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
II. The Dialogue 3:1-31:40
A. The First Cycle of Speeches 3:1-11:20
6:1-7:21 Job’s Second Speech: In 5:2 Eliphaz says “Vexation kills the fool” and here Job replies “O that my vexations were weighed..” Job claims his troubles exceed ordinary troubles. Elphaz claims God causes suffering in order to heal, Job asks God to kill him. If he dies, Job will at least not have “denied the words of the Holy One”. Eliphaz counsels patience, Job replies he is not able. In Job’s first speech he wondered why he was born, Now he wishes to die.
Verses 6:14-30 are addressed to Job’s friends. He asks them to show how he as done any wrong. In chapter 7 Job addresses God. Notice as we read through the book that while Job will address God, his friends do not. The friends only speak to Job. The first 6 verses describe the suffering of Job. Verse 7-11 are addressed directly to God. The Sea and the Dragon are monsters, opponents of God who need to be “guarded”. But Job is ” a breath” and humans not worth God’s attention (7:12-18). This is the opposite of Psalm 8. In verses 20-21 Job admits to sin (hypothetically or in actuality?) and asks how that can be a problem for God.
8:1-22 Bildad’s first discourse: Bildad begins by suggesting that Job has accused God of being unjust. Bildad, like Job’s other friends, believes sinful people suffer and the righteous do not. Job’s children are dead, and so must have sinned. Job is still alive and thus there is hope for Job if he will seek God, make supplication, and be pure and upright. Then in verses 11-22 a metaphor about plants is used to make Bildad’s point.
9:1-10:22 Job Replies: Notice Job’s statements about his powerlessness, his sense of being trapped and his feeling that God is after him. Chapter 9 begins with the imagery of a lawsuit. Who can prevail against God? Job or any mortal is not able. God is all powerful. God can do whatever God wants to do. Even is Job is innocent, he cannot prevail (9:20). Divine power and justice do not seem to work together. Chapter 10 ends with Job asking God to leave him alone.
The book of Job wrestles with very difficult questions. Job doesn’t let his friends get away with simplistic answers about suffering. What are your thoughts thus far?
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.