Reading Job: A Structural Guide

This semester at Lipscomb I am teaching an intensive Bible Major class on Job and Ecclesiastes. I am excited about the class and literally am sitting on the edge of my seat to see what God does every class period with myself and sixteen students. Over the semester, I hope to blog a bit about our journey as time permits.

As a beginning, I have provided below a structural outline for reading Job. If it does not seem helpful at the moment, perhaps after further posts through the book it may become so. At least, it helps me.  Maybe it will you as well.  Here it is.  Read the book of Job with me over the coming weeks.

1.  Narrative Prologue (Job 1-2):  Yahweh, Satan and Job.

a.  Introduction (Job 1:1-5):  Righteous Job.

b.  First Trial (Job 1:6-22):  Blessed Be the Name of the Lord.

c.  Second Trial (Job 2:1-10):  Accepting Trouble with Integrity.

d.  Silent Lament (Job 2:11-13):  Meditating on Suffering.

2.  Poetic Drama (Job 3:1-42:6):  The Dialogues and Monologues

a.  First Act:  Dialogues (Job 3-27).

(1) Opening Lament (Job 3):  “Why was I Born?”

(2) First Dialogue Cycle (Job 4-14):  Repent!

Eliphaz (4-5):  Offers hope in discipline (5:17-27).

Job (6-7):  Friends are dry streams (6:15-21).

Bildad (8):  God will yet deliver you if you repent (8:6-20).

Job (9-10):  Who am I, even if I am blameless (9:20).

Zophar (11):  Job is self-righteous (11:4-5), so repent (11:13).

Job (12-14):  You are telling me nothing new; just listen (13:1-2, 13ff).

(3) Second Dialogue Cycle (Job 15-21):  Attempt to Shut Up the Lament.

Eliphaz (15):  Lament undermines piety and expresses sin (15:4).

Job (16-17):  You are miserable comforters (16:2) and ignorant (17:12).

Bildad (18):  Cease your lament; we know evil is punished (18:2,21).

Job (19):  You attack me; please have pity (19:2, 21-22, 28).

Zophar (20):  The joy of the wicked is brief (20:5-6).

Job (21):  The counsel is false; the wicked do not always suffer (21:34).

(4) Third Dialogue Cycle (Job 22-27):  Giving Up on Job’s Conceit.

Eliphaz (22):  Even if you were righteous, so what (22:3)?

Job (23-24):  God is listening; I will speak my lament (23:6,17; 24:1).

Bildad (25):  No one can be righteous (25:4).

Job (26):  You offer no insight, just futility (26:3).

[No speech by Zophar, but a literary break is indicated by 27:1]

Job (27):  Job speaks to God with integrity (27:1-6).

b.  Second Act:  The Monologues (Job 28-42:6)

(1) Opening Wisdom Poem (Job 28) – Narrator or Job?  Fearing Yahweh is Wisdom.

(2) First Monologue:  Job (Job 29-31; speech renewed 29:1)

What it was like Then (29):  Righteous and Respected.

What it is like Now (30):  Lament.

Self-Imprecation (31):  If I had sinned, then I should be judged; but I have not.

(3) Second Monologue:  Elihu (Job 32-37)

First Speech (32-33):  God disciplines (33:14,26-31); Job is self-righteous (33:9).

Second Speech (34):  God is just (34:12); Job deserved suffering (34:5,9,11)

Third Speech (35):  God is transcendent; Job is wicked (35:2-7).

Fourth Speech (36-37):  God is active; listen Job (37:14).

(4) Third Monologue:  Yahweh (Job 38-42:6)

First Speech (38:1-40:2):  Don’t You See How I Care for My World?

Job’s First Response (40:3-5):  I am unworthy.

Second Speech (40:6-41:34):  Don’t You See How I Control Evil?

Job’s  Second Response (42:1-6):  I praise you.

3.  Narrative Epilogue (Job 42:7-17)

a.  Yahweh and the Friends (42:7-9).

b.  Yahweh and Job (42:10-17).

9 Responses to “Reading Job: A Structural Guide”

  1.   Dusty Says:

    Dr. Hicks,

    I’m reading Dorothee Soelle’s ‘Suffering’ and wondered (1) if you are familiar with it and (2) what you think of her discussion of Job. Hope your class goes well.


    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      I am familiar with the book–but it was long ago. Her fundamental take is that we sit with sufferers, share their suffering and God suffers with them as well. It is a Christocentric understanding of suffering. She does not see meaning in suffering but her identification of our suffering with Christ seems to imply a redemptive meaning to at least some suffering. I don’t remember her take on the book of Job. Was that in the first chapter? I don’t have a copy, so I can’t check.

      •   Dusty Says:

        It’s in Chapter 4.

        She sees four different portrayals of God in Job—as tester, as punisher, the one who requires of submission, and the one who takes Job’s protests seriously (citing the language of ‘goel’). If I’m reading her correctly, she sees the final portrayal as the only faithful one. Job is therefore withstanding the temptations of his friends to submit to a no-god, of sorts. As you point out, she is trying to demonstrate that God, who is love, is the one who suffers with the afflicted instead of being the one who sends senseless pain upon the afflicted.

        I’m finding the book to be a very interesting read…

        Peace to you!

  2.   Adam Gonnerman Says:

    Looking forward to your blog posts on this book. I’ve seen it quoted out of context twice lately in some of my circles. I think I’ll take this as an opportunity to read through it again and also check out the Common English Bible while I’m at it.

  3.   John King Says:

    John Mark, I have always been puzzled by the fact that Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar are censured (Job 42:7-9) and Job has to intercede for them, but Elihu is not. He clearly attacks Job’s righteousness, too. Any insights on this will be appreciated.

    •   Alan S. Says:

      JK, I also look froward to JMH’s insights. My thoughts have deeloped towhere I think that while Elihu is critical of Job, it is Job’s self-righteousness that Elihu is attacking. Job seems to acknowledge this himself when faced with God as he confesses that he spoke without understanding. I think Elihu served to bridge the the gap between Job justifying himself to allowing God to justify Himself. IOW, preparing Job to face God.

      •   John Mark Hicks Says:

        You two are way ahead of me. 🙂

        Elihu is a problem. I think he misquotes Job…but more on that when we get there. However, what he says about God anticipates the Yahweh speeches (even what Job says about God in his praise sections does as well).

        If Elihu’s speeches are wholly on target, then the absence of his name in 42 is explained as the final editor’s endorsement of Elihu. But if Elihu is off target, then the absence of his name in 42 is difficult to explain.

        At this point, I’ll wait till we get there since I think the evidence in his speeches is that he is off-base in his accusations against Job. So, that is where the rub will come.

        John Mark

  4.   John Dobbs (@johndobbs) Says:

    Thanks for sharing, looking forward to more.


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