The book of Job is much praised but little read. This is perhaps because it is long and is thought, incorrectly, to be somewhat repetitive. It is probably unique in Scripture as being more valued by literary experts, some of whom regard it as the greatest poem ever written, than by many Christians.
Its neglect is particularly sad because, apart perhaps from Ecclesiastes, there is no book of the Old Testament that has greater value for our God-given mission. As Hywel Jones says, ‘Set outside the life of Israel, the book of Job provides a ready-made point of contact with unchurched people’. Job is not an easy book, but why should that deter you? As one my colleagues used to say, we should greatly value the difficult parts of the Bible, because within them there is always great treasure.
Hywel Jones has provided us with a fine commentary. His judicious scholarship is evident throughout, and yet the language is consistently clear and non-technical. He also introduces us to some of the best literature on the book. One of his purposes is to encourage preaching on it, but this is not only a volume for preachers. In terms of its literary genre, Dr Jones sees it as inspired wisdom literature, with something of a law-court flavour.
He shows us the fluctuations in Job’s mood, the way the arguments of the various speakers develop, and the way Job gains ground in his arguments with the comforters. He is especially helpful on important passages like Chapters 18, 19 and 28, and in my view he is at his best in dealing with the speeches of Elihu – whom he regards as a kind of prophetic figure with an important and positive message, and certainly not as a younger carbon copy of any of the comforters.
The majestic theophany towards the close of the book does not give a point-by-point answer to Job’s questions, but rather the Lord puts question after question to Job himself. In doing so, God provides something Job needed much more than specific answers, namely, a deeply challenging revelation of God in his sovereign power and his restoring grace – a most instructive, fitting and, at times, ironic climax.