Encountering the Old Testament, 3rd Edition

A Christian Survey

series: Encountering Biblical Studies


20. Job: One Man's Search for Justice

Chapter Intro Video

Chapter Objectives

  • Identify the two major classifications of wisdom literature of the ancient Near East
  • Describe the key characteristics of the wisdom literature of Egypt
  • Contrast the Wisdom literature of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Old Testament
  • Outline the basic content of the book of Job
  • Give examples of the approaches used by Job’s three friends in their attempts to help him
  • Define theodicy
  • Evaluate all of the speeches made before Job
  • Consider how Job and his friends viewed retribution theology, and compare that with God’s view

Chapter Summary

  1. Modern scholars have classified the books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes as “Wisdom literature,” along with selections in other Old Testament books.
  2. Throughout the ancient Near East, the nations had wisdom teachers. In the Old Testament, the wise men of Mesopotamia, Canaan, and Egypt were compared with Solomon.
  3. Near Eastern Wisdom literature can be divided into brief proverbial maxims intended to teach about life and longer discussions dealing with the problems of life.
  4. Ancient Egypt created many examples of instructional wisdom, which focused on successful living.
  5. Mesopotamia produced documents containing lengthy speeches about the problems of justice in the world.
  6. Ancient Near Eastern culture accepted the doctrine of retribution.
  7. The book of Job considers some of the most difficult questions of life, foremost among which is the problem of theodicy.
  8. Job’s three friends tried to help him through this difficult time in his life, and each had his own methodology.
  9. The general message of the book of Job is that wisdom belongs to God and resolute faith in him will be vindicated.
  10. When God finally spoke, Job acknowledged God’s omnipotence as well as his own ignorance, and he repented.
  11. Retribution theology is the theology of Job and all the speakers of the book of Job, but God eliminated their understanding and application of retribution theology.
  12. There is no conclusive information that identifies who the author of Job was.

Study Questions

  1. What biblical books do modern scholars designate as “Wisdom literature”? Differentiate between Mesopotamian discoursive material and Israelite wisdom literature. How did the Israelites interact with the literature and worldview of their ancient Near Eastern neighbors? What is the Old Testament foundation of wisdom? What topic is explored in wisdom literature?
  2. What are the difficult questions of life addressed in Job? What aspects of God’s character are challenged by the presence of evil in the world?
  3. What is the central message of the book?
  4. Describe the points of view of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Where did they place the blame for Job’s suffering? What was Job’s response?
  5. How does Elihu characterize Job’s problem? To what does he attribute God’s silence? What does he see as the key to alleviating Job’s suffering?
  6. How does the Lord rebuke Job in 38:1–42:6? What is Job’s response?
  7. How does God respond to Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar? What is the final outcome for Job?
  8. What is known about the writing of Job and the geographical setting of the book?
  9. How does Job contribute to an understanding of retribution theology? How does the book answer the problem of theodicy?