The Debates of Job, Pt. 1

Over the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to read through the book of Job in the Old Testament a few times and I have always been impressed with the style that it was written in. For those unaware, the book of Job tells the classic story of a righteous man who God allows to come under the persecution of Satan. After all of the tragedy befalls him, Job lies in ruin and a group of his friends come to him to console him. While at first they remained quite, after Job began to speak, they took turns delivering arguments on why Job was allowed to come under this type of suffering. Namely, that Job was hiding, or at least was unaware of, some sort of sin in his life. Then Job would deliver his response and defend himself. The literary form this book is predominantly presented in, is in the form of a debate.

For a while now I have been wanting to sit down and really work my way through the book with a special focus on this idea of the book being a debate. This new series of blog posts is the fruit of this work. I want to point out that I will not be looking at the prose sections found at the beginning and ending of these books. I highly recommend you read these sections for yourself. As I will be writing under the assumption that my readers are already familiar with those chapters. The reason this is important though, is that all of the debates occur because Job and his friends lack crucial details that the reader of Job is given in the opening chapters. The characters in this story have no idea that God personally allowed Satan to ruin Job. So, this background information is important to understanding the overall book.

Lets start with the overall outline of the debates. The first few portions are rounds, or cycles, of discussion between Job and three of his friends. There are three such rounds. After that a fourth character in the story shows up, Elihu. He delivers four different speeches without any interjection from someone else. After that God Himself shows up and deals with the charges Job brought against Him. Job is given the opportunity to respond, but his response is to merely says he cannot respond. We can visualize the outline of the debates thus (chapter numbers are given in parenthesis):

Round 1:  Job (3)

Eliphaz (4+5)

Job (6+7)

Bildad (8)

Job (9+10)

Zophar (11)

Round 2: Job (12-14)

Eliphaz (15)

Job (16+17)

Bildad (18)

Job (19)

Zophar (20)

Round 3: Job (21)

Eliphaz (22)

Job (23+24)

Bildad (25)

Job (26-31) (It would appear that Zophar opted not to say anything when his turn came back up.)

Round 4: Elihu (32-37)

Round 5: God (38-40)

Job (40b)

God (40c-41)

Job (42)

As can be seen from this outline, the book of Job is very carefully structured. In the upcoming posts of this series I will be looking at the content of each chapter/argument and summarizing what each character’s message and goal with each speech is.





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