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Bible Study - Intro to Job

OrthoAnalytika

Release Date: 01/18/2024

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Bible Study – Job
Introduction

 

Job is the first book of the Wisdom genre in the Orthodox Bible.  The others are The Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, the Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach.

Date and Authorship: Unknown, but Job lived during the time of the Patriarchs (about 1600 BC).

From Fr. Joseph Farley;

The story of Job is traditionally based on the life of Jobab, king of Edom, mentioned in Genesis 36:33. (This ascription is also reflected in the final verses of the book as found in the Septuagint.) The tale of Job contains some of the best poetry ever written, and it recounts the suffering of a man who suffers unjustly, though he is completely righteous. His acquaintances (famous proverbially as “Job’s comforters”) assume his great suffering proves he has committed a great sin, but Job continues to deny it and to insist on his innocence. At the end of the story, God appears on the scene in a whirlwind to confound the worldly “wisdom” of Job’s tormenting “comforters,” reveal His power, and show the folly of supposing human wisdom is adequate to question the providence of God. He then restores to Job all that he has lost. A Septuagintal addition to the Hebrew text adds, “It is written that he will rise with those whom the Lord resurrects” (Job 42:1–8 OSB). Suffering leads eventually to resurrection.

We read the story of Job as a model of the sufferings of Christ, a foreshadowing of His Passion and Resurrection. Like Job, Christ was innocent yet suffered greatly. Like Job, Christ was vindicated by God at His Resurrection. Along with the story of Joseph the patriarch, the tale of Job reveals that in this age God’s chosen ones suffer unjustly. That the Messiah, “the Righteous One,” would suffer on a cross does not defy historical precedent. A crucified Christ is not a contradiction in terms. God’s servants have always suffered unjustly and been misunderstood by their “pious” contemporaries before being vindicated by God. It is for this reason that the Book of Job is read in church at the Presanctified Liturgies during Holy Week.  (Lawrence R. Farley, The Christian Old Testament: Looking at the Hebrew Scriptures through Christian Eyes (Chesterton, IN: Ancient Faith Publishing, 2012), 143–144.)

In Scripture

Genesis and the historical books (as Jobab).

Ezekiel 14:14.  Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.

Ezekiel 14:20.  Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.

James 5:11.  Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

Liturgical Use

Holy Week.  Monday (PSL): Job 1:1-12; Tuesday (PSL): Job 1:13-22; Wednesday (PSL): Job 2:1-15; Thursday (VDL): Job 38:1b-21); Friday (Vespers) Job 42:12-21.  Up until then, we had been reading Proverbs in that place in the service (Exodus replaces Genesis and Ezekiel replaces Isaiah).

Great Canon of St. Andrew (Canticle Four; in between Esau and Christ).

Thou hast heard of Job, O my soul, who was justified on a dung heap; yet thou hast not imitated his courage nor hast thou shown any firmness of will in the face of thy trials and temptations but hast proved cowardly and weak. He that once sat upon a throne now lies naked on a dung heap, covered with his sores. He that had many children and was once admired by all is suddenly bereft of children and is left without a home; yet for him the dung heap is a palace, and his sores a chain of pearls.

Purpose:  Wisdom.

Resources for our study.

Orthodox Study Bible; St. John Chrystostom’s commentary; St. Gregory the Great’s Commentary; Fr. Patrick Reardon’s The Trial of Job.  Dictionary of Wisdom and the Psalms (IVP). Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.

Some initial thoughts:

It is about suffering, but mostly about how to relate to God in suffering.  Losing faith in God is one of the biggest temptations that suffering can bring.

Parts of it are not easy to read (negativity; structure; poetry).  Not always clear what is being taught.

Fr. Patrick refers to is as a "trial".  That’s good.  But who is on trial?  Is it Job?

Three of his friends (pagan kings!), Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, present traditional religious ways of relating to God (or the gods) during suffering (suffering is retribution; requires appeasement).  You may end up sympathizing with some of what they say, but their understanding of God and how to relate to Him is flawed. 

Elihu, his fourth friend offers a more correct understanding of God, but his witness is tainted by His pride and by twisting the facts (even though he, unlike the others, wanted to present Job as righteous).  He does seem to act as a sort of (an imperfect) prophet to Yahweh (who speaks right after his speech) not just by describing God’s glory but by holding Job accountable for the arrogance of his previous appeal.    God condemns the other friends, but Elihuh is not mentioned.  However, his theology is not reliable (it is really a reformulation of the same retribution principle).

Job’s continual defense of himself is his righteousness.  He does end up needing to repent of his accusations against and doubts in God.

In the end, Job’s righteousness is affirmed, Job’s goods are restored, and God’s justice is confirmed.