The intellectual character of the book of Job is clear. A commentator said: “By vigorously lamenting his bitter feelings, [Job] comes to grip with his anguish and channels his mind to seek some solution to his predicament.” Clearly, the book invites its readers to think deeply. In fact, the text contains many terms associated with knowledge. The common verb “know” occurs over 60 times.

Additionally, specialized vocabulary occurs in connection with at least two themes. First, terms associated with legal disputation appear, such as contend, case, argue (a case), argument, answer, prove, acquit, plead, arbiter, brought a complaint, plead the case, and show (partiality).

Second, several terms linked to wisdom occur, for example knowledge (11 times), understanding (23 times), counsel (9 times), purpose (2 times), and wisdom (18 times). In particular, “wisdom” and “understanding” are coupled with the “fear of the Lord” in Job’s discourse about wisdom in chapter 28.

Further, the use of questions underscores the deliberative nature of Job’s debate with his friends—and with God. Questions begin with “can” (30 times), “do” (31 times), “what” (2 times), “when” (16 times), is there” (7 times), “should” (4 times), and “how long” (4 times). Job also posed many “why” questions specifically addressed to God, for example:

Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire? (3:21)

Why have you made me your mark? Why have I become a burden to you? (7:20)

Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? (13:24)

Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power? (21:7)

In these ways, the dialogue contains argumentation between Job and his friends (chapters 4–37). The friends perceived in Job intellectual snobbery and asked: “Why are we counted as cattle? Why are we stupid in your sight?” (18:3). They argued against Job vigorously: “You are doing away with the fear of God and hindering meditation before God. For your iniquity teaches your mouth, and you choose the tongue of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, and not I; your own lips testify against you” (15:4–6). But Job’s answers were just as severe: “As for you, you whitewash with lies; worthless physicians are you all. Oh, that you would keep silent, and it would be your wisdom!” (13:4–5).

The lesson for you and me is this: We must bring our brains to the text. Do not expect Bible interpretation to be easy. Sometimes, the study of Scripture requires a lot of intellectual effort. But the rewards are great. We learn to think better. And most importantly, we come to know God more deeply and understand more clearly the world from his point of view.



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