As we come to the conclusion of our study of the book of Job, we realize that the book is not only about Job and his suffering. The book of Job deals with the character and the nature of God. In their dialogue, Job and his friends focused their debate on what kind of God God was.
Job and his friends talked about the justice of God, and they emphasized the problem of retribution, and that God does not allow the wicked to go unpunished. Job called God his enemy and the one who punished him without cause. However, when God revealed himself to Job, God told him that he and his friends were all wrong.
The God of the Bible is a God who blesses, but he is also a God of justice. God is a God merciful and gracious, a God who abounds in steadfast love, and a God who abounds in faithfulness. But he is also a God who by no means clears the guilty (Exodus 34:6–7). Job’s friends expected God to punish Job for his sins. Job expected to be rewarded for being a faithful servant of God.
Job’s friends were wrong about the character of God. God said to Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken the truth about me” (Job 42:7). God’s indictment of Job’s friends reveals that their view of God was based on an incorrect perception of what kind of God God was.
God said that Job spoke right about him. But what did Job say right about God? Job spoke to God out of his desperate situation. The things he said about God reflect his pain, his suffering, and his inability to understand the work of God in the midst of his calamities. Job’s words were harsh, they were angry words, but they were words spoken by a person who truly believed in God.
God’s Judgment of Job’s Friends
God’s criticism of Job’s friends was based on what was said in their dialogue with Job. Job’s friends urged Job to repent and recognize that his suffering was because he had sinned against God. Elihu told Job, “Agree with God, and be at peace; in this way good will come to you” (Job 22:21). Now God tells Elihu, “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right” (Job 42:7).
What Elihu told Job to do would eventually become a denial of Job’s integrity and would lead him to do something that Job knew was not true. Job’s friends came to console him. Instead of showing compassion to Job, they accused him of being a wicked person who had mistreated the needy and had sinned against God. This is the reason God was angry with Elihu and his friends. Had Job accepted the advice of Elihu, Job would do what Satan said Job would do, deny God and prove Satan’s argument that Job served God for personal reasons.
Because of their egregious behavior, God requires Elihu and his friends to bring a costly sacrifice to Job as a burnt offering for themselves. The Book of Leviticus says that when an individual sins unintentionally, that person should offer a bull without blemish as a sin offering (Leviticus 4:2–3). The requirement God imposed on Job’s friends, the costly offering of seven bulls, reveals the magnitude of Elihu’s and his friends’ misguided views about God.
Elihu and his friends were to take their sacrifice to Job so that Job could pray for them. Job’s prayer of intercession for his friends was the condition by which God would forgive them, “my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly” (Job 42:8).
The Hebrew word for “I will accept” is “lift up the face.” When the priest prayed for the people, he said, “may the LORD lift up his face upon you” (Numbers 6:26). This expression means that a person finds favor with the Lord. That person receives favor from the Lord and is granted a special request.
“So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer” (Job 42:9). God forgave Elihu and his friends because God had lifted his face upon Job and granted his request for forgiveness for his friends.
God’s Restoration of Job
Job, acting as an intercessor, prayed for his friends and they were forgiven. Job’s prayer for his friends indicates that Job did not have any animosity toward his friends for the rude way they treated him. Job’s prayer restored their relationship with God and with Job.
After Job prayed for his friends, God restored Job’s prosperity. Job had to reconcile himself to his friends before he could be restored to his former condition. Job’s restoration meant that his afflictions were removed, and his prosperity was restored.
In his evaluation of Job’s restoration, Hartley wrote, “Yahweh restored Job’s fortunes. The fundamental spiritual principle that in giving one receives and in forgiving one is forgiven is demonstrated here” (Hartley 1988:540).
The restoration of Job included a doubling of all he had before. The doubling of Job’s possessions was not a payment for Job’s suffering. Rather, God blessed Job with twice as much as he had before. Balentine writes that the doubling of Job’s possessions “suggests that Job’s possessions are a tangible confirmation of his unparalleled piety” (Balentine 2006:715).
In describing the doubling of Job’s possessions, Hartley writes, “The doubling of Job’s estate does not mean that he received a bountiful reward for the endurance of undeserved affliction, but rather that Yahweh freely and abundantly blessed him. This blessing came through the gifts Job’s family and friends gave to him. The blessing proves that Yahweh is a life-giving God, not a capricious deity who takes pleasure in the suffering of those who fear him. In his sovereign design he may permit a faithful servant to suffer ill-fortune for a season, but in due time he will bring total healing. Moreover, the doubling symbolizes Yahweh’s full acceptance of Job” (Hartley 1988:540).
After Job was restored to his former condition, all his brothers and all his sisters and everyone who had previously known Job came to him. They came to sympathize and comfort Job for all the things he had suffered. Job’s family and friends attributed Job’s calamities to Yahweh. They came to Job’s house, ate with him, and had fellowship with him.
Job’s family and friends came bearing gifts. Each one gave Job some money, one kesitah, and a golden ring. The kesitah is an unknown weight of money, silver or gold. Job probably used this money to rebuild his flock and his herd.
The biblical writer describes in vivid terms how Yahweh blessed Job, “Yahweh blessed Job’s latter condition even more than his former one. He came to own fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand she-donkeys” (Job 42:12 NJB).
God also blessed Job with another family. God gave Job seven sons and three daughters, “He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers” (Job 42:13–15).
Hartley writes, “In his restored life, why were not Job’s children doubled as his possessions were? Perhaps because the value of human life is so much greater than the value of property. From another perspective, one could say that the belief that his first set of children continued to live in Sheol means that with his new family the number of his children did double. Since no mention is made of their mother, presumably she was Job’s same wife” (Hartley 1988:542).
While Job’s sons remain nameless, the daughters are mentioned by name. Two specific features about Job’s daughters are mentioned. First, Job’s daughters were beautiful women, another evidence of God blessing Job.
Second, each daughter received an inheritance along with their brothers. In a patriarchal society, sons generally received an inheritance from their fathers. When Job gave his daughters an inheritance, together with their brothers, Job was subverting the patriarchal traditions of his day.
The psalmist said, “The days of our life are seventy years” (Psalm 90:10). Job lived “one hundred and forty years” (Job 42:16), double the years of an ideal life span. Job was blessed to see his children and the children of his children to the fourth generation.
In ancient Israel, people believed that an individual who abandoned Yahweh to serve a false god would be punished for his sins for four generations, “punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me” (Exodus 20:5). Yahweh said, “Those who love me . . . I will satisfy him with a long life and show him my salvation” (Psalm 91:14, 16). Job was blessed with a long life and died a blessed man, a man who lived a long and full life, “So Job died old and contented” (Job 42:17 TNK).
The Book of Job tells the story of a pious man who had to endure much pain and suffering for many months. Although the readers understood the reason for Job’s suffering, what had happened in the divine council, Job never discovered why he was afflicted so severely.
The dialogue between Job and his friends reveals how little they knew about the character of the God in whom they believed and how little they understood God’s work in creation. Their misguided view of retribution led them to perceive Job to be a wicked man who had greatly sinned against God.
Job’s view of God reflects the view of a person who was seeking light in the midst of darkness, a person who required answers when confronted by the mysteries of life. Although Job never cursed God, Job’s harsh words came close to denying God’s justice.
God never condemned Job for his criticism. God only said that Job spoke without knowledge of the ways of God. As Fretheim writes, “God’s positive words regarding Job’s lamenting (Job 42:7–8) give human beings permission to voice their deepest laments and sharpest accusations, even if they do not turn out to be strictly orthodox in their expression” (Fretheim 2005:246).
The book of Job ends with God’s many questions to Job. These questions were addressed to an individual who was suffering and looking for answers. The questions were designed to challenge Job to discover what kind of God his God was. In the end Job understood God, “I had heard about you with my own ears, but now I have seen you with my own eyes” (Job 42:5). Job discovered what kind of God his God was, but he never discovered why he was suffering. The reason for suffering was mysterious then and continues to be a mystery now.
The experience of Job gives hope to people of all ages who suffer without knowing why they are suffering. The experience of Job assures people everywhere that “rest and healing may come, but . . . the healing will have touched some of the deepest recesses of minds and hearts” (Fretheim 2005:247).
When the deepest recesses of our minds and hearts are healed, we will discover an amazing truth about God, that God is good and that he is a God who blesses.
NOTE: For other studies on the Book of Job and the problem of suffering, read my post, An Introduction to the Book of Job.
Balentine, Samuel E. Job. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary. Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 2006.
Fretheim, Terence E. God and World in the Old Testament. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005.
Hartley John E. The Book of Job. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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