Job – Fact or Fiction? (3)
Having considered the evidence, I believe a number of things set the book of Job above all other comparable literature, and give it relevance for all peoples everywhere.
I personally believe the book of Job to be a dramatization that was based on an actual person and events, in exactly the same way that many films and books are based on actual events and actual people. The foundation of truth does not mean that every word or action should be taken as historically true. Just as in films and books, the story must not only transmit its purpose and message, but it must also entertain.
The book of Job was, I believe, written from life experience to address the theme of suffering. Perhaps a play in the style of Shakespeare, or perhaps the Ancient Near Eastern equivalent of a West End musical, the book of Job is a dramatic way to ask questions of life, while the format of a drama allows the questions to go essentially unanswered.
In addressing the common theme of suffering, the book of Job explicitly reveals that YHWH alone is God but without naming YHWH, and that the issue of suffering must be considered alongside the nature of YHWH himself.
Furthermore, the book tells of the adversary of God, who, though strictly limited by God, seeks to damage God by damaging his people. This aspect of the drama is hidden from Job himself, and he sees only earthly reasons for his suffering. Perhaps the author of Job is trying to balance the book of Ecclesiastes, which appears to have only earthly responses to the problem of suffering.
The dramatic story of Job lays to rest any thought that the righteous are excluded from suffering, and it may even suggest that the righteous may suffer more than the unrighteous precisely because they are righteous.
Perhaps the greatest theme of the book is one that is often passed over in favour of the more obvious themes. Job very clearly teaches that you cannot judge the heart of a person by the person’s outward circumstances or appearance.
Job may be an ancient book, but it speaks to the most sophisticated and modern person who has questions of life in his heart, and directs that person to God himself who alone is the answer.
Raymond B Dillard & Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, APOLLOS (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press, Great Britain.), 1995
Hugh Anderson, The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible, Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1971
E S P Heavenor, The New Bible Commentary Revised, London, Inter-Varsity Press, 1970
John E Hartley, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – Job, Grand Rapids, William B Eerdmans, 1988
Samuel Rolles Driver and George Buchanan Gray, The International Critical Commentary on Job, Edinburgh, T & T Clark, 1921
H H Rowley, The New Century Bible series on Job, London, Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd, 1970