Job—A Pattern of Godly Conduct
‘THAT man has the patience of Job.’ It is not uncommon to hear this expression even today. The Biblical account about Job is known throughout the world, and with good reason. Of Job, God said: “There is no one like him in the earth, a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad.” (Job 1:8; 2:3) The Bible’s portrayal of Job furnishes a pattern of godly conduct well worth imitating.
Job lived in Uz, evidently a region in northern Arabia. Numerous passages in the book of Job indicate that he lived during patriarchal times, perhaps while Israel was enslaved in Egypt. As to Job’s situation in life, we read: “Seven sons and three daughters came to be born to him. And his livestock got to be seven thousand sheep and three thousand camels and five hundred spans of cattle and five hundred she-asses, along with a very large body of servants; and that man came to be the greatest of all the Orientals.”—Job 1:1-3.
Behind Job’s blameless and upright course of conduct was purity of thoughts, motivations and desires. “A covenant I have concluded with my eyes,” said Job. “So how could I show myself attentive to a virgin?” (Job 31:1) Since the patriarch deeply loved his own wife, it was unthinkable for him to ‘lie in wait at the entranceway of his companion’ so as to commit adultery with that one’s wife. (Job 31:9-12) Though exceedingly wealthy, Job refused to put his confidence in riches. (Job 31:24, 25) Faithfulness to God left no room in his heart for the idolatrous worship of sun, moon and other heavenly bodies that was common in those days.—Job 31:26-28.
“I WOULD RESCUE THE AFFLICTED ONE
As one of the elders who sat at the city gate to care for civic affairs, Job was above reproach. He relates:
“I would rescue the afflicted one crying for help, and the fatherless boy and anyone that had no helper. The blessing of the one about to perish—upon me it would come, and the heart of the widow I would make glad. Eyes I became to the blind one; and feet to the lame one I was. I was a real father to the poor ones; and the legal case of one whom I did not know—I would examine it. And I would break the jawbones of the wrongdoer, and from his teeth I would tear away the prey.”—Job 29:12, 13, 15-17.
Thus, Job displayed similar benevolence in private dealings with individuals. His household servants received humane treatment. (Job 31:13-15) Impoverished ones, widows, orphans and those perishing from want of life’s necessities found in Job a powerful means of support. (Job 31:16-21) Job would not retaliate or wish evil to those who treated him with hostility.—Job 31:29, 30.
However, Job is especially noted for another godly quality. Bible writer James pinpoints it, saying: “We pronounce happy those who have endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job.” (Jas. 5:11) How did Job prove to be a pattern of godly endurance?
Without forewarning, Job became enveloped in calamity. It came in wave after wave. The patriarch was unable to recover from one disaster before another struck. In succession, he lost cattle, she-asses, sheep and camels to bands of Sabeans, lightnings and Chaldeans. (Job 1:13-17) Then came the report that all his sons and daughters had been killed.—Job 1:18, 19.
How would you feel if similar disasters hit you one after another? Job’s reaction is truly commendable. Rather than being embittered toward God, he exclaimed: “Naked I came out of my mother’s belly, and naked shall I return there. Jehovah himself has given, and Jehovah himself has taken away. Let the name of Jehovah continue to be blessed.”—Job 1:21.
But Job was to endure yet further difficulties. Next he was smitten “with a malignant boil from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he proceeded to take for himself a fragment of earthenware with which to scrape himself; and he was sitting in among the ashes.” (Job 2:7, 8) This extreme posture of dejection was due to excessive suffering and grief. Pointing to the loathsome nature of his disease, Job exclaimed: “When I have lain down I have also said, ‘When shall I get up?’ And when evening actually goes its measure, I have also been glutted with restlessness until morning twilight. My flesh has become clothed with maggots and lumps of dust; my skin itself has formed crusts and dissolves.”—Job 7:4, 5.
“SHALL WE ACCEPT MERELY WHAT IS GOOD?”
Persons who formerly admired Job began turning away from him in utter rejection. “Those residing as aliens in my house; and my slave girls themselves reckon me as a stranger; a real foreigner I have become in their eyes.” (Job 19:15) Regarding his wife and brothers, Job declared: “My breath itself has become loathsome to my wife, and I have become foul-smelling to the sons of my mother’s belly.”—Job 19:17.
Even criminals and outcasts reviled Job. Indicating the sharp contrast to his former state of prosperity, Job declared: “I was sitting as head; and I resided as a king among his troops, as one who comforts the mourners. And now they have laughed at me, those younger in days than I am, whose fathers I would have refused to place with the dogs of my flock. And now I have become even the theme of their song [of derision], and I am to them for a byword. They have detested me, they have kept themselves far from me; and from my face they did not hold back their spit.”—Job 29:25–30:1, 9, 10.
Job’s sufferings became so severe that he clamored for death as a release from suffering. “O that in Sheol [the grave] you would conceal me,” he cried out, “that you would keep me secret until your anger turns back, that you would set a time limit for me and remember me!”—Job 14:13.
Even Job’s wife went to the point of saying: “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9) But even in extreme pain and anguish Job refused to take what might have seemed ‘the easy way out.’ Instead, he replied to his wife: “As one of the senseless women speaks, you speak also. Shall we accept merely what is good from the true God and not accept also what is bad?”—Job 2:10.
According to the Scriptural record, all these calamities were brought upon Job by Satan the Devil, with God’s permission. Satan claimed that Job’s reverence for God was motivated only by love of material prosperity. The Devil asserted that if God would ‘thrust out his hand’ against Job, making things unpleasant for him, he would ‘curse God to his very face.’ (Job 1:11; 2:4, 5) But in this the Devil was proved a liar.
ENDURING “TROUBLESOME COMFORTERS”
The test of Job’s endurance was to become even greater. He was visited by three companions, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite. Supposedly they came to “sympathize with [Job] and comfort him.” (Job 2:11) But the visit proved to be anything but comforting. The companions insisted that Job’s sickness was a punishment from God for serious sins. (Job 4:7-9; 8:11-19; 20:4-29; 22:7-11) In the opinion of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, a person’s circumstances, whether of prosperity or misfortune, were an indication of that one’s moral worth. They were convinced that Job’s disease was evidence of his being of reprobate conduct and they kept insisting that he repent.
Job found no solace in their false charges. “I have heard many things like these,” he exclaimed. “All of you are troublesome comforters! . . . If only your souls existed where my soul is, would I be brilliant in words against you, and would I wag my head against you? I would strengthen you with the words of my mouth.”—Job 16:2, 4, 5.
The faithful patriarch outspokenly rejected the viewpoint that righteous persons always live in prosperity and ease while the wicked consistently suffer privations and disease. He asked: “Why is it that the wicked themselves keep living, have grown old, also have become superior in wealth? Their offspring are firmly established with them in their sight, and their descendants before their eyes. Their houses are peace itself, free from dread, and the rod of God is not upon them. His [the wicked one’s] own bull actually impregnates, and it does not waste semen; his cows bring forth and suffer no abortion.”—Job 21:7-10; see also Job 21 verses 29-31 and Psalm 73:1-14.
Since the Devil’s assertion that Job would curse God at the onset of calamity was not known to the patriarch, he became bewildered at the sudden change of circumstances. Thus, at times Job displayed too much concern with vindicating his own integrity. For instance, in the heat of emotion Job cried out:
“My soul certainly feels a loathing toward my life. I will give vent to my concern about myself. I will speak in the bitterness of my soul! I shall say to God, ‘Do not pronounce me wicked. Cause me to know why it is that you are contending with me. Is it good for you that you should do wrong, that you should reject the product of the hard work of your hands, and that upon the counsel of wicked ones you should actually beam?’” (Job 10:1-3) “Know, then, that God himself has misled me, and his hunting net he has closed in upon me. Look! I keep crying out, ‘Violence!’ but I get no answer; I keep crying for help, but there is no justice. My very path he has blocked with a stone wall, and I cannot pass over; and upon my roadways he puts darkness itself.”—Job 19:6-8.
Expressions such as these, however, should not make one think that Job lost his confidence in the righteousness of God’s dealings with mankind. On the contrary, he firmly believed that, though for a time the wicked often thrived while the righteous suffered, ultimately God would rectify that situation. As to “the share of the wicked man from God,” Job declared: “If his sons become many, it is for a sword; and his descendants themselves will not have enough food. His own survivors will be buried during a deadly plague, and their own widows will not weep. If he should pile up silver like dust itself, and he should prepare attire just as if clay, he would prepare, but the righteous would be the one to clothe himself, and in the silver the innocent would be the one to have a share.”—Job 27:13-17.
Job never assented to the reasoning of his companions that suffering is a sure evidence of God’s disapproval. Nor did he agree with an assertion of Eliphaz that God has no faith in his servants, either angelic or human. (Job 4:18, 19) On the contrary, Job insisted that God was aware of him as a man of integrity and would act in his behalf by redeeming him from the dire circumstances into which he had fallen.—Job 16:18, 19; 19:23-27.
It was a fact, though, that Job had become overly concerned with establishing his own righteousness. The Scriptural record relates that “the anger of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite of the family of Ram came to be hot. Against Job his anger blazed over his declaring his own soul righteous rather than God.” (Job 32:2) Elihu reproved Job, setting forth his own viewpoint that “God himself does not act wickedly, and the Almighty himself does not pervert judgment.” (Job 34:12) Following Elihu, Jehovah himself “proceeded to answer Job out of the windstorm.” (Job 38:1) Both Elihu and, above all, Jehovah pointed out that the evidence of God’s handiwork and control in all creation far exceeds human comprehension.
Overwhelmed by this, Job drew the conclusion that he had spoken without understanding fully God’s dealings with him. “Look! I have become of little account,” Job declared. “What shall I reply to you? My hand I have put over my mouth. Once have I spoken, and I will not answer; and twice, and I will add nothing.” (Job 40:4, 5) After Jehovah had questioned Job further about His own immeasurable wisdom displayed in the animal creation, Job exclaimed: “I have come to know that you are able to do all things, and there is no idea that is unattainable for you. In hearsay I have heard about you, but now my own eye does see you. That is why I make a retraction, and I do repent in dust and ashes.”—Job 42:2, 5, 6.
As a reward for Job’s endurance, Jehovah restored his health, blessed him with double the amount of possessions that he formerly had and extended his life for an additional 140 years. “And gradually Job died, old and satisfied with days.”—Job 42:10, 16, 17.
Job is a fine example for worshipers of God today. He underwent a grueling ordeal for reasons unknown to himself at the time, yet refused to become embittered against God. Though confused about why he had to suffer, he came to recognize that whatever God allows must have some useful purpose.
Do you not agree that the book of Job offers much of value for worshipers of God today? Why not take time to read it through carefully at your earliest convenience?
“Look! . . . You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave, that Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful.”—Jas. 5:11.