I. The Prologue (1:1-2:13)Job’s Good Life 1
1:1 2 There was a man 3 in the land of Uz 4 whose 5 name was Job. 6 And that man was pure 7 and upright, 8 one who feared God and turned away from evil. 9
1:9 Then Satan answered the Lord, “Is it for nothing that Job fears God? 10 1:10 Have you 11 not made a hedge 12 around him and his household and all that he has on every side? You have blessed 13 the work of his hands, and his livestock 14 have increased 15 in the land.
1 sn See N. C. Habel, “The Narrative Art of Job,” JSOT 27 (1983): 101-11; J. J. Owens, “Prologue and Epilogue,” RevExp 68 (1971): 457-67; and R. Polzin, “The Framework of the Book of Job,” Int 31 (1974): 182-200.
2 sn The Book of Job is one of the major books of wisdom literature in the Bible. But it is a different kind of wisdom. Whereas the Book of Proverbs is a collection of the short wisdom sayings, Job is a thorough analysis of the relationship between suffering and divine justice put in a dramatic poetic form. There are a number of treatises on this subject in the ancient Near East, but none of them are as thorough and masterful as Job. See J. Gray, “The Book of Job in the Context of Near Eastern Literature,” ZAW 82 (1970): 251-69; S. N. Kramer, “Man and His God, A Sumerian Variation on the ‘Job’ Motif,” VTSup 3 (1953): 170-82. While the book has fascinated readers for ages, it is a difficult book, difficult to translate and difficult to study. Most of it is written in poetic parallelism. But it is often very cryptic, it is written with unusual grammatical constructions, and it makes use of a large number of very rare words. All this has led some scholars to question if it was originally written in Hebrew or some other related Semitic dialect or language first. There is no indication of who the author was. It is even possible that the work may have been refined over the years; but there is no evidence for this either. The book uses a variety of genres (laments, hymns, proverbs, and oracles) in the various speeches of the participants. This all adds to the richness of the material. And while it is a poetic drama using cycles of speeches, there is no reason to doubt that the events represented here do not go back to a real situation and preserve the various arguments. Several indications in the book would place Job’s dates in the time of the patriarchs. But the composition of the book, or at least its final form, may very well come from the first millennium, maybe in the time of the flowering of wisdom literature with Solomon. We have no way of knowing when the book was written, or when its revision was completed. But dating it late in the intertestamental period is ruled out by the appearance of translations and copies of it, notably bits of a Targum of Job in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Among the general works and commentaries, see A. Hurvitz, “The Date of the Prose Tale of Job Linguistically Reconsidered,” HTR 67 (1974): 17-34; R. H. Pfeiffer, “The Priority of Job over Isaiah 40-55,” JBL 46 (1927): 202ff. The book presents many valuable ideas on the subject of the suffering of the righteous. Ultimately it teaches that one must submit to the wisdom of the Creator. But it also indicates that the shallow answers of Job’s friends do not do justice to the issue. Their arguments that suffering is due to sin are true to a point, but they did not apply to Job. His protests sound angry and belligerent, but he held tenaciously to his integrity. His experience shows that it is possible to live a pure life and yet still suffer. He finally turns his plea to God, demanding a hearing. This he receives, of course, only to hear that God is sovereignly ruling the universe. Job can only submit to him. In the end God does not abandon his sufferer. For additional material, see G. L. Archer, The Book of Job; H. H. Rowley, “The Book of Job and Its Meaning,” BJRL 41 (1958/59): 167-207; J. A. Baker, The Book of Job; C. L. Feinberg, “The Book of Job,” BSac 91 (1934): 78-86; R. Polzin and D. Robertson, “Studies in the Book of Job,” Semeia 7 (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1977).
3 tn The Hebrew construction is literally “a man was,” using אִישׁ הָיָה (’ish hayah) rather than a preterite first. This simply begins the narrative.
4 sn The term Uz occurs several times in the Bible: a son of Aram (Gen 10:23), a son of Nahor (Gen 22:21), and a descendant of Seir (Gen 36:28). If these are the clues to follow, the location would be north of Syria or south near Edom. The book tells how Job’s flocks were exposed to Chaldeans, the tribes between Syria and the Euphrates (1:17), and in another direction to attacks from the Sabeans (1:15). The most prominent man among his friends was from Teman, which was in Edom (2:11). Uz is also connected with Edom in Lamentations 4:21. The most plausible location, then, would be east of Israel and northeast of Edom, in what is now North Arabia. The LXX has “on the borders of Edom and Arabia.” An early Christian tradition placed his home in an area about 40 miles south of Damascus, in Baashan at the southeast foot of Hermon.
5 tn In Hebrew the defining relative clause (“whose name was Job”) is actually an asyndetic verbless noun-clause placed in apposition to the substantive (“a man”); see GKC 486 §155.e.
6 sn The name “Job” is mentioned by Ezekiel as one of the greats in the past – Noah, Job, and Daniel (14:14). The suffering of Job was probably well known in the ancient world, and this name was clearly part of that tradition. There is little reason to try to determine the etymology and meaning of the name, since it may not be Hebrew. If it were Hebrew, it might mean something like “persecuted,” although some suggest “aggressor.” If Arabic it might have the significance of “the one who always returns to God.”
7 tn The word תָּם (tam) has been translated “perfect” (so KJV, ASV). The verbal root תָּמַם (tamam) means “to be blameless, complete.” The word is found in Gen 25:27 where it describes Jacob as “even-tempered.” It also occurs in Ps 64:5 (64:4 ET) and Prov 29:10. The meaning is that a person or a thing is complete, perfect, flawless. It does not mean that he was sinless, but that he was wholeheartedly trying to please God, that he had integrity and was blameless before God.
8 tn The word יָשָׁר (yashar, “upright”) is complementary to “blameless.” The idea is “upright, just,” and applies to his relationships with others (Ps 37:37 and 25:21).
9 sn These two expressions indicate the outcome of Job’s character. “Fearing God” and “turning from evil” also express two correlative ideas in scripture; they signify his true piety – he had reverential fear of the
10 tn The Hebrew form has the interrogative ה (he) on the adverb חִנָּם (khinnam, “gratis”), a derivative either of the verb חָנַן (khanan, “to be gracious, show favor”), or its related noun חֵן (khen, “grace, favor”). The adverb has the sense of “free; gratis; gratuitously; for nothing; for no reason” (see BDB 336 s.v. חִנָּם). The idea is that Satan does not disagree that Job is pious, but that Job is loyal to God because of what he receives from God. He will test the sincerity of Job.
11 tn The use of the independent personal pronoun here emphasizes the subject of the verb: “Have you not put up a hedge.”
12 tn The verb שׂוּךְ (sukh) means “to hedge or fence up, about” something (BDB 962 s.v. I שׂוּךְ). The original idea seems to have been to surround with a wall of thorns for the purpose of protection (E. Dhorme, Job, 7). The verb is an implied comparison between making a hedge and protecting someone.
13 sn Here the verb “bless” is used in one of its very common meanings. The verb means “to enrich,” often with the sense of enabling or empowering things for growth or fruitfulness. See further C. Westermann, Blessing in the Bible and the Life of the Church (OBT).
14 tn Or “substance.” The herds of livestock may be taken by metonymy of part for whole to represent possessions or prosperity in general.
15 tn The verb פָּרַץ (parats) means “to break through.” It has the sense of abundant increase, as in breaking out, overflowing (see also Gen 30:30 and Exod 1:12).