When a Righteous Man Suffers

T. Miles Bennett  |  Southwestern Journal of Theology Vol. 14 - Fall 1971

A Teaching Outline of the Book of Job[1]This outline is developed in the writer’s, When Human Wisdom Fails: An Exposition of the Book of Job (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1971).


  1. Introduction. Job’s Piety and prosperity, 1:1-5
  2. Satan’s First Test and Job’s Testimony, 1:6-22
  3. Satan’s Second Test and Job’s Testimony, 2:1-10
  4. Job’s Three Friends Come to Comfort Him, 2:11-13


  1. Introduction. A Soliloquy of Despair, 3:1-26
    Theme: Wretched Life, Blessed Death

    1. Job curses the day of his birth, 3:1-10
    2. Job wishes he had died at birth, 3:11-19
    3. Job questions why his life is continued, 3:20-26
  2. The Three Friends’ Solution to Job’s Problem, 4:1-31:40
    1. The first cycle of speeches, 4:1-14:22
      Theme: The Character of God

      1. The first speech of Eliphaz, 4:1-5:27
        1. Eliphaz’s surprise at Job’s despair, 4:1-6
        2. Eliphaz’s concept of God’s dealing with men, 4:7-21
        3. Eliphaz applies the principle to Job, 5:1-7
        4. God’s benevolent purpose toward all men, 5:8-27
      2. Job’s first reply to Eliphaz, 6:1-7:21
        1. Job defends the violence of his complaint, 6:1-7
        2. Job cries out again for death, 6:8-13
        3. Job expresses disappointment at Eliphaz’s attitude, 6: 14-30
        4. Job renews his complaint, 7:1-21
          1. The pain and brevity of life, 7:1-10
          2. God’s treatment of him, 7:11-21
      3. The first speech of Bildad, 8:1-22
        1. The discriminating righteousness of God, 8:1-7
        2. The wisdom of the ancients, 8:8-19
        3. Summary and application to Job’s case, 8:20-22
      4. Job’s first reply to Bildad, 9:1-10:22
        1. A description of God’s majesty and might, 9:1-12
        2. The impossibility of man’s standing before God, 9:13-20
        3. The unjust character of God’s rule of the universe, 9:21-24
        4. Job, in despair, longs for an arbiter (umpire) between himself and God, 9:25-35
        5. Job complains of God’s treatment and searches for reasons for it, 10:1-17
        6. Finding no satisfactory reason Job again despairs of life, 10:18-22
      5. The first speech of Zophar, 11:1-20
        1. Zophar rebukes Job for his boastings, 11:1-4
        2. Zophar wishes that God would appear (to Job) and teach him wisdom, 11:5-6
        3. Zophar praises the wisdom of God, 11:7-12
        4. Zophar exhorts Job to repent, promising him a bright future for doing so, 11:13-20
      6. Job’s first reply to Zophar, 12:1-14:22
        1. Job sarcastically repudiates his friends’ wisdom, 12:1-6
        2. All creation testifies to God’s mighty sway, 12:7-12
        3. Job affirms the might and wisdom of God, 12:13-13:2
        4. Job accuses his friends of insincerity and falsehood, 13:3-12
        5. Job challenges God to hear his case, 13:13-22
        6. Job pleads his case before God, 13:23-14:12
          1. What are my iniquities? 13:23-28
          2. Why are you so concerned with a mere man in his sinful frailty? 14:1-6
          3. The hopeless state of death for man, 14:7-12
        7. Job longs for life after death, 14:13-17
        8. The futility of such longing, 14:18-22

Summary of the first cycle of speeches. To his friends’ profound argument of “God,” with which they had sought to silence him, Job responded that he did not need to be instructed concerning God. In fact he was not inferior to them in this knowledge. Thus Job had snatched from their hands the very weapon they had sought to use against him. Their argument based upon the character of God was exhausted, but Job’s problem was still far from being solved.

  1. The second cycle of speeches, 15:1-21:34
    Theme: The Fate of the Wicked

    1. The second speech of Eliphaz, 15:1-35
      1. Eliphaz rebukes Job for his assumed wisdom and his irreverence toward God, 15:1- 16
        1. Assumed wisdom, 15:1-11
        2. Irreverence toward God, 15:12-16
      2. Eliphaz instructs Job concerning the fate of the wicked, 15:17-35
        1. The source of his instruction 15:17-19
        2. The substance of his instruction, 15:20-35
          1. The condition of the wicked, 15:20-24
          2. The cause of his condition, 15:25-28
          3. The consequence of his condition, 15:29-35
    2. Job’s second reply to Eliphaz, 16:1-17:16
      1. Job is weary of vain talk, 16:1-5
      2. God and men have turned against Job, al­ though he is innocent, 16:6-17
      3. Faith in God and his righteousness struggles through Job’s feelings, 16:18-17:9
      4. Job repudiates the false hopes of recovery held out to him by his friends, 17:10-16
    3. Bildad’s second speech, 18:1-21
      1. Bildad rebukes Job for his harsh attitude toward his friends, 18:1-4
      2. Bildad describes the terrible fate of the wicked, 18:5-21
        1. The principle stated-the sinner’s light goes out, 18:5-7
        2. The progress of his downfall, 18:8-12
        3. The picture of his total destruction, 18:13-21
    4. Job’s second reply to Bildad, 19:1-29
      1. Job rebukes his friends and declares his innocence, 19:1-6
      2. A dark picture of God’s desertion and hostility, 19:7-12
      3. The alienation of men resulting from God’s attitude toward Job, 19:13-22
      4. Hopeless in the present, Job looks to the future, 19:23-27
      5. Job warns his friends, 19:28-29
    5. Zophar’s second speech, 20:1-29
      1. Zophar is aroused by Job’s attitude, 20:1-3
      2. Zophar instructs Job as to the fate of the wicked, 20:4-29
        1. The prosperity of the wicked is brief, 20:4-11
        2. The sinner’s sin is changed into his punishment, 20:12-19
        3. The sinner’s greed is sated at last with God’s judgments, 20:20-29
    6. Job’s second reply to Zophar, 21:1-34
      1. Job calls for silence on the part of his friends, 21:1-6
      2. Job’s experience relative to the fate of the wicked, 21:7-26
      3. Job summarizes and refutes the argument of his friends, 21:27-34

Summary of the second cycle of speeches. Again, as in the first cycle of speeches, Job has effectively refuted the basic argument of is three friends. Here they have drawn in great detail their pictures of the certain destruction of the wicked. Their purpose was to shock Job into a sensible (according to them) appraisal of his condition in order to draw from him a confession of his sin. But Job bluntly points out that the principles they have presented do not parallel his own observation and experience. The wicked do not always suffer. The problem of Job’s calamities is still unsolved.

  1. The third cycle of speeches, 22:1-31:40
    Theme: The Sinfulness of Job

    1. The third speech of Eliphaz, 22:1-30
      1. The reason for Job’s suffering (punishment) lies within himself, 22:1-5
      2. Eliphaz charges Job with specific sins, 22:6-11
      3. Eliphaz warns Job by pointing out again the fate of the wicked, 22:12-20
      4. Eliphaz appeals to Job to tum to God who will then bless him, 22:21-30
    2. Job’s third reply to Eliphaz, 23:1-24:25
      1. Job longs to come face to face with God, 23:1-9
      2. Job though innocent is terrified by God, 23:10-17
      3. Job presents further evidence of God’s indifference to the deeds of the wicked, 24:1-17
        1. Examples of those who sin openly, 24:1-12
        2. Examples of those who sin covertly, 24:13-17
      4. The traditional doctrine concerning the fate of wicked men, 24: 18-21
      5. The truth of the matter as Job sees it, 24:22-25
    3. The third speech of Bildad, 25:1-6
      1. The transcendence of God, 25:1-3
      2. The sinful nature of man, 25:4-6
    4. Job’s third reply to Bildad, 26:1-31:40
      1. Job sarcastically acknowledges Bildad’s help, 26:1-4
      2. Job also knows of God’s greatness, 26:5-14
      3. Job again protests his innocence, 27:1-6
      4. The hopeless condition of the wicked, 27:7-23
      5. Man cannot find true wisdom; it belongs only to God, 28:1-28
      6. A picture of Job’s previous position and prosperity, 29:1-25
      7. A pathetic picture of his present condition, 30:1-31
      8. Job’s oath of clearance, 31:1-40
        1. Job clears himself of secret, sensual desires, 31:1-12
        2. Job clears himself of any oppression or abuse of his power, 31:13-23
        3. Job clears himself of dishonesty in the sight of God or man, 31:24-40

Summary of the third cycle of speeches. With Job’s “oath of clearance” the third cycle ends. This chapter (31) fittingly concludes his ”argument” with his friends. In response to their charges of sin against him, he has taken a solemn oath that he stands guiltless before God and man. The friends have no more to say. The debate is over but Job’s perplexed and poignant cry, “Why?” is still unanswered.

  1. Elihu’s Solution to Job’s Problem, 32:1-37:24
    1. Elihu introduced, 32:1-5
    2. Elihu speaks to Job’s friends, 32:6-22
      1. His reasons for speaking, 32:6-20
      2. His speech is sincere, 32:21-22
    3. Elihu’s first speech to Job, 33:1-33
      1. He calls upon Job to answer him, 33:1-7
      2. He considers certain charges Job has made against God, 33:8-13
        1. God has charged Job unjustly, 33:8-11
        2. God cannot be found, 33:12-13
      3. He affirms that God speaks to men in many ways, 33:14-28
      4. He exhorts Job to heed God’s purpose in thus speaking to men, 33:29-33
    4. Elihu’s second speech to Job, 34: 1-37
      1. He appeals to his hearers, 34: 1-4
      2. He restates Job’s charge of injustice against God, 34:5-9
      3. He refutes the charge, 34:10-20
      4. He illustrates God’s justice in dealing with men, 34:21-33
      5. He condemns Job for his attitude toward God, 34:34-37
    5. Elihu’s third speech to Job, 35:1-16
      1. He restates Job’s complaint that godliness is of no avail to man, 35:1-4
      2. He refutes the principle of Job’s complaint, 35:5-8
      3. If men’s cries to God go unheeded, the fault is with man not God, 35:9-16
    6. Elihu’s fourth speech to Job, 36:1-37:24
      1. He calls for Job to listen further, 36:1-4
      2. God’s providential ordering of men’s affairs is for their good, 36:5-16
      3. He warns Job, 36:17-23
      4. He extols the incomprehensible greatness of God as seen in nature, 36:24-37:13
      5. He exhorts Job in the light of this great truth, 37:14-24

Summary of Part II: Job’s encounter with men has clearly demonstrated the inadequacy of human wisdom to solve many of life’s mysteries, and particularly, the problem of suffering in the life of a righteous man. Faced with the fact of suffering in Job’s life, his friends sought to solve his problem by forcing him to confess sin of which he was not guilty. They failed. Job himself sought a solution by looking for a flaw in God’s character. Such a solution only compounded his problem. Again, human wisdom failed. Elihu proposed a solution to Job’s problem arrived at on the basis of his own wisdom. He also failed. Human wisdom fails. But as is so often the case, when human wisdom fails, God’s wisdom can prevail. How this became a reality in Job’s experience is found in his encounter with God (38:1- 42:6).


  1. The Lord’s First Words From the Whirlwind, 38:1- 40:2
    1. Introductory summons to Job, 38:1-3
    2. The Lord’s wisdom as revealed in the realm of nature, 38:4-38
    3. The Lord’s wisdom as revealed in the realm of animal life, 38:39-39:30
    4. The Lord questions Job in the light of his (the Lord’s) revealed nature, 40:1-2
  2. Job’s Reply, 40:3-5
  3. The Lord’s Final Words From the Whirlwind, 40:6-41:34
    1. The Lord invites Job to assume the role of judge of the world, 40:6-14
    2. The Lord describes two monsters of his creation and questions Job concerning them, 40:15-41:34
      1. The hippopotamus, 40:15-24
      2. The crocodile, 41:1-34
  4. Job’s Reply, 42:1-6


  1. The Lord’s Verdict and Instructions Concerning Job’s Three Friends, 42:7-9
  2. The Lord Blesses Job, 42:10-17


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