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Bible Old Testament wisdom literature (Job-Song of Songs)

An overview of Old Testament wisdom literature and lists of helpful references for further research and understanding. Prepared by Major Bill Garrett's Messengers of the Kingdom BS104 Class.

What is Job? (Emma LaBossiere)

“An extensive work of prose and poetry found in the Writings of the OT. The book recounts the moving story of a righteous individual who incurs horrendous suffering, is castigated by his friends, challenges God, and is finally vindicated and restored. Although the book is commonly associated with the wisdom books, Job holds a unique place within the biblical literature, for it broaches matters of the human condition and theology that are nowhere else conveyed with such pathos.”

- Freedman, David Noel, et al., editors. "Book of Job." Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000, pp. 716-719.

“It is one of the longest books and it deals with significant theological concepts: the meaning of suffering, God’s control (or lack thereof) over all the events that happen in the world (both good and bad), whether cause and effect is an adequate principle for explaining life’s misfortunes, and the power of human relationships to comfort or hurt”

- Simundson, Daniel J. "What every Christian should know about Job." Word & World, Fall 2011, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 349-356.

What is Job Trying to Communicate? (Kiara Blaire)

          When you are wondering what Job is trying to communicate it is best to look at the whole book of Job. There are many things that you can take away from Job, but the main point that Job is trying to communicate is the subject of wisdom. We may often wonder why a person who is Godly and blameless, such as Job in the book of Job, goes through much suffering. The whole book of Job tells a story that ends up telling us that God is our source of wisdom. The book of Job is trying to communicate with us that among suffering we must submit to God for wisdom is found in God. (Longman III 66).

          The book of Job may also be telling us that suffering doesn’t always come from sinning and that we shouldn’t think that someone is sinning or is a bad person because that are going through some hard times. Longman III states, “The fact that sin is not the only possible cause of suffering has two practical implications. First, it “shatters the myth that our own righteousness can protect us from unjust suffering.” In other words, we cannot control the situations that might lead to our pain. Second, we cannot judge others based on the fact that they are suffering.” (Longman III 67).

          Job is a book that communicates that we don’t just get to live happily ever after and everything will go smoothly just because we live for Christ. The book of Job communicates that through everything that might happen to us God will be there to write the last chapter. (Wiersbe 82).

References

Longman III, Tremper. "The Theological Message of the Book of Job." Job, Baker Academic, 2012.

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament Wisdom and PoetryDavid C. Cook, 2003.

 

Was Job a Real Person? (Jimmy Hughes)

          “According to the prophet Ezekiel Job was one of the three most righteous mortals who ever lived…” (Readers Digest 227)

          “The question has been raised very often whether Job was a real or imaginary person; but it seems to be settled by the prophet Ezekiel and the apostle James, each of whom makes statements which imply the reality of his existence, his high character, his sufferings and his deliverance (Ezekiel 14:12-20; James 5:10-11)” (McGarvey, par. 126).

          Instead of asking if Job were a real person or not, a better question might be “were the events of his life true?” “But while Job, and also his four friends, were real persons, their speeches were not delivered in the poetical form in which we have them, for this would be impossible without miraculous aid; and that they did not enjoy this appears from the fact that all of them said things for which they were censured” (McGarvey, par. 126).

          “Several pieces of literature from the Ancient Near East deal with the topic of individuals suffering for no apparent reason.” (Walton 31) But the way the information is presented should lead us to believe that these events are based on a real person. The style of this book is not historical. The style falls under that of Wisdom literature, which can be seen in the way in which the characters speak.

          A question that often comes up is “Is the scene of the council in Heaven real”? A fitting response is that the book of Job shows us “… how the world works and how God works in the world. The book reveals how things work in the world, not how things work in heaven” ( Walton 27). The style portrays the message of the story as more important than the accuracy.

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References:

McGarvey, J.W. A Guide to Bible StudyAccordance, 1999, https://accordance.bible/link/read/Bible_Study_Guide#126

Reader's Digest Who's Who in the Bible: An Illustrated Biographical Dictionary. Reader's Digest Association, 1994.

Walton, John H. Job: From Biblical Text - to Contemporary Life. Zondervan, 2012.

Is Job a Theodicy? (Hyesoo)

          Theodicy is “the attempt to justify God’s ways in the world, to vindicate the justice and holiness of God in light of the existence of evil in the world” (Arnold and Beyer 270, 485).  It begs the question, how can there be evil in the world if God is all-powerful and all-loving? Why do good people suffer and the wicked prosper, and how could God let this occur? There have been some debates and questions raised if the book of Job is the answer to this question. Job was a blameless and upright man in God’s eyes yet suffered immensely and miserably despite his good character. The problem with theodicy is that it denies the reality that bad things will happen to good people in this world. Job challenges God’s justice towards him, and God answers Job saying that he does not have sufficient knowledge and/or power to make such a claim and question God’s character (Job 38-41). The universe is so complex and vast, in which God has created and has control over every single detail which depicts His sovereignty and authority. Job, and people today can only understand a miniscule portion, as we are so limited in our abilities and knowledge that we are in no position to fully comprehend. We live in such an amazing world, but it is not designed to prevent suffering ("Job"). There will be evil and suffering in the world due to the wicked nature of mankind, and it can occur to anyone whether they are a good person or not. We must not try to find the reason for suffering and be transfixed as to why it happens, but to trust God and in His ways for us in our lives. “Job provides the biblical answer to the problem of theodicy. God is able to work all things – even evil things – together for good (Romans 8:28), and those who are faithful to him to the end will benefit from the evil they must suffer” (Arnold and Beyer 276). Just as Job was suffering and brought his complaints and grief to God, so must we also seek the Lord and bring Him our pain and sufferings to Him. We need to trust in Him and His plans for us, and the absolute truth of His unfailing love and care for us. He will redeem us in the end just as He did with Job, gifting Job with abundant blessings.

            An article by Timothy Polk states that the book of Job is not theodicy but more a doxology – giving praise to the Lord. The point is more on Job’s faithfulness to the Lord rather than the resolution of Job’s questions (Polk 409). Despite all the suffering, we wonder “will Job be able to maintain his integrity…will he return blessing for curse, or will he curse God and die? … Does praise have power, intrinsic to itself, true to its own nature, to maintain itself over against curse…?” (Polk 414). Polk states that Kierkegaard sees Job’s experience as an ordeal, “…an experience that sets him apart as an exception – ‘there is no one like him on the earth’ (Job 1:8).” Job’s suffering was not a punishment, but “an ordeal of innocent suffering in a world where the power of the curse appears to hold sway but in which Praise is at work to rectify, restore, and transform” (Polk 416). Throughout this difficult time, Job still seeks the Lord and in the end ultimately humbles himself and acknowledges the goodness of the Lord. The book of Job is a lesson that teaches us that no matter the circumstances, we should praise and rejoice in God’s name continually. We must not be swayed and led astray due to the curses and sufferings of the world, but rather draw nearer and closer to God especially during these times to “rectify, restore, and transform” (Polk 416) ourselves in Christ’s image and our relationship with Him.

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References

Arnold, Bill T., and Brian E. Beyer. Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey. Baker Academic, 2015.

"Job." BibleProject, bibleproject.com/learn/job, Accessed 9 March 2021.

Polk, Timothy. "Kierkegaard and the book of Job: theodicy or doxology?Word & World, Fall 2011, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 409.416.