This book is widely regarded as a masterpiece of human literature, even by non-believers, and yet this high regard is not always accompanied by a high level of understanding. This is a very great book, and like many great things, our natural tendency is to get it down to a more understandable level, where we can piously misunderstand it. But one of the reasons this book shines so brightly is that there is no varnish on it. Job was an important figure. Consider Noah, Daniel and Job—two of the greatest men of righteousness in the Old Testament were not Jews (Ez. 14:14, 20).
“For I know that my redeemer liveth, And that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, Yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, And mine eyes shall behold, and not another; Though my reins be consumed within me” (Job 19:25–27).
Summary of the Text
We do not know who wrote this book, and some scholars have taken our lack of information as a generous invitation to wild speculation. That said, my own view is that the beginnings of this book are found in distant antiquity, and that it took its place in the Wisdom literature around the time of Solomon—with the possibility that Solomon was the author. I believe the events that are the kernel of the poem were historical. Job is not an Israelite, but rather an Edomite, as will be discussed later. No explicit reference to the history of Israel is found in the book.
The book of Job is filled with unanswered questions, and things that human beings simply cannot know. But Job knows at least one thing, and it is stated here in our text—in the midst of his suffering, and in the midst of his wrongful complaint against God, we have this remarkable testimony of faith. This shining testimony sits in the midst of his complaints the same way the godly Job himself sat on the ash heap. Job knows that His redeemer lives, and that his redeemer is going to stand upon the earth at the latter day. Job also affirms his belief in the resurrection of the dead—after his body is destroyed by worms, Job affirms that in his body he is going to see God. Where did that come from?
The Structure of the Book
The first part of the book is the prologue in Heaven, where Satan challenges God with regard to Job’s motives. The result of this is a series of calamities that befall Job. The center of the book is made up of a series of debates that Job has with his three friends, cycling through three times. Then Elihu, a comparatively young man, enters the debate with his rebuke. After this God speaks to Job from the whirlwind, Job repents before God, and his prosperity is restored.
The Actual Situation
The land of Uz is likely part of Edom (Lam. 4:21), to the east of Israel. Eliphaz was a Temanite, and Teman was one of the great chieftains of Edom (Gen. 36:15). Bildad is a descendant of Abraham through Keturah (Gen. 25:2), and they all settled to the east, where Edom was. Zophar lived in the same general area as the other two. Elihu is identified as a Buzite, and Buz was the nephew of Uz.
We know from Scripture that Job was an enormously important man, the greatest of the men of the east (Job 1:3). For all intents and purposes, he was the king (Job 19:9). The Septuagint contains an additional paragraph at the end of the book that identifies Job with Jobab (Gen. 36:33-35), the second king of Edom. This means that the well-being of that society was dependent on Job prospering, since he was the head. So picture Job as the leader of that society, now come to disaster, and his three friends as cabinet members, trying to talk him into taking one for the team. This is not an example of three friends as private busybodies. This is politics. The future wellbeing of their whole society was at stake, and Job refuses to admit fault. He refuses to be the scapegoat.
The problem with Job’s counselors is not that they were wrong, but rather that they were rightwoodenly. The Bible does teach that God is not mocked—there is a correlation between what a man sows and what he reaps (Gal. 6:7). That correlation is real, and this is why the wisdom of Proverbs teaches us to look for such correlations. Do you see a lazy man? Look for poverty (Prov. 24:33-343). Do you see a drunkard? Look for hallucinations (Prov. 23:31-35). Do you see a skirt-chaser? Look for death (Prov. 7:27). But don’t look for these things within thirty minutes (Ps. 37:35), and don’t affirm the consequent (John 9:3). Just because it is a fact that sin leads to hard consequences, it does not follow that hard consequences mean that there had to have been sin.
We do live in a world where there is moral cause and effect, but we are cautioned by this book (as by little else) not to be too tidy about it. At the same time, how does the book end? Job has all his prosperity restored.
My Redeemer Lives
This passage is a great creedal statement. Job knows that it is going to be momentous, and wants what he is about to say to be graven on a rock with a pen of iron. This is important, what he is about to say. And given what he was saying earlier in the chapter, it appears to come from the wild blue random.
The word rendered redeemer here is the word for kinsman. Because Job has a kinsman- redeemer who will stand in the latter day upon the earth, Job is confident that he also is going to stand upon the earth. He is going to do so in his body after his body has been destroyed. Although Job is restored in this life by the end of the book, he has no expectation of that here. He is looking forward to something else, something outside, something beyond. This is the hope of the resurrection—and our great Justification has led the way.