Old Testament Lesson 32 (Job 1–3; 12–14; 19; 21–24; 38–40; 42)
July 31-August 6
THE STORY OF JOB
The Book of Job
The book of Job “narrates the afflictions that befell a righteous man, and discusses the moral problem such sufferings present . . . The book of Job does not entirely answer the question as to why Job (or any human) might suffer pain and the loss of his goods. It does make it clear that affliction is not necessarily evidence that one has sinned. The book suggests that affliction, if not for punishment, may be for experience, discipline, and instruction.”
Job Is One of the World’s Greatest Stories
● The book of Job has been repeatedly recognized as one of mankind’s greatest stories:
— Victor Hugo called it “Perhaps the greatest masterpiece of the human mind.”
— Thomas Carlyle called it “One of the grandest things ever written.”
— H. H. Rowley called it “The greatest work of genius in the Old Testament.”
● The Central Question of the Book of Job: Why?
— Why do bad things happen to good people?
— Why do good things happen to bad people?
— Does God cause bad things to happen to us?
— Could God prevent bad things from happening?
— If so, why doesn’t He?
JOB’S CHARACTER AND FAITH
Was Job a Real Person?
● Ezekiel considered him to be real (Ezekiel 14:14, 20).
● James considered him to be real (James 5:10–11).
● The Lord compared Joseph Smith to Job (D&C 121:7–10).
● The date when Job lived is questioned. Some scholars say he lived during the time of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) while others suggest dates clear down to the time of Malachi. Given his wealth and influence, it is more likely that he lived during or shortly after the days of Solomon when Israel and its people prospered.
● Job 1:1 Job lived in the land called Uz, which was a large region east of the Jordan River incorporating several political entities from as far north as Damascus (the Aramaens or Syrians) to Edom in the south.
Job Was a Righteous Man
● Job 1:1–5 Job was a righteous man, blessed of God.
— Job had a large family—seven sons and three daughters (Job 1:2).
— He was wealthy but not caught up in wealth (Job 1:3–5).
— He was perfect and upright, an honest person who feared God & shunned evil (Job 1:8).
— He had integrity (Job 2:3).
— He strengthened the weak (Job 4:3–4).
— He walked in the Lord’s paths and esteemed the Lord’s words (Job 23:10–12).
— His children were about him (Job 29:1–11, 21).
— Men respected him and often asked him for advice.
— He was compassionate to the widow, the poor, the lame, and the blind (Job 29:12–16).
— He opposed those who were unjust (Job 29:17).
— He was concerned for his enemies and forgave them (Job 31:29–30).
— The Hebrew word translated perfect is tmm or tam and literally means complete, mature, or finished. But it also has the denotation of “a sound and healthy body” as well as “blameless, innocent, sincere, quiet, peaceful, pious, pure, healthy” and even upright, honest, and loyal.
— The phrase “perfect and upright” means that he was blameless and just. Or in other words, he was spiritually and morally upright.
— We are also told that Job eschewed evil (Job 1:1). Eschewed translates the Hebrew word sur , meaning “to turn away from”. Thus Job shunned evil.
Job’s Faith Was Tested by Satan
● Job 1:6–12; 2:1–6 The assembly before Lord. In both Job 1 and 2, we are told of assemblies of the “sons of God’ (JST account says “children of God) “before the LORD.” The place and time of these assemblies are not mentioned. However, the scene probably does not have reference to a heavenly assembly but an earthly assembly.
— Menahem Haran has noted that in the Bible, the phrase “’before the Lord’ can be considered an indication of the existence of a temple at the site, since this expression stems from the basic conception of the temple as a divine dwelling-place and actually belongs to the temple’s technical terminology.”
— Moses 6:64–68; 8:12–15 The phrase “sons of God” or “children of God” is a phrase used to refer to those who have made covenants with God. So the assembly probably consisted of faithful Israelites who had come to the temple (perhaps Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem) to carry out their religious devotions to God. While doing so, Satan came among them to tempt and distract them. It seems likely, though it is not stated, that Job was among the “sons of God” who had come to the temple and became the object of a conversation between the Lord and Satan.
● Job 1:6–12 Satan challenges the Lord to stop blessing Job, arguing that if he does, Job will turn against him.
— Some have questioned whether God converses with the devil as described here. These verses may be a poetic way of setting the stage for what follows in Job’s life—his afflictions, temptations, loss of worldly goods—rather than a reporting of an actual conversation. The Lord does not bargain with Satan or agree to his evil deeds; however, Satan is permitted by the Lord to afflict and torment man until Lucifer’s allotted time on earth is done. Thus, Job’s trials would be consistent with the concept that Satan was allowed by God to bring the afflictions upon Job, not because of a bargain God made with Satan, but because it fit God’s purposes for Job. The same could be said of our own temptations and sorrows.
● Job 1:13–19 In a single day, Job lost all his children and all his worldly wealth.
● Job 1:20–22 When Job learned of these tragedies, he fell down and worshiped God and blessed his name. He believed that everything he has received has been given to him by God, and that God had the right to take it from him.
● Job 2:1–6 Satan was not impressed, and said to God that if Job’s health is taken from him, “He will curse thee to thy face.”
● Job 2:7–10 Job is afflicted with boils all over his body.
— “Sore boils, one of the symptoms of a terrible disease perhaps elephantiasis), [had] attacked every portion of Job’s body, forming large pustules which itched so greatly that a piece of pottery was used to scrape them. Job’s face was so disfigured that his friends could not recognize him. Worms or maggots were bred in the sores ([Job] 7:5). His breath became so foul and his body emitted such an odor that even his friends abhorred him ([Job] 19:17–18), and he sought refuge outside the city on the refuse heap where outcasts and lepers lived. Pain was his constant companion ([Job] 30:17, 30), as were also terrifying nightmares ([Job] 7:14).”
Job’s Friends Accuse Him of Sin
● Job 2:11–13 Three of Job’s friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—arrived to comfort him. His face was so disfigured by the boils that they didn’t recognize him at first.
● Job 3:1–4, 11–13; 10:1 Job was suffering. In his misery he wishes he had never been born, and he says, “My soul is weary of my life”
● The Questions:
— Why do the righteous, those who love and serve God, suffer? Job was a “perfect and an upright man.” Why then did the Lord permit Satan to afflict his righteous servant?
— Who is responsible for man’s troubles? Is it the Lord who directs a plane into the mountainside? Does God cause highway collisions? Does he prompt young children to toddle into canals or cause us to suffer heart attacks?
— President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Answer, if you can. I cannot, for though I know God has a major role in our lives, I do not know how much he causes to happen and how much he merely permits. Whatever the answer to this question, there is another I feel sure about. Could the Lord have prevented these tragedies? The answer is, Yes. The Lord is omnipotent, with all power to control our lives, save us pain, prevent all accidents, drive all planes and cars, feed us, protect us, save us from labor, effort, sickness, even from death, if he will. But he will not. . . . If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective . . . Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?”
— President Kimball also said:
“Now, we find many people critical when a righteous person is killed, a young father or mother is taken from a family, or when violent deaths occur. Some become bitter when oft-repeated prayers seem unanswered. Some lose faith and turn sour when solemn administrations by holy men seem to be ignored and no restoration seems to come from repeated prayer circles. But if all the sick were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.
“If pain and sorrow and total punishment immediately followed the doing of evil, no soul would repeat a misdeed. If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil—all would do good and not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency, no Satanic controls.”
The Extent of Job’s Suffering
● Job 1:13–17 Job lost all his servants, property, and income in a single day.
● Job 1:18–19 He also lost all his children on that same day.
● Job 2:7; 7:5; 16:16 He suffered great physical illness and pain.
● Job 7:4, 13–14 His sleep was restless and filled with nightmares.
● Job 2:9; 4:1, 7–8; 11:1–6; 19:13–22 He suffered cruel accusations and loss of support from friends and family.
● Job 10:15 He was greatly confused about why he was suffering these trials.
● Job 16:10–11; 30:1, 8–10 He was mocked by those who delighted in his downfall.
● Job 19:6–8; 23:3–4 He feared that God had forgotten him or was not listening anymore. Note that the word “him” in Job 23:3–4 refers to God.
Job’s Faithful Responses
● Job 2:9–10 Job’s wife was bitter, and told him to “curse God and die”, but Job remained faithful.
— Elder Richard G. Scott said, “When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial?”
— President Spencer W. Kimball said, “One time or another we all face adversity’s chilling wind. One man flees from it, and like an unresisting kite falls to the ground. Another yields no retreating inch, and the wind that would destroy him lifts him as readily to the heights. We are not measured by the trials we meet, only by those we overcome.”
— Elder Marvin J. Ashton said, Adversity will surface in some form in every life. How we prepare for it, how we meet it, makes the difference. We can be broken by adversity, or we can become stronger. The final result is up to the individual . . . There are some persons who in our human eyes seem to have more than their share of trouble, as we measure, but with God’s help they are made special. They will not break. They will not yield.”
● Job 5:4–9; 23:5–6; 31:35–37 Job knew he was not sinful and was determined to plead his cause with God, whom he believed to be in control of all things. He expected to receive strength and an answer to his prayers.
Job’s Wise and Faithful Sayings
● Job 5:7–15 Man experiences trouble to help him grow.
● Job 5:17–19 Joy comes after the trial of our faith.
● Job 13:13–15 “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”
● Job 14:13–15 Even while wishing for death, he expressed his faith in his eventual resurrection.
● Job 19:25–27 He expressed again his faith in Christ and in the resurrection.
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection provided you continue faithful. By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it. . . . God has revealed his Son from the heavens and the doctrine of the resurrection also. We have a knowledge that those we bury here God [will] bring them up again, clothed upon and quickened by the spirit of the Great God.”
● Job 27:2–6 Job’s integrity was another source of spiritual strength during his afflictions.
— Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin defined integrity: “[Integrity is] always doing what is right and good, regardless of the immediate consequences. It means being righteous from the very depth of our soul, not only in our actions but, more important, in our thoughts and in our hearts. Personal integrity implies such trustworthiness and incorruptibility that we are incapable of being false to a trust or covenant.”
God Blesses Job Abundantly
● Job 38–41 Jehovah, speaking out of a whirlwind, questions Job about the wonders of creation and illustrates the folly of any human attempt to criticize his doings.
● Job 38 Jehovah asked a number of questions that we should all consider when we are tempted to criticize our God:
— “Who created heaven and earth?” (vv. 1–7).
— Do you know how to set the time of the days? (v. 12).
— Do you know how light is withheld from the wicked? (v. 15).
— Do you know how to overcome death? (v. 17).
— Do you know the breadth of the earth? (v. 18).
— Do you know the dwelling place of light and darkness? (v. 19).
— Do you know the limits of light and darkness? (v. 20).
— Do you know the treasures of snow and hail? (v. 22).
● Job 42:1–3, 6 Job acknowledged his limited understanding and God’s omniscience.
● Job 42:7–9 The Lord condemned Job’s friends for presumption and for their accusations. He also commanded Job to pray for them.
● Job 42:10–17 The Lord reversed Job’s fortunes and blessed him with greater blessings than he had before.
1: LDS Bible Dictionary, 714.
2: Temples and Temple Service in Ancient Israel, Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns , 26.
3: The Westminster Study Edition of the Holy Bible, 641.
4: Faith Precedes the Miracle , 96–97.
5: “Tragedy or Destiny,” Improvement Era, Mar. 1966, 180, 210.
6: In Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 18; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 17.
7: General Conference Address, October 1974; Ensign, November 1974, 82.
8: In Conference Report, October 1980; Ensign, November 1980, 54, 60.
9: In S.H. Faulring (Ed.), The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith: An American Prophet’s Record , 366–367.
10: In Conference Report, Apr. 1990, 38; or Ensign, May 1990, 30.