Like all great literature, the book of Job is not a simple “read”. It deals with the serious and difficult problem of suffering, especially undeserved suffering but does not offer an easy, simple answer.
We do not know who wrote the book of Job and we do not know when the book was written. The text does not give any historical clues. Scholars date it between the 7th and 4th century BCE. But understanding the text does not depend on geography, authorship, or date.
Because chapters 1-2 and 42:7-17 are written prose and fairly simple prose, while the rest of the book is poetry in sophisticated and complex language many believe that the book as we presently have it is a combination of two works.
Many commentators recommend reading Job as a work of fiction or as a play. This can help readers avoid being distracted by questions of”did it happen”. Rather we can focus on what does this text have to tell us.
[ Of the resources listed below, the section in Thomas Long’s book “Interlude- Howl:Job and the Whirlwind” is perhaps the most accessible and helpful overviews of the book of Job.]
Outline of Job (based on Good)
I. The Opening Tale 1:1-2:13
II. The Dialogue 3:1-31:40
A. The First Cycle of Speeches 3:1-11:20
B. The Second Cycle of Speeches 12:1-20:29
C. The Third Cycle of Speeches 21:1-28:28
D. Job’s Summation 29:1-31:40
III. The Speeches of Elihu 32:1-37:24
IV. Dialogue with Yahweh 38:1-42:6
V. The Closing Tale 42:7-17
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.