Bill Long 1/10/05
Job 1: 1-5
The purpose of this lesson is to get a feel for who Job is, based on the introductory paragraph of the Book of Job. The language is spare and simple. Nicely-cadenced phrases suggest to the reader that a man of discipline, balance, and resolute purpose will be the subject of our story. The opening words, "There was once a man," is reminiscent of the "once upon a time" fairy-tales familiar to us from our younger days. And, indeed, no one knows where the land of Uz actually was. Let's hear the entire five verses and then consider some questions.
"There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4. His sons used to go and hold feasts in one another's houses in turn; and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 And when the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings, according to the number of them all; for Job said, 'It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.' This is what Job always did."
A. What picture is the author trying to give us of Job in the first two verses?
B. Does our inability to know exactly where the action takes place (other than someplace outside of Israel) affect our ability to understand and appreciate the story? Does it deepen our understanding?
C. How do you understand the concept of Job's "greatness" in v. 3? You might want to read Job 29:7-17 to get a hint into what Job thought of his "pre-disaster" life. How does Job tell the story of his "pre-disaster" life? What are the interests that a "great" person, religious or otherwise, has in life?
D. What does v. 4 add to the picture we gain of Job? The text says that the children celebrate together. Why isn't Job there too? Is he not invited? Does he not want to "meddle" in their lives? An interesting result of Job's not being at his children's frequent family celebrations is that he is not present when the roof collapses on the children.
E. What insights do we get about Job as a parent in v. 5? Give both a positive and negative "reading" of Job's activity described there.
Two summary or overarching questions might also be useful to consider.
1. As mentioned above, Job is described sparely in these verses. Pictures of his activity, along with highly-freighted theological terms, carry a lot of descriptive weight. Are you comfortable extrapolating imaginatively from a "minimalist" picture of Job to think about "who Job is" or are you more comfortable just confining yourself to the bare words of the text and not engaging in speculation about who Job might have been? Why?
2. From what you know of Job in these verses, is he a likable type of guy? Someone that you would like to get to know? Someone who has "control issues?" Is the power of the story enhanced if you know that it will be a "great man" who suffers immensely or would the story have the same power if a "lesser" person suffered?
Job 1:6-19 tells the story of the agreement between God and The Satan (the Adversary) to allow The Satan to wreak havoc on Job's family. Job 2:1-8 tells the story of Job's bodily suffering. These texts therefore set up the "problem" of the Book of Job--Job's seemingly unjust and disproportionally great suffering. The story makes neither God nor The Satan look very admirable, frankly, even though various scholars have tried to "defend" God by attributing God's "permission" to The Satan as furthering the "testing" of Job's faith. But, this explanation rings hollow for me.
Suffice it to say that disaster happens, and the disaster creates a theological and practical problem for Job and for us. Job will believe for the rest of the Book that God was really behind the disaster that he suffered. One of the intriguing ironies about the Book of Job is that Job knows that he is right and, indeed, God may agree with Job (42:7,8). But this gets us ahead of ourselves, even though it is good to get some issues out in the open at the outset.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long