Literary Aspects of the Book

Job – Be Patient (Waiting on God in Difficult Times)

An Understanding & Appreciation of the Book of Job

A Wisdom Book

  • Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are classified content-wise as wisdom literature because they contain questions about life. Their message represents the wise observations and interpretations of everyday living.
  • The idea of wisdom is basic to human existence. The teaching of the fear of the Lord connected Hebrew wisdom with knowledge of Yahweh, the one true God and the source of true wisdom (as you see in Job 28:20, 23, 28)

Source of Wisdom

“Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell?” Job 28:20

“God understands the way to it and He alone knows where it dwells” Job 28: 23

“And He said to man; “The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding” Job 28:28

  • Wisdom literature is highly poetic and metaphorical evidenced by its figurative language. It is illustrated under Literary device.

A Poetic Book

Why Poetry you may ask?

  • Poet Tennyson is reputed to have called this book “a poetic masterpiece, one of the most original poems in the history of mankind”
  • Job is the 1st of the 5 poetical books (Job, Psalms, Prov, Eccl, Song of Solomon).
  • Since poetry is the language of the heart, Job reveals the innermost thoughts of man more so than outward deeds
  • Because poetic books are charged with feeling, they appeal to the human emotions and are very persuasive in exhorting and reproving.
  • Gregory Parsons, Prof of Biblical Studies in Baptist Missionary Assoc. Theological Seminary says, “It is common knowledge that the Book of Job is universally admired as a literary masterpiece in world literature”

Literary Structure

Let’s see the literary structure of Job.

The basic structure consists of 3 parts:

  • Prose – Prologue (Job 1:1 – 2:13)
    • The Dilemma,
  • Poetry (Job 3:1 – 42:6)
    • The Debates,
  • Prose – Epilogue (Job 42:7-17)
    • The Deliverance.

The 42 chapters are further plotted into the 8 boxes shown in the u/m diagram:

Literary Structure over 42 Chapters

Like English poetry, Hebrew poetry abounds in figurative language and I shall elaborate in the last segment under literary devices to help you understand and appreciate the book better.

Literary Devices

The following are some examples of the literary devices with some verses and the list is not exhaustive:

  • (I) Metaphor – a figure of speech, not to be taken literally in order to suggest a resemblance.
    • Now to help you see the anguish in Job’s lament, take a look at Job 6:4

“For the arrows of the Almighty are within me. Their poison my spirit drinks;
The terrors of God are arrayed against me.” Job 6:4

    • In verse 4, The arrows of the Almighty are in me, my spirit drinks in their poison. The 2 picture words (figures of speech) of arrows and poison – what comes to your mind as you visualize? Being hit, in pain, affliction/suffering, right?
      So we know what Job is going through in his thoughts and emotions through the metaphor.
  • (II) Irony – the use of words to convey message opposite of its literal meaning (Job 3:23).
    • In Job 3:23, Job bemoans that God had placed a hedge around him so that he could not die! The very protective hedge in Job 1:10 which was intended for good is now ironically conceived as a restrictive hedge intended for evil.

“Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?” Job 3:23

“Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?” Job 1:10

  • (III) Sarcasm – a cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound.
    • In Job 12:2, Job retorts sarcastically that his friends had such a monopoly on wisdom that wisdom would cease when they died.

“Doubtless you are the people, and wisdom will die with you” Job 12:2

I could go on with more vivid examples to understand and appreciate the book of Job better but time does not permit.