By way of introduction, Job lived about the same time as Abraham, in similar circumstances, moving about in tents. Writing was “invented” long after people were talking, memorizing; handing on simple traditions orally. (It is amazing how exact; constant repetition) It helped to chant, “poetry”, repeat idea in different word. Made for beautiful language. We do not know who wrote the book itself. It is significant that the first book of the Bible to be written (because Abraham and Lot lived 500 years before Moses) had to do with the perennial problem of evil (the book that made CS Lewis popular was “The Problem of Pain”). The big argument of atheists is that God is neither all-powerful (hence not divine or more than we are) or all-loving, that allows so much evil, pain in the world. (The Christian reassurance is the plain promise of God that he never allows Satan to send more evil – for he is the author of all that is bad – than we can sustain, all of which makes us better, bigger, more God-like, which is God’s purpose in making man in the first place.)
One big value of the book of Job is that it moves the veil between the world that we know (with pain, etc.) and the invisible world, full of good and bad spirits, especially Satan and his myriad followers, helpers. The reason why Satan had an audience with God in the Old Testament is that until Jesus atoned for the sins of the world, the Accuser always had a case against us. After the atonement was made, he was thrown out of court.
In arriving at something of the correct answer to suffering, the Bible outlines all the usual explanations, by way of eliminating them; none applied to Job. For example, a sufferer sins and deserves what he gets. But too many innocent people suffer. Bear in mind, then, in reading Job, that everything that is offered by way of Job’s friends is not correct, or inspired.
Another big lesson in the book of Job is that trouble often comes to the person who is the least “guilty”, in order to reach somebody else who is more so. Job’s friends learned a lot by this whole experience. In the last chapter God tells Job to pray for his friends so that they could be blessed. And so a person sometimes lands in the hospital in order to be an influence for good to a roommate, a nurse, or whatever.
Even though the exact meaning of all of the book of Job is not clear, it is beautiful poetry, descriptions of nature and man’s thinking/experiences; in other words, it is a high form of human wisdom that does not have God’s explanation. And the book contains some great statements, such as the words of the solo, “I know that my Redeemer (vindicator) lives, and at the last day he will appear upon the earth; and in my flesh I shall see God.” (Job 19:25) God’s answers in Chapters 38-41 are especially beautiful.
The story ends almost like a fairy tale, too good to be true; Job comes out of his troubles to become richer than ever, with a larger family. Those of us who are not too troubled with the problems of sin and suffering could almost jump from the first 2 or 3 chapters and go directly to the last five.
It is always important for us to remember that when we are suffering (in whatever many forms it takes) God is not jumping for joy, but himself is sad, just as Jesus wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus, even though he knew that the death was necessary and that Lazarus would come out of the grave.