Introduction to the Book of Job and Its Themes

Book of Job illustration

Jim Padgett/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

The book of Job, one of the wisdom books of the Bible, deals with two issues crucial to every person: the problem of suffering and the sovereignty of God.

Job (pronounced "jobe"), was a rich farmer living in the land of Uz, somewhere northeast of Palestine. Some Bible scholars debate whether he was an actual person or legend, but Job is mentioned as a historical figure by the prophet Ezekial (Ezekial 14:14, 20) and in the book of James (James 5:11).

The key question in the book of Job asks: "Can a favored, righteous person hold on to their faith in God when things go wrong?" In a conversation with Satan, God argues that such a person can indeed persevere, and points out his servant Job as an example. God then allows Satan to visit terrible trials upon Job to test him.

In a short period of time, marauders and lightning claim all Job's livestock, then a desert wind blows down a house, killing all of Job's sons and daughters. When Job keeps his faith in God, Satan afflicts him with painful sores all over his body. Job's wife urges him to "Curse God and die." (Job 2:9, NIV)

Three friends show up, supposedly to comfort Job, but their visit turns into a long theological debate over what caused Job's suffering. They claim Job is being punished for sin, but Job maintains his innocence. Like us, Job asks, "Why me?"

A fourth visitor, named Elihu, suggests that God may be trying to purify Job through suffering. While Elihu's counsel is more comforting than that of the other men, it is still only speculation.

Finally, God appears to Job in a storm and gives a stunning account of his majestic works and power. Job, humbled and overwhelmed, acknowledges God's right as Creator to do whatever he pleases.

God rebukes Job's three friends and orders them to make a sacrifice. Job prays for God's forgiveness of them and God accepts his prayer. At the end of the book, God gives Job twice as much wealth as he had before, along with seven sons and three daughters. After that, Job lived 140 more years.

Author of the Book of Job

Unknown. The author's name is never given or suggested.

Date Written

A good case is made for about 1800 BCE by the church father Eusebius, based on events mentioned (or not mentioned) in Job, language, and customs.

Written To

Ancient Jews and all future readers of the Bible.

The Landscape of the Book of Job

The location of God's conversations with Satan is not specified, although Satan said he had come from the earth. Job's home in Uz was northeast of Palestine, perhaps between Damascus and the Euphrates River.

Themes in the Book of Job

While suffering is the chief theme of the book, a reason for suffering is not given. Instead, we are told that God is the highest law in the universe and that often his reasons are known only to him.

We also learn that an invisible war is raging between the forces of good and evil. Satan sometimes inflicts suffering on human beings in that battle.

God is good. His motives are pure, although we may not always understand them. God is in control and we are not. We have no right to give God orders.

Thought for Reflection

Appearances are not always reality. When bad things happen to us, we cannot presume to know why. What God wants from us is faith in him, no matter what our circumstances may be. God rewards great faith, sometimes in this life, but always in the next.

Key Characters in the Book of Job

God, Satan, Job, Job's wife, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, Zophar the Naamathite, and Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite.

Key Verses

Job 2:3
Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason." (NIV)

Job 13:15
"Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him..." (NIV)

Job 40:8
"Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?" ​(NIV)

Outline of the Book of Job

  • Job undergoes testing - Job 1:1-2:13.
  • Job's three friends discuss his suffering - Job 3:1-31:40.
  • Elihu contends that God punished Job to humble him - Job 32:1-37:24.
  • God reveals his power and sovereignty to Job - Job 38:1-41:34.
  • God scolds Job's friends and restores Job's family and fortune - Job 42:1-17.
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Your Citation
Zavada, Jack. "Introduction to the Book of Job and Its Themes." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, Zavada, Jack. (2023, April 5). Introduction to the Book of Job and Its Themes. Retrieved from Zavada, Jack. "Introduction to the Book of Job and Its Themes." Learn Religions. (accessed June 2, 2023).