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"The world is my parish."
 - John Wesley

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The Book of Job
A Brief Introduction

Dennis Bratcher

I.  A wisdom book (See The Character of Wisdom)

A. shares some characteristics with Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon

B. highly poetic and metaphorical

C. deals with mature reflection on issues of everyday living

D. in contrast to Proverbs, but like Ecclesiastes, Job must be read in its entirety to understand its message; single verses often contradict the overall message of the book

E. the theological stance of Job counterbalances, even challenges, some perspectives of Proverbs

F. typical of wisdom thinking, Job views the world from the perspective of human need and concern rather than God's requirements

II. Historical Background

A. author is unknown

B. three theories about time of writing: 700 BC, 550 BC, and 400-300 BC

C. place of writing is unknown

D. three theories about Job: 1) a historical figure who spoke all the words attributed to him; 2) a literary creation by the author as a teaching parable; 3) historical kernel adapted by the author to address certain issues.

E. none of these play a major role in the book or effect its theological message

III. Structure and Features (see Literary Structure of Job)

A. two major parts: a narrative framework surrounding a series of dialogs

B. the framework and the body are not directly related in details

C. the satan only appears in the opening narrative

D. heavily metaphorical, including mythical elements (Rahab, Yamm, Leviathan; see Speaking the Language of Canaan, especially the section The Ba'al Myth and the Physical World)

E. the cycles of speeches are incomplete

F. some chapters appear to have been added, such as the speech of Elihu and the poem about Wisdom (ch. 28)

IV. The Message of the Book

A. righteous people do suffer unjustly

B. orthodox or traditional answers are not always true or appropriate

C. God will tolerate honest questions (See Commentary on Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4)

D. sin is not always the cause of evil and suffering in the world (doctrine of retribution)

E. God should be served simply because He is God

F. God, and the world, cannot be put into easily definable categories

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2004, Dennis Bratcher, All Rights Reserved
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Last modified: October 04, 2004