Thursday, August 21, 2014

By the Skin of My Teeth

By Colleen Podmore


The well known saying ‘by the skin of my teeth?’ comes from the book of Job.

It means that the person has only just escaped from something. But do teeth have skin? Some people think that skin may refer to gums.

I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped only with/by the skin of my teeth” (Job 19:20)

Job has lost everything and has only just barely escaped death. He literally has only his skin and bones – everything else has been taken away.

Historical setting

The setting of Job nestles in nicely after Genesis 11, life after the destructive flood, but before Genesis 12 and the call of Abram –around 2000BC.

It says in Genesis 11:2 that people moved eastward and they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

Shinar means Babylonia – so probably around the region of modern day Iraq.

In Job 1:3, he is described as ‘the greatest man among all the people of the East’. But in addition it says he comes from the land of Uz, which was just east of the Jordon River, modern day Jordan, but not as far away as Iraq.   (Indeed Job describes himself in Job 29:1-25)

The book in the Old Testament of the Bible is named after Job and the story about Job is known as wisdom literature and therefore it’s grouped with the psalms, proverbs, Ecclesiastes and song of songs.

It is thought that the author of Job was an inspired Israelite because he uses Yahweh, the covenant name for God and that he drew on oral or other written sources and may have written the account around the time of King Solomon to before the exile.

The situation

Job’s wealth was legendary – but he lost it all.

In chapter one, we have a scene in heaven and a scene on earth. We won’t look at the scene in heaven – remember that Job and his friends had no idea what was going on in heaven, which explains the events that happen to Job.

Moving down to verse 14, we read about the first of four catastrophes in Job’s life – a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, …”

First his oxen and donkeys were raided and carried off and his servants were killed. There would be no crops planted that year or no harvest brought in.

Then down to verse 16, ‘another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants”. Maybe a lightning strike which killed all his sheep, which meant no wool for making clothes and blankets and to trade , no meat for food and no income!

In verse 17 we read that Job lost all his camels. “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off…” The servants were killed. Job may have used his camels to take his produce to market

The forth catastrophe verse 18, was perhaps the hardest for Job to bear - his children were killed. His children were his legacy. His name, which would live on through them, but now was effectively wiped out.

Job’s first test! Then we read after that, that he was also afflicted with painful sores on every part of his body –Job2:7


Job not only lost his livelihood, his name but he also suffered physically and later on we find he also suffered mentally when we read in chapter 13:21, Job pleading with God, “Withdraw your hand far from me, and stop frightening me with your terrors.”

Finally we could add to Job’s miseries – he had three friends who came to help him but just added to his suffering. Their advice seems well-meaning and full of wisdom but essentially they just advised Job to repent of his sin – because he must have done something wrong – and God would forgive him and all would be well!

Elihu went a bit further and agreed that Job must have sinned but perhaps God was using this experience to teach him something!

Would we give him any different advice?

What advice or help would we give Job?


Human perspectives on why people suffer

·         Agree with his three friends – Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar - if Job is suffering it is not because God is evil or unfair – it must be because Job has sinned and therefore is suffering because he is guilty.  (Conversely we can suffer through the consequences of sin)

·         Agree with Elihu – Job must be a sinner and God is punishing Job with the purpose of redeeming him. (Conversely God does discipline His children –Hebrews 12:5,6)

·         Agree with Job who claims to be innocent and agonises over why God is silent

Divine perspectives on why people suffer

·         Satan seeks to either alienate mankind from God – through temptation (Gen 3; Matt4)

·         Satan seeks to alienate God from mankind – through accusation. (His name is accuser –Zec3:1; Rev 12:10)

The accusation

Satan accuses Job of trusting God only because he is so blessed – take away the blessings and Job will no longer be righteous

Job never loses his faith. He shines in the dark. Although he agonises over the apparent silence of God, he believes one day he will be redeemed and see God – Job 13:18; 14:13-17; 16:19; 19:25-27.

Although he curses the day of his birth (Ch 3), he never curses God.


Finally, do you feel like you are suffering today and are not sure why? Then we as the people of God must pray and intercede. We must keep our theories to ourselves about why – we just don’t know.

If there is sin – repent. If there is chastisement then take it and learn from it. If it comes from the accuser then let us stand firm in our faith

Let us be vindicated by God and silence our accuser.

Let us agree with Job who says even though he slay me; yet will I trust Him ’ Job 13:15

No comments:

Post a Comment