1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4 His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. – Job 1:1-5 ESV
This book contains the story of a man named Job; a rather obscure individual whose life would have passed on with little fanfare and no recollection in the collective human memory, except for the fateful events of his life recorded by an unnamed writer and eventually included in the canon of Scripture. In a sense, Job represents every man, with his life serving as a living lesson on the sometimes inexplicable and often unexpected ways of God.
While the book bears his name, Job is not intended to be the hero of the story it contains. All of the events recorded by the author revolve around the life of Job but the primary focus of the book’s message is on God. He is the real point of the story. Verse 7 of the opening chapter introduces us to the LORD (Yᵊhōvâ), better known to us as Jehovah. He is the same God worshiped by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which has led many scholars to believe that this book was written sometime during the patriarchal period. There is no clear consensus regarding the dating of this book or its authorship, but its inclusion in the canon of Scripture provides ample evidence of its divine inspiration and the reliability of the message it contains. It is not a work of fiction or a cleverly crafted tale from the mind of a superstitious individual living in a less enlightened age.
“God inspired this book to reveal answers to questions that arise from God’s nature and His ways with human beings. Specifically, what is the basis on which God deals with people?” – Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Job: 2023 Edition
Job is described as an inhabitant of the land of Uz. While there is no consensus on the exact location of Uz, the Book of Lamentations associates it with the land of Edom.
Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom,
you who dwell in the land of Uz – Lamentations 4:21 ESV
Most likely, Uz was located somewhere south of the Dead Sea. In this somewhat inhospitable region of the Middle East, Job had managed to establish for himself a very comfortable lifestyle. He was a successful man who had a large family, plenty of assets, and a glowing reputation among his neighbors and peers. He was well-off and well-liked.
Not only that, Job was “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1 ESV). This glowing assessment of Job is not intended as flattery or a ringing endorsement of his spotless spiritual qualifications. Like any other man, Job was born with a sin nature and a built-in propensity to pursue his own will and to act as his own god. But somewhere along the way, Job had been introduced to Jehovah, the one true God, and become an ardent follower and God-fearer. Job was neither sinless nor perfectly righteous, but he was faithful.
Job is described as “blameless,” a Hebrew word (tām) that means “sound, whole, or complete.” He was a man of integrity and spiritual maturity. The idea of “wholeness” is meant to convey a sense of completeness. Job didn’t live a compartmentalized life. There were no areas of his life that he had deemed off-limits to God. His entire life was an open book and every facet of his daily experience was lived out in full view of his all-knowing God. This is the same idea that God conveyed to Abraham when he was 90 years old.
“I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless (tām)…” – Genesis 17:1 ESV
Abraham was being ordered to “walk” or to conduct his life with the constant awareness that God was watching. He was to live with integrity or wholeness, never withholding or attempting to conceal any part of his life from God. And that was the way Job had lived his life.
It seems quite clear that the author wants his readers to understand that Job was well-off, both spiritually and materially. He had seven sons and three daughters, a sign of God’s blessings.
Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him.
Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! – Psalm 127:3-5 NLT
Not only did Job have a quiver full of arrows, but he also had fields full of flocks and herds. He was a wealthy man; “in fact, the richest person in that entire area” (Job 1:3 NLT). Job had a reputation for godliness and, because of his extensive wealth, would have been viewed as a man who had been greatly blessed by God. In that day and age, wealth was considered to be practical proof that a man was living in a way that pleased God. His assets were viewed as rewards for a life well-lived.
The blessing of the Lord makes rich,
and he adds no sorrow with it. – Proverbs 10:22 ESV
Even Moses reminded the people of Israel that wealth and success were the purview of God Almighty.
“You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers…” – Deuteronomy 8:18 ESV
So, Job is portrayed as a poster boy of God’s pleasure, and his prosperity is provided as proof. This man was so well-off that his seven sons took turns hosting elaborate and expensive parties in their homes to which they invited all their siblings.
Job’s sons would take turns preparing feasts in their homes, and they would also invite their three sisters to celebrate with them. – Job 1:4 NLT
It seems that this recurring feast cycle was always ended by Job offering a sacrifice to “purify his children” (Job 1:5 NLT). Perhaps that was a father’s attempt to remedy any debauchery or immorality that may have taken place during the seven days of feasting and festivities. Job cared about the spiritual well-being of his children and acted as a priest for his family, ensuring that any sins they may have committed were properly atoned for.
“Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” – Job 1:5 NLT
This was a man who cared. He had a deep and abiding love for God and a desire to see that his children remained faithful to Jehovah all their lives. He was not willing to let his affluence negatively influence his children to live lives of excess and immorality.
Here is a man who had it all: Wealth, material possessions, a lovely family, and a vibrant relationship with his God. But these opening verses are meant to be the preface for all that comes next. The reader is given a glimpse into the life of a man who was living a storybook life. In a way, Job’s circumstances are meant to create a certain sense of jealousy or envy. It’s as if we’re reading a headline story about someone who just won the national lottery. It’s difficult to read these five verses and not want to picture yourself in Job’s sandals. What would it be like to have those kinds of resources at your disposal? How would it feel to be revered for your spiritual life and envied for your material success? There is little doubt that Job had plenty of friends and neighbors who outwardly conveyed their love and respect for him, while at the same time harboring deep and resentful feelings of jealousy and anger. There were likely those who wished his trouble-free world would come crashing down around him.
That’s where the rest of the story comes in. Unbelievable tragedy was about to rock Job’s righteous and all’s-right-with-the-world life. This faithful servant of God would suddenly find himself wrestling with an unexpected and seemingly unwarranted wave of tragic circumstances that would leave his head spinning and his world turned upside down. And worse yet, his long-held views of God would be tested like never before.
Everything he knew about his God was about to be challenged. How would he feel about Jehovah when the blessings were taken away? What would his response be when the seeming incongruities of life disrupted his once-perfect world? How would his faith hold up when it appears as if his faithful God failed to show up? The story of Job is the story of all those who choose to follow God in a fallen world.
“The book of Job deals essentially with man’s relationship with God, centering on two questions. The first question is, Why does man worship God? . . .
“The second question is, How will man react to God when God seems unconcerned about his problems?” – Roy B. Zuck, “A Theology of the Wisdom Books and the Song of Songs,” in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament
The stage is set. The protagonist has been introduced. But the rest of the players wait in the wings and the rest of the story waits to be revealed.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.