Learning from the book of Job

During Lent we’re focusing on the book of Job. As much as Job can be a bit of an overwhelming book, it’s also been good to get into it and ask questions of the text. Not surprisingly, it’s a text that seems to bring up a lot of questions.

The following are just some of the questions we’ve asked:

  • Does God do harm? Closely related, why is there so much suffering? In the book of Job, for example, why the apparently senseless death of Job’s children?
  • What picture of God is presented here in the text?
    • Can we trust this God?
  • What if the accuser/Satan of Job 1-2 is not actually Satan, the devil as we call him? Can it even be him – would God really be willing to give him that much power?
  • How does one understand Job’s wife’s response to what has happened?
  • Does Job have to really have happened exactly the way we have the book today? Does suggesting it is not historically accurate suggest that the Bible itself is not true and accurate? Does it make it harder for me to deal with difficult times if Job didn’t really go through this?
  • Why is the story so short and the poetical texts of the book so long? (3 chapters of narrative versus 39 chapters of poetical responses). Even if Job’s friends (and Elihu) had a lot of time to think about their answers, who really talks in poetry?
  • Job 28 is different: why?
  • How does Elihu fit in? At the end of the book, he is neither condoned or condemned (unlike Job’s 3 friends).
  • What do we make of God’s silence in the text? Even though God does finally appear at the end of the book, there’s a long time of silence before the response is given (and the response doesn’t really address Job’s questions).
  • The response to Job rests heavily on the fact that God understands how the world works and Job doesn’t. As we understand creation better (e.g., there aren’t really storehouses for hail), how does that change how we read the explanations in the text? Does our understanding change God’s might?!?
  • Is Job truly without sin? What then does he repent of in Chapter 42?
  • How is this book relevant to my life (and those around me) now? Especially in the context of the university?

Further thoughts on these questions will hopefully be posted here in the coming weeks. If you’d like to hear another perspective on the book (and read more questions, albeit this time with more answers), I invite you to go to a site we’ve been using as a resource for the study: “Musings on Science and Theology.”