Sitting with Job: selected Studies on the Book of Job

Written by Roy B. Zuck (ed.) Reviewed By Robert L. Alden

Roy Zuck of Dallas Theological Seminary has in this anthology assembled 34 articles, all previously published, that he judges to be ‘the best thinking on the Book of Job’.

The authors he has chosen represent different theological perspectives. Most are contemporary. Clearly, Zuck has not confined his own research to those who agree with him, and he has not denied a hearing to those with other points of view.

The first section, containing 12 articles, he calls ‘Overviews of the Book of Job’. Gregory Parson’s two articles reprinted from Bibliotheca Sacra open this collection: ‘The Structure and Purpose of the Book of Job’ and ‘Literary Features of the Book of Job’. These two articles present facets of the discussion that will be touched upon many times later in the collection: the purpose of the book, God’s sovereignty, Job’s response(s), the theology of retribution, the creation motif of the theophany, and legal language.

Claus Westermann (Ch. 3) disputes the classification of Job as wisdom literature while espousing and defending it as a dramatized lament. John Hartley’s chapter comes from his commentary in the NICOT and focuses on ‘The Genres and Message of the Book of Job’, while Chapter 4, by Robert Gordis, defends a late date for the composition of the book based on the frequency of Aramaisms. Concurring with this opinion is Edouard Dhorme in the next essay.

Norman C. Habel’s contribution, ‘Literary Features and the Message of the Book of Job’, is outstanding. He notes many features that the casual reader would miss, sees in Job a U-shaped plot (chiastic) and views the book as a serious comedy rather than a tragedy.

The first of four essays by David Clines comes next: ‘The Shape and Argument of the Book of Job’. Three of the four are from Clines’ commentary on the first 20 chapters of Job in Word Biblical Commentary. Clines brings many keen insights to the book, but I do not agree with all of them. Philip Yancey writes ‘A Fresh Reading of the Book of Job’ and in it describes ‘The Great Reversal’, which Job did and in which we may participate. R. Laird Harris’s 30-page article on the doctrine of God is sound, traditional, evangelical, biblical and believable.

It was a special joy to discover that Zuck included a section from Francis Andersen’s commentary in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series. I cannot resist quoting at least a little bit: ‘What Job longed for blindly has actually happened. God himself has joined us in our hell of loneliness, and acquired a new completeness through what he endured. All the “meanings” of suffering converge on Christ’ (p. 188).

The second and longer half of Zuck’s anthology is on ‘Specific Themes and Passages in the Book of Job’. The first two articles are by Elmer Smick on the mythological elements in the book. Both articles support the legitimacy and orthodoxy of the author despite what appears to be his adoption of pagan symbols, myths and motifs.

Chapters 20 and 21 consist of contributions by Zuck and Albert Barnes on Job 19:25–29. It is no surprise that the ‘traditional life beyond the grave’ view prevails. Essays on the wisdom chapter (Job 28) and wisdom in general follow by Zuck and Habel. Then Westermann focuses on Job’s asseveration of innocence, particularly in Job 31. Michael Brennan Dick discusses the legal metaphor of Job 31 with many Latin legal terms, and the same chapter is further analysed by Edwin M. Good.

Dhorme provides a good survey of the Elihu speeches. This is followed by the first of two contributions by Sylvia Huberman Scholnick on legal questions. She maintains that the Hebrew mishpat has two dimensions to it—juridical and executive—and that it is used in this latter sense by God in 40:8.

The last six essays are on the theophany (Job 38–41) and the two repentances of Job (40:3–5; 42:1–6). James Williams has an erudite and somewhat incomprehensible article on the theophany itself. More readable and hence valuable is the following one on the same subject by D.A. Carson. McKenna’s sermon is full of catchy turns of phrase and good illustrations, though his assessment of the hippopotamus as full of ‘playful trust’ is not what a zoologist would say. Normal Habel’s third essay (the second from his commentary on Job in the Old Testament Library) is on the design of Yahweh’s speeches.

The last chapter in the book is B. Lynne Newell’s ‘Job: Repentant or Rebellious?’. It is an affirmation of the traditional interpretation and a brief discursus against J.B. Curtis, who maintained that Job 42:6 should read, ‘Therefore I feel loathing contempt and revulsion (toward you, O God); and I am sorry for frail man’ (JBL 98, 1979, pp. 497–511).

For the student of Job interested in gaining an overview of the major questions about the book and an assortment of opinions on them, this book is worth the reading. It is a fine introduction to the leading commentaries on Job, and the abundant footnotes in some of the articles will lead the serious inquirer even further into the study of this fascinating portion of the Holy Bible.

Robert L. Alden