Four Characteristics of Job

by Christopher Ash, contributed by our Friends at Crossway
| Time: 5 Minutes

“. . . and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.”
(Job 1:1 ESV)

After the more or less incidental historical facts of his place and his name, the first really significant thing the writer [of the book of Job] tells us is about Job’s character. This is of lasting importance, and we need to burn this into our consciousness as we read the book.

Four Characteristics of Job

We are told four things about Job: his integrity, his treatment of others, his religion, and his morality. These four things tell us, not what Job was from time to time or occasionally, but his “constant nature.”[1]

1. Blameless

First, he was “blameless.” This is a better translation than “perfect” (e.g., KJV, RSV). It does not mean “sinless,” for Job himself admits “the iniquities of my youth” (Job 13:26 ESV) and “my sin” (Job 14:16 ESV). Fundamentally the word “blameless” speaks of genuineness and authenticity. In Joshua 24:14 Joshua exhorts the people of Israel to serve God “in sincerity” (the same Hebrew word)—that is to say, genuinely, not just pretending to serve him while their hearts were somewhere else. In Judges 9:16 Jotham challenges the people of Shechem, “Now therefore, if you acted in good faith and integrity [same word] when you made Abimelech king . . .” (ESV). By which he means, “if you meant what you said and were not trying to deceive or double-cross anyone . . .” God said to Abraham, “Walk before me, and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1 ESV). And Psalm 119:1 proclaims a blessing on those “whose way is blameless” (ESV).

The same idea is conveyed by the old expression used by some of the rabbis: “his ‘within’ was like his ‘without.’”[2] Or as we might put it, “what you see is what you get.” When you see Job at work, when you hear his words, when you watch his deeds, you see an accurate reflection of what is actually going on in his heart. The word means “personal integrity, not sinless perfection.”[3] It is the opposite of hypocrisy, pretending to be one thing on the outside but being something else on the inside. Centuries later Timothy had to deal in Ephesus with the very opposite, men who had “the appearance of godliness, but [denied] its power” (2 Timothy 3:5 ESV). Job had the appearance of godliness because there was real godliness in his heart.

This character trait of blamelessness or integrity is pivotal in the book of Job. In Job 8:20 Bildad will say, “God will not reject a blameless man” (ESV), and in 9:20–22 Job will repeatedly claim that he is “blameless.” He does the same in Job 12:4.[4] As the drama develops, we shall be sorely tempted to think that Job is hiding something, that he is not as squeaky clean as he appears, that he is not blameless. We need to remember that he is blameless. The writer has headlined this wonderful characteristic of him.

2. Upright

Second, “that man was . . . upright” (v. 1). This shifts the focus slightly from Job’s own integrity to the way he treats other people. In his human relationships Job is “upright,” straightforward, a man you can do business with because he will not double-cross you, a man who deals straight. We shall see this upright behavior beautifully described in Job 31:13–23.

3. Feared God

Third, his character was marked by integrity and his relationships by right dealing, and his religion was shaped by a humble piety. “That man was . . . one who feared God” (v. 1). We do not know how much he knew about the God he feared. But he had a reverence, a piety, a bowing down before the God who made the world, so that he honored God as God and gave thanks to him (cf. Romans 1:21).

Later in Israel’s history the fear of the Lord was “that affectionate reverence, by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his Father’s law.”[5] For Job, not knowing that law in its fullness, the fear of God consisted of a devout, pious reverence for God and a desire to please him in all he knew of him. Job was, in the very best sense of the word, a genuinely religious man.

As the book develops we shall see that Job believed that God was both sovereign and just, that he had the power to make sure the world ran the way he chose to make it run, and that the way he would choose to make it run would be fair and marked by justice. At least that is what Job thought to begin with. The second of these convictions (God’s justice) is about to be sorely tested.

4. Repentant

Finally, Job’s religion issues in godly morality. “. . . and that man was . . . one who . . . turned away from evil” (v. 1). As he walked life’s path, he resolutely stayed on the straight and upright path and turned away from the crooked byways of sin. To turn away from sin is to repent. Job’s character was marked by daily repentance, a habitual turning away from evil in his thoughts, words, and deeds.

Job was a Real Believer

Job is thus presented to us, not as a perfect man—only one perfect man has ever walked this earth—but as a genuine believer. In Ezekiel, Job is bracketed with Noah and Daniel as a man of conspicuous righteousness. God says, “Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in [a land], they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness” (Ezekiel 14:14 ESV; see also Ezekiel 14:20). What sort of righteousness did these men have? “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Hebrews 11:7 ESV). Noah was righteous by faith. So was Job. Indeed, no sinner has ever been righteous with God in any other way.

So Job is a real believer, genuine in his integrity, upright in his relationships, pious in his worship, and penitent in his behavior. His life was marked by what we would call repentance and faith, which are still the marks of the believer today, as they have always been.

. . .


[1] David J.A. Clines, Job 1—20 (Dallas: Word Books, 1989).

[2] Robert Gordis, The Book of Job (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1978).

[3] John E. Hartley, The Book of Job, New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988).

[4] Here he uses an adjectival form from the same root.

[5] C. Bridges.

Content adapted from Job: The Wisdom of the Cross by Christopher Ash, ©2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Page 30-33.
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