3
It is more intense affirming that God is majestic, but Job is wicked!

Malick says that, “The presenting problem of the book was ‘why do the righteous suffer’. God’s defense did not concern a vindication of His justice in permitting evil to exist. Therefore, the realized problem of the book was:
(1) who controls evil and suffering,
(2) how can I be right before this God, and
(3) how can I fellowship with this God?”

I was also reading in Keil & Delitzsch's Commentary on the Old Testament (they were scholars in the 1800s), an introduction to the book, which I quote/summarise here:
    The Problem of the Book of Job (Keil & Delitzsch)

    Why do afflictions upon afflictions befall the righteous man? This is the question, the answering of which is made the theme of the book of Job. Looking to the conclusion of the book, the answer stands: that afflictions are for the righteous man the way to a twofold blessedness. But in itself, this answer cannot satisfy; so much the less, as the twofold blessedness to which Job finally attains is just as earthly and of this world as that which he has lost by affliction. This answer is inadequate, since on the one hand such losses as those of beloved children cannot, as the loss of sheep and camels, really be made good by double the number of other children; on the other hand, it may be objected that many a righteous man deprived of his former prosperity dies in outward poverty. There are numerous deathbeds which protest against this answer. There are many pious sufferers to whom this present material issue of the book of Job could not yield any solace; whom, when in conflict at least, it might the rather bring into danger of despair.
    But the issue of the history, regarded externally, is by no means the proper answer to the great question of the book. The principal thing is not that Job is doubly blessed, but that God acknowledges him as His servant, which He is able to do, after Job in all his afflictions has remained true to God.

    Therein lies the important truth, that there is a suffering of the righteous which is not a decree of wrath, into which the love of God has been changed, but a dispensation of that love itself. In fact, this truth is the heart of the book of Job.

    To this question the book furnishes, as it appears to us, two answers:
    (1.) The afflictions of the righteous are a means of discipline and purification; they certainly arise from the sins of the righteous man, but still are not the workings of God's wrath, but of His love, which is directed to his purifying and advancement.

    (2.) The afflictions of the righteous man are means of proving and testing, which, like chastisements, come from the love of God. Their object is not, however, the purging away of sin which may still cling to the righteous man, but, on the contrary, the manifestation and testing of his righteousness. This is the point of view from which, apart from Elihu's speeches, the book of Job presents Job's afflictions. Only by this relation of things is the chagrin with which Job takes up the words of Eliphaz, and so begins the controversy, explained and justified or excused. And, indeed, if it should be even impossible for the Christian, especially with regard to his own sufferings, to draw the line between disciplinary and testing sufferings so clearly as it is drawn in the book of Job, there is also for the deeper and more acute New Testament perception of sin, a suffering of the righteous which exists without any causal connection with his sin, viz., confession by suffering, or martyrdom, which the righteous man undergoes, not for his own sake, but for the sake of God.

    If we, then, keep in mind these two further answers which the book of Job gives us to the question, “Why through suffering to blessedness?” it is not to be denied that practically they are perfectly sufficient. If I know that God sends afflictions to me because, since sin and evil are come into the world, they are the indispensable means of purifying and testing me, and by both purifying and testing of perfecting me, - these are explanations with which I can and must console myself. But this is still not the final answer of the book of Job to its great question. And its unparalleled magnitude, its high significance in the historical development of revelation, its typical character already recognised in the Old Testament, consists just in its going beyond this answer, and giving us an answer which, going back to the extreme roots of evil, and being deduced from the most intimate connections of the individual life of man with the history and plan of the world in the most comprehensive sense, not only practically, but speculatively, satisfies.
I do poorly in summarising Keil & Delitzsch, and I cannot possibly post the entire text here. I tried getting a copy of the text online if you are interested but couldn’t find any. So, I guess the best place would be to download it free from www.e-sword.net.

Basically, the book of Job deals with suffering of the righteous and also “the fact that the right to judge righteously is expressed in the power to judge righteously … The power of God alone matches His will, therefore, He alone has the right to rule. Job learned that he acted foolishly by challenging God.”

Picture by Patrick Nijhuis


  1. Nice post, its a really cool blog that you have here, keep up the good work, will be back.

    Warm Regards

    Biby Cletus - Blog

  2. What an intense train ride you had, Pearlie. Nice job. On Job.

  3. Hi Biby,
    Thanks for coming by and for your kind words. Yes, do come back -- would love to hear your thoughts as well.

    God bless.

  4. Hi Jewels,
    I only read Job in the train (did the study later) but I guess I had this frown on my face :) :)

    But for today's train ride, I think I had a worse frown, I was reading some modern self-proclaimed "prophet" write-up as a preparation for a Biblical Interpretation course coming up end of the month.

  5. Pearlie, I love it when you do my work for me :)

    Job has been my book of study for the year it seems, and you continue to come up with great thoughts and resources that really help me work through it!


  6. Missy,
    I found in www.bible.org a bibliography you could refer to for a whole lot of resources.
    Glad to be of help :)