Why Do the Righteous Suffer?

Introduction:

Most of this book is poetry, but it is not fiction. Job was a real person in a real place who suffered real trials. James points to Job as an example of endurance, which means faithfulness under trial. “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end [intended by] the Lord–that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11 NKJV).

The Book of Job describes three encounters: Job and Satan (Chapters 1-2), Job and his friends (Chapters 3- 37), and Job and the Lord (Chapters 38-42). His friends did their best to convince Job he was suffering because he was a sinner, but Job refused to compromise his integrity. In spite of some rash statements, Job spoke the truth, but his friends did not.

The Book of Job deals with this question: “Why do the righteous suffer?” Actually, the theme goes even deeper than that. Satan accused Job of serving God only because God blessed him. Unfortunately, there are people like that, people who say to God, “If you bless me, I will serve You!” The real depth of the message in Job is “Is our God worthy of our worship and service, or must He ‘buy’ us with His blessings?” Satan was not only slandering Job; he was also slandering the Lord! He was saying, “God would not have any followers if He did not reward them!”

Background

The setting is “the land of Uz”, which later became the territory of Edom located southeast of the Dead Sea or in northern Arabia; thus the historical background of Job is Arabic rather than Hebrew.

The events described in the book indicate that Job himself lived about the time of Abraham (2000 B.C.) or before. The most significant facts that lead to that conclusion are: 1) his having lived 140 years after the events in the book, suggesting a life span close to 200 years; 2) his wealth being measured in terms of livestock; and 3) his service as priest for his family, like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The book of Job may have been composed during the patriarchal age, shortly after the events occurred and perhaps by Job himself; or during the days of Solomon or soon after, since the book’s literary form and style are similar to the wisdom literature of that period (950-900 B.C.). The unknown author, if other than Job himself, must have had detailed oral and/or written sources from the time of Job, which he used under divine prompting and inspiration to write the book as we now have it. Certain parts of the book had to be given by direct revelation from God.

Purpose

Few people have experienced the level of suffering that Job did, yet anyone who has ever tried to make sense of tragedy has struggled with the same question that occupied Job and his friends: “Why do the righteous Suffer?” Job is the timeless story of human beings trying to use their finite understanding to explain calamity. Job and his friends thought bad things happened to bad people as a punishment for their sins.

The overriding lesson of Job is that we cannot fully understand or explain misfortune because we do not have all the facts. Only God knows the complete answer to the question, “Why?” However, that need not deter us from either intellectual inquiry or attempts to comfort each other in our troubles. If anything, it should drive us to the place where Job ended up – at the feet of God, in humility, worship, and praise.

New Testament Fulfillment

The Redeemer whom Job confesses, the mediator for whom he longs, and the answers to his deepest questions and needs all find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Jesus identified fully with human suffering as God’s appointed Redeemer, mediator, and Healer. Job illustrates vividly the New Testament truth that when believers experience persecution or some other fiery trial of suffering, they must remain steadfast in faith and keep entrusting themselves to Him who judges justly, just as did Jesus Himself when He suffered.

Click here to order a printed copy from our Study Store.
Click here for a free downloadable PDF of this study.

Click on the lessons below:

Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version and are public domain.
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.