You will find an introduction and outline of Job, here.
A prayer to use before reading, from Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274) a prominent theologian of the medieval period.
Outline of Job (based on Good)
I. The Opening Tale 1:1-2:13
The prologue, or opening tale is arraigned in six scenes. The first (1:1-5) describes Job, the last (2:11-13) describes the arrival of Job’s friends and their seven silent days. In between the episodes alternate between earth and heaven.
Notice that the first verse has the feel of a folktale, “There once was a man…”. Uz is Edom, so Job is not an Israelite but does worship the one true God. Verses 1:6-12 are the first scene in the heavenly court. “Satan” is not the devil or Satan of later Christianity. The Hebrew is “the Satan” indicating a title, not a proper name. “The Satan” could also be translated as “Prosecutor” or “Adversary”. He is the adversary of humans but not of God. Verse 9 has the pivotal question, does Job, or any human serve God because of what they receive from God?
Verses 1:13-22 tell of Job’s first calamity. Four disasters strike from the four directions. But Job does not curse God.
Verses 2:1-7a are the second scene in God’s heavenly court. Once again God comments on Job’s faithfulness and the adversary responds with a request for Job to personally be afflicted.
Verses 7b-10 Now Job is physically afflicted. The words of Job’s wife”Curse God and die”, in the Hebrew text are “Bless God…” (as also in 1:5) Some scholars claim this is euphemism, the author is avoiding saying the unacceptable-cursing the deity. Others think the literal bless should be maintained and that Job’s wife wishes to shorten his suffering. In any case, Job does not sin and does not curse God.The adversary’s claim is disproven. The adversary does not appear in the book again.
Verses 11-13 Job’s friends come, also not Israelites, come and observe rituals of mourning as if Job were dead.
In the Introduction to Job we said that commentators suggest reading this text as a play or work of fiction and this approach, rather than reading this as historical fact, helps us manage the difficult presentation of God. All the characters are in some sense exaggerations. Job is unbelievably perfect and the disasters that strike him and his family strain credulity. The story presents God as bragging about Job and then boxed in or tricked by the adversary. All this has the feel of a play or tale rather than being a description of historical events. To read Job as play rather than history is not to deny the truth within the story. Rather the story provides the vehicle for the truth to be discussed and revealed.
II. The Dialogue 3:1-31:40
A. The First Cycle of Speeches 3:1-11:20
3:1-26 Job speaks: Job does not curse God, but he does curse the day he was born. In three sections, Job wishes he had not been conceived or born, wishes he had died at birth, and finally wishes he could die now. This section if filled with the question, “why”? But mostly Job asks why he was born, and not why he is suffering.
4:1-5:27 Eliphaz speaks.” This is the longest and most elaborate of the friend’s speeches.” (Good,373) Eliphaz begins gently in 4: 1-4. In verses 7-11 Eliphaz presents the traditional understanding of suffering, the righteous are rewarded and the wicked suffer. Good again, “The suffering of the innocent or the happiness of the wicked are contradictions in terms. If suffering is punishment for wickedness, a sign of the deity’s just handling of human affairs, there can be no undeserved suffering. ” (Good, 374) Job is a good man, a pious man, but not perfect and so Job needs to admit his sin. In verses 5:1-7, suffering is to be expected. In 5:8-16 Eliphaz describes God as the one who reverses fortunes. Verses 17-27 God as the one who disciplines but also redeems and restores.
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of the Job
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Clines, David J.A. “Job” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version.Coogan, Michael D.; Brettler, Marc Z.; Perkins, Pheme; Newsom, Carol A. (2010-01-20) Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
Good, Edwin M. “Job” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
Long, Thomas G. What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith (Grand Rapids MI:Wm B. Eerdmans) 2011.
Newsom, Carol A. “Job”,in The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol 3, Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 1996.