The book of Job is named after the central character and speaker. The narrative deals with a man who lost everything and the subsequent discussions he had about the reason for his suffering. God alone had the final word and eventually restored all that Job had lost.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF WRITING
AUTHOR: The author of Job is unknown, but he was a learned man whose knowledge embraced the heavens (22:12; 38:32–33) and earth (26:7–8; 28:9–11; 37:11, 16). His knowledge touched on foreign lands (28:16, 19), various products (6:19), and human professions (7:6; 9:26; 18:8–10; 28:1–11). He was familiar with plants (14:7–9) and animals (4:10–11; 38:39–39:30; 40:15–41:34). He was a wise man, familiar with traditional wisdom (6:5–6; 17:5; 28:12, 28), but was above all a man of spiritual sensitivity (1:1, 5, 8; 2:3; 14:14–15; 16:11–21; 19:23–27; 23:10; 34:26–28; 40:1–5; 42:1–6). He was doubtless an Israelite as confirmed by his frequent use of God’s covenant name (Yahweh).
BACKGROUND: The story of Job is set in the patriarchal period. In that era wealth consisted of the possession of cattle and servants. Like other Old Testament patriarchal family heads, Job performed priestly duties, including offering sacrifices for his family. Like the patriarchs, Job lived to be more than a hundred years old. Geographically, the action took place in the northern Arabian Peninsula, in the land of Uz (1:1), often associated with Edom. Job’s three friends also had Edomite or southern associations, as did the young Elihu (see notes at 2:11; 32:2–3).
Although Job is set in the patriarchal period, its date of writing is unknown. Jewish tradition places the authorship of Job in the time of Moses.
CONTRIBUTION TO THE BIBLE
The book of Job teaches that suffering comes to everyone, the righteous and unrighteous alike. God does not always keep the righteous from danger or suffering. Ultimately God controls all of life’s situations, including limiting the power of Satan. God’s comfort and strength are always available to the trusting soul.
Although the book of Job does take note of the problem of suffering, it focuses more on the nature of human conduct before a sovereign and holy God. In harmony with the rest of Scripture, the book teaches that even a consistent practice of religion is insufficient without a genuine heart relationship with God (Dt 6:4–6; Ps 86:11–12; Mt 22:37). The answer to life’s problems and goals lies in a proper reverence for him who is perfect in all his being and actions. Man needs not just to confess God but to surrender everything to him. By letting him truly be God in every area of life, a person will find him sufficient.
The writer was a skilled storyteller, artistically characterizing the distinctions between the protagonist (Job), antagonist (Satan), and literary foils (the three friends and Elihu). The characterization demonstrates that God himself is the ultimate protagonist (or “hero”) of the story. Satan was as much challenging God as Job’s piety. Although Job’s three “comforters” applied traditional wisdom to Job’s situation, each did it in a different way. Eliphaz, the rationalist, reasoned with Job (15:17–18); Bildad, the apologist, sought to defend God (25:1–6); and Zophar acted much like a prosecutor (11:1–6). The youthful Elihu served as a mediating influence in order to prepare for the divine speeches that follow (33:23–26). The writer constructed a well-developed plot built around dramatic dialogue. The fact that he related the account of Job’s test in story form does not mean that Job was not a real person who underwent a real test.
Holman Bible Publishers, CSB Disciple’s Study Bible: Notes (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 735.