We are now a couple of sermons in to our latest sermon series, “Job: Out of the Whirlwind.” Because I’m planning on preaching a total of 10 messages from the book of Job, we won’t be able to cover every single detail of this book. Hopefully, however, you will gain a helpful overview of the book and will better understand it’s story, purpose, and message when we’re done.
Because this series is short, I’d like to encourage you to supplement the weekly sermons by reading the entire book of Job over the next few weeks.
Now if tackling such a long and difficult book is intimidating, you’re not alone! It can be a challenging read, but let me share some basic information about Job’s structure along with a suggested weekly reading guide that I think will make the book a little less daunting.
Job contains a total of 42 chapters. What you may not know is that the beginning (Chapters 1-2) and the end, (42:7-17) are written in prose. Everything in the middle (Chapters 3-42:6) is written in poetry. Why is this the case? Well, there is a difference between how prose and poetry speaks to the reader. JI Packer suggests that poems, “are always a personal ‘take’ on something, communicating not just from head to head but from heart to heart.” Job is very much a book that grapples with pain and suffering on a heart level, and the poetic style helps the reader to descend into Job’s trial with him.
After the brief section of prose (1-2:13), which we could call part 1 of the book, the longer poetry section begins with Job’s lament (chapter 3) followed by three cycles of speeches. We could call this part II of the book. In each cycle each of Job’s friends give a speech and Job replies. The one exception is in the third cycle where Zophar is silent. Perhaps he is so frustrated he has nothing more to say!
Here is the breakdown of the three cycles:
- Eliphaz—chapters 4 & 5 Job—chapters 6 & 7
- Bildad—chapter 8 Job —chapters 9 & 10
- Zophar—chapter 11 Job—chapters 12-14
- Eliphaz—chapter 15 Job—chapters 16&17
- Bildad—chapter 18 Job—chapter 19
- Zophar—chapter 20 Job—chapter 21
- Eliphaz—chapter 22 Job—chapters 23 & 24
- Bildad—chapter 25 Job—chapters 26–31
I do believe chapter 28 is an interlude inserted by the author, but I’ll talk more about that when we get to that sermon in a few weeks.
After Job wraps up his final defense in chapter 31, the cycles are over. And part III begins which focuse on the responses to Job’s arguments given by a mysterious new character named Elihu who speaks in chapters 32-37. Finally, the Lord Himself arrives and addresses Job (and Job responds) in chapters 38-42:6. Part III closes with an epilogue in 42:7-17 which, though quite short, is very important.
For me, just understanding that basic breakdown helped me get my arms around this book and made it less intimidating. I hope it will be helpful to you. In addition, I’d like to give you a basic reading plan to help you read through the entire book over the next few weeks. While I hope with God’s grace to help you glean some nuggets of gold in my next few sermons on Job, you’ll get even more treasures from reading and praying through the book on your own. Unless we need to briefly pause the sermon series, I expect to preach the final message on Sunday, August 23rd. This reading plan will help you finish the book by then.
Week of July 5th: Job 1-3
Week of July 12th: Job 4-14 (The first cycle of speeches)
Week of July 19th: Job 15-21 (The second cycle of speeches)
Week of July 26th: Job 22-26 (The third cycle of speeches)
Week of August 2nd: Job 27-31 (Job’s final defense)
Week of August 9th: Job 32-37 (Elihu’s speech)
Week of of August 16th: Job 38-42 (God’s speech, Job’s reply, epilogue)
I’m looking forward to journeying through Job with you and learning together.
Grace and Peace,