Throughout this year I am examining a book called The Messiah in the Old Testament by Walter Kaiser, of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He attempts to illustrate how OT texts show that the Messiah, God’s anointed savior, has been a part of God’s plan from the start. In this installment, I share Kaiser’s observations from the book of Job.
In my own opinion, Job should be treated as a post-exilic work. I believe Job is a parable and possibly the compilation of different works. The events of the book may be rooted in a historic person named Job, but the greater message of the work speaks to how readers engage with God during times of immense suffering. It is a mistake to too quickly say, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Yes, Job says that (1:21), but then he spends many chapters expressing extreme bitterness. One who claims Job suffered with dignity and never indicted God is one who stopped reading after chapter 2.
Are there hints of Messianic faith in Job? Here is Kaiser’s evidence: first, he mentions 9:33. Job complains “there is no umpire between us” (between himself and God). The word umpire is one who would arbitrate between Job and God. He suffers unjustly and God lets it happen, but how can he, a mere mortal, bring his case against Almighty God? An umpire or arbitrator would speak on Job’s behalf.
Second, Kaiser mentions 16:19-21, where Job sounds more hopeful. “My witness is in heaven and he … vouches for me … on high. He would maintain the right of a mortal with God as one does for a neighbor.” In referring to terms witness and neighbor, Kaiser says the text indicates ideas like an intercessor and even a friend (Kaiser, p. 63).
Kaiser’s third identification of passages in Job that hint at Messianic theology is 19:25-27. “I know that my redeemer lives and at the last he will stand upon on the earth.” Kaiser unabashedly asserts that Job anticipates an end-times living person on earth who can and will vindicate him and redeem him from his myriad troubles. Resurrection theology developed gradually over the course of Israel’s history and is not uniformly presented in the OT. This is one reason I am hesitant to locate Job (in its final form) in the era of Abraham. Kaiser does not insist Job lived at that time either, by the way. However, regardless of when he lived, this passage, Job 19:25-27, clearly asserts hope, a hope rooted in the belief that a savior will speak on Job’s behalf.
The fourth example from Job comes not from Job’s speech but that of Elihu in Job 33:23-28. Kaiser notes that in these verses “is a call for a messenger who will act as an interpreter” (Kaiser, p.64). The end result of this interpreter’s work is that the sufferer (in this case Job) will be redeemed from “the Pit” and shall again “see the light.” Like the redeemer passage (19:25-27), here is a reference to a last-day salvation.
From these hopeful passages, scattered throughout the dark world of suffering presented in the book of Job, Kaiser sees seeds of Messianic hope. “The Messiah will be an arbitrator, a mediator, a heavenly advocate and witness, a redeemer, and an interpreter of the enigmas of life” (Kaiser, p.64). The New Testament, especially the book of Hebrews, presents Christ in all these roles.