A Search for a Key to the Book of Job
The Book of Job intrigues us, invites us to begin to read, and as abruptly leaves us baffled. This happens time and again in more than one part of the book. Surely the man who wrote it made clear to his readers what he was doing? Where is the key that will enable us to share their experience?
We are all familiar with the story of the patient Job, the faithful patriarch who accepts undeserved disaster without complaint. "The patience of Job" is proverbial. A few striking phrases from the book come naturally to our lips in a crisis. We take Job's words to ourselves when we ask:
If a man die, shall he live again?
or when we exclaim with Job concerning the Almighty:
Oh, that I knew where I might find Him!
but if we want to find these familiar sayings in the book of Job we scarcely know where to look for them.
Now and again we open the Bible and read Job 1 and 2. If the entire book were as entrancing as these two chapters, we should know it from beginning to end. However, with chapter 3 there is an abrupt change: the hitherto uncomplaining Job is suddenly lamenting his lot, and his three friends, who came to comfort him, are arguing with him. We turn the pages looking for a lead. What is Job saying that they reply in this none-too- friendly fashion?
Of course we know that the famous story of the patient Job serves as the introduction and conclusion--the Prologue and Epilogue--for a great debate. Between them is something else: the Argument, the substance of the book. The author employs the story of Job as a familiar vehicle for his own work. But we are eager for more than this. We want to see the Book of Job