Book of Job
by: Wiktoria Goroch • 57
Book of Job
The Book of Job (/ˈdʒoʊb/; Hebrew: אִיוֹב Iyob) is one of the Writings (Ketuvim) of the Hebrew Bible, and the first poetical book in the Christian Old Testament. Addressing the theme of God's justice in the face of human suffering - or more simply, "Why do the righteous suffer?" - it is a rich theological work, setting out a variety of perspectives. It has been widely and often extravagantly praised for its literary qualities - "The greatest poem of ancient and modern times," according to Tennyson.
Prologue on earth and in heaven
The prologue on earth shows the righteous Job blessed with wealth and sons and daughters. The scene shifts to heaven, where God asks the satan (ha-satan, literally "the accuser") for his opinion of Job's piety. The satan answers that Job is pious only because God has blessed him; if God were to take away everything that Job had, then he would surely curse God. God gives the satan permission to take Job's wealth and children, but Job praises God: "Naked I came out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return: the Lord has given, and Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." God allows the satan to afflict his body with boils. Job sits in ashes; his wife prompts him to "curse God, and die," but Job answers: "Shall we receive good from God and shall not receive evil?"
Job's opening monologue; dialogues between Job and his three friends
Job laments the day of his birth; he would like to die, but even that is denied him. His three friends Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, console him. The friends do not waver in their belief that Job's suffering is a punishment for sin, for God causes no one to suffer innocently, and advise him to repent and seek God's mercy. Job responds with scorn: a just God would not treat him so harshly, patience in suffering is impossible, and the Creator should not take his creatures so lightly, to come against them with such force.
Three monologues: Poem to Wisdom, Job's closing monologue, and Elihu's speeches
The dialogues of Job and his friends are followed by a poem (the "hymn to wisdom") on the inaccessibility of wisdom: Where is wisdom to be found? it asks, and concludes that it has been hidden from man (chapter 28). Job contrasts his previous fortune with his present plight, an outcast, mocked and in pain; he protests his innocence, lists the principles he has lived by, and demands that God answer him. Elihu (a character not previously mentioned) intervenes to state that wisdom comes from God, who reveals it through dreams and visions to those who will then declare their knowledge.
Two speeches by God
God speaks from a whirlwind. His speeches neither explain Job's suffering, nor defend divine justice, nor enter into the courtroom confrontation that Job has demanded, nor respond to his oath of innocence. Instead they contrast Job's weakness with divine wisdom and omnipotence: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" Job makes a brief response, but God's monologue resumes, never addressing Job directly. In 42:1-6 Job makes his final response, confessing God's power and his own lack of knowledge "of things beyond me which I did not know;" previously he has only heard, but now his eyes have seen God, and "therefore I retract/And repent of dust and ashes."
God tells Eliphaz that he and his two friends "have not spoken of me what is right as my servant Job has done." The three (Elihu is not mentioned) are told to make a burnt offering with Job as their intercessor, "for only to him will I show favour." Job is restored to health, riches and family, and lives to see his children to the fourth generation