Hobbits, Dinosaurs And Gnashing Of Teeth – My Study Of The Book Of Job

A while back I posted a blog about my struggles with the Bible entitled I’m A Christian But I Don’t Read The Bible. It engendered an amazing response and it was a great comfort to learn that I was not the only person with difficulties in this spiritual area. What it also did was encourage me to pick up my dusty Bible and try again. Obviously I needed to break myself in gently again so I chose a book that would allow me to ease back in to scriptural life.

So I started on Job….

Oh Job, where do I begin. Not only is it one of the longest books in the Bible, it’s also one of the most frustrating and impenetrable. For those of you who haven’t endured (I mean basked in its glory) here’s a potted synopsis.

So Job is the richest man in the Old Testament. He has it all. A large, loving family who appear to all get on with each other. Unheard of I know! More livestock than a Texan rancher. Plus he’s Gods main man. Wise, faithful and apparently without blemish. He has it all. Until one day Satan (hiss! boo!) challenges God. Let me have a pop at Job and we’ll see what a goody two shoes he is. I’ll have him cursing your name faster than you can saddle a camel.

I’m not sure how long it takes to saddle a camel but just go with me on this one.

God agrees, like obviously, and before long Job is beset with all sorts of tragedies. His family and livestock are all wiped out in a series of highly suspicious enemy raids and natural disasters. Except for his nagging wife. Hmmmm. Is she in on the act? Job reacts like any Old Testament character having a bad day would. Teeth are gnashed, robes are torn and the wailing commences. Pretty standard really.

Job’s three best mates then roll into town. One of them is called Bildad which sounds a bit like Bilbo so I’ve always imagined him as a hobbit. Smoking a pipe and with big, hairy feet. At first they do nothing. Literally nothing. For a week they all sit around and do nothing but watch Job wailing and gnashing. It must have been totally awkward. Have they never heard of small talk to break the ice. Funny weather we’re having? Err…maybe not. How are the kids? Nope….not that one either.

Anyway…..

Eventually they do. Start talking that it is. And how we wish they hadn’t. There then follows thirty odd chapters of them berating poor old Job. As if he hasn’t enough to deal with he also has the worst friends. Ever. The gist of it is that God wouldn’t have allowed this for no reason. Mr. Perfect Pants Job must have some pretty sordid skeletons lurking in his closet, some grisly secrets that have led to him getting his comeuppance. They’re kind of gloating and how Job resisted slapping them in the face I’ll never know.

That’s the patience of Job I guess.

To be fair he gives as good as he gets. It’s handbags at dawn as he argues his case and bemoans how God could have treated such an all round good guy like him in such an unfair fashion. It’s a pity party par excellence. Seriously this guy would have given David a run for his money in the complaining stakes. If God had allowed Job to write the psalms I reckon the Bible would have ended up twice as long.

That’s the impatience of Job I guess.

Another bloke turns up whose name I can’t remember off the top of my head. It begins with an ‘E’. But he’s definitely not a hobbit. He has a pop at Job as well until eventually God gets fed up with the lot of them and intervenes. Finally! This is when Job is reminded who the boss is and how clueless he really is about life, the universe and everything. The Almighty gives him a large piece of his omnipotent and omniscient mind. Job and his buddies are well and truly put in their respective boxes.

God takes them on a crash course of creation, reminding them that they haven’t a leg to stand on when it comes to questioning his authority and plans for the cosmos. He basically tells them to zip it, concluding with incredible accounts of Behemoth and Leviathan, fantastic creatures which he brought into existence. There has been much debate as to what these creatures may have been. Hippos? Crocodiles?

When I read it all I could think of was a brontosaurus (behemoth) and fire breathing dragon (leviathan). The Book of Job had moved from Middle Earth to Westeros in my mind….via Jurassic Park. In the end Job holds his hands up to God and concludes You’re right God. I’ve no right to question you. You know best and I’m just going to have to trust you on this one’. For his resilience God rewards him by doubling what he had before with regards his by doubling children and livestock.

And they all lived happily ever after….

Job left me bewildered and baffled at times but it also reignited my love of interpreting Bible stories. It has also inspired me to write a series of posts over the next few weeks focusing on themes I have touched upon in the above paragraphs; themes such as friendship, forgiveness and suffering. Not to mention the hobbits and dinosaurs. I hope, believer or not, you get something from the series. It might make you think, I might make you smile or it might annoy you so much you never read another post of mine. Let’s find out shall we?

What do you think the Behemoth and Leviathan were?

Have you ever had friends as useless as Job?

30 thoughts on “Hobbits, Dinosaurs And Gnashing Of Teeth – My Study Of The Book Of Job

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  1. Great piece. I’ve always preferred reading the new testament of the Bible but recently I have started giving old testament stories/books as much attention because of how dramatic they are! The story of Job is no doubt one of the most dramatic and bewildering of the old testament pack. Reading the bible in relatable terms and context, just as you have done, makes it a lot more interesting to ride. I usually ask the author of the Bible (the Holy Spirit) for understanding when I pick it up and he sure helps me.

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  2. I smiled all the way through this post. Can’t wait to read more. Reminds me of how similar my own explanations/paraphrasing of bible stories are for my teens and preschoolers. They’re every day people – they should be explained as such – sarcasm, irritability, sass and all.

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  3. I know the Job story, but have never actually read it (other than scripture readings in church)….reading…… Hmm..Behemoth- I think maybe a hippo. Leviathan- seems like he lives in the water, so I would say a cross between a very large croc and a fire breathing dragon. Reality and myth. God’s way of saying he covers it all? Thanks for the challenge!

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  4. For the culture of the time they were good friends indeed. When any kind of tragedy befell someone – it was always as a direct result of some sin of the person, or some close member of their family. We see this in the Gospels when Jesus is healing someone, the Pharisees ask, “Who sinned?”
    So as friends go, not bad.
    Not the type of friend I’d like now, mind you.

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  5. Job was the first person to ask for an advocate who of course turns out to be Jesus. Big point for Job. Of all things to start with first! Talk about depressing and so hard not to question why God let all that happen. What kind of a god is that? Just keep in mind it is the Old Testament and next time read Corinthians or Matthew. Much more upbeat.

    The Leviathan shows up in several other places and sounds something like a whale. Psalm 104:26 There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.

    Loved this post!

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  6. I read this book along with a really powerful commentary right after my parents got divorced and I was going through a really dark period in my life. Yes, I’ve had lots of friends like Job but I think what I learned that was despite what we may gain or lose in this life we will always have God. This incredible God so powerful He made everything and so beautifully beyond our understanding that He loves us as we are and sacrificed Himself so that we could live with Him forever. It’s been a long week but not nearly as long as Job’s the hope I have is that God rewards our faithfulness! Thank you for the brilliant retelling 🙂

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  7. Great post! I always seem to identify with Job. Thinking I know a little something when a my greatest need is to allow God to show me the parts of my thinking and belief that need His repair work. He is unwilling that the rut my mind has been in should continue to be so deep that I am unable to see Him over the edge of it – that I need a hand up to get out of the ditch.

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  8. I have also had struggles with my faith. A lot of things in the bible baffle me. The one thing that always seems to pop into my head is, the bible was written by men. Men are fallible and with no disrespect to God, they have a tendency to embellish.

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  9. I think Job’s friends were at their best when they simply sat with him in his grief. When someone we know experiences a loss or is suffering, we are often quick to pass along our thoughts of concern or criticism. Even when our intentions are good, sometimes what is needed most in the moment is simply knowing that someone is with you. When we are grieving or suffering, the words from our friends might not always be received as intended. Allowing space to sit in one’s grief without filling that space with busyness or words can often be the best thing we can do.

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  10. I just read a book titled When Bad Things Happen to Good People. The author is Jewish, and calls the story of Job a poem. Plus, the version he references says the poem is told of loss with friends giving him bad advice, then told with terms flipped and Job challenging God at the end.
    Maybe the book he’s read is EVEN LONGER?
    Either way, I find it interesting that I’m encouraged to take the story completely seriously when it makes much more sense as a passed-down moral story. For one thing, how is he “blessed” with twice as many children? That would mean his poor (old, I’m assuming, since their kids were older) wife spontaneously popped out 14 sons and 6 daughters?

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  11. Great synopsis. Job is a tough nut to crack and requires tons of research to make heads or tails of it. Job’s currently my favorite book of the Bible for this reason. It’s rewarding to have an ‘aha’ moment because it’s hard earned. Way to get back into Bible reading!

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  12. I actually like a number of things Job’s friends say. The first time I read Job, I didn’t. But when I read through Job the second time, what his friends speak are truthful and somewhat wise. But the problem is…they are directing this truth…to the wrong person. Job is not guilty on any of the accusations or theories (as his friends are confused too as to why Job is going through what he did.) Taking Job out of the picture (which would kinda lose the point of book, haha, but bear with me) and directing the “lectures” or “lessons” however one may look at it. There is something to be taken from his friends.

    I think sometimes we can seem very wise in our own eyes that we become blind to it.

    I think you diving into the stories of the Bible would be great. It’s sharing the Bible with others and talking about topics everyone can relate to. 🙂

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  13. Ok Stephen I am not the be all end all of knowing everything that is the Bible hahaha and I don’t know what the Behemoth is, but the Leviathan is mentioned in Isaiah(I only remember this because I just read Isaiah) and you aren’t far off on the dragon part. Here’s what it says: “In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.” Isaiah 27:1 :):):)

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  14. Thank you for this post and glad to hear you are picking up the Bible again with renewed passion. You might be interested in these videos about Leviathan and Behemoth which draw on neighbouring Ancient Near Eastern texts to identify these mythological beasts:

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