Related Verses: Job 1-2, 31, 42
Leading Question: Who gives the right assessment of Job’s character: Job himself, his friends, or God?
We can look at Job’s character from three perspectives: at the beginning before his troubles, during his troubles, or at the end when all the dust has settled. Let’s do a quick survey of all three:
1. Prologue: God chooses Job as a showcase of an upright man. God declares to Satan: “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.” (NRSV). The KJV uses the word “perfect” instead of “blameless.”
Question: Is there anything that happens during Job’s trials that would have changed God’s assessment of Job?
God presses Job hard in his interrogation – in which Job scored zero out of eighty-eight, but still tells the friends that Job has spoken the truth about God while they did not.
2. Cycles of debate: Job searches his heart and soul. Towards the end of the exchanges between Job and his friends, Job reflects on his loss of stature as a result of his troubles. In short, no one gives him the kind of respect which he once had, obviously a painful experience for Job. In 29:1-29, Job reflects on his standing in the community when things were going well. He had reason to be gratified at the universal respect shown him. Then in 30:1-31 he describes his pain when people treat him with disdain and even God is silent.
From the standpoint of behavioral norms, however, Job 31:1-40 is what G. W. Anderson, Professor of Old Testament at the University of Edinburgh during my doctoral studies there, described as the “finest statement of Old Testament ethics.” Here are the key elements, already noted in lesson 10:
1 He vows not to “look lustfully at a young woman”
5 He has not “walked with falsehood” or “hurried after deceit”
9 He has not allowed himself to be “enticed by a woman” or to have “lurked at my neighbor’s door”
13 He has not “denied justice to any of my servants”
16 He has met the needs of the “poor,” the “widow,” the “fatherless,” those without clothes,
21 He has not used his influence in court to testify against the fatherless
24-25 He has not relied on wealth or gold
26-27 He has not allowed himself to be enticed by the worship of sun or moon
29-30 He has not rejoiced at his enemy’s misfortune or pronounced a curse against him
31 He has never let the members of his household go hungry
32 He has not allowed the stranger or traveler to remain in the street
33-34 He has never concealed his sins for fear of the contempt of the people
38-40 He has been a faithful steward of his land and supported his tenants
Question: Is there any indication in the book itself that would suggest that Job had not lived up to this ideal?
Given all the deviant behavior in the Old Testament, Job 31 is an astonishing statement of the ideal, apparently dating from the time of Abraham. And there is nothing in the book of Job itself that would suggest that Job did not live up to his ideal – except, of course, the less-than-subtle insinuations of the friends who assumed that because of his troubles, Job was involved in all kinds of illicit activities.
3. God affirms Job in the end. In spite of the hard questioning from out of the whirlwind, God still affirms to the friends that Job had spoken the truth about him (42:8).
Question: Does the hard questioning from out of the whirlwind point to any flaws in Job’s character? Or would God still say about Job what he had said at the beginning, that here was a “blameless and upright” man?