Job Bible Commentary: Interview with Richard Belcher

Richard Belcher, Jr. (Phd. Westminster Theological Seminary) is the John D. and Frances M. Gwin Professor of Old Testament and the Academic Dean at both RTS Charlotte and RTS Atlanta. He is an ordained minister in the PCA and pastored an urban nondenominational church in Rochester, NY for ten years before pursuing the Phd.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Job?

My PhD work was done in the area of Wisdom Literature. My dissertation examined the breakdown of the deed-consequence relationship in Ecclesiastes. This relationship is prominent in wisdom literature. Proverbs teaches a nuanced view of the deed-consequence relationship. It does not guarantee that blessings will go to the wise, but there is a clear connection between the two. If a person does not understand how a proverb works, it is easy to draw inappropriate conclusions about the deed-consequence relationship. Job and his friends wrestle with this problem because the friends draw the conclusion that Job must be suffering because of sin he has committed. The reader knows from chapters 1-2 that Job is not suffering because of sin. The book pushes the reader to wrestle with the question of innocent suffering and God’s sovereignty.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

This commentary seeks to explain the many speeches in the book of Job and shows how they relate to the overall message of the book. It is easy to get lost in the argument as it goes back and forth. The commentary would be great benefit to pastors as they try to understand the book of Job to preach from it. Students would benefit from it if they study the book of Job. It is not a technical commentary and so lay Christians should be able to understand it. There are Study Questions after each chapter that makes it useful for a Bible study. It could also be used for devotions as someone reads through the book of Job.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Job?

There is something unique in this commentary that very few commentaries have. A personal story of suffering is told as one reads the commentary. Nik and Lindsay Franks had a son named Pierce born April 12, 2011 at 23 weeks. He was born almost seventeen weeks premature and was not supposed to live. Nik and Lindsay wrote each day concerning their struggles and reported on Pierce’s condition. After each chapter of the commentary their story unfolds until the day Pierce is released from the hospital. This personal example of suffering puts a human touch on the discussion of suffering that unfolds in the commentary

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

The speeches of Job show that a person who is suffering is not always consistent in how they respond. Job is deep in despair at times and sees no hope. These times of despair come when he is talking with his friends and they are accusing him of sin as a reason for his suffering. Job also wrestles with his relationship with God and his negative perception of how God is treating him. As the drama unfolds, it is fascinating to see how Job’s hope grows stronger even in his despair. He begins to see that God is his only hope even as he struggles with God. He looks for an arbiter, a witness in heaven, and then a kinsman-redeemer. Job ends his speeches with a strong statement of his innocence (chap. 31).

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Job by Gerard Seghers

Job by Gerard Seghers

After each section of the commentary there are reflections on what this means for God’s people today. Many of these reflections focus on how Christ relates to Job’s suffering. The friends believe that someone suffering as much as Job must have committed a grievous sin. There is a parallel with the Jewish leaders who questioned how Jesus could be the Son of God and be hanging on the cross. It was edifying and encouraging to see the many ways that Job’s suffering related to Christ and how this is a blessing to God’s people who are suffering. There is also a concluding chapter on theological issues covered in the book of Job.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Job?

The commentaries that helped me the most were [John] Hartley [NICOT], [Tremper] Longman [BCOT], and [Norman C.] Habel [OTL]. A book on Job with an interesting angle is Robert Fyall, Now My Eyes Have Seen You: Images of Creation and Evil in the Book of Job. Two books that deal with suffering in general are D. A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil and John Currid, Why Do I Suffer? Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I am finishing up a book on the theology of wisdom literature that will focus on Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. A list of my publications can be found at the Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) website, the Charlotte campus. RTS also has a free mobile app that has seminary lectures on it. Many of the OT lectures are ones I have given.

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