Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Book of Job
THE patriarch Job resides in the land of Uz, now in Arabia. A large number of Israelites live in Egypt at the time. Though not an Israelite himself, Job is a worshipper of Jehovah God. Concerning him, the Bible says: “There is no one like him in the earth, a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad.” (Job 1:8) This must be the period between the lives of two outstanding servants of Jehovah—Jacob’s son Joseph and the prophet Moses.
Moses, who is thought to have written the book of Job, probably learned about Job when he spent 40 years in Midian, which is near the land of Uz. Moses could have heard about Job’s final years when the Israelites were near Uz, toward the end of their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness.* Job’s experience is so beautifully set out in written form that the account is considered to be a literary masterpiece. More than that, though, it answers such questions as: Why do good people suffer? Why does Jehovah permit wickedness to exist? Can imperfect humans maintain their integrity to God? As a part of the inspired Word of God, the message of the book of Job is alive and exerts power even today.—Hebrews 4:12.
‘LET THE DAY OF MY BIRTH PERISH’
One day Satan challenges Job’s integrity before God. Jehovah accepts the challenge and allows Satan to bring upon Job one calamity after another. But Job refuses to “curse God.”—Job 2:9.
Job’s three companions arrive to “sympathize with him.” (Job 2:11) They sit with him without speaking a word until Job breaks the silence by saying: “Let the day perish on which I came to be born.” (Job 3:3) He wishes to be “like children that have seen no light,” or who were stillborn.—Job 3:11, 16.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:4—Did Job’s children observe birthdays? No, they did not. The original-language words for “day” and “birthday” are different, each having its own meaning. (Genesis 40:20) At Job 1:4, the word “day” is used, denoting an interval of time from sunrise to sunset. The seven sons of Job apparently held a seven-day family gathering once a year. As they made the circuit, each son was the host of the banquet held at his house on “his own day.”
1:6; 2:1—Who were allowed to enter before Jehovah? Among those who took their stand before Jehovah were God’s only-begotten Son, the Word; the faithful angels; and disobedient angelic ‘sons of God,’ including Satan the Devil. (John 1:1, 18) Satan and his demons were not ousted from heaven until shortly after the establishment of God’s Kingdom in 1914. (Revelation 12:1-12) By permitting them to enter before him, Jehovah brought before all spirit creatures Satan’s challenge and the issues it raised.
1:7; 2:2—Did Jehovah speak to Satan directly? The Bible does not give much detail about how Jehovah communicates with spirit creatures. However, the prophet Micaiah had a vision in which he saw an angel communicate directly with Jehovah. (1 Kings 22:14, 19-23) It would seem, then, that Jehovah talked to Satan without an intermediary.
1:21—In what way could Job return to his “mother’s belly”? Since Jehovah God formed man “out of dust from the ground,” the term “mother” is here used figuratively to refer to the earth.—Genesis 2:7.
2:9—What frame of mind might Job’s wife have been in when she told her husband to curse God and die? Job’s wife had suffered the same losses as her husband. It must have pained her to see her once active husband brought low by a loathsome disease. She had lost her beloved children. She may have been so distraught because of all of this that she lost sight of what was truly important—their relationship with God.
Lessons for Us:
2:9, 10. Like Job, we should remain firm in faith even if family members do not value our spiritual pursuits or pressure us to compromise or give up our faith.
2:13. Job’s companions had nothing comforting to say about God and his promises because they lacked spirituality.
“I SHALL NOT TAKE AWAY MY INTEGRITY FROM MYSELF!”
The basic point that Job’s three companions make in their speeches is that Job must have done something very bad to receive such severe punishment from God. Eliphaz takes the lead. Bildad follows Eliphaz, using language that is more biting. Zophar is even more scathing.
Job does not accept the false reasoning of his visitors. Unable to understand why God has permitted his suffering, he becomes overly concerned about justifying himself. Still, Job loves God and exclaims: “Until I expire I shall not take away my integrity from myself!”—Job 27:5.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
7:1; 14:14—What is meant by “compulsory labor” or “compulsory service”? Job’s distress was so severe that he thought of life as hard, arduous compulsory labor. (Job 10:17, footnote) Since the time one spends in Sheol—from the time of one’s death to the resurrection—is an enforced period, Job likened that time to compulsory service.
7:9, 10; 10:21; 16:22—Do these statements indicate that Job did not believe in the resurrection? These are comments about Job’s immediate future. What, then, did he mean? One possibility is that if he should die, none of his contemporaries would see him. From their standpoint, he would neither return to his house nor get further acknowledgment until God’s appointed time. Job might also have meant that no one can come back from Sheol on his own. That Job hoped in a future resurrection is clear from Job 14:13-15.
10:10—How did Jehovah ‘pour Job out as milk and curdle him like cheese’? This is a poetic description of how Job was formed in his mother’s womb.
19:20—What did Job mean by the expression “I escape with the skin of my teeth”? By saying that he escaped with the skin of something that apparently has no skin, Job might have been saying that he escaped with practically nothing.
Lessons for Us:
10:1. Bitterness blinded Job, so that he did not consider other possible reasons for his suffering. We must not become bitter when undergoing suffering, especially since we have a clear understanding of the issues involved.
22:5-7. Counsel given on the basis of accusations that lack solid evidence is valueless and damaging.
27:5. Only Job could take away his own integrity because integrity is dependent upon one’s love for God. We should therefore cultivate strong love for Jehovah.
28:1-28. Man knows where earth’s treasures are. As he searches for them, his ingenuity takes him to underground pathways that no farsighted bird of prey can see. Godly wisdom, though, comes from fearing Jehovah.
29:12-15. We should willingly extend loving-kindness to those in need.
“I DO REPENT IN DUST AND ASHES”
A young bystander named Elihu has patiently been listening to the debate. Now he speaks up. He corrects Job and his three tormentors.
As soon as Elihu finishes, Jehovah answers from a windstorm. He gives no explanation for Job’s suffering. By asking a series of questions, however, the Almighty makes Job aware of His awesome power and great wisdom. Job admits that he has spoken without understanding and says: “I make a retraction, and I do repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6) As Job’s trial ends, his integrity is rewarded.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
32:1-3—When did Elihu arrive? Since Elihu heard all the speeches, he must have taken a seat within hearing distance sometime before Job spoke and ended the seven-day silence of his three companions.—Job 3:1, 2.
34:7—How was Job like a man “who drinks up derision like water”? In his distressed state, Job was inclined to take the ridicule of his three visitors as directed toward him, although they were really speaking against God. (Job 42:7) Thus, he was taking in derision like someone who drinks water with enjoyment.
Lessons for Us:
32:8, 9. Wisdom does not come with age alone. It requires understanding of God’s Word and the guidance of his spirit.
34:36. Integrity is proved by our being ‘tested to the limit’ in some way.
35:2. Elihu listened carefully and pinpointed the real issue before speaking. (Job 10:7; 16:7; 34:5) Prior to giving counsel, Christian elders must carefully listen, get the facts, and clearly understand the pertinent issues.—Proverbs 18:13.
37:14; 38:1–39:30. Reflecting upon Jehovah’s wonderful works—expressions of his power and wisdom—humbles us and helps us to see that the vindication of his sovereignty is more important than any of our personal interests.—Matthew 6:9, 10.
40:1-4. When we feel inclined to complain against the Almighty, we should ‘put our hand over our mouth.’
40:15–41:34. What power Behemoth (the hippopotamus) and Leviathan (the crocodile) have! To endure in God’s service, we too need strength from the Maker of these powerful beasts, who imparts power to us.—Philippians 4:13.
42:1-6. Hearing Jehovah’s word and being reminded of the manifestation of his power helped Job to “behold God,” or see the truth about him. (Job 19:26) This adjusted his thinking. When corrected Scripturally, we should be eager to acknowledge our error and make adjustments.
Cultivate “the Endurance of Job”
The book of Job clearly shows that God is not responsible for human suffering. Satan is. God’s permission of wickedness on earth affords us an opportunity to give a personal answer as to where we stand on the issues of Jehovah’s sovereignty and our integrity.
Like Job, all those who love Jehovah will be tested. The account of Job gives us confidence that we can endure. It reminds us that our problems will not last forever. “You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave,” says James 5:11. Jehovah rewarded Job for being an integrity keeper. (Job 42:10-17) What a grand hope is set before us—everlasting life in Paradise on earth! Like Job, let us therefore be determined to maintain our integrity.—Hebrews 11:6.
The book of Job covers a period of more than 140 years, between 1657 and 1473 B.C.E.
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What can we learn from “the endurance of Job”?