AS A SINGULAR TYPE OF OLD TESTAMENT ACCOUNT, the merit of the book of Job is based on process and its relation to change. As a narrative, the book chronicles a process that involves change for the person of Job—a before, during, and after. In fact, the book presents multiple processes: for Job, for his friends, for Satan, and for Elihu. However in Job, a process can result in a change for good or in no change at all.
For Job, life devolves before he says with confidence that he now sees God, more than just hearing about him in the past (Job 42:5 [ESV]). So, though Job begins life with material and familial prosperity and God’s favor, he does complain, question, and grouse about his circumstances for some time. By the time God speaks to him out of the storm (38:1), Job has determined that he cannot understand the workings and nature of God, and he’s at peace now in his complete trust of God (42:3,5). Job’s perspective of God and his relationship with Him has undoubtedly progressed through this series of trials.
Being able to change though does not imply that Job has been perfected. On the contrary, Job shows us his very human nature, both strengths and weaknesses. Yes, Job is steadfast, grateful, and full of praise by the end, but he is also critical, complaining, doubtful, and especially fearful. He exclaims, “For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me” (3:25). It seems that the frailties of his human character outnumber his strengths. So too appear Job’s friends.
At the beginning of Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar appear supportive of Job during his trials as they empathize and remain quiet in either shock or grief (2:12-13). Things disintegrate quickly soon after they hear Job’s first laments. For nine chapters, each man is sure of his opinion of Job and declares that Job has to have sinned in some way. What we know about these men is revealed in their actions, their direct criticisms. As Job continues to justify himself, their haranguing worsens until Elihu and eventually God intervene. From this point, the change in these men is drastic as God directly rebukes them all and demands sacrifice and prayer (42:7-9). They have experienced a change that closely mirrors the structure of Job’s process—a commendable beginning, difficult middle, and a fitting outcome. Like Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have undergone a life-changing process where they began well. However, unlike Job, they then broadcasted their sinful nature through pride and their legalistic views of God. By the end, they repent, and their lives are spared.
But there are those who do not change in the book of Job, where no process is evident. For instance, Satan’s role is crucial to the development within Job and even his friends, but his character remains wholly unchanged. No mention is made of him by name again after the first two chapters. Interestingly enough, Elihu also remains static. His presence brings about a change in the pattern of argument and possibly prepares Job and his friends for God’s visit, but we see no visible change in him through his rebukes of the men or his praise of God. Like Satan, he is not mentioned again in Job. Satan and Elihu act a part in a greater process yet never develop in themselves.
Job remains the central figure, the one who undergoes the most serious evolution. He can see God now with a humble heart and clear sight. The fact that he can change brings not just merit to the study of Job, but also hope, a hope that we too can change, mature, and come to know God in a deeper, clearer way.