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How long was Job’s suffering?

Job suffering
Question: "How long was Job’s suffering?"

The patience of Job is remarkable. James 5:11 speaks of Job’s endurance in his affliction: “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.” The words perseverance and finally might seem to suggest a long period of time, but the fact is that the Bible does not specify how long Job suffered.

We know that Job suffered for more than a week, at least. Job 2:13 says that, when Job’s three friends arrived, “they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights” in total silence. To these seven silent days we add time for the Job’s friends to hear news of the tragedy, meet together, and travel to Job’s place: when “Job’s three friends . . . heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him” (Job 2:11). How long did it take for the bad news to reach Job’s friends? How long did it take the friends to prepare to travel and then make the trip? Scripture doesn’t give any indication.

To the travel time and the “silent” week, we add time for the dialogue that follows in Job 3—37. After that, we have God’s stormy questions in Job 38—41, God’s rebuke of Job’s three friends, and the sacrifice of seven bulls and seven rams in Job 42. It is “after Job had prayed for his friends” (Job 42:10) that the Lord restores Job’s fortunes. Another consideration is Job’s complaint in Job 7:3: “I have been allotted months of futility, and nights of misery have been assigned to me.” The “months” here could be literal months that Job had already suffered; but “months” could also be Job’s pessimistic prognosis (he foresaw months of pain ahead), or it could simply be an expression of how time seemed to drag on (the days seemed to last “months” because of his suffering).

We have even more variables in trying to determine how long Job suffered: how long did the dialogues between Job and his friends take? Did God step in immediately after Job’s final speech in Job 37? How long did it take for Job’s friends to offer the sacrifices? Was God’s restoration immediate, or gradual? Again, the Bible is silent concerning those questions. If Job’s friends lived close by, and if the dialogues all took place on the same day, and if God’s revelation occurred immediately following, and if Job’s friends did not delay in making things right, then it’s possible that Job’s suffering would have lasted for eight or nine days. However, if there were gaps between any of those events, or if Job’s friends lived farther away, or if Job 7:3 refers to literal months, Job’s suffering could have lasted much longer.

No matter how long Job actually suffered, it likely felt like an eternity to him. But Job was patient and endured to see God’s blessing after the test: “[The Lord] gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). Job thus models the patience we should all have, and his story becomes an illustration of the reward we await: “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Recommended Resource: Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance by Charles Swindoll

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