David N. Tunison
Christians, like all peoples of a faith, know suffering like that of Jesus and Job. One of the underlying purposes of Job is to demonstrate God’s power over men. The erroneous theological views of Job’s friends put in motion the necessary arguments for the teaching of Christians to stay faithful to God, and they also foreshadow the opponents of Jesus whose theology he rejects in favor of a correct teaching of God’s Word. Jesus’ opponents give him the opportunity to teach the truth about God. Jesus and Job are important teachers of the suffering that mankind encounters.
Background Information of the Book of Job
Before the theology of the book of Job can be discussed, background information must be given. There are traditions that date Job to writings by Moses, though Job is often thought to be the author of the book. Middle eastern writers often wrote their experiences in the third person which could mean that Job was not a real particular man, but a story about the causes of suffering. Walton, the author of Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament gives the view that accepts the biblical events as historical. For Walton, Eden is a real place, so Job is figured as an actual man for many people. The whole book of Job and the characters in it are accepted as real persons from many centuries back according to Couch.
The book of Job is possibly the most ancient literary account in the Bible. Scholars date the book to other Near East writings about suffering. The mentality of the Near East and suffering is found in Job’s friends. Job’s friends appear as a foil and give an illustration of Near Eastern thought that is manifested in the tale of Job’s suffering.Additionally, knowledge of the Near Eastern beliefs about suffering is necessary for the understanding of the book of Job. Studies of literature from ancient Mesopotamia have discovered the concept of an innocent sufferer existed in ancient Mesopotamia. The book of Job is therefore not a unique one in antiquity.
In order to understand the Near Eastern aspect of the book of Job and other stories about suffering, knowledge about the deities of the area is important. As Job is punished by one of God’s angels, so did the deities do to the sufferer in other ancient Near eastern stories. Mesopotamian deities were personifications of various aspects of reality, with characteristics such as spite, lust, and rage that guided the world according to their purposes and laws. There were arguments and strife between the deities due to competing purposes. Monotheists show the contention between God, his angels, and mankind and adapted these ideas.
Satan, in the book of Job is only one of many of God’s heavenly host, and the particular one who asks to torment Job. The heavenly host in monotheistic belief is similar to the deities in ancient cultures that conflict and argue with each other, but who have no power over fate. Satan in fact is purported to have fallen out of favor with God because of the characteristics that deities had that are mentioned above, that is spite, lust, rage amongst other sinful things he and his followers are known for.
The difference between the suffering in Job and other Near Eastern stories of suffering in that in Near Eastern stories, the deities were rarely blamed for human suffering. Job, however is, afflicted by some heavenly being. Humans according to polytheism are to serve deities. Monotheism teaches that human beings serve God Almighty only. Both the polytheists and the monotheists have lore about a divine assembly whose purpose is to determine a common course.
The story of Job is set in Uz. Uz was probably a place in or near Edom, according to Lamentations 4:21. Edom is located outside of Palestine to the southeast. It is said by rabbis that the story is set outside of the Holy Land so it might...