Lesson 2 of 5
In Progress

Outline of Job

1. Prologue (Job 1-2)

The prologue introduces the reader to Job, tells of two conversations between God and Satan in heaven, and recounts the tragedies that come to Job in two stages. Then three friends come to bring Job comfort.

2. Dialogues (Job 3-31)

Job laments and enters into dialogue with three friends.

A. Job’s Lament (Job 3)

After a week of silence, Job opens his mouth and curses the day of his birth. He wishes he had never been born, but since it is too late to change that, he wants God to let him die.

B. The First Cycle of Speeches (Job 4-14)

Job’s three friends take turns trying to interpret Job’s suffering to him. After each speaks, Job answers by rejecting their theorizing about him.

C. The Second Cycle of Speeches (Job 15-21)

The tension between Job and his three friends grows as they become more condemning of Job, and he becomes more defensive. The question of whether or not wicked people will ever be punished now enters into their disagreements about God’s justice.

D. The Third Cycle of Speeches (Job 22-27)

There is much repetition and even confusion about who is talking as the dialogues wind down. There is no speech by the third counselor, Zophar, in this cycle.

E. Wisdom Poem (Job 28)

This chapter seems to interrupt the flow of the book. It is uncertain who the speaker is–Job or one of his friends or the editor of the book. The main point (to be expressed more fully by God later in the book) is that human wisdom, though wonderful, is limited and only God can truly know wisdom.

F. Job’s Final Monologue (Job 29-31)

Job had begun the conversation with his friends by opening with a lament (chapter 3). Now he concludes this section of the book with a closing monologue in which he longs for the “good old days,” defends his innocence, and continues to wonder why so many terrible things happened to him, since he did not deserve them.

3. The Emergence of a Fourth Counselor Named Elihu (Job 32-37)

The dialogues are over and one would expect to move on to the God speeches in chapters 38-41. But the natural flow is broken by the speeches of a new, younger counselor named Elihu. Elihu speaks for six chapters with no response from Job. He refers to points made earlier by Job and the other three friends. There is some argument among scholars whether Elihu brings anything new to the discussion or whether he merely represents a later attempt to deal more helpfully with questions of suffering.

4. God Speaks (Job 38-41)

After all these chapters of human effort to make sense out of Job’s suffering, the reader hopes that God will finally clear it all up for Job, his friends, and latter day readers of the book. Is Job guilty or not? Why do innocent people suffer and the wicked escape untouched by calamity? God does not answer those questions but rather, in two speeches, assures that the created order is God’s domain and that humans cannot know and do what only God can do; so, in the meantime, the best thing to do is to trust God to handle the unknown.

5. Conclusion and Epilogue (Job 42)

In verses 1-6, Job seems to accept his limitations and even to feel sorry that he has overreached in his effort to know what humans can never know. The exact interpretation of these verses is not entirely clear. The book ends with the epilogue (vv. 7-17), written in a narrative style similar to the prologue and usually regarded as a continuation of the basic story that set the structure for the present book of Job. Job receives back from God double what he had lost; for many readers, this seems too simplistic an answer to the hard questions that have been raised all the way through the book.