Job in brief
The book of Job contains such long and involved speeches that
it is often hard to see the overall development of the book. In this summary,
written as a play, each chapter of Job is distilled down to a paragraph or so.
It helps to be able to see the structure and development of thought in the book,
and then to go back to better appreciate the full text of Scripture. (Chapters
are in parentheses.)
Narrator: Long ago, Job was one of the richest men
alive, yet he was blameless and honest, and a priest to his family. But one day
in the assembly, the accuser challenged God. He claimed that Job was righteous
only because God had blessed him so much. To prove otherwise, God stripped Job
of everything: his possessions, his servants, even his children. Suddenly all
was gone. Job was devastated, but he remained faithful and humble. "The Lord
gave," he said, "and now the Lord has taken away. Praise be to his name."
The accuser was not convinced. "You never hurt Job himself,"
he accused God. "Do so, and he will certainly curse you!"
So Job was afflicted with disease. Covered in festering sores
from head to foot, he wasted away. But even when his wife scorned him saying,
"Curse God and die, Job," his attitude remained, "Shall we accept good from God,
and not trouble?"
And so Job did not sin.
Job had three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, who heard
about his troubles. They came to comfort him, but when they arrived, they found
him so disfigured they hardly recognized him! They sat in silence, grieving for
him for the ritual week of mourning until, finally, Job broke the silence.
Job: I curse the day I was born! If only I had died at
birth! Then at least I would be at rest. Even captives and slaves find release
in death, yet my life still goes on! I long for death, but it doesn't come. Oh
why does life continue for those in misery?
This is my worst nightmare! I've always been afraid that
something like this might happen! I have no peace, no rest, only turmoil.
Eliphaz: Job, I really must respond. Don't be offended
at me. You used to be blameless. That at least should give you some hope.
Whatever God is punishing you for, there's no need to despair.
I learnt in a vision that no one is truly righteous before
God, so don't become resentful now. God certainly punishes the fool and destroys
his family, but if it were me, I would appeal to God. Even though he punishes
wickedness, he also heals those who accept his discipline. Who knows, before
long you'll be laughing, secure in a new household, living out the fullness of
your life. Just apply the lesson to yourself. (4,5)
Job: My words were rash, but I am suffering
unimaginable terrors from God. I wish he would finish me off, then at least I
would know I had been faithful to the end. As for you: a man should be able to
rely on his friends. But you see something dreadful and you speak from your
fear. Your words are useless to me.
If you can teach me then I'll listen, but you must accept that
I never departed from my righteous ways. God has appointed a time of misery for
me, so now my body is clothed in worms and scabs, and my skin is festering.
Oh God, life is so short that I must speak out. I would prefer
strangling and death to this body of mine! Why do you examine a man so closely?
Why do you never give me a moment's rest? If I have sinned then tell me now, for
my life will soon be gone! (6,7)
Bildad: You're being ridiculous, Job! God is just! When
your children sinned, God handed out their penalty. And if you are so pure then
God will restore you, but listen to what the fathers have told us. It is those
who reject God that are cut down in their prime! God does not reject a blameless
Job: I know that no one is truly righteous before God.
The wisdom and power of the Creator are so vast, so utterly beyond us. No one
can call him to explain himself. He controls the sun and the stars. He performs
innumerable miracles and wonders. None of us could possibly stand up in his
courtroom and dispute with him. If I tried I could only plead for mercy. This is
why I say that God destroys both the blameless and the wicked.
And now, even if I dropped my complaint, I would still dread
my sufferings because you have already condemned me! If only there were someone
who was able to speak to God on my behalf, to remove his terror from me. Then I
could stand up to God, and I would challenge him.
O God, what charges do you have against me? Do you enjoy
seeing me suffer? You know my heart. You shaped me from the dust. Are you going
to return me to the dust again? I cannot lift up my head because of what you've
done to me. Leave me alone, and let me die in peace! (9,10)
Zophar: Is no one going to respond? Job, you claim to
be innocent, but I reckon that God has even forgotten some of your sins! God is
greater than you can conceive, so when God chastises you, you cannot challenge
him. He reacts to the evil he has witnessed. If only you would put away your sin
you could lift up your head without shame. Then God would rescue you. He would
protect you for the rest of your life. But the hope of the wicked is nothing
more than a dying gasp. (11)
Job: Oh, you're all so wise! But I have a mind as well!
Previously God used to answer me when I called, yet now I suffer your contempt!
Men at ease have contempt for misfortune. And the wicked? They live in comfort!
Yes, and it is God who makes it so!
However great we are, God is greater. He is able to tear down
anyone he has established, whether kings or priests or judges, elders or nobles.
I've seen all this with my own eyes. And yet, you smear me with lies, you
useless healers! I wish you would remain silent rather than distort God's work.
How will you fare when his dread falls on you? Your words are proverbs made from
[Eliphaz tries to interrupt]
No! Let me finish.
Even if God slays me I will still hope in him, and still
defend myself before him. Can anyone honestly condemn me? If so I will be silent
Oh God, let me have a little rest, and then I will answer you.
Show me my offence. Show me my sin, because I'm rotting away to nothing. You
know that man is a fleeting shadow. Cut him down and he does not rise again. To
the end of creation he lies in the dust.
Oh if only you would hide me in the grave, hide me until your
anger has passed, until a time comes to remember me.. Yes, I will wait. I will
wait for my renewal. You will call and I will answer you. You will see the steps
I've taken. And you will throw away my sins like a bag of rubbish. Oh, but
you're wearing me down. You're destroying this man's hope through the pain of
his body... (12-14)
[Pause, to be sure Job has finished]
Eliphaz: You windbag! Your own mouth condemns you, and
your words undermine devotion to God. How come you know so much about him? Do
you sit in his council?
Oh Job. How come your heart has carried you away so that your
eyes flash with anger at God? Even the heavens are not pure enough for God, much
less man. Ask any wise man, or any of the fathers. It is a wicked man that God
takes from comfort and security to plunge into distress and anguish. His
strength is useless because God will pay him in full before his time.
Job: I've heard all this before, you miserable
comforters! Why don't you cease? If we changed places then I would encourage and
comfort you. Instead, not only do I suffer at the hand of God, but you jeer and
sneer at me. God has devastated my family and destroyed my flesh. My face is red
with weeping, even though my hands are free from violence, and my prayers pure.
My blood cries out from the ground. Even now my account is in heaven. If only
there were someone to plead with God on my behalf, as a man pleads for his
friend. Instead, I'm about to die and I'm surrounded by mockers, bearing the
brunt of your hostility. (16)
O God, you are the only one who can save me!
But God has made me a byword, a man in whose face people spit,
a man to shock the upright. So come on then. Try again. But I'll get no wisdom
from you. Death is my best option now. (17)
Bildad: Be sensible, Job. Why do you call us stupid?
You're just tearing yourself to pieces in your anger. It is the lamp of the
wicked that is snuffed out. Calamity overcomes him, eats away at his skin, and
strips him of his children so that his memory is lost from the land. This is the
fate of an evil man. (18)
Job: How long will you torment me with words? If indeed
you would exalt yourselves above me, then let me tell you that God has wronged
me! God caught me in his net and alienated me from my relatives, from my
friends, and even from my wife. Those I love have turned away from me. My breath
is sour and I am nothing but skin and bones. Have pity on me, my friends, and
stop hounding me.
How I wish my words were written down. I know that my redeemer
lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. Then I will awake. I will
see God with my own eyes -- I and not another.
But you. You should fear the sword yourselves. Then you will
know that there is judgment. (19)
Zophar: Again I must speak. You disturb and dishonor me
by your rebuke. You must know that, from the beginning, the joy of the wicked is
brief. In his pride he reaches for the heavens, but he is banished like a dream
and his children must make up for his evil. Though he revels in oppression,
terrors will overcome him. The heavens will expose his guilt and God's wrath
will consume him. (20)
Job: Let me try once more, then you can continue to
mock me. Despite openly rejecting God, the wicked enjoy prosperity. Their
children still grow up and sing to the music of tambourine and harp. Be honest.
How often is the lamp of the wicked snuffed out? Instead, two men lie down in
the dust of death, side by side, one lived in security and plenty, while the
other died in bitterness, never having enjoyed anything good.
I know what you're thinking, that I bear all the marks of
punishment for sin. But just travel a little and you will see that evil men are
spared calamity. So how can you console me with your nonsense? (21)
Eliphaz: So God is punishing you for your
righteousness! Job, the list of your sins is endless! You stripped your own
brothers naked, you gave no water to the weary, no food to the hungry. You sent
widows away empty handed, and you worked orphans into the ground. You wonder
whether God sees you, but he does. Why continue in wickedness? Even now, Job,
submit to God, and you will be restored and light will shine on your ways. You
will then be able to save others likewise. (22)
Job: Look, if only I knew where to find God I would
state my case before him, and he would listen! But I can't find him anywhere,
even though I treasured his words more than my daily bread. He remains aloof and
I wish that God would indeed set times for judgment. Terrible
injustices occur, but God charges no one with wrongdoing. Men prey on the needy
and the destitute. They murder, they creep around in adultery. You say that God
is bound to bring them low, but he does not. You cannot contradict that.
Bildad: God is a God of order, and of power, and of
righteousness! But man? He is a maggot! (25)
Job: How you have helped me! What great wisdom! God is
so far above our understanding. How can any of us explain his acts?
As long as I live I will not speak wickedness, and neither
will I deny my integrity. Hypocrisy would completely cut me off from God.
You have seen God's ways, so why do you speak such rubbish.
Why do you say that suffering is allotted only to the wicked, that only the
children of the wicked die by the sword or go hungry, that it is only the wicked
that are blown away? Where can true wisdom be found? You can't mine it out of
the ground, or purchase it with gold. God alone knows where it is, and so He
tells man, "Fear the Lord -- that is wisdom." (28)
I long for the days when God's intimate friendship blessed my
house. I was respected in the city. I helped the poor. I rescued orphans. I
acted as eyes to the blind, and as feet to the lame. I helped the needy, and
broke the fangs of their exploiters. I expected to live peaceful to a ripe old
age. But now? Instead of hanging on my every word, they mock me, mere youths!
They detest me and spit in my face. (29)
I am frightened. My life ebbs away. Pains gnaw at my bones and
God throws me in the mud. Even though I cry out to him he tosses me into the
storm. I used to weep for those in trouble, but when it was my turn to hope for
good, evil came. (30)
I kept myself from sin because I know God watches my every
step. If I am guilty -- and if God would weigh me honestly he would know I am
not -- then indeed let others eat my food. If I am an adulterer then let them
take my wife from me; if I have denied any charity then indeed let my body be
broken. But how could I have denied justice to others when I know that God is
the Judge who formed us all?
If I had trusted in wealth, that would be sin; or if I gloated
over my enemy or cursed him; or if I had not shown hospitality; or if I had
hidden sin in my heart -- whatever it is let my accuser declare it so that I can
answer him -- or if I had devoured land without payment then, certainly, let
briers come up instead of barley. (31)
That's all I have to say.
[A young man, Elihu, has been listening. After realizing that
no one is going to respond to Job, he bursts out]
Elihu: I'm younger than you elders so I kept quiet, but
age doesn't give wisdom, God does. You have utterly failed to answer Job, so now
let me speak before I burst! And I can assure you I have no intention of
flattering anyone! Job, I ask you to listen to me. I'm a man just like yourself.
I heard you claim to be sinless, and accuse God for faulting you. You have no
right to say such things. Why do you strive against God? He uses visions and
events, even chastenings, to turn a man from his pride, providing a messenger to
teach him. And not just once, he will do so again and again. (32)
Listen to me, Job! If you have anything to say, then say it,
but otherwise let me teach you wisdom. Listen to me all of you, and let us
discern together what is right. Job claims that God denies him justice, and even
claims that there is no value in serving God! But it is unthinkable that God
would do wrong. It is he who gives men their very breath, and is able to take it
away in an instant, however great and noble they are. Would you really condemn
God in his justice? He can judge without trial because he watches men even in
secret, but whether he punishes or remains silent is for him to decide. Wise men
say that Job speaks out of ignorance, and now he adds rebellion to his sin.
Job, you claim that God will clear your name. But at the same
time you also imply you get no benefit by avoiding sin! It's actually the other
way around! How can you possibly affect the Great Creator by either your
righteousness or your sin? It is only other people who would suffer your
wickedness. If God is prepared to close his ears to the cries of the wicked, how
much more will he ignore your self-righteous indignation. Job is an ignorant
Bear with me a little longer. There's more to be said on God's
behalf, and through his inspiration I will speak. Even though God is mighty, he
doesn't despise men, but he does use suffering to turn people from evil. The
godless resent this, and refuse to respond. Now that you are laden with the
judgment of the wicked, beware of turning to evil as a means of escaping
[The sky begins to darken with an approaching storm]
God is the ultimate teacher, with powers and abilities far
beyond our understanding. He forms the rain, the clouds, and thunder. Look! See
how his lightning flashes around. This is the power he uses to govern the
[Thunder crashes. Elihu shouts to be heard as the noise
continues to increase]
Listen to the roar of his voice! It makes my heart pound! God
works throughout the whole world; he does great things beyond our understanding.
He sends rain and snow, stopping men from their labor, and sending the animals
to their dens. He brings clouds both to punish, and to water the earth in love.
Listen Job! Stop and consider God's wonders. Can you match his power? Can you
really expect to call him to account? We can't even stare at the sun in its
And now! Here is God coming! God who is beyond our reach, and
is full of justice and righteousness! This is why men revere him. And in turn he
cares for those who are wise in heart.
[The storm is upon them. God speaks from the whirling cloud]
The Lord: Who is this who darkens my counsel with
ignorant words? Brace yourself, Job. I'm calling you to account!
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who
marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who shut up the sea behind doors,
and wrapped the sky in clouds? Have you given orders to the morning, or walked
on the bed of the sea? Have the gates of death been shown to you, or even the
storehouses of hail and snow? But you are so wise! You have lived so many years!
What about the stars, great Orion and the Bear and other
constellations? Can you guide them in season? You can't even count them! Can you
control the clouds and the lightning? Perhaps you feed the lioness or the raven,
or maybe you help the mountain goats give birth? Perhaps you know why the
ostrich is so foolish, or the horse so strong? Is it your wisdom that allows the
hawk to fly and to hunt, or the eagle to soar? You wanted to wrestle with me,
Job, so now I want an answer from you. (38,39)
Job: I am unworthy. I cannot answer you.
The Lord: Brace yourself, Job. I want an answer. Would
you discredit my justice, or condemn me in order to justify yourself? If you
have power like mine then use it. Bring the proud man down! Bury him in the dust
with the wicked! If you can do this, then I will admit that you can save
I made a mighty beast when I made you. His great bones are
brass and iron. He exercises dominion over the works of God, demanding tribute
from the other beasts. The raging flood is nothing to him. Can anyone take him
with hooks, or trap him in a snare? What about it, Job? Can you tie him down?
Will he make a lasting covenant with you? Will you make him your plaything when
he terrifies you?
It is in my mercy that I allow him to plague mankind, but I
limit him, despite all his boasting about his teeth, his armor, his breath
setting coals ablaze. The mighty are terrified before him, and neither sword nor
spear has any effect on him. He makes the deep sea boil, and he is a beast
without fear. With his heaven-confronting eyes, he is king of the proud.
Job: I know that you can do all things. No one can
oppose you. I did not really understand before. Now that I have seen you I
despise myself. I repent in dust and ashes.
[God turns to Eliphaz]
The Lord: Eliphaz, I am furious with you and your two
friends because you spoke lies about me. But if you bring sacrifices, my servant
Job will pray for you, and I will listen to him and not deal with you according
to your foolish ideas.
Narrator: So Job prayed for his friends, and the Lord
accepted his prayer. Afterwards, the Lord made Job prosperous again, giving him
twice as much as he had before. Everyone who knew him came to him and gave him
gifts. He also had seven sons and three beautiful daughters. Job lived long
enough to see his great grandchildren. And when he finally died, he was old and
full of years. (42) (JL)