Job: Parallels with the Savior


“Behold,” wrote James, “we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job” (James 5:11). Job’s ability to endure was later referred to by the Lord himself, when he said to Joseph Smith (who was unjustly confined in Liberty Jail), “Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job” (D&C 121:10).

Why are such distinctions given to Job? Surely he serves as an example, and reference to his life gives one hope in building patience, endurance, and faith. But, as we shall see, Job’s example is extremely distinctive, for in his life we find a type of some of the most distinctive and divine traits of the Savior.

Jacob taught, “Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him” (2 Ne. 11:4).

The Lord often uses types (patterns or symbols) in teaching his children. These types can enlighten us and can bear powerful witness of the Lord’s love for us. Two good examples of such teaching devices are the Liahona and the account of Abraham’s response to the command to sacrifice Isaac. Through the Liahona, Lehi’s people learned—and we can learn—the need to obey God. Abraham’s sacrifice typified the sacrifice of the Son, Jesus Christ, by his Father. To say that Job’s life is a type, then, is not to say he was manipulated to make an example; it is to say, rather, that Job holds a place of great honor—and his endurance and faith were so significant that they prefigure the endurance and faith of the Savior.

No mortal has lived the kind of perfect life lived by the Savior, the only perfect being to walk the earth. Yet certain striking parallels to the Savior’s life are found in Job’s experience, and these parallels bring both dignity and depth to the man whose name heads a book of scripture.

In the first chapter of Job, We are told there was “none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man” (Job 1:8). This is also an excellent description of the Savior. He was perfect, and his life and mission made him unlike any other man.

Job soon loses all that he has. Whereas before he said “I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, as one that comforteth the mourners” (Job 29:25), now he says, “But now they that are younger than I have me in derision” (Job 30:1).

Similarly, in the premortal existence the Savior was king, the Creator of the earth, but when he condescended to be born upon the earth, he (in a sense like Job) lost all prior status; the time came that he was held “in derision” by those unworthy of his presence.

The early chapters of Job record that Satan was allowed to tempt him: “And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life” (Job 2:6). The Father also allowed Christ to be tried: “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18); “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). One wonders why Job, a man of such goodness, should be tried so severely; perhaps there are answers in his parallel with the Savior, who was so good and sinless, yet who was also allowed to be tried and afflicted.

Job felt at one point that he was a stranger in his own house. “My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me. They that dwell in mine house … count me for a stranger” (Job 19:14–15). Jesus too became a stranger in his own house, for the children of Israel knew him not. Though he walked among them, they would not claim kinship. Those of his home community of Nazareth rejected him.

Job again walked a path the Savior would tread more deeply when he suffered the philosophical attack and ridicule of his peers Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. The Savior too was challenged by his contemporaries (though not friends), who claimed that his doctrine “missed the mark” of the ancient prophets. He bore witness of the truth, but his words were rejected as false and foolish.

Job’s physical anguish included “sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown” (Job 2:7). In mental anguish he asked, “Why died I not from the womb?” (Job 3:11). The Savior revealed that his own suffering “caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink” (D&C 19:18). On the cross he cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Thus, the Savior’s own suffering brought to a fullness the limited suffering of mind and body of which Job, in his misery, had but a foretaste. Yet Job stood again as a type of one greater than he, yet to come.

“A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3) characterized Job just as it did the Savior. Yet amidst the pain and anguish, this great prophet (like the Savior he served) had an incredible trust in God: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). Well might this thought have passed through the mind of the Savior as he sensed the withdrawing of the Father’s spirit in Gethsemane.

Mortal sorrow and suffering could not break the testimony of Job. This is his witness: “Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:23–26). Despite his suffering, Job submitted himself to God’s will—“The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord,” he said (Job 1:21). Similarly, the Savior testified of the truth: “This is the word of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29); and he endured the suffering as he sought to do his Father’s will (see Luke 22:42).

“God hath delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over into the hands of the wicked”—this would be a fitting summary of what happened when the Savior was crucified, yet it was spoken by Job (Job 16:11). “They have gaped upon me with their mouth; they have smitten me upon the cheek” (Job 16:10) is another statement by Job that is very applicable to the Savior.

We are told that “the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends” (Job 42:10), friends who had symbolically crucified him with words. Jesus prayed for the soldiers who, by military order, had literally crucified him: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

When Job had triumphed in endurance, “the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” and “the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:10, 12). Following his death, Christ was resurrected and restored to his former station of Godhood, having filled the mortal role for which only he was qualified. And the closing record of Job indicates that there were none in all the land so fair as the daughters and sons of Job (see Job 42:15). How fair are the sons and daughters of Jesus Christ, those who accept him as the Savior and keep his commandments—fairer than any in all the land.

“After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations” (Job 42:16).

“So Job died, being old and full of days” (Job 42:17), his own life enriched by events that—like certain events in the lives of some other prophets—served as a type and a shadow in anticipation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

[illustrations] Engravings by Gustave Dore.

S. Brent Farley, a seminary director in the Church Education System, serves as executive secretary in the Mission Viejo California Stake.