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THE BOOK OF JOB

The Book of Job narrates the afflictions that befell a righteous man and discusses the moral problem such sufferings present. Job's "three friends" discuss with him the meaning of his sufferings; they give their interpretation, that they are a sign of God's anger and a punishment for sin; but this Job will not admit. Their suggestions wring from him "words without knowledge" (38:2), which he afterwards retracts (42:3); yet Job is declared by God to have spoken the thing that is right concerning the divine government (42:7) in saying that there is a mystery in the incidence of suffering that only a fresh revelation can solve. Job 32-37 contains the speeches of Elihu, who is shocked at what he regards as impiety on the part of Job, and condemns him, though on different grounds from the "three friends." His main thesis is that God will "not pervert judgment." Job makes no reply to him. His own craving for light is satisfied by the vision of God, at length vouchsafed in answer to his appeals. "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee" (42:5).

The book of Job does not entirely answer the question as to why Job (or any human) might suffer pain and the loss of his goods. It does make it clear that affliction is not necessarily evidence that one has sinned. The book suggests that affliction, if not for punishment, may be for experience, discipline, and instruction (see also D&C 122).

Job's assurance of the bodily resurrection and his testimony of the Redeemer (19:25-27; see also 2 Ne. 9:4) are one of the high points of the book, equaled only by the revelation of the Lord to him in Job 38-41. The human mind is such that it is essential for Job to have a correct knowledge of God and know that his own course of life was acceptable to God, or he would not have been able to endure the trials that came upon him. His unfailing faith is characterized by such exclamations as, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (13:15). Job is mentioned also in Ezek. 14:14; James 5:11; D&C 121:10.

This is the most singular book in the whole of the Sacred Code. Though written by the same inspiration, and in reference to the same end, the salvation of men, it is so different from every other book of the Bible that it seems to possess nothing in common with them, for even the language, in its construction, is dissimilar from that in the law, the prophets, and the historical books. Except the first two chapters and the last ten verses, which are merely prose, all the rest of the book is poetic; and is everywhere reducible to the hemistich form, in which all the other poetic books of the Bible are written. It is therefore properly called a poem; but whether it belongs to the dramatic or epic species has not been decided by learned men. Genuine poetry is like a mountain flood; it pours down, resistless, bursts all bounds, scoops out its own channel, carries woods and rocks before it, and spreads itself abroad, both deep and wide, over all the plain. Such, indeed, is the poetry which the reader will meet with in this singular and astonishing book.

As to the Book of Job, it is most evidently a poem, and a poem of the highest order; dealing in subjects the most grand and sublime; using imagery the most chaste and appropriate; described by language the most happy and energetic; conveying instruction, in both divine and human things, the most ennobling and useful; abounding in precepts the most pure and exalted, which are enforced by arguments the most strong and conclusive, and illustrated by examples the most natural and striking.

All these points will appear in the strongest light to every alternative reader of the book, and to such its great end will be answered. They will learn from it: that God has sway everywhere; that the wicked, though bearing rule for a time, can never be ultimately prosperous and happy; and that the righteous, though oppressed with sufferings and calamities, can never be forgotten by Him in whose hands are His saints, and with whom their lives are precious; that in this world neither are the wicked ultimately punished nor the righteous ultimately rewarded; that God's judgments are a great deep, and His ways past finding out; but the issues of all are to the glory of His wisdom and grace, and to the eternal happiness of those who trust in Him. This is the grand design of the book.

Job 1:1. Was Job a Real Person?

Scholars have not been as concerned with who Job was as they have been with whether or not he was a real person. Adam Clarke wrote of Job's identity and existence: "I shall not trouble my readers with the arguments which have been used by learned men, pro and con, relative to the particulars already mentioned: were I to do this, I must transcribe a vast mass of matter, which, though it might display great learning in the authors, would most certainly afford little edification to the great bulk of my readers. My own opinion on those points they may naturally wish to know; and to that opinion they have a right: it is such as I dare avow, and such as I feel no disposition to conceal. I believe Job to have been a real person, and his history to be a statement of facts." (The Holy Bible ... with a Commentary and Critical Notes, 3:5.)

Meservy noted: "Although some scholars have felt that the book is not a true story about a real man, I think the majority of the scholars do. Granted, it is a literary work with a prologue (chs. 1-2) and an epilogue (ch. 42) that were composed in narrative form and a body of the work (3-41) that was composed in Hebrew poetry, but to say that it is a literary composition is not to deny its basis in fact, any more than to say that a book, play, or even a musical based on Joseph Smith's life is not true because it is an artistic or literary work. Ezekiel and James, for example, regarded him as historical and referred to Job among the great individuals known for their faith and prayer power (Ezekiel 14:14, 20; James 5:11). This is significant. There are other reasons for regarding Job as an historical person but, to me, the most decisive criterion in this regard, is the fact that when Joseph Smith and his people were in great distress, and Joseph Smith went to the Lord and said, 'Oh God, where art thou? Where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place.' The Lord responded to his appeal for help by saying, 'my son, peace be to thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high ... Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgressions, as they did Job' (D&C 121:7-10, emphasis added). Now, if Job were not real and his suffering, therefore, were merely the figment of some author's imagination, and Joseph Smith on the other hand was very real, and his suffering and that of his people were not imaginary, then for the Lord to chide him because his circumstances were not as bad as Job's were, would provide an intolerable comparison, since one cannot compare real with unreal things. On the other hand, since the Lord did make the comparison, it must be a real one. I would, therefore, conclude on this basis alone, that Job was a very real person. The Brethren, also, when they have referred to Job, have regarded him as a real person, for example, John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 7:197-198; 18:309-310; 20:305-306; 22:319-320; Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses 18:30; Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 19:315." ("Job: 'Yet Will I Trust in Him,'" pp. 154-55.)

Job 1:1-5. How great a man was Job?

Job 1:7. Where had Satan been before meeting the Lord?

Job 1:7-12; 2:1-6. Did God Converse with Satan?

Some have questioned whether God converses with the devil and his spirit-followers as described here. These verses may be a poetic way of setting the stage for what follows in Job's life -- his afflictions, temptations, loss of worldly goods -- rather than a reporting of an actual conversation. The Lord does not bargain with Satan or agree to his evil deeds. However, Satan is permitted by the Lord to afflict and torment man until Lucifer's allotted time on earth is done. Thus, Job's trials would be consistent with the concept that Satan was allowed by God to bring the afflictions upon Job, not because of a bargain God made with Satan, but because it fit God's purposes for Job.

Meservy suggested that the appearance of Satan to the "sons of God," however, can be explained literally: "Is the portrayal of the devil in chs. 1-2 a true one? I believe so. We are told there that Satan came among the sons of God? Who are these sons? Usually this term means in the scriptures those who have covenanted to serve the Lord and are willing to take his name upon them by baptism and are born again, and are then led by the Spirit of God. These are his sons and these are they who cry 'Abba Father.' (Moses 6:65-68, 7:1; Mosiah 5:7-10, 15:10-12; D&C 11:30, 39:4-6, 76:23-24, 51-60; Romans 8, esp. vv. 14-17). Our author says, 'there was a day when the Sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord and Satan came also among them' (Job 1:6). This would suggest that Satan came among the faithful when they met to carry out their religious devotions. At the time the Lord chose to single out one of them in a remark to Satan." ("Job: 'Yet Will I Trust in Thee,'" p. 155.)

Job 1:11. What did Satan ask the Lord to do?

Job 1:12. What power did the Lord give to Satan?

Job 1:13-19. What news did the four messengers bring Job?

Job 1:20-22. How did Job respond?

Job 2:5. What did Satan ask the lord to do to Job?

Job 2:6. What power did the Lord give to Satan?

Job 2:7. What did Satan do to Job?

Job 2:9. What did Job's wife say to him?

Job 2:10. What did Job reply?

Job 2:11-13. What did Job's three friends do? Why?

Job 3:1-3. What did Job curse?

Job 3:11. What did Job ask about his birth?

Job 4:7-9, 17. How did Eliphaz reprove Job?

Job 5:17-18. What counsel did Eliphaz give to Job?

Job 6:8-9. What did Job ask of the Lord?

Job 6:24-25. What did Job ask of his friends?

Job 7:1, 17, 21. What did Job ask of the Lord?

Job 8:3. What did Bildad say about God to Job?

Job 9:1-4. What did Job acknowledge in Job 9?

Job 10:7. What did Job acknowledge?

Job 10:8-9. What did Job ask God?

Job 11:1-5. Why did Zophar condemn Job?

Job 11:13-14. What did Zophar counsel Job to do?

Job 12:10, 12-25. What did Job answer?

Job 13:7-28. Trust in God

Job, while he did not understand why God permitted his affliction, would not judge the Lord nor lose his faith in Him. "Let me alone," he said to his friends, "let come on me what will" (v. 13). God was his salvation, and Job trusted in Him alone. Job saw his afflictions in perspective. As President Spencer W. Kimball said: "If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective." (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 97.)

Job's friends challenged God's wisdom, and they saw Job's suffering as a punishment sent from God. But Job had a greater understanding. He knew that God was there, although his prayers for relief were not answered as he might wish. Should his suffering really have been the result of personal sin, he begged the Lord to cause him to know so that he could repent (v. 23).

But suffering is not always the result of sin. Suffering has a larger purpose, part of which is educative. President Kimball said:

"Is there not wisdom in his giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?

"If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.

"If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil -- all would do good but not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency, only satanic controls.

"Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life and godhood." (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 97.)

Job 13:15. How much did Job trust in the Lord?

Job 14:14. What did Job ask?

Job 14:14. What did Job answer?

Job 15:16-25. What did Eliphaz say of wicked men?

Job 16:16-22. What did Job testify of to his friends?

Job 17:10-16. What did Job speak of in Job 17?

Job 18:5-21. What did Bildad tell of in Job 18?

Job 19:25-27. What did Job know to be true?

Job Job 19:26. "Yet in My Flesh Shall I See God"

In the King James Version, this verse affirms Job's faith in a physical resurrection. In many other versions of the Bible, however, this verse does not affirm such a belief; in fact, in these versions Job says he will see God but not in his flesh. How is it possible that two completely contradictory translations could come from the same text? Meservy explained:

"We might note parenthetically that the great testimony of Job in 19:26 has been interpreted in two ways: 'Yet in my flesh shall I see God' (King James Version) and 'Then without my flesh shall I see God.' (Jewish Publication Society Version, 1917). The first of these implies the literal resurrection, the other does not. The Hebrew text says, 'from my flesh,' and this can be interpreted in either sense. The same ambiguity applies to English usage. If I say, 'from the house I saw him coming,' I could have been inside the house or just outside the house when I saw him coming. Thus, one's theology determines how one translates this passage.

"Latter-day Saints do not depend upon this passage to establish their belief in a literal resurrection, but point to it as one more glorious affirmation of it." ("Job: 'Yet Will I Trust in Him,'" p. 158.)

Job 20:4-8. What did Zophar say of the wicked and the hypocrite?

Job 21:7-14. What did Job admit?

Job 21:30-33. What did Job testify of?

Job 22:5-7. What did Eliphaz accuse Job of?

Job 22:21-23, 27-28. What did Eliphaz exhort Job to do?

Job 23:1-7. What did Job do?

Job 23:10-12. What did Job say about his future? Why?

Job 24:24. What will happen to the wicked?

Job 25:1-6. What did Bildad do in Job 25?

Job 26:1-7. What question did Job ask Bildad in Job 26?

Job 27:13-23. What did Job say of the wicked?

Job 28:1-2, 5. Where does wealth come from?

Job 28:12-19. What cannot be purchased?

Job 28:28. How did Job define wisdom and understanding?

Job 29:1-24. Why had Job been blessed in the past?

Job 29:16-17. A Truly Righteous Man

Perhaps this is the secret of Job's perfection: he did not help only those who asked for his help; he sought out people to give help to.

As a king Job was obligated to defend those who relied on him for defense. For example, when Job found someone who had been plundered by robbers, he hunted down the thieves and used force, if necessary, to recover the stolen goods and restore them to their owner.

Job was not a Robin Hood, plundering one segment of society to provide for another. The only rich man he plundered was himself, and he did that freely. Commenting on Job's righteousness. Clarke wrote:

"As supreme magistrate he chose out their way, adjusted their differences, and sat chief, presiding in all their civil assemblies.

"As captain general he dwelt as a king in the midst of his troops, preserving order and discipline, and seeing that his fellow soldiers were provided with requisites for their warfare, and the necessaries of life.

"As a man he did not think himself superior to the meanest offices in domestic life, to relieve or support his fellow creatures; he went about comforting the mourners -- visiting the sick and afflicted, and ministering to their wants, and seeing that the wounded were properly attended. Noble Job! Look at him, ye nobles of the earth, ye lieutenants of counties, ye generals of armies, and ye lords of provinces. Look at JOB! Imitate his active benevolence, and be healthy and happy. Be as guardian angels in your particular districts, blessing all by your example and your bounty. Send your hunting horses to the plough, your game cocks to the dunghill; and at last live like men and Christians." (Commentary, 3:132.)

This was not the Job of the ash heap and the boils; this was the great man of the East whom God called perfect (see Job 1:8).

Job 29:25. How had Job helped the poor and needy?

Job 30:1. Who persecuted Job?

Job 30:25. Whom had Job comforted?

Job 31:35. What did Job invite God to do? Why?

Job 32:7-9. What did Elihu say about wisdom to Job?

Job 33:12-15, 24. What did Elihu say about God to Job?

Job 34:12. What did Elihu teach about God in Job 34?

Job 35:8. What may our wickedness or righteousness do for other people?

Job 36:5-11. What does God do for the righteous?

Job 36:12-14. What happens to the wicked?

Job 37:2-5. What does the Lord control?

Job 37:21-22. How does God reign?

Job 38:1-7. What did God ask Job?

Job 38:8-41. What do the phenomena of nature show?

Job 39:1-30. What is compared to Godís mighty works?

Job 40:3-5. What did Job do when the Lord challenged him?

Job 40:6-14. What did the Lord speak of to Job?

Job 41:1. What is leviathan? (See Bible Dictionary, p. 724, s.v. "Leviathan")

Job 41:11. What things are the Lordís?

Job 42:5. Whom did Job see?

Job 42:6. What did Job do?

Job 42:7-8. What did the Lord tell Jobís three friends to do?

Job 42:10, 13. Why Didn't the Lord Double the Number of Job's Children?

Job 42:10 states that "the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before." Then, after listing double the number of livestock, the writer added: "He had also seven sons and three daughters" (v. 13; emphasis added). Originally Job had seven sons and three daughters. A doubling of his former blessings might suggest that he would then receive fourteen more sons and six more daughters, but instead he had just the original number restored to him. How could that be viewed as a doubling? C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch gave an answer that should have more meaning to Latter-day Saints than to anyone in the gentile world:

"The numbers of the stock of cattle [see Job 1:3] now appear doubled, but it is different with the children.

"Therefore, instead of [doubling] the seven sons and three daughters which he had, he receives just the same again, which is also so far a doubling, as deceased children also, according to the Old Testament view, are not absolutely lost [see 2 Samuel 12:23]. The author of this book, in everything to the most minute thing consistent, here gives us to understand that with men who die and depart from us the relation is different from that with things which we have lost." (Commentary on the Old Testament, 4:2:390.)

Job 42:10-15. How did the Lord bless Job for his faithfulness?


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