Author and Style:
The author of the book of Job is unknown and the text does not identify any. It is part of a collection of what is called "wisdom literature" by biblical scholars. The author uses the divine name YHWH found in Exodus so is certainly an Israelite. The Hebrew is nuanced and sophisticated, including the use of irony. The text contains many unusual words which are found nowhere else in scripture There are a large number of legal terms used in the book and some portions are written in poetry.
There is no specific occasion that prompted the writing of the book, rather an age-old philosophical question: Why do good people suffer? There were several possible theological positions, many of which are detailed in the book. The book of Job, on the other hand, does not attempt to answer the question, only raise it and say that perhaps a more fruitful way of looking at suffering is to see how God is present when we suffer.
There was a place named Uz located in northern Arabia. Job's friend, Eliphaz, came from Teman, a city in Edom. Elihu came from the Buzites, who lived near the Chaldeans in northeast Arabia. The name might be a pun on the Hebrew word "to counsel" and thus intended to invoke a situation rather than a specific place.
- God: first seen holding court in heaven, later appears to Job and reasons with him, not about repentance, but the need for knowledge and wisdom
- the Satan: not a name per se, actually a legal term similar to the prosecuting attorney; believes Job is good only for the reward. The reader should be careful not to combine the characters of Satan, the Serpent, the Devil, and the Deceiver (although some of the gospel writers did)
- Job (whose name is related to the Aramaic root for "one who repents): A righteous man who is given over to much suffering yet never loses his faith in God
- Job's first family: treated to some extent like the rest of his possessions and rewards for being righteous
- Eliphaz: believes the God does not punish the righteous, so Job must be guilty of some sin
- Bildad: believes God is just, so Job needs to repent
- Zophar: believes God is wise and all-knowing and must be aware of some sin on Job's part
- Elihu: attempts to act as Job's mediator and rebukes Job's friends, but believes Job is self-righteous
The people seem to be organized in a patriarchal family-clan which is more typical of the time of Abraham than of later times when Israel was a nation. This is also supported by the sacrifice being done by the head of the family rather than a priest. Names are authentic for the second millennium BCE. The story could have been a part of the oral tradition and written down considerably later in the reign of Solomon or the Exile.