Ever wonder why the book is Job is long? Ever wonder whether the arguments between Job and his friends that comprise the majority of the book (chapters 3-37) are really necessary? Ever read them? If not you might be surprised at the grace and wisdom revealed in these chapters that will serve your soul big time, particularly if you are presently suffering. The length of the arguments and speeches of Job and his friends and the length of the book of Job as a whole is meant to be instructive to us. In his excellent commentary on Job, Christopher Ash explains why:
“Job is forty two chapters long. We may consider that rather an obvious observation, but the point is this: in his wisdom God has given us a very long book, and he has done so for a reason. It is easy just to read or preach the beginning and the end and to skip rather quickly over the endless arguments in between as if it wouldn’t much matter if they weren’t there. Far from saying the message of Job can be summarized on a postcard or in a tweet, God says, ‘Come with me on a journey, a journey that will take time. Job cannot be distilled. It is a narrative with a very slow pace (after a frenetic beginning) and long delays. Why? Because there is no instant working through grief, no quick fix to pain, no message of Job in a nutshell. God has given us a forty two chapter journey. We need to read it, read it all, read it slowly.”
I find that so helpful personally and pastorally. Job is a lengthy narrative “because there is no instant working through grief, no quick fix to pain…” No there is not. Those who have suffered will tell you so. And God tells us so with the divinely inspired length of Job. And God does so in order to comfort the suffering and give them hope. Comfort and hope that comes strangely and surprisingly as one overhears these guys arguing for chapter after chapter. I recommend you let a scholar like Christopher Ash help you understand these poetic arguments. I didn’t grow up in a neighborhood where poetry was popular so I need all kinds of help understanding these chapters. My friends and I didn’t engage in poetic arguments. But there is divine wisdom present and revealed in these arguments. And they are lengthy because there is no quick fix for suffering, grief and pain. I’d encourage you to take this forty two chapter journey. Mr. Ash is right, “We need to read it, read it all, read it slowly.” To do so is to encounter the God who revealed himself to Job.