Any serious student of the Bible must address the difficult questions that critics present. The Book of Job is one of the Books in the Bible that attracts its fair share of criticism, and understandably so. The entire conversation between God and the Devil challenges many of our presuppositions or even our researched understanding of the character of God. I can begin with the entire concept of having what appears to be a buddy to buddy chat with the Devil in Job 2:3, and before that, in Job 1:8. Noteworthy is the fact that it was God who picked the fight as it were with the Devil… a fight He knew He would win, but still a fight. My perception of the relationship between God and the Devil after what the Devil did to God’s prize creation, would be at the best cold, not chummy!
Secondly, I have a bit of difficulty seeing my God “setting up” one of His most faithful servants. Make no bones about it, Job got set up. When you do evil, you expect to be punished or to suffer harm. When you do well, and consistently well as was in the case of Job, the last thing you expect is to be punished for it. And then to know that your punishment was permitted by the One who you faithfully serve is hard to accept. And speaking from my personal perspective, the fact that Job’s latter days were twice as blessed as his former days, is no consolation.
These, in my opinion are two of that major criticsms of the Book of Job that are worth consideration. I do not have a definitive answer for these questions, but I do have a response to the critics. First of all, if you are calling into question the entire 66 Books of the Bible, then we can proceed to discuss the issue, which then would not be the Book of Job, but the inspiration and canonicity of Scripture… However, if you accept that the God of the Universe inspired the other Books but did not inspire Job, then you deserve a response.
I suggest that the Book of Revelation is more difficult to understand, and hence accept, than is the Book of Job. As is the case in Revelation, The Creator God of the Universe gives man an insight into spiritual matters that man can only even begin to understand, if they are presented in language that is familiar. To put it bluntly, no serious student of the Bible takes everything that is written in the Bible in a literal sense. Many sections of the Bible are allegorical, and Revelation heads the list. I have no difficulty working with the possibility that the conversation between God and the Devil is allegorical. Bible Scholar Adam Clarke cites a Mr. Peters who sees a parallel between the Council in heaven at which the Devil showed up uninvited, and that in 1 Kings 22:6-23. If the allegorical style of writing is admitted, then what matters is the message behind the allegory. Most agree that the message is Divine.
My response to the critics would then deviate to the contextualizing of the Book of Job. Not only is the Land of Uz identifiable in Biblical and secular literature, but the regions from which Job’s three friends and Elihu came are also identifiable and in many cases, their ancestry can be traced in the Bible (Genesis 22:21-22; Genesis 25:2, 6; Genesis 36:11 Historian Josephus refers to Uz in Ant., 1, vi, 4
My final response to critics would be that the Book of Job easily passes the “harmony test”. There is a consistency in message that runs throughout the Bible. Reference is made to Job’s perseverance by the Apostle James in James 5:11. The central messages in Job are consistent with the rest of the Bible. These include the Sovereignty of God; the ultimate triumph of good over evil; the faithfulness of God; the subjection of the Devil to the authority of God; and the separation between the spirit and physical worlds. All of these are themes in Job that permeate the entire Bible.
An outstanding nugget in the Book of Job is the fact that God recognizes and rewards integrity and those who fear God and turn away from evil (Job 2:3) And if you accept the recorded conversation between God and Satan as being literal, then God even celebrates and boasts about His upright servants. Job did not know what God was doing, but we know. If and when we suffer for righteousness sake, we can intelligently rejoice because we know that God is behind it all, smiling… as He did with Job (James 1:2; 1 Peter 4:12-16)
One of the nuggets that lie bare on the surface of Job 2:1-10 is, “Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said (v 10). But even before that, immediately after Job heard about all his material and family losses in quick succession, we are told that Job’s reflex reaction was to worship God and vindicate God – Job 1:20-22.
Another nugget is that the “big bad devil” is not as bad as he sometimes appears to be. He is not in the same class as our God. He can do nothing to the Believer without the consent of God. This ought to influence the way we interpret trials and suffering in our lives But there is a caveat. Before we claim the blessings of Job, let us remember that it was God who Himself testified of Job… “Have you considered My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil… (Job 2:3). Can God say this of you?
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