top of page
  • Writer's pictureJai Jind

DOCTRINAL DISSENSION: Dealing with Biblical Wisdom Literature


Of the sixty-six books of the Protestant Canon, no other documents have caused as much confusion and controversy as the books of Job and Ecclesiastes. In addition to Proverbs, they make up the Hebrew Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament, and present significant theological problems to interpreters. Like the apparent contradictory theologies of James and Paul,[1] the theological outlooks of these books seem to stand invariably opposed to each other: Proverbs lays the sapiential foundation predicated on retribution theology, which appears to fail miserably in the story of Job, and is outright rejected by the Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes. Granted that Job and Ecclesiastes each share token verses that concede the expediency of obedience to the law as taught in Proverbs (Job 23:12; Ecc 12:13), their overall content suggest otherwise, and their bowing to such beliefs is at best reluctant—if not rebellious. Not surprisingly the doctrinal disparity between these three documents and the irrationality of the interpretations that account for them have become the fodder of prominent skeptics.[2] It is therefore the task of Christian scholars to formulate a hermeneutic that adequately reconciles the apparent conflicts between these three texts of the Bible.

The Problem at Hand

How then, can one expect to find doctrinal harmony in the ruction of such textual discord? Why do God’s promises, laid out so programmatically perfect in Proverbs, fail in the Book of Job, and are renounced in Ecclesiastes? How can these heterodox perspectives be reconciled to the greater unity of the biblical canon? If one accepts the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture—where God providentially guided the composition and collection of the Protestant canon—these discrepancies can only be understood in the context of the whole. While some scholars concede that the Hebrew Wisdom Literature cannot be conformed[3] to the mold of the Israelite history and tradition—the author contends that it can (Brown, 3). To the contrary, the differences between Job, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs can only be fathomed when ruled against the whole body of Scripture and fit within their canonical context.

Context is Key

In the field of Hermeneutics, any text under study must be weighed according to the various spheres of context that influence it (Osborne, 40). Using semantics as an example to illustrate the primacy of context upon a message’s meaning, Campbell explains that a four letter term such as “trunk” can have several meanings: it can mean the trunk of an elephant, the trunk of a tree—or the trunk of a car (65). The definition of a word depends on the words that surround it, and without knowledge of its semantic context—a term can mean any number of things.[4] Granted that the trunk of an elephant, a tree, and a car share nothing in common—it would be important to find the right meaning of “trunk” if it was communicated in an important message.[5]

The same holds true with biblical interpretation. As with individual words, the meaning of a text depends on the collective weight of the other books that contribute to its message; it can not be read in a vacuum. If defining the meaning of “trunk” in isolation may prove difficult, understanding Job, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs outside of their spheres of intertextual influence could be disastrous. Ergo, one’s study of Scripture can be safely steered only when allowing his or her reading to be informed by the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). And this, is what seems to be lacking with traditional interpretations of the Book of Job. Notwithstanding, as with semantics, where a word’s meaning can be educed through the construction which houses it, one can demystify Job through the context that binds it.


Job is perhaps one of the most loved and yet poorly understood books of the Bible. Longman and Dillard comment that it is also one of the most challenging texts to translate[6], and therefore, interpret (224). Brown goes so far as to call it “the one book of the Bible that is against the Bible” (2). More accurately, it is the one book of the Bible whose traditional interpretations are against the Bible. Many ministers crutch Job’s story to justify calamity, satisfying their ignorance at God’s expense: Theodicy, the affirmation of God’s goodness in the presence of evil[7], is colored by sovereignty, the assertion that God is orchestrating that evil. A surface reading of Job can change a person’s conception of God. God is no longer deliverer, he is despot; he is no longer good, he is—by all moral standards—evil.[8] Yet it is not God himself who is evil, but the traditional interpretations of him that are villainous. This moral conflict stems from God’s ostensibly disturbing behavior in Job and the book’s apparent departure from the orthodoxy of retribution theology, which bases people’s rewards and punishments on their merits and misgivings (Longman and Dillard, 229). However, when Job’s story is refracted through the prism of the redemptive narrative, two factors emerge that explain the apparent failure of God’s protection and the theology that insures it: (1) Job had no covenant with God and (2) Job’s fear.

No Covenant Protection

Job’s misfortune—and misunderstanding—can be rationalized when placed in the context of salvation history. Job was not living[9] under the protection of the Abrahamic Covenant of the patriarchs, nor the Mosaic Covenant of their children. At most he subscribed to the primordial form of ritual sacrifice practiced since the fall of humankind, which availed him limited protection from the devil. Notwithstanding, this protection was so fleeting that the Bible describes those who lived under it as being at the mercy of the devil. For this reason, uncovering the spiritual backdrop of Job is cardinal to its comprehension. Romans 5:14 creates an aperture through which the cosmic climate in the Book of Job can be viewed: “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam…”[10] This statement properly outlines the circumstances which precipitated Job’s predicament.

Firstly, the reign, or dominion,[11] of “death” describes the conditions that Job lived in, granted that—as most scholars accept—he lived during or before the Patriarchal Period (Longman and Dillard, 226). Death is doubtless no other than a personification of Satan, who brings destruction upon all infected with sin.[12] Secondly, the devil’s reign also affected the faithful, like Job, who was essentially esteemed righteous (Job 1:1,8).[13] Although the Hebrew Bible cloaks the devil’s workings under the guise of God’s clothing[14], virtually obscuring his sinister nature, the New Testament (NT) brings out his true colors, reflecting new meaning from the metameric text of the Old Testament.

The Reign of Satan

Scripture teaches that Satan took control of the kosmos through the fear of death when sin entered the world at Adam’s invitation (Heb 2:15; Rom 5:12), a fact that Jesus himself recognized when he addressed Satan as the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). [15] This recasts Job’s story through the wide angle lens of the redemptive narrative, presenting his suffering as the effect of sin and Satan rather than a sadistic wager in God’s casino. That said, when Job’s suffering is viewed in light of global demonic oppression, it follows that he was not victimized by God—but predated upon by the devil.[16] Notwithstanding, Scripture limits Satan’s unhindered reign up until the time of Moses. What then, restricted the devil’s access to God’s people at the time of Moses? The answer is—the law.

The Protection of the Law

It was the sacrificial system, instituted at humankind’s expulsion from Eden (Gen 3:21), and formalized through the Mosaic Covenant, that was intended to place repentant people under his protection (Deut 30:15-20). Paul describes the law as a shield that guarded Israel until the promised seed would redeem humanity[17]from the curse that befell the earth from the fall[18] (Gal 3:23; 4:4-5). And, Job—a non-Israelite—did not enjoy God’s protection afforded by either the Mosaic or the Abrahamic Covenants. The Law of Moses elucidated the principles of retribution theology, which essentially describe the spiritual underpinnings of the world governed by Adam’s election to live by the knowledge of good and evil: if one does well—they will prosper; if they falter—they will fall.

Although these principles were universally in force on the earth, the law provided an escape for those who were doomed to fail—through sacrifice. It was the power of sacrifice, a type of the cross, which allowed fallen humanity to temporarily escape sin’s payday. Nevertheless, those outside the commonwealth of the covenant also had ritual sacrifice as a basic provision that ensured them a hedge of protection in a devil-dominated world. However, this elementary precursor to the ceremonial laws of the Mosaic covenant were only effectual if they were performed in faith—a virtue which Job greatly lacked.

Job’s Fear

The second factor that contributed to Job’s suffering was his fearfulness. Job is remembered for his perseverance, not his faith.[19] Fear—affects faith.[20] After Satan robbed Job’s belongings, family, and health Job declared “…the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me” (3:25).[21] What Job feared was that his sons sinned by cursing God in their hearts, which prompted him to offer sacrifices for them regularly (1:5). However, Job’s fear rendered his sacrifices impotent, removing the protective hedge they provided through faith. The heavenly scene which follows in 1:6 is hardly a coincidence, and is likely intended to draw the connection between Job’s fear and Satan’s attack.[22] But it is the nature of God’s inquiry in 1:8 that determines the direction of the rest of the book.

Was Job Served Up to Satan?

The majority of translations render God’s question to Satan in Job 1:8 as “have you considered my servant Job” (emphasis added)? However, biblical commentaries note that the literal meaning of the Hebrew text is “have you set your heart on my servant Job” (emphasis added)? The intent of the question changes diametrically when one reads it in its original form. Traditionally, interpreters assume that God brought Job to Satan’s attention[23]; however, logically, it is clear that Satan already had his attention on Job.[24] God was only intervening. Satan desired to harm Job, since his faith failed through fear. Interestingly, Jesus warned Peter of the same danger, that “Satan desires to sift you like wheat,” yet adding “but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail (Luke 22:31). Job did not have Jesus to intercede for him as did Peter and as Christians have today. Thus, when considering the spiritual conditions that Job lived in, under the reign of death, without the protection afforded by the covenants and the sacrificial system, and without the faith that empowered them—Job was already in Satan’s hands (Job 1:12).

In purview of these factors surrounding Job’s suffering, under the aegis of Scripture, it is understandable why Satan assailed God’s saint. Retribution theology, while promising for those on the upswing of right conduct, is inevitably unforgiving for those on its down-stroke. However, as Romans states concerning the inherent sinfulness of all people: “there is none righteous, no not one” (3:10), it is evident that Job was no different. Consequently, sacrifices insured protection from every person who placed faith in their atoning power, and annulled the effect of the curse of law when it could not be kept. And although Job practiced a basic form of sacrifice, he performed it in fear—not faith. Therefore, the Book of Job does not depart from the theology of the Bible, it supports it. Notwithstanding, Ecclesiastes, proves equally if not more challenging to interpret in consonance with the canon.


Ecclesiastes is as skeptical about retribution theology as Job is believed to be against it. The Qoheleth, who represents the voice of the book, presents a theology that runs so cross-grain to the retributive foundations laid out in Proverbs that one wonders whether or not it was inspired. However, like the Book of Job, pivotal to Ecclesiastes’ interpretation is its logical context.[25] According to tradition, King Solomon authored in part the Song of Songs, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes (Barry et al., n.p.). Hence, presupposing solomonic authorship, each book can be viewed as a reflection of different stages in Solomon’s life. The Song is written through the eyes of the youthful king; Proverbs expresses the primacy of his wisdom; and Ecclesiastes his fall. Hence, the pessimistic tone and testimony of the Qoheleth betrays a backslidden king who violated the monarchial prohibitions of engaging in foreign commerce, taking many wives, and hoarding wealth (Deut 17:16-17). The Israelite history does not record Solomon suffering any immediate consequences for his crimes, which may account for the Qoheleth’s skepticism concerning retribution theology. Notwithstanding, the apathetic, theological outlook of the Qoheleth is not far removed from those of agnostics, if not backslidden Christians.

If Solomon is the Qoheleth, Ecclesiastes divergent theology is explainable by Solomon’s departure from monotheism and apparent apathy toward to the law. What was once true for the Qoheleth when he wrote Proverbs later became the subject of retrospective dismissal when he wrote Ecclesiastes; a tendency, which, some exhibit when they experience a change in worldview. Notwithstanding, the penultimate stroke of the Qoheleth proves his repentance; he has come full circle. After his apostasy—he returns to the beginning of Wisdom—the fear of the Lord (12:13). Nevertheless, irrespective of the Qoheleth’s skepticism towards retribution theology and Job’s exceptional failure to enjoy its benefits, experience teaches that the wisdom of Proverbs is not guaranteed.


The Book of Proverbs, is best described as the sapiential cornerstone of the Hebrew Wisdom Literature. Its programmatic promises appear to guarantee blessing for the prudent, and evil for the wicked. The binary nature of its aphorisms, life principles reduced to concise parallel couplets, is wrapped around the framework of the retribution theology encountered throughout the deuteronomic literature. However, a common misunderstanding about Proverb’s promises is that some interpreters assume them to be mechanical and one dimensional—where cause precipitates effect. Yet Fee and Stuart share that Proverb’s wisdom is more general than particular, it concerns character formation over specific legislation (241). The stuff of Proverbs is not so much biblical theology as it is practical philosophy. Its guarantees of blessing for the benevolent should be understood as general outcomes for right conduct, and not particular payments for legalism. In short, the promise of Proverbs is more natural—than supernatural. Anyone who follows its guidelines of hard work, diligence, and moral correctness is more likely to succeed in life than those who do not, as experience readily teaches. Ergo, although Job and Ecclesiastes seem to disagree with these prescriptions and their promised returns, the other factors discussed above adequately account for their discordant theologies.


In sum, while some[26] are right to state that the disparity between the retribution theology supporting Proverbs and the tragedy of Job must be read in light of the whole biblical revelation, they are wrong to assume that its message in part overturns it. Job must be read in its chronological context to resonate with the rest of Scripture. Inspired texts are not contradictory, they are complementary. The likelihood that Job was one of the gentiles, “…aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12)[27] places his plight in its proper perspective. Outside of the covenants, living in fear, and without a savior—Job was at the mercy of Satan. Ignorant of his adversary, as some Christians still are today, both he—and they—think that it is God who afflicts them. Thus, the question of human suffering posed in Job is answered with the coming of Christ in the Gospels. Like Job, the skepticism of the Qoheleth can only be appreciated when placed in its proper context.

Presupposing solomonic authorship is quintessential to understanding his adverse attitudes toward the proverbial wisdom he abandoned later in life. The apathetic worldview seen through the Qoheleth’s eyes are not only reflective of a backslidden Israelite king—but of backslidden Christians, as well. Nevertheless, the Qoheleth’s testimony is not without a happy ending. His final remarks speak of his full repentance, whereby he assures readers that the only happiness is found in the fear of God.

Finally, the Proverbs, whose promises seem to fail Job and are scoffed at by the Qoheleth, have their true value when viewed as general guidelines to life instead of specific promises for performance. The Proverbs, though built on retribution theology, prescribe and describe the cause and effect relationship between common sense living; their praxis bears fruit on the strength of their natural principles—not supernatural promises.


Aulén, Gustaf. Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement. Translated by A. G. Hebert. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2003.

Barry, John D. et al., eds. The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016.

Brown, William P. Wisdom’s Wonder: Character, Creation, and Crisis in the Bible’s Wisdom Literature. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014.

Campbell, Donald K. “Foreword.” In Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth, edited by Craig Bubeck Sr. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1991.

Charles, Robert Henry, ed. Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913.

Fee, Gordon D., and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Fourth Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014.

Garrett, Susan R. “The ‘Weaker Sex’ in the Testament of Job.” Journal of Biblical Literature 112 (1993).

Hitchens, Christopher. God is Not Great. Toronto: Emblem, 2006.

Lange, John Peter, et al. A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Romans. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008.

Longman, Tremper, III, and Raymond B. Dillard. An Introduction to the Old Testament. Second Edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2007.

McGrath, Aleister. Christian Theology: An Introduction. Oxford, U.K.: Blackwell, 2011.

Murphy, Roland E. The Tree of Life: An Exploration of Biblical Wisdom Literature. New York: Eerdmans, 2002.

Osborne, Grant R. The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Rev. and expanded, 2nd ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006.

Penner, Ken, and Michael S. Heiser. “Old Testament Greek Pseudepigrapha with Morphology.” Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2008.

Singer, Isidore, ed. The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 12 Volumes. New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1901–1906.

Thiselton, Anthony C. “Semantics and New Testament Interpretation.” In New Testament Interpretation : Essays on Principles and Methods, edited by Marshall Howard I. Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 1977.


[1] Unlike the scholarly settlement accepting the discord between Job, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs to be in keeping with the mysterious workings of God, theologians have satisfactorily wedded the teachings of Paul and James through pragmatic exegesis which proves the consistency of the Bible’s teaching. To concede that the Bible is composed of books with opposing theologies is to concede its inconsistency.

[2] New Atheists like Christopher Hitchens comment that biblical revelation is “hopelessly inconsistent,” referring to the various apparent contradictions in the Bible (73). While Christians comfortably dismiss such theological discrepancies as enigmatic mysteries or tensions at best, skeptics view them as proof of the Bible’s irrationality, inconsistency, and therefore—errancy.

[3] It is dubious to assume that the Bible, self-described as the Word of God, would contain irreconcilable differences to the degree that compromises its claim to constitute a single divinely orchestrated work.

[4] Thiselton, in quoting Trier states “that a word has meaning ‘only as part of a whole…’” (90). This maxim can be extended to apply to the interpretation of whole biblical books. Adapting Trier’s rule to hermeneutics, one might say “a biblical book has meaning only in light of the greater canon.”

[5] This example illustrates how divergent theologies derived from Job that are inconsistent with the biblical themes of salvation are no more compatible with Christianity than an elephant trunk would be translated in a sentence describing the boot of a car. Thus theologians—should study Semantics.

[6] The difficulty surrounding Job’s translation should allow greater flexibility in its interpretation, especially in the narrative frame, where God is understood to be the instigator of Job’s miserable trials.

[7] Roland E. Murphy, Tree of Life. (New York: Eerdmans, 2002), 74.

[8] Ironically, by the same criteria Christian apologists use to prove the existence of God to atheists—that humanity’s innate sense of morality stems from an objective moral being: God—atheists use to reject the theologies held by Christian apologists. In other words, atheists are using the consciences they have been given by God to object to the church’s unconscionable theology of God. Granted that a growing number of people are rejecting Christianity on moral grounds, it would be wise to follow the Kantian principle of guiding one’s interpreting of the Bible by the rule reason and conscience, albiet not at the expense of submission to Christ (McGrath, 145). Where both Kant and Christians seem to err, is in their reluctance to presuppose that a correct interpretation exists that resonates with both Spirit and Scripture, and as a result, accept or reject theologies that are morally objectionable.

[9] Longman and Dillard wisely admit that any dating of Job, be it early or late, is dubious given the lack of evidence (225). The majority of modern scholars date job’s writing after the exile; others place it toward the end of it; some date it in the days of Solomon; and yet others place it in the time of the Patriarchs (Ellwell, V2, 1169). While there is wholesale disagreement among scholars over the exact date of Job’s writing, it is generally accepted that the setting of the book is intended to be either before or during the Patriarchal Period. Hence, whether early or old—Job is set in the period that predates Moses and precludes the Abrahamic Covenant (Ibid, 226).

[10] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Ro 5:14.

[11] Lang et al. comment death to be personified in this passage as a “tyrant” and “ruler” (184). The implication points to such a personification as the embodiment of Satan.

[12] In Jewish tradition, the “scapegoat” of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16 is held to be a sacrifice to “Azazel,” a mythological figure believed to represent “the spirit of desolation and ruin, the source of all impurity” to whom sin must return (Singer, V2, 366). Azazel is said to be the leader of the rebellious angels in Enoch, and was believed to be Satan himself by Origen (Ibid). If Satan figures as a benefactor in the Day of Atonement, who executes judgement on the cursed animal, it follows that he brings the same punishment upon people who don’t have a substitute.

[13] The righteousness of Job must not be confused with the righteousness of Christ, which is imparted by grace through faith to all believers. Job’s uprightness was relative to his rightful conduct—not spiritual nature. It is erroneous to use Job’s as an example for Christians suffering today, with the exception of stirring up people to persecute them, since Christ’s cross has forever muzzled the accusations of the adversary (cf. Rom 8:31-34; Rev 12:10). The blood of Jesus is the antitype of the sacrifices used to remove wrath upon transgressors who failed to observe the law; Christ has redeemed his Church from the curse of the law, effectively removing the punitive end of the retributive system for all who have faith.

[14] The “destroyer” from the Passover passage in Exodus 12 is traditionally understood to be the angel of death, an agent of God to mete out judgement upon evildoers. However, this elusive figure is later exposed to be the devil (Ps 78:49; Rev 9:11; 12:11), whom God prevented from attacking Israel through the blood of the Passover lamb, which typified the atoning power of the blood of Jesus Christ—the Lamb of God (Exo 12:23; John 1:29; Rev 12:11). Another example of the devil masked in God’s vesture is the parallel passages of 2 Sam 24:1 and 1 Chr 21:1. In 2 Samuel God is said to have incited David to sin vs. 1 Chronicles which says it was Satan. This is a prime example of how much of the evil God is given credit for in the Old Testament is actually the working of Satan.

[15] The Apostle Paul refers to Satan as the “god of this world,” who the Apostle John says has the whole world under his power (2 Cor 4:4; 1 John 5:19). This inconvenient truth is problematic for scholars who hold to the fatalistic theology of God’s sovereignty as it is traditionally derived from the Old Testament; that God is ultimately orchestrating the events of history, both good and evil. The Church’s reluctance to accept the devil and his cohorts as rogue agents instead of God’s pets have resulted in God being given the “glory” for Satan’s handiwork in Christian theology.

[16] 1 Pet 5:8 supports the view that Satan preyed upon Job because his defenses were down; it was not due to God’s permission—but Job’s admission (cf. note 22).

[17] The Christus Victor or “Christ the Victor” understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice, which Church Fathers such as Irenaeus and Origen reasoned was a payment to Satan, was accepted by the Church from the Patristic Period up until the Middle Ages (McGrath, 324; Aulén, 1-20). This theological model of redemption viewed humanity as being held hostage by Satan through sin and death, that was victoriously rescued by God through Jesus Christ and the cross (Ibid, 322). The Christus Victor motif initially lost popularity in favor of more judicially based theologies and finally was shunned by skeptics during the Enlightenment for being “irrational” (Ibid, 324).

[18] Zech 5:1-4 suggests that the curse of the law is not an imprecatory threat directed specifically at Israel, but rather an active force working in the world. The curses listed in Deut 28 are more descriptive of the kind of universal suffering experienced by all of humankind; they are better understood to be the consequences of leaving the protection afforded by the Mosaic Law—namely, the sacrificial system that transfers judgement to the innocent.

[19] Job is never mentioned in Hebrews 11 as a person of faith, nor anywhere else in the NT with the exception of James 5:11, where Job is cited for his perseverance in the face of suffering.

[20] Fear was a major prohibition that Jesus gave his disciples. Five times he exhorts his followers during the Sermon on the Mount not to worry (Matt 6:25-6:34), and in several other places he tells them not to be afraid (Matt 14:27; 17:7; 28:10; Mark 5:36; 6:50; Luke 5:10; 8:50; 12:4; John 6:20; 14:27).

[21] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Job 3:25.

[22] Ben Sira makes a striking statement concerning the relationship between fear and protection, which may allude to Job’s fearfulness: “Woe to the feeble-hearted! They have no faith, and therefore will go unprotected” (2:13, REB). Granted that in other places Sirach describes suffering as the sovereign will of God (Sira 33:13), this principle nonetheless bears mention. Writing along a similar vein, the Apostle John says “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment (1 John 4:18, NKJV). Finally, Jesus’ warning to Peter is perhaps the most germane to Job’s story: “Simon: Simon, lo, Satan hath desired to sift thee, as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31, Syriac New Testament). Comparing Luke 22:31 to Job 1:8, it is reasonable to develop the latter verse by the former, where God is responds to Satan’s desire to harm to his saints. However, unlike Peter, Job did not have an intercessor. But like Peter, Job’s uprightness bought him no favor from the devil, only contempt. As the enemy of God and those who are made in his image, Satan prowls around like a lion seeking to steal, kill, and destroy—which is exactly what he did with Job (1 Pet 5:8; John 10:10).

[23] See Singer, 193 regarding the traditional belief that God brought Job to Satan’s attention.

[24] Two important points need to be addressed concerning the translation of Job 1:8: (1) the pseudepigraphical Testament of Job (TJ), believed to have been written in the First Century A.D., is an adaptation of the original story which says Satan attacked Job because Job destroyed an idolatrous temple. Moreover, it says that an angel warned Job beforehand that Satan would attack him if he did (Garret, 55-56). Thus, the thrust of the story is about Job's struggle with Satan as a vengeful assailant, not with God as an oppressor. While one’s reflex reaction may be to dismiss non-canonical books as irrelevant, the author believes they serve as important commentaries on the Scripture that reveal the beliefs of certain communities in the past. If interpreters esteem the writings of the Church Fathers and Reformers, why not works like TJ and the Books of Enoch? Considering that the Bible has adapted texts from non-canonical authors of the Instruction of Amenemope, Enoch, The Wisdom of Solomon, and Greek Philosophy (Act 17:21) into the corpus of Scripture, it would be wise to let their theologies inform one’s reading of the text. In short: TJ reflects a belief that Satan was the aggressor; God did not bring Job to Satan's attention, he intervened because Job already had Satan's attention. Whether or not Job was targeted for reasons other than fear, a lack of covenant protection, or just by virtue of being a sinner under the reign of death (Rom 5:14), the ideas governing TJ are important considerations for the interpretation Job 1:8; (2) From a logical standpoint, it is irrational to accept that God brought Job to Satan's attention as so many traditionally assert. The very question "have you considered" or more accurately "have you set your heart on" my servant Job presupposes that Satan was already targeting Job. Therefore, it is illogical to believe that God's statement initiated the ensuing melee in the prologue. In sum, the interpretation of Job 1:8 is the fulcrum of the whole book, upon which everything hinges. If we understand God as the instigator of the attack, we must accept that Job presents God as a divine despot, unpredictable, unjust—and unfaithful to his own promises. However, if we understand Satan as the instigator, and God as the intervener, we can understand Job as a story of a man living without covenantal protection, without a redeemer—and in fear.

[25] Scripture attributes authorship of the Song of Songs, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes to Solomon. Whether Solomon wrote the whole or just part of each book is secondary to the importance of contextualizing them. Kings 4:32 states Solomon penned three-thousand proverbs, which is enough raw material to compose the book bearing the same name. Ecclesiastes’ claim to solomonic authorship is inferred by the statement that the Qoheleth was a King of Davidic lineage of whose wisdom was unsurpassed (Ecc 1:12,16). 1 Kings 3:12 records God telling Solomon that there has never been nor will be a person that exceeds him in wisdom. Therefore, in light of these statements, it would be logical to deduce the Qoheleth to be Solomon. The only other alternatives, are to accept that the book is pseudonymous, or an outright fraud—which is less convincing given the amount of internal evidence in favor of solomonic authorship.

[26] Murphy is too quick to assume that the Book of Job counterbalances the lofty ideals of Proverbs’ programmatic promises (34).

[27] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Eph 2:12.

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page