Book Notice: How to Read Job

John Walton & Tremper Longman
How to Read Job
Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015.
Available at Amazon.com

By Lauren Weatherake

John H. Walton and Tremper Longman III’s book, ‘How to Read Job’ provides refreshing new insights for its readers as these prolific Old Testament scholars go against the grain and reject the idea that the book of Job should simply be read as a manual for how to deal with suffering as they open with the statement that those who approach the book this way “too often find the book unsatisfying” (p. 13). Walton and Longman instead contend that the focus of the book of Job is its teaching on the sovereignty and wisdom of God amidst the seeming unpredictability of the world. They achieve this through providing insights on specific features within the book in addition to exploring the book’s overall theological message. To argue their position, Walton and Longman divide their book into four parts.

Part one explores the idea of reading Job through the lens of its literary form, part of which includes an exploration of the context of the Ancient Near East and a comparison conducted between Job and other similar literature of the time. Walton and Longman articulate that while the book of Job presents virtue as the avenue through which to please God, Ancient Near East literature places the focus on ritual as an equivalent avenue. In part two, Walton and Longman provide a detailed analysis of each character in the book including a contention that the identity of ‘the satan’ is most likely not ‘Satan’ of the New Testament and that Job’s ‘advocate’ is not referring to Jesus, which stands in opposition to the view of other prominent scholars. In regards to Job’s friends and advisors, Walton and Longman argue that the speeches of Job’s friends should be read in light of the narrative as opposed to other scholars who argue that the speeches and the narrative should be read independent of one another.

Part three involves Walton and Longman’s survey of the theological message of the book in which a thought-provoking discussion about the presentation of the afterlife ensures, arguing that Job did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. In this section, Walton and Longman also explore the issue of suffering, contending that the teaching of the book asserts that God’s followers should pray through suffering and that God in His wisdom will respond. Walton and Longman conclude their book in part four by exploring how Christians should apply the book today on a practical level. Despite Walton and Longman’s rejection of Job as a manual for suffering I appreciated their insight that the book is helpful to read in preparation for suffering, comparing this to “contributing to a savings account so financial crisis in the future can be avoided” (p. 180). Overall, Walton and Longman do indeed achieve their intended purpose, through an exploration of literary, character, theological and practical analysis, of encouraging those who read Job to come away “striving to be people who would serve God for nothing” (p. 187) because of His supreme wisdom and sovereignty.

Lauren is studying full time at Ridley College in Melbourne in addition to working as a high school teacher. She is also involved in leading a young adults Bible study group at her home church and enjoys teaching the Bible to others and helping them explore what the text meant for the original readers and what it means for us today.

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