Today we begin a series of readings in the Wisdom section of the Hebrew Bible, starting with the story of Job.
“There was a man in the land of Uz…” The first five verses give us all the background information we’ll receive about the primary character. We learn that he is a man of unusual wealth and unquestionable character. All this is prelude, however, to the real story, which begins on a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them…
Pay close attention to the back and forth of the dialogue in the heavenly court. It is the LORD who asks, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” The Accuser challenges, “Of course, since you have blessed him and protected him, ‘but stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’”
The gauntlet is thrown, and the attention, for the next forty chapters, is on the questions that Job’s trials produce. This story is not about the details of Job’s situation but the search for meaning within it. Pay attention to how the author carefully develops Job’s character. However, his wife’s challenge: "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die..." is a possible outcome throughout.
If you’re unfamiliar with Job, I won’t ruin the story for you. As with the law, writings, and prophets, the wisdom genre has its own patterns and tendencies. You’ll notice for yourself repetitions and alliterations, especially in the first chapter. Nor will I attempt to place this story within any historical framework – though you will see clues throughout that hint at historical intersections. You will not find Uz, definitively, on any map. Job is not included in any genealogy or lineage, and appears sparingly elsewhere in the Bible. Even the divine conversation has no analogue in the rest of the Old Testament.
These details are secondary to the primary purpose, and to the primary subject – which is neither Job, nor suffering, but the true nature and character of the LORD.
Our verse for this week is James 4:7: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Job 1 through 4. Now let’s read it!
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.