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How to Read Job

how to read job

The book of Job has always been a difficult book for me to read–from the long (seemingly boring) monologues of Job’s friends to the questions that are raised in one’s mind about the fairness of Job’s situation. How to Read Job by John H. Walton and Tremper Longman III is a new resource that aims to help us better understand this complex book.

Our Review

Walton and Longman are both established Old Testament scholars, and their insights are certainly valuable in this volume. And, although they are established OT scholars and the book comes from IVP’s academic imprint, How to Read Job is readable at many levels. As a seminary student, I found it to be a solid introduction to reading Job. Pastors would benefit from How to Read Job as part of their preparation to preach or teach through the book of Job. Thoughtful congregants wanting to dig into Job in their personal study would find this to be a readable volume as well.

The Book is divided into four parts:

  1. Reading Job as Literature,
  2. Getting to Know the Characters of the Book of Job,
  3. The Theological Message of the Book of Job, and
  4. Reading Job as a Christian.

A significant strength, in my opinion, is the presence of Walton’s trademark emphasis on ancient Near Eastern backgrounds. Chapter 3 is dedicated to this, but there are also insights regarding ANE backgrounds interwoven throughout.

The true strength of this volume is found in Part 4 (Reading Job as a Christian). How to Read Job not only aims to give a better understanding of Job within its ancient context of the Old Testament world, but also to give the reader a practical, applicable understanding of Job as Christians in the 21st century. As Walton and Longman point out, in order to gain as full of an understanding as possible, we ought to read the book of Job twice–first, doing our best to read it through an ancient lens, focusing on what the original audience may have understood; second, reading the text in light of the revelation of the New Testament, which is now a part of the same canon as Job.

Unfortunately, the appendix, which lists commentaries on Job, isn’t very extensive, and I think it could have been bolstered by including additional commentaries, and perhaps other resources/monographs. But, this, of course, is only a technical weakness.

So, is Job a book that we ought to readily go to in times of suffering? Does it provide comfort? To begin the book, Walton and Longman suggest that those who do approach the book in this way are often left unsatisfied, essentially because “their expectations are misguided” (p.13). Near the end of the book, they pose this question, answering: “When understood in the way that we have discussed above, the short answer, of course, is no–and it is not designed to do so” (p.169). But, one of the great benefits of this book is that it does not end there. The final chapter is “Applying the Book of Job,” which is certainly needed in a book of this sort. Without application, we are left wondering, “So what?”

Considering the intimidation that the book of Job poses to some readers, this volume is a welcomed addition to IVP’s ‘How to Read’ Series (which also includes volumes on Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, and Proverbs).


Applicable points that stood out from page 187 of the book, from the chapter “Applying the Book of Job”

  • “Refrain from all attempts to manipulate God, because when we think about God that way, we diminish him. We must adopt a view of God that respects his wisdom.”
  • “If we seek to elevate ourselves higher than God, we will end up with a God not worthy of our worship.”
  • “We should strive to have a righteousness that is not based on the benefits we receive but is founded in the worthiness of God.”

Official Product Description

how to read jobWe often turn to the book of Job when we encounter suffering. We look for an explanation for the questions “Why me?” or “Why her?” But what if it turns out that although Job does suffer, the book is not really about his suffering?

If ever a book needed a “How to Read” instruction manual, it is the book of Job. And when two respected Old Testament scholars team up—both of whom have written commentaries on Job—we have a matchless guide to reading and appreciating the book. From their analysis of its place in the wisdom literature of the Bible and the ancient Near East to their discussions of its literary features and relationship to history, Walton and Longman give us the best of their expertise. They explore the theology of Job, placing it within Israelite religion and Old Testament theology. And they coach us in how to read Job as Christians. When it turns out the book is not what we thought it was, our reading is richly layered and more satisfying.

Whether you are preparing for preaching, teaching, leading a Bible study, studying for a class or for personal enrichment, How to Read Job is your starting point.

  • Karen Bayer

    The Book of Job is very simple to interpret. It’s a book of … “What Not To Do When Tested.” The Lord did NOT test Job. He allowed himself to be tested. The hedge was put up around him for LIFE but Job punched a hole in his own hedge by his own fear, doubt and unbelief.

    Case in point — In all of Ch. 1, not ONCE do we see him look up to the sky and actually ASK for help. Instead, he starts chopping, burning and chanting … chopping, burning and chanting … like the heathen do, with vain repetitions. He repeats the problem over and over. He was not asking for help IN FAITH. He was practicing ANTI-FAITH.

    When was the last time you prayed like this? … It may be my kids will get shot at school … It may be my house will burn down … It may be my kids have cursed God. His anti-faith chanting DID NOT qualify as “prayer.” See Matt. Chs. 6 & 7.


    Further, this poor man did not know God at all. In Ch. 9 he said … “God runs over me again and again … He pours out my kidneys to the ground … He tears me to pieces with His teeth.” Excuse me????

    No one else in all the Bible ever said such ignorant things about God. In fact, in the last chapter HE ADMITS he knew nothing of God at all. He said, “I’ve only HEARD things about You, but now my eye sees you.”

    Job was a very good and decent man who lived in heathen territory. He had no one to teach him how to pray correctly.

    Most telling of all, he said in Ch. 9.16 … “If I summoned Him and He answered me, I still would not believe that He was listening to my voice.”

    What’s the first tenet of a relationship with God? Answer: We must believe that He hears us and only through FAITH can we access Him.

    But Job said, “Even if He shows up in front of my face, I still wouldn’t believe He’d want to help me.” This was his opinion of God in Ch.1 and remained his opinion to the last chapter.

    There’s no big mystery here! He never got any help because he never asked for any.

    And by the way … God never said … “Have you considered my servant Job…?”

    The Original Hebrew Text states nothing of the sort. The true statement was …”Be careful of my servant Job.” … God never asked Satan a question here. Rather, he was giving him a deadly warning.

    Since the OT is the intellectual property of the Sovereign State of Israel, I’m not sure why the English translators (and Bible corporations around the world) would dare to bastardize such an important verse. God never said anything such thing.

    It’s obvious to me that whole doctrines have been concocted based on scriptures and concepts that do not exist … specifically the “testing” doctrine. God did not test Job, nor allow him to be tested … therefore, He will not test you! And why would He? To make your life more difficult than it already is? LOL

    • @karenbayer:disqus Quite the response … THANK YOU! So it doesn’t appear that you’re in disagreement with anything that was written in this book review? 😀

      And are you familiar with Walton’s work on the book of Job??

      • Karen Bayer

        Good morning Jason “>). No, I haven’t read Mr. Walton’s book and frankly, I’m afraid to, because general interpretations on Job as so skewed, I would probably flip my lid. My post above was more of a “public service announcement” to anyone who’s been duped into the “God will test you” thing. But I do hope that Mr. Walton has something new to say on Job. “>( Regarding the “testing” doctrine, whole verses were also altered in the NT, the proof of which is all over the Original Greek texts as well. What a shame.

        • I asked because I think you two talk in the same vein … I think you two would absolutely enjoy discussing this together. I’d highly, highly encourage you to pick up this book if you have any interest in this title. You’re two rafts floating in the same stream and I’d love to see you two discuss this beautiful book together!

          • Karen Bayer

            Wow, really? That’s really good to now, Jason. I think I will pick up a copy. I’ll go on Amazon! Thanks! “>) Lovely to hear from you.

          • @karenbayer:disqus And great to hear from you as well! Walton has a great commentary on Job (NIVAC) that is worth a look (and probably just about the same price). Check that out here: