Prizing God above His Gifts: Job’s Message for Today (Part 4)


If you have read my two previous posts on the misguided applications and the divine interpretation of the administration of justice, you should have a basic understanding of the message of Job. With this post, I will give an overview of the structural development of the book of Job. The above chart represents the development of the plot in Job (taken from B. Lynne Newell, “Job: Repentant or Rebellious?” Westminster Theological Journal 46 [Fall 1984]: 90):

The following outline reflects that there are three major movements in Job. The summary statement for each movement reflects how it relates to the subject being addressed in this book. The secondary divisions for each movement have been derived from the eight points in the above chart reflecting the book’s development of thought. The tertiary subdivisions are basically derived from the Joban author’s narrative introduction to each unit of material.

1. The Preliminary Conflict Generates Man’s Questioning of God’s Administration of Justice, 1:1–2:13.

a. The Setting, 1:1–5

This describes the temporal setting, location, and circumstances of this story. In describing Job as a genuinely godly man, this lays the foundation for the tension portrayed in this book.

b. Preliminary Incidents, 1:6–2:13

This unit of material gives an account of the testing of Job. The action moves back and forth between heaven and earth. This material is relevant for the following argument. We see that God initiates the conversation with Satan. This dialogue focuses on the genuinely righteous character of Job. Satan in response challenges God’s view of Job. In order to vindicate Himself and Job, God permits Satan to test Job.

2. The Conflicting Debate Reflects Man’s Misunderstanding about God’s Administration of Justice, 3:1–37:24.

a. The Occasioning Incident, 3:1–26

Job’s friends came to comfort Job. They said nothing for seven days and seven nights. Job is the first to speak. In this speech Job curses the day of his birth. This reflected an incorrect attitude towards God’s gift of life. Job’s complaint was improper behavior for his friends and it confirmed to them that Job had to be suffering on account of his sinfulness. This is what creates the tension and initiates the conflict.

b. The Complications, 4:1–27:23

The three cycles of debate between Job and his three friends magnify the conflict and make any solution to the conflict appear impossible. The friends’ remarks to Job become progressively shorter and in the third cycle of speeches Zophar does not even respond. This reflects that Job’s friends had been defeated. Since the wise men of Job’s day could not refute him, this creates a tension. Is anyone able to answer Job?

1) The first cycle of speeches, 4:1–14:22

a) Eliphaz’s first speech, 4:1–5:27

b) Job’s response, 6:1–7:21

c) Bildad’s first speech, 8:1–22

d) Job’s response, 9:1–10:22

e) Zophar’s first speech, 11:1–20

f) Job’s response, 12:1–14:22

2) The second cycle of speeches, 15:1–21:34

a) Eliphaz’s second speech, 15:1–35

b) Job’s response, 16:1–17:16

c) Bildad’s second speech, 18:1–21

d) Job’s response, 19:1–29

e) Zophar’s second speech, 20:1–29

f) Job’s response, 21:1–34

2) The third cycle of speeches, 22:1–27:23

a) Eliphaz’s third speech, 22:1–30

b) Job’s response, 23:1–24:25

c) Bildad’s third speech, 25:1–6

d) Job’s response, 26:1–27:23

c. The Climax, 28:1–37:24

Job’s discourse on wisdom indicates that only God has wisdom; yet Job challenges God to a legal conflict by giving his oath of innocence in chapter 31. This is where the conflict reaches its peak.

1) Job’s discourse on wisdom, 28:1–28

2) Job’s final statement about his case, 29:1–31:40

3) Elihu’s four speeches, 32:1–37:24

3. The Divine Response Encourages Man’s Submitting to God’s Administration of Justice, 38:1–42:17.

a. The Resolution, 38:1–42:6

All the human answers have been given to solve Job’s problem; however, none have provided the solution. The only one who can unravel this is God. In this section of material, God provides the resolution to the problem.

1) The LORD’s first speech, 38:1–40:2

2) Job’s first response, 40:3–5

3) The Lord’s second speech, 40:6–41:34

4) Job’s second response, 42:1–6

b. The Outcome, 42:7–9

This is the consequence of the resolution. God pronounces that Job was right in the debate and that God will only accept Job’s prayer for his friends.

c. The Conclusion, 42:10–17

The Joban author gives his concluding remarks about the account. In the end, he announces that God freely blessed Job with greater blessing than his earlier years.

With my final post, I will suggest some themes from Job and units for a series of expositional sermons on Job.

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  1. Kent McCune says

    Dr. McCabe — This has been a great series (still waiting for more on Psalms… :-)). The thing that has struck me about Job when reading the book is that God is trustworthy. Because of His incredible and self-declared creative/sustaining/controlling power coupled with His love, we can trust His sovereign will to be best, just, wise, and most loving. This is an incredible (and really the only) comfort when we do not understand the reasons for the bad things that happen to us or to others we love. Great stuff. Thanks!

  2. Bob McCabe says

    Kent, I apologize for taking so long to get back with you. Though no one longs to go through what Job did (according Job 7, Job suffered for months), God nevertheless comforts those whom he has regenerated with biblical truth about God’s sovereign control, wisdom and grace. While Job has complexities, the overall message is absolutely profound.

    I will do my last post on Job in the next couple of days. I still have some formatting to finish with this last post.

    Thanks for your interest in the Psalms. God has used the Psalms to minister to me in both the heights and depths of life. My intentions are to re-visit the Psalms but this will have to wait until the next time I teach my class on Understanding the Psalms. It is time-consuming to attempt to reduce my notes on the Psalms, especially the “messianic” psalms, into manageable blog posts. In order for me to do blog posts with any credibility I need to think in terms of blog posts and not seminary classes.


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