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Book of Job

Books of Ketuvim
Song of Solomon

The Book of Job (איוב, Standard Hebrew Iyyov, Tiberian Hebrew ʾIyyḇ; Arabic أيّوب ʾAyyūb) is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh, and is also one of the books of the Christian Old Testament. Job is a didactic poem set in a prose framing device.

The numerous Exegeses of the Book of Job are classic attempts to reconcile the co-existence of evil and God (Greek theodicies). Job appears both as an invocation to righteousness, a cynical outlook on the idea of righteousness, and a response to the problem of evil. Scholars are divided as to what the original intent of the poem was, and a few even suggest it was meant as a satire against more puritanical upholding of religion.

1 Later interpolations and additions

2 External links



A great diversity of opinion exists as to the authorship of this book. Two Talmudic traditions hold that Job either lived in the time of Abraham or of Jacob. Levi ben Laḥma held that Job lived in the time of Moses, by whom the Book of Job was written. Others argue that it was written by Job himself, or by Elihu, or Isaiah. From internal evidence, such as the similarity of sentiment and language to those in the Psalms and Proverbs (see Psalms 88 and 89), the prevalence of the idea of "wisdom," and the style and character of the composition, it is supposed by some to have been written in the time of King David and King Solomon. Talmudic tradition treats the story of Job as a parable.

In contrast, secular examinations of the text more generally conclude that, though archaic features such as the "council in heaven" survive, and though the Job legend was familiar to Ezekiel, the present form of the Job tale was fixed in the 4th century BCE. The Job legend apparently originated in the land of Edom, which has been retained as the background. Fragments of Job are found among the Dead Sea scrolls, and Job remains prominent in haggadic legends. Compare the later Greek Testament of Job among the apocrypha. Secular scholars agree that the introductory and concluding sections of the book, the framing devices, were composed to set the central poem into a prose "folk-book," as the compilers of the Jewish Encyclopedia expressed it. In the prologue and epilogue, the name of God is Yahweh, a name that even the Edomites use. Secular scholars agree that the central poem is from another source.

Narrative structure

The subject of the book is the trial of Job, its occasion, nature, endurance, and issue. It consists of

  1. An historical introduction in prose (ch. 1,2).
  2. The controversy and its solution, in poetry (ch. 3-42:6). Job's desponding lamentation (ch. 3) is the occasion of the controversy which is carried on in three courses of dialogues between Job and his three friends. The first course gives the commencement of the controversy (ch. 4-14); the second the growth of the controversy (15-21); and the third the height of the controversy (22-27). This is followed by the solution of the controversy in the speeches of Elihu and the address of Jehovah, followed by Job's humble confession (42:1-6) of his own fault and folly.
  3. The third division is the historical conclusion, in prose (42:7-15).

It is possible that the introductory and concluding sections of the book were composed by a different author than the body of the book.

Later interpolations and additions

In the edited form of Job that we have, various interpolations have been made in the text of the central poem. The clearest of these are of two kinds: the "parallel texts", which are parallel developments of the corresponding passages in the base text, and the speeches of Elihu (xxxii - xxxvii), which consist of a polemic against the ideas expressed elsewhere in the poem, and so appear to be interpretive interpolations. The speeches of Elihu (who is not mentioned in the prologue or epilogue) contradict the fundamental teachings of the central poem of Job, according to which it is impossible that the righteous should suffer, all pain being a punishment for some sin. Elihu, however, assumes that suffering may be decreed for the righteous as a protection against greater sin, and for moral betterment.

Subjects of more contention among scholars are the identity of corrections and revisions of Job's speeches, which have been made for the purpose of harmonizing them with the orthodox doctrine of retribution.

Exegesis of the Book of Job

Exegesis largely concerns the question, "Is misfortune always a divine punishment for something?" Job's three friends argued in the affirmative, stating that Job's misfortunes were proof that he had committed some sins for which he was being punished. His friends also advanced the converse position that good fortune is always a divine reward, and that if Job would renounce his supposed sins, he would immediately experience the return of good fortune.

In response, Job asserted that he was a righteous man, and that his misfortune was therefore not a punishment for anything. This raised the possibility that God acts in capricious ways, and Job's wife urged him to curse God, and die. Instead, Job responded with equanimity: "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord." The climax of the book occurs when God responds to Job, not with an explanation for Job's suffering but rather with a question: Where was Job when God created the world?

God's response itself may be read in a variety of ways. Some see it as an attempt to humble Job. Yet Job is comforted by God's appearance, and the fact that he 'saw God and lived', suggesting that the author of the book was more concerned with whether or not God is present in people's lives, than with the question of whether or not God is just. Job xxviii rejects these efforts to fathom divine wisdom.

The framing story complicates the book further: in the introductory section God decides to inflict misery on Job and his family as a result of a bet with Satan (suggesting that God does indeed act in capricious ways); the appended conclusion has God restoring Job to health and wealth, thus suggesting that the faith of the righteous is indeed rewarded.

Satan in the Book of Job

The name Satan appears in the prose prologue of Job, with his usual connotation of "the adversary", as a distinct being. He is shown as one of the celestial beings or "sons of God" before the Deity, replying to the inquiry of God as to whence he had come, with the words: "from going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it" (Job 1:7). Both the question and the answer, as well as the dialogue that ensues, characterize Satan as that member of the divine council who watches over human activity, but with the evil purpose of searching out men's sins and appearing as their accuser. He is, therefore, the celestial prosecutor, who sees only iniquity; for he persists in his evil opinion of Job even after the man of Uz has passed successfully through his first trial by surrendering to the will of God, whereupon Satan demands another test through physical suffering (Job 2:3-5). Satan tempts God by saying that Job's belief is only built upon what material goods he is given, and that his faith will disappear as soon as they are taken from him. And God succumbs to the temptation.

But recall that this entire story about "the adversary" occurs in the (very short) framing story alone, and is never alluded to in the (very long) central poem at all. Many conjecture that the framing prose was written by a different author, and from a different theological point of view, than the central poem.

External links

  • Jewish Encyclopedia: Job; Book of Job
  • Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897 : Job; Book of Job
  • "Short Articles on the Book of Job" : Bill Long
  • Text of Job at wikisource

Last updated: 02-07-2005 17:54:23
Last updated: 03-01-2005 22:03:48