The Book of Job is arguably one of the most misunderstood and abused books of Scripture. Dr. Hywel R. Jones's commentary is a helpful, insightful, and delightful resource. The book of Job "is not about the problem of human suffering in the world at large, but about the suffering of the godly in a fallen world over which God yet reigns supreme" (27-28). Jones unpacks fifty years of pastoral experience, academic excellence, and personal reflection in this illuminating commentary.
Why study Job? Jones comments on his intended purpose and audience, and he delivers in spades on all counts:
Job belongs primarily to the Christian church…but it provides a ready-made point of contact with unchurched people. There are now so many who have lost their way, either because they do not ask the big questions about life, or because they are swamped by the fact that there seem to be no real answers to them. By its presentation of both the grim realities of human existence and the wonder of divine grace, the book has something to say to any who would consult it seriously. It therefore supplies excellent material for lively and relevant preaching to people of every culture, not only by way of edification, but also evangelism. (10)
The Book of Job is a bit of mystery, but it is also accessible. Dr. Jones unfolds Job by means of the analogy of Scripture. Jones's insight regarding the perspectives of the story told from various realms-the heavenly court, the earth, the friends' perspective, Job's perspective, etc.-in light of the canon are germane to a full-orbed understanding of the book. For example, Jones begins and ends the commentary by interpreting Job in light of James (particularly James 5:10-11). In addition, unique and recurring thematic insights into Job are gleaned through Jones's understanding that Job is "wisdom literature with elements from law-court literature." "There is no denying that the book of Job records a trial. It has a prosecutor, a defendant and a judge. In fact, it operates like this on more than one level" (23). The manner in which Jones unpacks this trial throughout his volume is poignant and elucidating. Without intending to sound trivial, this commentary is akin to a legal thriller/page-turner because of the content of the drama and Jones's deep understanding of form, function, and flow.
The entire commentary is worth digesting. There are, however, three sections in particular I would like to mention. First, Jones's careful analysis and teaching regarding what happens "behind the scenes (Job 1:6-12)," at least for this writer, was a clearing (47-56). Not only were my perspectives altered of Job the man and the Book of Job, but my appreciation for the sovereignty of God and my theology were transformed. If you have been under the impression by what you have read or heard that God "threw Job under the bus" or if you have listened to (or read) countless "spin" trying to comprehend what is happening in the heavenly court, then I commend this commentary to you, unequivocally, to clear the confusion.
Second, Jones's treatment of Elihu as a "man of God" rather than an enfant terrible is excellent. Jones notes that the years of criticism leveled against Elihu are unwarranted (228).
He makes a simple, clear, and convincing case for regarding Elihu as a type of prophet, similar to John the Baptist, preparing the way for the redeemer. Jones does not belabor the arguments regarding the historicity, placement, and style of the speeches of Elihu nor does he ignore them.
Finally, the christological and soteriological insights in this commentary are legion. The commentary acknowledges the sovereignty of God from beginning to end.
Job may be the chief human actor in the drama, so to speak, but Jehovah is the chief agent in the history that this book records. The narrative is related to the message of his sovereign, redeeming grace toward his people-and that is the theme of the whole Bible. Whatever else must be acknowledged in these chapters, the grace of the LORD is paramount. (262)
The story is about God redeeming his people; the story is about his promise. "The book is both biographical and theological. It records human history and redemptive history and, therefore, has a messianic focus" (24).
Jones's pastoral demeanor, abundant wisdom, and seasoned grace are ubiquitous throughout his treatment of Job, Job's wife, and Job's friends. Jones does not paint with a large brush that blots out the nuances and subtleties of these relationships, and he avoids the harsh judgments and character attacks that are otherwise easy fodder. Jones, however, does not give the "players" a free ride. For example, he notes in reference to Job's wife, "It should also be remembered that the children that died were not only Job's but hers too! A mother's grief and a wife's sorrow are therefore present in these intemperate and unwise words. In addition, we need to realize that Job held out only a little longer than she did….Frailty, and not folly, is what is evidenced here" (68). The commentary is chockfull of similar insights and wisdom. Jones concludes:
This commentary has sought to demonstrate that the point of the book is not to answer the problem of suffering but to consider, as the New Testament says, 'the purpose of the LORD' with regard to Job, and so to encourage all Christian sufferers. It is not a fairy story, or a fable, but an epic of believing bravery, just like the heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11, who 'by faith' obtained something better and 'of whom the world was not worthy'. As such, Job is a remarkable and an enduring success. (289)
So too is this wonderful commentary.