Job 29:1-31:40 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. How does Job describe his former condition before his present ordeal? See chapter 29 verses 1-6 (printed below)

Job continued his discourse, (2) How I long for the months gone by, for those days when God watched over me, (3) when he made his lamp shine above my head, and by his light I walked through the darkness! (4) I yearn for those days when I was in the prime of my life, when God was an intimate friend residing in my tent, (5) when the Almighty was still with me and my children were around me, (6) when my steps were bathed in cream and the rock poured out streams of oil for me. (Job 29:1-6)

Job longingly recalls his former state and laments for those days of honor and prosperity and communion with God. It was a time when God watched over him (29:2), affording Job His divine protection and favor. The light of God’s presence shone upon him and illuminated the darkness (29:3), giving Job direction, courage, and confidence. He experienced the friendship of God (29:4) and the Almighty was with him (29:5): the Lord was on Job’s side, granting Job His divine favor. One evidence of God’s favor was the blessing of Job’s children being with him (29:5b). Job was blessed with an abundance of good things: “my steps were bathed in cream and the rock poured out streams of oil for me” (29:6). That is to say, Job’s flocks produced such an abundance of curds that, figuratively speaking, he had the luxury of bathing his feet in thick cream; and his olive presses, made out of stone, were flowing with streams of oil (The Book of Job, Hartley, pp. 388-389.)

2. What was Job’s role in the community? See chapter 29 verses 7-17 (printed below.)

When I went to the gate of the city and took my seat in the public square, (8) the young men saw me and stepped aside and the old men rose to their feet. (9) Princes refrained from speaking and covered their mouths with their hands; (10) the voices of the nobles were hushed, and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths. (11) Indeed, whoever heard me, spoke well of me, and those who saw me, commended me, (12) because I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had no one to assist him. (13) The man who was destitute blessed me; I made the widow’s heart sing for joy. (14) I put on righteousness as my clothing, and the justice I practiced was like a robe and a turban. (15) I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. (16) I was a father to the needy; I investigated the stranger’s case. (17) I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth. (Job 29:7-17)

Job held a high position at the city gate (29:7): he was honored by young and old alike (29:8) and his counsel was highly respected (29:9-11a). Job was blessed for his role as a defender of the poor and the oppressed (29:11b-13). He clothed himself in righteousness and wore justice like a turban (29:14). He showed mercy to the helpless, serving as eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, and being a father to the needy (29:15-16). He showed himself to be a champion of justice and a defender of the oppressed: “I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth” (29:17).

3. Now how is Job regarded by the community? See chapter 30 verses 1-10 (printed below)

But now I am mocked by men who are younger than I, men whose fathers I would have disdained to put with my sheep dogs. (2) Of what use was the strength of their hands to me, since their vigor was gone from them? (3) Gaunt from want and hunger, they roam the parched land in desolate wastelands at night. (4) They gather salt herbs in the brush, their fuel is the root of the broom tree. (5) They are banished from the community; men shout at them as though they were thieves. (6) They are forced to live in the dried up stream beds, among the rocks and in holes in the ground. (7) Like donkeys, they bray among the bushes and huddle in the undergrowth. (8) They are a foolish, nameless brood, they have been reduced to being lower than the ground. (9) Now their sons mock me with their songs; I have become a byword among them. (10) They detest me and stand aloof from me; they do not hesitate to spit in my face. (Job 30:1-10)

Now, contrary to all expectation, Job finds himself in a far different condition. Now the young men hold him in derision (30:1a), whereas formerly they feared and respected him (29:8a). The offspring of the most contemptible men (as those men are described in 30:1b-8) now hold Job in contempt. The fathers of these youths were themselves such worthless and despicable characters that Job disdained to even set them with the dogs who guarded his flocks (30:1b). Those men were worthless vagabonds, the derelicts of society who were driven away as one would drive away a thief; they were reduced to living like wild beasts of the wilderness (30:2-7). Now the children of these worthless men mock Job in their songs and use his name as a byword (30:9), i.e.; they use his name as a term of derision, almost in the place of a vulgarity or curse word. The sons of worthless men now abhor Job, they stand aloof from him, and they spit in his face (30:10).

4. Why is Job now being treated with contempt? See chapter 30 verses 11-14 (printed below)

Because God has loosened my tent cord and afflicted me, they throw off restraint in my presence. (12) At my right hand the young rabble attack; they lay snares for my feet, they erect their siege ramps against me. (13) They break up my pathway; they contribute to my calamity; there is no one to help me against them. (14) They advance as though pouring through a gaping breach in the wall; they come rolling in amid the ruins. (Job 30:11-14)

What has brought about this shocking change in condition for Job? Job attributes it to an act of God (30:11). Because God “has loosened Job’s tent cord and afflicted him,” that is why the sons of despicable men “throw off restraint in Job’s presence.” Figuratively speaking, God has loosened the cord that holds Job’s “tent” erect; consequently, the “tent” sags into a crumpled heap. Witnessing this act of God against Job, the worthless youths have become emboldened to heap abuse upon Job without fear or restraint, “they cast off restraint in his presence” (Hartley’s translation and commentary on 30:11, p. 400). The young rabble menacingly rise up against Job: they are first depicted as a terrifying mob (30:12a), and then as a fierce army that has broken through Job’s defenses and is intent on his destruction (30:12b-14). Terrors have been unleashed against Job: his dignity has been chased away by the wind, and his well-being has vanished like a cloud (30:15).

5. In chapter 31 Job gives an extensive account of his righteous conduct in every area of life. In light of the trials he is presently undergoing, what does his testimony tell us about him?

It tells us that even in this most extreme circumstance, Job has not abandoned his integrity. The fact that he continues to maintain his integrity is evidence of his underlying confidence in the integrity of God, despite the clouds of doubt caused by his present condition that subject his soul to moments of bitter darkness. Job’s integrity is motivated by a holy fear of God, knowing that the Lord is a righteous Judge who ultimately punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous.