Job Chapter 1: Job - From riches to rags

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Bible Studies and Highlights in the Book of Job

Job Chapter 1: Job - From riches to rags

by I Gordon

 Ecclesiastes 9:12 'No man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them'. 

The book of Job is unique. Believed by many to be the oldest in the Bible, it is a poetic  [1]  dialogue between Job and his 'friends' through the most troubling and mysterious of circumstances. But we'll get to that later! Being arguably the oldest book in the Bible, it explores the most ancient and puzzling themes. Consider some of the following questions that emerge from the book of Job:

Þ Why do the righteous suffer?
Þ Why does God allow pain?
Þ How can a man be righteous before God?
Þ How does a man come to learn more about God?
Þ What relationship exists between God and Satan?
Þ Is Satan bound by the laws of God?
Þ Does man have hope beyond the grave?

All of these themes and more are explored in this book. And better still, these questions actually have answers! Not bad for the Bible's oldest book now is it?

This study series is going to be a 'highlights of Job' series. In short, that means that I'm not going to comment on every verse as it is a long book with a lot of dialogue! But God has recorded it in length for its message is important  [2]  and there are many hidden gems through this book which I'll try to uncover and bring to light. This first study will look at Job chapter 1 and, as we'll soon see, the action will not take long in coming!


Before we begin, I'll just draw your attention to the following brief outline, modified slightly from an outline given in the Believers Bible Commentary, on the book of Job.

I. THE TESTING OF JOB (Chaps. 1, 2)

A. Scene I: The Land of Uz (1:1-5)
B. Scene II: Heaven - the Lord's Presence (1:6-12)
C. Scene III: The Land of Uz - Calamity to Job's Property and Posterity (1:13-22)
D. Scene IV: Heaven - the Lord's Presence Again (2:1-6)
E. Scene V: Uz - Calamity to Job's Person (2:7-13)


A. Job vs his friends: Round 1 (Chaps. 3-14)
B. Job vs his friends: Round 2 (Chaps. 15-21)
C. Job vs his friends: Round 3 (Chaps. 22-31)


A. Elihu's Speech to Job's Three Friends (Chap. 32)
B. Elihu's Speech to Job (Chap. 33)
C. Elihu's Second Speech to Job's Three Friends (Chap. 34)
D. Elihu's Second Speech to Job (Chaps. 35-37)


A. The Lord's First Challenge to Job (38:1-40:2)
B. Job's Response (40:3-5)
C. The Lord's Second Challenge to Job (40:6-41:34)
D. Job's Humble Response (42:1-6)


A. Job's Friends Rebuked and Restored (42:7-9)
B. Job's Prosperity Restored (42:10-17)

A quick intro to Job, his family and times

Job 1:1-5 in the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. (2) He had seven sons and three daughters, (3) and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. (4) His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. (5) When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, "Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." This was Job's regular custom.

So in the land of Uz there lived a man called Job. Argh, yes...the good old land of Uz! Heard of Uz? Not ringing many bells? Lam 4:21 associates Uz with the land of Edom saying '  Rejoice and be glad, O Daughter of Edom, you who live in the land of Uz.'  Now Edom is south-east of Israel in the present nation of Jordan. And the Bible says that Job was blameless and upright. Please note that this doesn't mean he was sinless. The Bible is clear that save Jesus Christ, none have been sinless. But he was blameless and upright which implies that he was a man who had a tender heart before God, walking in the ways and truth of God as best he was able. We read above that he feared God and had a regular custom to sacrifice burnt offerings for any possible sins committed in his family.

Now we don't find out a lot about his children. In fact their little cameo in this story seems to always have them feasting, drinking and, well, having a bit of a party. Argh kids aye? What is it with the youth and parties? It seems that the reverence that Job had for God may not have extended to his kids so, as mentioned above, Job acted as a priest within his own family offering sacrifices for anything that they may have said or done during this time.  [3]  So in all of this we can see that Job was a righteous man, as dedicated as one can be to God. And he was wonderfully blessed, with scripture recording that he was the greatest man in the east. He had thousands of sheep and camels, hundreds of oxen and donkeys... and ten kids. Um, that's not exactly in the order of importance. So anyway, so far so good we could say. He got life sorted. It's all just as he wants it. He works hard... cares for his family... lives a thoroughly righteous life... well respected by all. Life's good and he's earned it. What could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile, in an invisible realm not so far, far away... 

Job 1:6-7 One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."

Now we see something else that was happening at the same time. Although it wasn't happening on earth but in Heaven! And what an interesting insight it is that we have here. Job was totally unaware what was occurring in the heavenly realms, but Satan and the fallen angels were coming before God to give a report about what they had been doing on this earth. Now let's just pause for a second. What a strange thing this is! The Bible gives us little glimpses from time to time into what occurs in heaven  [4]  but none give greater insight on this than the book of Job! And remember that it is probably the first Biblical book ever written. Did you know that Satan, though fallen, though wicked, still has to give an account of his activities to God? Did you know that he repeatedly has to come before God? Did you know that there are still laws that operate in the spiritual realm, governing the relationship between God and Satan (and the fallen angels) which Satan though fallen and wicked, has to obey? As we shall see in the next few verses, Satan cannot just do what he wants. What he wants is to kill, steal and destroy. He would like to kill all those that love God if he could. But he cannot. One of the key thoughts coming out of the book of Job, as early as a few verses into the first chapter, is that God reigns as sovereign over his universe and that includes the rebellious and fallen angels.

So the Lord asks Satan where he has been. It is worth noting where that is. It is the earth. Might even be in your neighbourhood! He is the god of this world and, as 1 Peter tells us,  'our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.' (1 Peter 5:8)  This is his domain and he has the nations and inhabitants deceived. But thankfully, not all!

God zeros in on Job

Job 1:8-11 'Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." (9) Does Job fear God for nothing? Satan replied. (10) Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. (11) but stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."

We need to say right from the get-go that it is God who brings up the person of Job with Satan. It is God that introduces the subject and, like a red flag to a bull, gives Job a glowing report card before Satan at the same time! So the question is why? Knowing all that is about come, why would God do this? Does He not care for Job? Job would come to question that big-time, and it will be explored in detail, but for now let's just say that if God introduces the subject of Job, and He knows all things that will transpire, then He has a beneficial eternal plan and purpose in mind for His servant Job. And he will use Satan for that purpose. Satan, whether he sees it or not, is a tool in the workshop of God.

Now notice how Satan responds concerning Job's blameless report card. He says 'Does Job fear God for nothing?' To me, this indicates that Satan has a VERY good understanding of mankind. Satan has not been able to find anything wrong with Job's righteousness so he questions (and casts doubt) upon his motivation for living such a godly life. Satan says, in so many words,  'what Job does, he does for what he can get out of it. Take that away and he'll be like everyone else, quickly shaking his fist at you!  ' Unfortunately, that is very perceptive of the heart of man. Even within 'Christianity' there are so many who follow the Lord for what they can get in temporal earthly blessings (having believed a preacher that tells them this very thing!) and when this is found wanting or is removed, so too, the 'Christian' shakes his head and wonders what good it is to follow the Lord.  [5] 

There are two last points that I would like to make from this very important passage. The first is that it shows that God has placed a 'hedge' around His people that Satan cannot break. Satan complained that God protected Job and his family to the extent that he couldn't touch Job. I believe that this 'hedge' is around all believers. Through our faith we are  'shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time'  as 1 Peter 1:5 tells us  [6]  . The second point is that God can allow Satan to buffet and test us when it is seen as necessary in the eternal plan and purpose of God. And you don't even have to have done something wrong to cause it! In fact living a righteous life might make you a target.  [7]  It is this second point that will test Job for large portions of this book, leaving him pondering and confused.

The power of Satan and the green light of God

Job 1:12-19 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (13) One day when Job's sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, (14) a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were ploughing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, (15) and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" (16) While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" (17) While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" (18) While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, (19) when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

So God gives the green light for Satan to test Job. But note... it is only so far. The Lord instructs Satan as to what he can, and cannot, do. As we said above, Satan is bound by these commands. He is not a totally free-agent. 'Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him." (vs. 12 NASB) 'All that he has is in your power'... That is interesting. Have you ever thought about the power of Satan? Have you ever considered what he is able to do given the green light by God? Well, what did you see in the passage above? You read it right? Here is what we see:

  • Satan can have power over the actions of men. He is able to stir up both the Sabeans and the Chaldeans to come and make a raid against the property of Job. This leads to the loss of Job's oxen, donkeys, camels and servants.
  • Satan can have power over the forces of nature. In the first incident fire fell from heaven (possibly lightning) killing Job's sheep and his remaining servants. In the second and most terrible incident, Satan caused a great wind to level the house of Job's children, killing all ten.

So obviously Satan's power and control over forces is immense. But it is about now in the proceedings that I need to remind you again... Satan CANNOT just do what he wants. God is in control! Satan is on a lead. I'm thankful of that and I have a sneaky suspicion that you might be as well!

But the other point that should be raised from this is that God obviously can allow some things to happen that, quite frankly, seem awful from our earthly perspective. Dreadful! In one day Job has just lost his entire wealth and possessions and all of his children. All ten children... gone in one day. Can you imagine that? God allowed that. We shouldn't try to gloss over it. There are many hard thoughts and questions that are posed in the book of Job and this is certainly one of them.  [8] 

Job's response - Unbelievable... What a man he is!

Job 1:20-22: At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship (21) and said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." (22) In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

You may remember from verse 11 above that Satan declared that if he was able to strike everything that Job had, Job would curse God to His face. That was the charge. You can imagine Satan looking on, waiting for Job's response, thinking that he is about to demonstrate to God the truth of his words. 'See!' He is about (and desires) to say to God, 'Mankind hates you as well. Take away what you give them and they'll rebel just as I did. All of your creation will curse you. Man is no different.' So he sits and waits for Job to respond. As the reality of what has just happened in one day takes its toll, Job falls to the ground and...did what? Yelled at God? Cursed God? Shook his fist at God? No. He fell to the ground and...worshipped! That is amazing. That really is amazing. You can imagine the look on Satan's face. It is one of pure hatred. And listen to the words that Job spoke for they are some of the greatest in the Bible:

 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." 

If ever there was a song in the night, here it is. Faced with the reality of such great loss, Job praised the name of the Lord. He didn't sin, he didn't blame God and he didn't doubt the goodness of the Lord. He simply blessed the Lord's name. Amazing! What about you? Are you going through any trials at the moment? Does it seem like you are being tested? There are many in these uncertain times that are losing their savings through the financial and banking collapses. How would you react if you were to suffer loss to even a fraction of what Job did? Would you still praise the Lord?

So Satan had failed in his prediction of what Job would do in the face of such a challenge. So he gave up and focused his attention on somebody else right? Mmmm...not yet, and nor for that matter, is the Lord through with testing His servant Job as we shall soon see.

 Blessed Be the Name of the Lord by Matt Redman 

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

[1] ↩  This thought of the whole dialogue being written in poetic form may be new to you. It was to me! But look at the following quotes taken from the Believers Bible Commentary:

 The great Reformer, Martin Luther, who was himself a gifted writer and translator, said that Job was "more magnificent and sublime than any other book of Scripture." Alfred Lord Tennyson, who as poet laureate of England could be expected to recognize great poetry, called Job "the greatest poem whether of ancient or modern literature." 

[2] ↩  In Samuel Ridout's commentary on this book, he writes:  'From its size, and a rapid glance at its contents, we would judge that the book of Job is a very important part of the word of God. Yet how much it is neglected by most; an intimate familiarity even with its contents is the exception rather than the rule.' 

[3] ↩  Actually this is one of the pointers that help set the time for when Job lived to the time of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). J. Vernon McGee writes the following:

 Here are the arguments which lead us to place Job in the time of the patriarchs: 

 1. The length of Job's life span. "After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, even four generations. So Job died, being old and full of days" (Job 42:16-17). We know that at the time of the patriarchs people had long life spans such as that of Job. 

 2. Job acted as the high priest in his family. Since there is no mention of the children of Israel or any other priesthood, evidently this took place before they came into existence. 

 3. Eliphaz was descended from Esau's eldest son. 'These are the names of Esau's sons; Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau, Reuel the son of Bashemath the wife of Esau' (Gen.36:10). This would make it seem that Job was a contemporary of Jacob. 

[4] ↩  For a couple of other interesting insights into the events in heaven concerning God and Satan (or evil spirits) have a look at 1 Kings 22:12-28 - this is really interesting! Also check out Zechariah chapter 3.

[5] ↩  This of course is the type of people described by the Lord in the Parable of the sower where He said: 'The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.' Mat 13:20-21. Instead of promising the 'health, wealth, prosperity' gospel of 'tele-evangelists' today, Jesus offered this:

 'Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (24) For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. (25) What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?' (Luke 9:23-25) 

Still want to follow? What if God tested you, in even a small measure, as He did Job? Would you still want to follow?

 John 6:66-69 'From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (67) You do not want to leave too, do you? Jesus asked the Twelve. (68) Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (69) We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." 

[6] ↩  A few other verses to consider concerning this 'hedge' are:
 Psalm 5:12 For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield. 

 Psalm 34:7 the angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. 

 Zechariah 2:4-5 Jerusalem will be a city without walls ... And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,' declares the LORD, 'and I will be its glory within.' 

 John 17:11 'Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name--the name you gave me--so that they may be one as we are one.' 

[7] ↩  As an example, Paul was given a 'messenger of Satan' - a 'thorn in the flesh' because of the surpassing revelations given to him. (2 Cor: 12:9)

[8] ↩  There are many questions that will remain unanswered in this life, but not in the life to come. Christian couples who have been trying to have a child for a long time still suffer miscarriages or have their child die in its early years. Beautiful young Christians with their whole life ahead of them still get cancer and die. We had our local Christian college send a missionary team to Africa a few months ago. The van they were driving over in Kenya went off the road and four were killed. Three of those killed were from the college including two that were the leaders on the trip. All wonderful people; we don't know why God allows these things to happen. Even in the book of Job, God never answers or explains to Job why He allowed these calamities to happen to Job and his family. But, as we shall see in the end of the book, great blessings both spiritually and materially were restored to Job and his wife. Job himself will come into a far greater and deeper walk with, and understanding of, his Lord.