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Lesson Plan for The Book of Job

 Job = "The Persecuted" or "The Object of Enmity"

"Thou are not yet as Job..." (D&C 121:10)

"The Son of Man hath descended below them all..." (D&C 122:8)

The problem of Evil = how to think about God in the face of the presence of suffering in God's creation

Joseph Smith once said (according to John Taylor):

"You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God... God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings.."

Another one from Brigham Young:

Brigham Young was once asked, “Why is it that the Lord is not always at our side promoting universal happiness and seeing to it that the needs of people are met, caring especially for His Saints? Why is it so difficult at times?”
President Young answered, “Because man is destined to be a God, and he must be able to demonstrate that he is for God and to develop his own resources so that he can act independently and yet humbly.” Then he added, “It is the way it is because we must learn to be righteous in the dark.” (Brigham Young’s Office Journal, 28 January 1857.)

Elder McConkie once wrote:

"The greatest trials of life are reserved for the Saints." (DNTC, 3:318)

An introduction:

The Book of Job is a different book than the rest of the Old Testament. It has a few peculiar things about it.

1. The Hebrew that Job is written in is unlike the previous books we have read. 95% of the book is Hebrew Poetry, and one commentator I read through this week that the way the Hebrew is written reminds you a lot of the way Shakespear wrote in English.

2. It is estimated that the Book of Job was written between the 7th and 4th century BCE, but the time in which the story of Job takes place is among the ancient patriarchs. There is strong evidence in the book that Job was a contemporary of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
2a. Eliphaz, Job's friend introduced in chapter 2, appears to be the same Eliphaz who was the firstborn of Esau (Isaac's firstborn). Also, Job lives to a very old age as we are told in the last chapter. His age here mirrors the longevity of life the ancient patriarchs enjoyed.
2b. Job was not a member of the covenant family, he is not an Israelite. He is a just and perfect gentile.

3. Like the Book of Esther, and given its Hebrew literary style, the Book of Job was most likely a theatrical play. We know in D&C 121 that Job is a real person, but the Book of Job appears to be a theatrical tale of his life. It appears it was written during the exile or post-exile period in order to help Israel make sense of their suffering. 

4. The Book of Job marks the beginning of the Wisdom Literature in the Bible. For the next little while, we are going to be reading a lot of poetry in the Old Testament. The Book of Job is highly regarded as not just good Hebrew Poetry, but one of the best literary masterpieces the world has ever seen.
4a. Victor Hugo, the creator of the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables, said of the book: "Job is one of the greatest masterpieces of the human mind. It is, perhaps, the greatest masterpiece. Tomorrow if all literature was to be destroyed and it was left to me to retain one work only, I should save Job."

Job is a book meant to be wrestled with.

Read Job 1:1

It says Job was a perfect man. What does that mean? What does it say about Job? What does it say about our understanding of perfection?

In a few different places, it says Noah was perfect.

We learn from the beginning that Job has been heavily blessed by the Lord by having 10 kids and a lot of livestock. It says he was one of the most well-off men of the East, so he was pretty wealthy and had a reputation for being upright.

This story really begins in Heaven when God calls together a council with the members of his divine assembly.

Read Job 1:6-12

How do we make sense of some of the troubling things in this verse? Does God let Satan loose upon Job?

Perhaps comment here that the Hebrew here does not use a proper name for Satan here and could possibly be a member of the divine council. In Hebrew, the term used here is a common noun used in legal settings and is not a proper name.

In rapid succession, we have Satan afflicting Job. First, all of his oxen are killed by Sabeans. Then immediately after, Job learns that fire has fallen from heaven and killed all his sheep and servants. Then immediately after that, news of all of Job's camels being taken or killed reached his ears. Then immediately after that, he gets the worst news of all. All 10 of his kids are killed due to the house of the Eldest brother collapsing on them.

This is the context of Job 1:20-22. Have the class read it.

What do we make of that response? Job was righteous and prospering in the land, what kind of God lets Satan loose upon a person like that and takes away everything? Hence the problem of evil.

To add insult to injury, Satan afflicts Job with sore boils in chapter 2. As the book goes on Job even further details this physical afflictions: he has worms in his sores (7:5), nightmares (7:14), extreme weight loss (17:7 & 19:20), bad breath (19:17), tremendous fever (30:27, 30), and his skin starts to lose its color (turn black) (30:30). 

Job's wife starts to question things, she says "curse God and die". Job, at this moment, refuses to sin with his lips. Three of Job's friends come along and do something, initially, that is beautiful:

Read Job 2:11-13

How do we mourn with those that mourn? Or comfort those who stand in need of comfort? What can we learn from Job's friends?

Starting in chapter 3, we get all the Hebrew poetry. After seven days of silence in sackcloth and ashes amongst his friends, Job lashes out:

Read Job 3:3-11

What does this sound like? DEEP DEPRESSION
Job was a perfect man who initially chose not to charge God foolishly. What is he now doing here?

After Job's dark lament, his friends begin to chime in. They all give somewhat helpful advice, maybe, but they all also seem to think Job must be a wicked man because of what has happened to him.

In summary, these are some of the things they say to him;

"who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?" (Job 4:7)
"God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evil doers.." (Job 8:20)
"If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles." (Job 11:14)

With all these accusations, Job begins to break down.

Read Job 19:6-29

Job is in a dark place and very blatantly starts to blame God for his predicament. This is a stark contrast from where he started.

We tend to read Job 19:25-26 in a very positive light about Job having hope in the resurrection. While this is partly true, it takes Job's intent out of context. Job is looking to be vindicated of any wrong. His friends keep accusing him of such. Job, therefore, invokes the judgment bar in hopes that he will be vindicated by God himself. He goes on to say that judgment faces his friends who keep insisting he has done wrong. In other words, Job invokes these seemingly hopeful words in the context of being overcome with despair and pleading for someone to vindicate him.

Job, therefore, is not necessarily drawing comfort from the doctrine of the resurrection but more so hoping that the Lord will vindicate their relationship.

What can we do in times of despair and grief when even the doctrines of the gospel don't even seem to bring us comfort? Where do we go? How do we keep close to the Lord?

Job's friends continue to accuse Job and get even more specific in their accusations. Eliphaz accuses Job of withholding water and drink from the weary. He accuses him of mistreating widows and the fatherless. He basically accuses Job of misusing the wealth Job used to have. Job goes on for several chapters defending himself against this accusation and keeps reiterating the point that God will vindicate him.

Job, again, appears to go back into a deep depression in chapter 30.

Read Job 30:19-22

Job then, again, as he did in chapter 19 almost violently commands the Lord to come and make judgment of him now!

He says, "Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity."

Job then reviews all the accusations that have been levied against him by his friends. He says near the end of the Chapter, "Behold, my desire is that the Almighty would answer me".

Job waits a little longer and the God answers Job out of the whirlwind.

Read Job 38:2-7

What message is God sending to Job here?

Elder Maxwell once said:

"While most of our suffering is self-inflicted, some is caused by or permitted by God. This sobering reality calls for deep submissiveness, especially when God does not remove the cup from us. In such circumstances, when reminded about the premortal shouting for joy as this life’s plan was unfolded (see Job 38:7), we can perhaps be pardoned if, in some moments, we wonder what all the shouting was about." (Willing to Submit, April 1985 GC)

With all the questions from Job, God puts Job into his place. How many of us ask questions or wish life had given us something else? God's response to Job here could be said to all of us.

God goes on for 2 whole chapters sort of rhetorically asking Job his knowledge about the deep parts of creation. This is the longest single discourse without stopping that God gives in the entire Bible.

Job finally responds. Read Job 42:1-6

How many of us even within our grief and doubts have "uttered things we do not understand"?

Interestingly, this doesn't appear to deter Job from wanting to ask more questions (see verse 4). He probably learns to ask better questions and to be patient in the Lord's timing in answering them.

The story of Job ends well. He finally gets his vindication!

Read Job 42:7-10

Job lives a hundred and forty years after this, and as they say, lived happily ever after.

Some quotes:

"No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven." Elder Orson F. Whitney (Quoted by Spencer W. Kimball in Tragedy or Destiny?, p. 4)

Additional ideas:

What do we make of Job's suffering in light of the Book of Mormon's repeated promise that "If we shall keep the Lord's commandments we shall prosper in the land?"

Maybe give some insight about what prospering in the land means. It has to do with the extension of the scripture, "If you keep not my commandments, you shall be cut off from my presence." Therefore, prospering in the land can include heart-wrenching suffering, but it more fully means being slowly brought back into the Lord's presence.

Read the list of parallels Job has with Christ from Andrew Skinner's Book.


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