Earlier this year I worked on a project for Lexham Press that involved the book of Job. Since I had a deadline, there was a limit to the number of resources I could consult. These are the resources I utilized.
Talbert, Layton. Beyond Suffering: Discovering the Message of Job. Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 2007.
This is the first book that I would recommend to anyone beginning a study in Job. It’s not a commentary per se, and it doesn’t comment on detail on every verse (though see the endnotes for detailed interaction with the commentaries on key disputed points). Talbert’s book is a detailed, sequential guide to the book’s message and theology. It is the kind of book which the Puritans would have called experimental, meaning that Talbert desires for your study of Job to be transformative. Throughout he shows interpretative good sense—better interpretative sense than many of the commentators who wrote more detailed commentaries.
Ash, Christopher. Job: The Wisdom of the Cross. Edited by R. Kent Hughes. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014.
This is an excellent, accessible commentary on Job, full of good interpretive sense and gospel warmth. I found myself in agreement with Ash’s interpretations more often than with any other commentator except Talbert. I recommend anyone wanting to study Job to start with Talbert and Ash.
Andersen, Francis I. Job: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 14. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1976.
This is a helpful evangelical study of Job by a scholar skilled in Hebrew. He is honest enough to note when the Hebrew text is currently beyond our understanding. In general, his judgments are good, though I hold to a more positive view of Elihu. The condensed nature of the writing makes this commentary difficult at times.
Belcher, Richard P., Jr. Job: The Mystery of Suffering and God’s Sovereignty. Christian Focus, 2017.
I read this commentary along with the Job chapters in Finding Favour in the Sight of God: A Theology of Wisdom Literature, in New Studies in Biblical Theology. I found both the Job chapters in the NSBT volume and the commentary itself, which is very accessible, to be helpful guides to Job. I tended to agree Talbert and Ash over Belcher when they disagreed, but I still commend Belcher’s work.
Seow, C. L. Job 1–21: Interpretation and Commentary. Edited by C. L. Seow. Illuminations. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013.
This is a critical commentary, and the author is too willing to see Job’s theology as being at odds with orthodoxy. Nevertheless, it is a helpful commentary for the following reasons: Seow is attentive to cross references within Job and with other parts of the Bible, he documents the history of interpretation of book of Job as a whole as well as the history of interpretation of each individual passage, and he comments on the Hebrew text. This commentary is worth consulting with discernment for these three reasons.
Fyall, Robert S. Now My Eyes Have Seen You: Images of Creation and Evil in the Book of Job. New Studies in Biblical Theology. Edited by D. A. Carson. InterVarsity, 2002.
One common error in using ancient Near Eastern background materials as a tool for understanding the Old Testament is the insistence that the pagan worldviews of the cultures surrounding Israel are the hermeneutical key for rightly understanding the Old Testament. Fyall explicitly rejects this approach, even as he argued for the appropriation of elements of Ugaritic mythology for rhetorical purposes in the book. I still think that Fyall needed to do more to demonstrate that the author and characters of Job would have been aware of Ugaritic myths. Such an argument, while necessary to Fyall’s thesis, is difficult to make given the difficulty of dating the book of Job. However, Fyall’s argumentation was not limited to ANE background. He also did a fair bit of convincing intertextual work. In the end he shifted my thinking on Behemoth and Leviathan from being descriptions of natural animals (perhaps a dinosaur and a crocodile) to seeing something supernatural as being in view. Fyall links Behemoth with Mot, the god of death and Leviathan with the god Yam, which he links with Satan. For the reasons noted above, I think the links with Mot and Yam are dubious. I wonder if it is best to see Behemoth and Leviathan as two names for one beast, a dragon representing Satan. God’s speeches to Job thus conclude with a warning that Job is not capable of defeating Satan on his own. Only God can do that for him.
Lo, Alison. Job 28 as Rhetoric: An Analysis of Job 28 in the Context of Job 22–31. VTSup 97. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003.
Job 28 and the surrounding chapters have become a playground for critical scholars. For instance, Clines proposes moving Job 28 to the end of Elihu’s speeches (and ascribing it to Elihu). He, and other scholars, think that if the speech is Job’s, the book comes to too early of a resolution. Many critical scholars also think that parts of Job 26 and 27 are more consistent with the speeches of the friends than with Job’s speeches up to that point. They propose rearranging the text to extend Bildad’s brief speech or to create a third speech for Zophar. Lo defends the integrity of the text as it stands. For instance, regarding chapter 26, Lo acknowledges that Job’s praise of God’s greatness echoes Bildad’s similar statement in chapter 25–right after Job has forcefully rejected Bildad’s position in the early part of the chapter. Lo argues that Job uses similar wording to make a different point, namely, that God’s greatness means that the friends are speaking beyond their understanding. Lo argues that chapter 28 is a speech of Job’s in which he reaffirms his fear of the Lord and of that as the path to wisdom. However, this does not resolve the problem for him since fearing the Lord and doing right did not prevent his suffering. Job 28 is thus an important transitional chapter in the book, but the resolution to Job’s struggle still lies ahead. All in all, this is a very insightful treatment of a key section of the book.
Robert V. McCabe, “Elihu’s Contribution to the Thought of the Book of Job,” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal Volume 2 2 (1997): 47–80.
McCabe’s article is an insightful study of the importance that the Elihu discourses have in the book of Job. The Elihu speeches do several things. They delay the speeches of God, but in such a way as to prepare for them. McCabe thinks that Elihu has the same basic perspective as the friends. Thus his speeches summarize the friends’ position. Elihu also interacts with Job’s speeches directly, thus resurfacing his basic claims. Finally, Elihu anticipates elements of God’s speeches. In this way Elihu serves as an effective transition from the earlier speech cycles to God’s speeches.
Dunham, Kyle C. The Pious Sage in Job: Eliphaz in the Context of Wisdom Theodicy. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2016.
This book, a revision of Dunham’s ThD dissertation, surveys the history of interpretation related to Eliphaz, discusses him in relation to the Edomite wisdom tradition, and exegetes Eliphaz’s speeches.
Thomas, Derek. Proclaiming the Incomprehensible God: Calvin’s Teaching on Job. Mentor, 2004.
This book is a dissertation, and it reads like one. But it is a helpful study of Calvin’s treatment of Job.
Clines, David J. A. Job 1–20. Vol. 17. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1989. / Clines, David J. A. Job 21–37. Vol. 18a. Word Biblical Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006. / Clines, David J. A. Job 38–42. Vol. 18B. Word Biblical Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2011.
Clines’s massive three volume commentary on Job is considered a critical standard. He has detailed comments on the Hebrew text, and when key places or things occur in the text, the commentary becomes like a little Bible dictionary article. However, as I read the comments on the opening chapters I could tell that he was approaching the book from an Arminian theological viewpoint. As I read, I saw evidence of postmodern interpretive approaches at work. For instance, he interprets Job’s defense of his righteousness with a hostile, post-colonial hermeneutic of suspicion. Clines’s interpretation of the final chapters of the book hold that Job remained defiant to the end. My own sense was that Clines himself was angry with God. I can’t recommend this commentary and probably won’t use it again myself except to look at his grammatical notes on the Hebrew.
Dell, Katharine, and Will Kynes, eds. Reading Job Intertextually. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2013.
Given that the introduction to the book and the introduction to most essays give a state of the play in intertextuality discussions, this is a good introduction to that topic. Notably, there is an emphasis on reader-oriented intertextuality. However, when dealing with canonical intertextuality, these authors neglect that there is a single Author of Scripture. Thus, some of what they identify as reader-oriented or synchronic intertextuality is in reality Author-oriented intertextuality. Non-canonical reader-oriented textuality often seems as mundane as the recognition that we read texts with other things that we have read in mind and that such previous reading can spark insights into the text that we are currently reading that we may not have otherwise had. I don’t think that reality need be spun up into a theory about reader-created meaning.
Since many of the authors in this collection do not function with a theologically conservative understanding of Scripture, the value of the essays varies considerably. However, I was able to glean from them quite a number of cross-references between Job and the rest of Scripture which will be useful for future study.
Walton, John and Tremper Longman III, How to Read Job. InterVarsity, 2015.
This book was already in my Logos library, and I read it to evaluate whether it would be worth buying Walton’s or Longman’s commentaries on Job. I decided not to purchase them. This may be a bit unfair to Longman as I found his Job chapters in The Fear of the Lord is Wisdom to be helpful and, interestingly, sometimes at odds with this book. In general, I find that of there is a wrong interpretive position to take, Walton takes it—and often with an air of condescension toward conservatives who hold to traditional interpretations. Traditional interpretations are not right because they are traditional, but oftentimes they are traditional because of their exegetical and theological soundness.
“Dialogue between a Man and his God,” “A Sufferer’s Salvation,” “The Poem of the Righteous Sufferer,” “The Babylonian Theodicy,” “Man and his God,” The Context of Scripture, 1:485-95, 573-74.
These are Akkadian and a Sumerian text about Pious sufferers. They are like Job only on the broadest strokes. Several have a pious sufferer who is restored to prosperity. One has a dialogue between a sufferer and a friend (which seems generally friendly), and several describe suffering in which there is some overlap with Job. However, none of these are of the length or the literary and theological sophistication of Job.