Can Job Be a True Story?

Jason Jackson
Is the book of Job an historical account? Or is it a fiction invented to teach a valuable lesson?

“Can Job be a true story or just a good story to illustrate the character of God? Or maybe it had some extra added onto it at one stage. I ask this due to the part at the beginning where God and Satan basically have a bet. I also don’t understand why a person (Satan in this case) would have a bet with God who knows everything?”

Let us first address whether or not the content of Job is historically authentic.

First, Job reads like history. It talks about a man named Job. He lived in the land of Uz. It relates details about his family, his life, and his suffering. It communicates to us his friends’ interest in his suffering, and the spiritual struggling with which Job dealt.

There is nothing about the content that ought to cause us to reject its historicity. It is not presented as figurative or symbolic. It is set forth as what actually happened.

Second, if we should reject Job as history merely because it contains matters which are extraordinary (e.g., God and Satan’s dialog; God talks to Job out of a whirlwind), then we ought to reject much of the rest of the Bible as well. In fact, the Bible, as an inspired document from God, would be rejected on the same grounds, because the idea that God reveals his will to man through the inspiration of the Scriptures is extraordinary.

It is not accurate to say: “The book of Job contains miraculous components; therefore, it is not historical in nature.” The same reasoning would demand that the record of Christ’s resurrection is not historically accurate — simply because it is miraculous.

The fact of the matter is, this world can not be explained without supernatural creation. If one dismisses the possibility of the miraculous, he has dismissed the only rational explanation for the origin of the Universe.

Third, other biblical writers refer to Job as a real person. Ezekiel refers to Job along with Noah and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14,20). And James draws upon the example of Job to comfort the suffering, proving the point that God is merciful. He commends the endurance of Job (Jas. 5:11).

It would not be very comforting if Job were nothing more than a “Jack and the Beanstalk” story. These biblical references alone authenticate Job as an historical person.

Fourth, the book of Job was a fixed document of the Old Testament centuries before the coming of Christ in the first century. Christ gave complete endorsement to the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament Scriptures (Lk. 24:44; Jn. 10:35).

Paul did as well (Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:14-16). In 1 Corinthians 3:19, Paul quotes from Job 5:13 with the words, “It is written,” a regular formula for the introduction of an inspired quotation.

As to the question about God and Satan’s dialog, consider the following.

First, God is in complete control. Satan had neither the power nor the authority to do anything without the permission of God. It was consistent with God’s nature and will for him to have allowed those things to happen to Job.

The Lord’s point to Job, at the end of the book, is that he is the all-powerful Creator. He is the loving Sustainer. And he is the perfect Ruler. He created the Universe, and he knows how to govern it as well.

Second, it is impossible to evaluate Satan’s behavior, as if he would do only what is rational. Because one does not understand why Satan behaved the way he did is certainly no reason to reject the account as being authentic. Human beings often do things that are irrational, and yet they are certainly real beings (cf. Ps. 14:1).

Further, the events regarding Satan’s “bet” with God demonstrate the true character of this despicable entity. His arrogance in the presence of Jehovah and his inability to “see” the future confirm that he is far removed from the divine nature.

Third, it would be unethical to represent something as literal history that never happened. Fabrications do not illustrate wonderful lessons about God. That kind of language belies a disdain for the fact of inspiration of the Bible. It is an attempt to diminish the authority of Scripture.

There is no such thing as a pious fraud. Job, like many other parts of Scripture that describe miraculous events, is presented as straightforward history.

I do not imply that there are not figurative passages in the Bible. The figurative language of Scripture is not to be equated, however, with the idea that something that never happened can be represented as literal history in God’s Word.