The Patient Job . . . Job 1-2
The patient Job, the blameless and upright man, stands in the forefront of the book, a never-to-be-forgotten figure. His story was known and loved in Israel long before the Poet entered upon the task of writing about him.
The Poet provides the only account of Job's story in the Bible, but the ease with which he tells it points to its familiarity. The prophet Ezekiel, for instance, who mentions Job, Noah, and Daniel as three supremely righteous men, does not pause to tell their stories. He takes it for granted that their names will strike a responsive chord.1
Writers of the Bible value the narratives concerning the great men of old. Often they preserve the ancient stories even when they add to them in order to make the ancient heroes speak again to the needs of a later age. This is a method well approved in the Poet's day, and he follows it in the Book of Job. None of his contemporaries would criticize him merely because the Prologue and Epilogue fit awkwardly the case presented in the Argument.
Once we recognize the Poet's method, we can feel our way back to days when the Book of Job, as we know it, began to take shape. The Poet and his students have been considering the story of the patient Job in the form in which it is circulating in the schools of their day. Probably the youths are saying that the patience of Job does not appeal to them: they do not think Job is being fairly treated. If disaster fell upon them, they would ask God to tell them why He was afflicting them. Surely God answers righteous men; that is, if He cares. But does God care? That is the new and terrifying question.
The Poet understands that these youths are criticizing the rule of God in the affairs of men; they are asking him to deal with topics of immense importance to them. According to the