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Seeing Christ in Job: An Exercise in Typological Reading

An image of Job and Christ to illustrate the concept of reading Job typologically.

What do we see when we read the book of Job? Several things, no doubt. We see a man undergoing terrible emotional and physical suffering. We find the surprise of a spouse who tells him to turn from God. We encounter friends who counsel him with words mixed with error. We face an ancient adversary who is convinced that the sufferer will relent from his steadfastness and curse God.

We perceive the arc of the main character’s life. At the beginning of the book, he is blessed. Then he undergoes a season of tremendous grief. At the end of the story, he experiences the restoration of his fortunes. Most of the book details that middle period, where the back-and-forth speeches between Job and his friends explore the deep matters of suffering, righteousness, retribution, and wisdom.

But when you read the story of Job, do you also see something larger, even redemptive, at work in his life? In light of the story of salvation spanning the Old and New Testaments, do you discern the way Job’s story conforms to the christological shape of Scripture?

Does the story of Job make you think about the story of Jesus? Have you considered Job as a type of Christ? Job’s story teaches about suffering, obedience, and the reality of spiritual warfare. But his story is about more than its moral and spiritual lessons.

If you haven’t done so yet, consider reach Mitchell Chase’s previous article on eight practical lessons on suffering in the book of Job.

To establish why we should read Job’s story christologically, we’ll consider each of the following in turn, developing our argument:

How Jesus read the Old Testament

When Jesus began his public ministry, he taught things about the Old Testament that shocked his listeners. His were not normal claims to make, and would’ve been deceitful and blasphemous—if they were not true. Consider some examples.

1. John 5:38–40, 45–47

In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells the religious leaders,

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (5:39–40)1

Furthermore,

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words? (5:45–47)

The writings of Moses here refers to the Torah: Genesis through Deuteronomy. Jesus claims that Moses “wrote of me” (John 5:46). The five books of Moses are the foundation for all of Israel’s Scripture and for the nation’s way of life. Imagine this staggering statement in the ears of the religious leaders: Jesus claims he himself is a subject of Moses’s writings!

2. Luke 24:25–27

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells two people on the road to Emmaus,

O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? (24:25–26)

And then starting with the books of Moses and moving to the prophets, Jesus told them about the things in the Scriptures concerning himself (24:27).

Jesus believed that both Moses and the prophets wrote of him. When this journey to Emmaus took place, the events of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection had only recently occurred. According to Jesus in Luke 24:26, this suffering and exaltation of the Messiah were necessary because the prophets had spoken about it. His death and resurrection, then, fulfilled Old Testament prophecies.

3. Luke 24:44–47

Later in that same chapter in Luke, Jesus makes claims about the totality of the Old Testament:

These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. (Luke 24:44)

He said,

Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (24:46–47)

The phrase the “Law, Prophets, and Psalms” envelops the whole Old Testament.2 In this way, Jesus teaches that the biblical authors wrote about the Messiah, and their words addressed his suffering and resurrection in particular. Jesus claims that the Old Testament prophesied his work and prepared his way.

4. Jesus’s use of the Old Testament

In a variety of places in the four Gospels, Jesus compares himself to Old Testament people, events, things, and speaks as if these Old Testament references contained a forward-looking perspective all along. He speaks as if he is a greater—even the ultimate—instance of the Old Testament reference.

Jesus says he is greater than the temple (Matt 12:6), greater than Jonah (12:41), and greater than Solomon (12:42). Just as Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of the fish, so Jesus was three days and nights in the heart of the earth (12:40). Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so Jesus is lifted up so that whoever believes in him has everlasting life (John 3:14). In Luke 9, Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah about the “exodus” he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:30–31).3

The Old Testament authors prophesy the Messiah’s ethnicity (Israelite), tribe (Judah), family line (Davidic), and place of birth (Bethlehem). They also speak of his vicarious suffering, vindication, and everlasting rule (2 Sam 7:12–13; Ps 110:1; Isa 42:1–9; 52:13–53:12; Dan 9:24–27). Jesus knew and fulfilled these direct messianic prophecies.

But the Old Testament prepares the way for the Lord in indirect ways, too. In God’s providential ordering of history, God orchestrated various people and events and things to form patterns, and these patterns have a messianic shape, a shape most clearly seen in hindsight but that is nevertheless part of Scripture’s progressive revelation pointing to Jesus.

Another phrase for these messianically oriented patterns is “christological types.” And the Old Testament is filled with them.

The presence of types in the Old Testament

According to the Gospels and the writings of the apostles, the Old Testament testifies to the new covenant work of Christ through its various types and shadows. These forward-pointing types are found even in the earliest Scriptures. For instance, Paul says Adam was “a type of the one who was to come” (Rom 5:14), and you don’t find any people earlier than Adam!

Beyond Adam, the New Testament authors identify additional Old Testament types. For example, the New Testament authors explicitly identify the following as examples of Old Testament types:

  • Melchizedek (Heb 7:1–3)
  • Moses (Heb 3:1–6)
  • The priesthood (Heb 7:20–28)
  • The tabernacle (John 1:14)
  • The offerings (Heb 9:11–14)
  • The Passover lamb (1 Cor 5:7)
  • The rock in the wilderness (1 Cor 10:1–4)
  • The manna in the wilderness (John 6:31–35)
  • Solomon (Matt 12:42)
  • The temple (Matt 12:6)
  • Jonah (Matt 12:40–41)

According to the apostolic interpretation of the Old Testament, these types are present in the text and thus are the result of divine providence, inspiration, and design. When interpreters discern christological types in the Old Testament, these types are not read into the text but read out of it.

The whole point of Scripture is the Messiah, foretold in the Old Testament and announced in the New. The unity of the two Testaments and the inspiration of these sixty-six canonical books serve as the sufficient warrant for seeing how Christ’s person and work are foreshadowed in the Law, Prophets, and Writings. Because of the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture, Old Testament types are innately predictive, though in an indirect sense. The patterns build expectation and advance the hope for redemption.

The New Testament authors don’t claim to identify all Old Testament types exhaustively.4 Though we are not apostles, we should study the way the New Testament authors interpret the Old, so that their hermeneutical assumptions and decisions shape and guide our own study and interpretation.

Let’s focus on a few examples of identified christological types in order to draw out the kinds of elements at play.

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1. Matthew 12:40

In Matthew 12:40, Jesus mentions Jonah’s three days and three nights in the fish. If the reader opens to Jonah 1–2, however, the passage does not teach an obvious messianic hope. Nonetheless a pattern is discernible, and this pattern feeds messianic hope.

Jonah is a prophet who descends into the depths and then ascends by the provision of divine rescue. There is peril and then deliverance from that peril. Jesus taught that the Son of Man would be “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40). He described a descent.

But we know what happened in the Jonah story: the prophet was delivered from distress. And Jesus would be delivered in an even greater sense: Jesus would be delivered from death itself. Thus, Jesus’s bodily resurrection was foreshadowed by Jonah’s figurative resurrection.

2. John 3:14–15

Through his allusion to the Old Testament in John 3:14, Jesus evokes the wilderness peril of Israelites perishing and reminds us of God’s provision:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (3:14–15)

The bronze serpent in Numbers 21:4–9 is God’s means of rescue. All who look to God’s provision are saved and do not perish.

Jesus’s death on the cross is even greater than the bronze serpent being lifted up. Jesus is the provision of divine rescue for all who look to him in faith. Jesus hung upon the cross so that we would not perish but have eternal life.

3. Observing canonical patterns

Looking briefly at the Old Testament references to Jonah 1–2 and Numbers 21, we can see their correspondences with and escalation toward Christ. They contain peril and deliverance, and the christological fulfillment of these types is of a greater peril and a greater deliverance. The component of escalation leads interpreters to say things like “Jesus is the true and greater Jonah,” “Jesus is the true and greater temple,” or “Jesus is the true and greater priest.”

We can substitute peril and deliverance for parallel notions of descent and ascent; humiliation and exaltation; sorrow and rescue; threat and vindication; and sufferings and glory. When Old Testament authors report on characters, events, and things that contribute to this pattern, we begin to see that pattern in its canonical light, which is to say, its christological light. Peter told his readers,

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. (1 Pet 1:10–11)

Sufferings and glories were boldly predicted through explicit promises about the Messiah, and sufferings and glories were also indirectly predicted through the patterns that unfold and repeat across the redemptive storyline that leads to Christ.

Typological patterns prepare the way for the Lord because they reinforce and advance messianic hope.

Considering Job’s connections to Jesus

So far, we’ve considered how Jesus relates the Old Testament to himself, as well as how the Old Testament contains various types (or patterns) which find their fulfillment in Christ. With this groundwork in place, we can now consider whether the canonical light of Scripture shows Job to be a christological type.

The New Testament authors don’t identify Job as a type of Christ. Instead, we must establish textual warrant for this relationship of correspondences and escalation between Job and Jesus. Let’s walk through a cumulative case for seeing Job as a christological type.

1. Peril and deliverance

Job’s story fits the pattern of peril and deliverance. We might even use the terms loss and restoration. Job is a man whose life is upended by terrible loss and suffering in the first two chapters of the book. But at the end of the book, we see Job’s vindication and restoration:

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. (Job 42:10)

Job’s final state of blessedness is even greater than when the story began.

The New Testament authors tell of Christ’s suffering and vindication, and the vindication of Jesus exalts him to a greater position than how the story began (Phil 2:9–11; Acts 2:33). After his death on the cross, Jesus was raised to bodily life and glory.

2. Falsely accused

Job is a man of integrity who is falsely accused. Though the opening verses of the book establish Job’s righteousness, his friends are not convinced he is upright. They accuse him of some kind of wickedness that must have brought about the terrible suffering he has experienced. If Job faced tremendous loss, then it must be a reaping of something he has sown. But in the fullness of the book’s arc and story, we know that Job’s friends are wrong and that they are lobbing false accusations at him.

In the ministry of the Lord Jesus, he too faced the misunderstanding and false accusations of others. Some people spoke of him as crazy (Mark 3:21) or as demon-possessed (Mark 3:22) or as blasphemous (Mark 14:63–64). Even at his trials near the end of each Gospel, false witnesses rose to speak against Jesus (Mark 14:55–59).

3. Satanic opposition

Job experiences Satanic opposition. Think of how rarely in the Bible we read of Satan’s direct involvement in a story. Yet in the first two chapters of Job’s story, we read of Satan’s presence and plans. He lurks in the spiritual background of Job’s life, aiming for Job’s demise.

In the four Gospels, Satan is not only the adversary of God’s people, he is also the adversary of Christ himself. Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4:1–13). He possesses Judas Iscariot, who betrays Christ for money (Luke 22:3). The ministry of Jesus unfolds in the context of spiritual warfare, and the ancient adversary (the Satan of Job’s story) is present with all of his malice, deceit, and poisonous tongue.

4. Righteous sufferer

Job is a righteous sufferer. Since the accusations of Job’s friends are wrong, and since Job is a man who feared the Lord and lived above reproach, we can categorize Job’s suffering as that of a righteous sufferer.5

This is a useful lens through which to see the experiences of God’s people. Consider Abel, who perished at the hands of his brother in Genesis 4. Abel did what was right and got murdered. He was the first righteous sufferer. We can see other examples of righteous sufferers, such as Joseph and David.

Still, every righteous sufferer in the Old Testament was a sinner, even if the plight they faced wasn’t due to their rebellion. Jesus, in distinction, was the righteous sufferer par excellence. He exceeded all who preceded him, for he alone is the unblemished and supremely faithful Son (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 1 Pet 1:19; 3:18).

5. Effective intercessor

Job is an effective intercessor. Though Job’s friends falsely accuse him, Job prays for them. God tells them,

And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. (Job 42:8)

The friends of Job obey, Job prays for them, and the Lord accepts his servant’s prayer (42:9). Job serves as an intercessor for his friends.

As a greater Job, Jesus is our great and effective petitioner, interceding in the heavenly places for God’s people even now (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25; 9:24; 1 John 2:1). He makes unfailing petition, for God has received his Servant Son’s work on our behalf.

6. Faithful priest

Finally, Job is a faithful priest. Out of love and spiritual concern for his children, Job

would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. (Job 1:5)

Job’s activity doesn’t take place at the tabernacle or temple. Job’s story probably takes place early in biblical history when a father served as priest of his own home, offering sacrifices on altars (see Gen 8:20; 12:7–8). Job may be reminiscent, then, of Melchizedek, a non-Israelite priest–king who foreshadows the Messiah (Gen 14:17–20; Ps 110:4; Heb 7:1–19).

Christ is the ultimate priest because he is the perfect mediator who offered the perfect sacrifice—himself (Heb 7:27).

Conclusion

The previous six considerations seek to establish a cumulative case that Job is a type of Christ. Job’s typological function is not something imposed on the passage, something absent in the text. Rather, these six facts form a compelling case that, in the fullness of biblical revelation, God designed Job’s life to correspond with and escalate toward Christ.

By seeing the righteous sufferer face accusations and ultimately vindication, we see how Job’s story moves from opposition to vindication, from humiliation to exaltation, from descent to ascent, from suffering to glory. In the canonical light of the two Testaments, Job’s story is thus part of a messianic pattern which Jesus fulfills. Job was a suffering and vindicated servant of the Lord whose life foreshadows the suffering and vindicated Servant of the Lord.

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  1. All Bible quotes are taken from the ESV.
  2. The designations Law, Prophets, and Psalms represent each of the three sections of the Hebrew Bible (or Tanakh), ordered from Genesis to Chronicles (see Matt 23:35). The Psalms represent the Writings—the third and final section of the Hebrew Bible—since the term Writings wasn’t used yet.
  3. Most modern English translations translate ἔξοδος in Luke 9:31 as “departure.” But it is the same word used elsewhere to refer to the biblical exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt (e.g., Heb 11:22).
  4. I seek to make this case in my book 40 Questions about Typology and Allegory (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2020).
  5. See James Hamilton, Typology: Understanding the Bible’s Promise-Shaped Patterns (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2022), 174–220.
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Written by
Mitch Chase

Mitch Chase is the preaching pastor at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, and he is an associate professor of biblical studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books, including Short of Glory: A Biblical and Theological Exploration of the Fall, and 40 Questions About Typology and Allegory. He writes regularly at his Substack called "Biblical Theology."

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Written by Mitch Chase