The Book of Job has been called “the most profound and literary work of the entire Old Testament”. The numerous exegeses of the Book of Job are classic attempts to address the problem of evil, i.e. the problem of reconciling the existence of evil or suffering in the world with the existence of God. Scholars are divided as to the origin, intent, and meaning of the book.
The angels of heaven (literally, the Hebrew word translated as "Angels" means "the Sons of God") and Satan (literally, the Hebrew word means "the accuser" or "the adversary") present themselves to God. God asks Satan his opinion on Job, apparently a truly pious man. Satan answers that Job is only pious because he is prosperous. In order to test if Job would still be pious if he was stricken with poverty, God gives Satan permission to destroy Job's possessions and family.
All of Job's possessions are destroyed and all of his family are killed. Job does not curse God after this but instead shaves his head, tears his clothes and says "Naked I came out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return : the Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Simplified).
As Job endures these calamities without reproaching Divine Providence, Satan solicits permission to afflict his person as well, and God says, "Behold he is in your hand, but don’t touch his life." Satan, therefore, smites him with dreadful boils, and Job, seated in ashes, scrapes his skin with broken pottery. His wife prompts him to "curse God, and die" but Job answers, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all of this, Job doesn't sin by cursing God.
In the meantime, only three of Job's friends come to visit him in his misfortune — Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. A fourth, Elihu the Buzite, first begins talking in chapter 32 and bears a distinguished part in the dialogue; his arrival is not noted. The friends spend 7 days sitting on the ground with Job, without saying anything to him because they see that he is suffering and in much pain. Job at last breaks his silence and "curses the day he was born".
After several rounds of debate between Job and his friends, in a divine voice, described as coming from a "cloud" or "whirlwind", God describes, in evocative and lyrical language, what the experience of being the creator of the world is like, and asks if Job has ever had the experiences or the authority that God has had.
God's answer underscores that Job shares the world with numerous powerful and remarkable creatures, creatures with lives and needs of their own, whom God must provide for, and the young of some hunger in a way that can only be satisfied by taking the lives of others.
God's speech also emphasizes his sovereignty in creating and maintaining the world. The thrust is not merely that God has experiences that Job does not, but also that God is King over the world and is not necessarily subject to questions from his creatures, including men.
In the epilogue, God condemns Job's friends for their ignorance and lack of understanding, commands them to prepare burnt offerings and reassures them that Job will pray for their forgiveness. Job is restored to health, gaining double the riches he possessed before and having 7 sons and 3 daughters (his wife did not die in this ordeal). His new daughters were the most beautiful in the land, and were given inheritance along with their brothers. Job is blessed once again and lives on another 140 years after the ordeal, living to see his children to the fourth generation and dying peacefully of old age.
The term "Satan" appears in the prose prologue of the Book of Job, with his usual connotation of "the adversary", as a distinct being. He is shown as one of the celestial beings 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 purpose of searching out men's sins and appearing as their accuser. He is, as it were, a 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 challenges 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. God accepts the challenge.
The introduction of "the adversary" occurs in the (very short) framing story alone: he is never alluded to in the (very long) central poem at all, although Hades is mentioned in the central poem.
The Jewish and Christian interpretations of who "ha-satan" (literally, "the adversary") tend to differ.
Many from a Christian perspective believe 'Satan' to be the Devil. 'Satan' is generally considered in that tradition to be the adversary of God, and is typically conflated with Lucifer. Thus, 'Satan' is viewed by Christians as evil personified.
The Jewish view of "the adversary" is as a sort of prosecuting attorney for God. While "the adversary" is equated with the Angel of Death, he is generally considered to be the adversary of humanity rather than God, and he is often shown obeying the will of God.
The first speaker to address Job, 'Eliphaz the Temanite', is likely identified in the Book of Genesis, chap. 36, verses eleven through twelve, in a genealogy: 'And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and Kenaz. Now Timna was the concubine of Eliphaz, Esau's son, and she bore Amalek to Eliphaz. These the sons of Adah, Esau's wife.' This would probably identify the Eliphaz in the Book of Job as a descendant of Teman, and therefore designated as a 'Temanite', meaning 'a relative' or 'a descendant'; 'son of', or 'of the tribe of', rather than as coming from a place called Teman, which there probably was, and also was probably named after its founder, i.e. the original Teman, the son of Eliphaz mentioned in Genesis chapter 36.
The Talmud (Tractate Bava Basra 15a-b) maintains that the Book of Job was written by Moses, although the Sages dispute whether it was based on historical reality or intended as a parable. Although Moses' authorship is accepted as definitive, other opinions in the Talmud ascribe it to the period of before the First Temple, the time of the patriarch Jacob, or King Ahaserus.
In contrast, comparative literary and historical examinations of the text more generally conclude that, though archaic features such as the "council in heaven" survive, and though the story of Job was familiar to Ezekiel (Chapter 14 verse 14), the present form of Job was fixed in the postexilic period 6th century BC - 5th century BC. Ezekiel places Job in comparison with other righteous figures such as Noah and Daniel. The story of Job 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. The later Greek Testament of Job figures among the apocrypha. 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 the Tetragrammaton, a name that even the Edomites use. The central poem is from another source.
Among the Dead Sea Scrolls is the Targum of Job 11Q10 Another example of text from the last chapter or epilogue of Job can be found in the book, The Dead Sea Scrolls a New Translation. Here we are shown examples of how fragments of The Book of Job found among the scrolls differ from the traditional text. If the prologue and epilogue were added to the central poem, then this would have happened before 100 BCE or the time attributed to the Dead Sea Scrolls
The medieval exegete Abraham ibn Ezra believed that Job was translated from another language and it is therefore unclear "like all translated books". (Ibn Ezra Job 2:11)
The status of Elihu's interrupting didactic sermon is brought further into question by his extremely sudden appearance and disappearance from the text; he is not mentioned in Job 2:11, in which Job's friends are introduced, nor is he mentioned at all in the epilogue, 42:7-10, in which God expresses anger at Job's friends. It is suggested that had Elihu appeared in the original source, his spirited and virtuous defence of the divine right to punish would have been rewarded by God in the conclusion, or at the very least mentioned. Additionally, Elihu's first spoken words are a confession of his youthful status, being much younger than the three canonical friends, including a claim to be speaking because he cannot bear to remain silent; it has been suggested that this interesting statement may have been symbolic of a 'younger' (that is to say, later and interpolating) writer, who has written Elihu's sermon to respond to what he views as morally and theologically scandalous statements being made within the book of Job, and creating the literary device of Elihu to provide what seemed to be a much-needed faith-based response to further refute heresy and provide a satisfying counter-argument, a need partially provided by God's ambiguous and unspecific response to Job at the end of the book.
Subjects of further contention among scholars are the identity of claimed corrections and revisions of Job's speeches, which are claimed to have been made for the purpose of harmonizing them with the orthodox doctrine of retribution. A prime example of such a claim is the translation of the last line Job speaks (42:6), which is extremely problematic in the Hebrew. Traditional translations have him say, "Therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." This is consonant with the central body of the poem and Job's speeches, other mortal encounters with the divine in the Bible (Isaiah in Chapter 6, for example), and the fact that there would have been no restoration without Job's humble repentant acknowledgment of mortality faced with divinity in all its majesty and glory. However, other scholarly interpretations of this verse also exist (for example)
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 gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21) He went even further, in verse 22, by not charging any wrong to God. 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 chapter 28 rejects these efforts to fathom divine wisdom.
The framing story complicates the book further: in the introductory section God, during a conversation with Satan, allows Satan to inflict misery on Job and kill his children. The appended conclusion has God restoring Job to wealth, granting him new children, and possibly restoring his health, although this is more implied than explicitly stated. This may suggest that the faith of the perfect believer is rewarded. However, God speaks directly to this question, condemns Job's friends, and says that Job is the only man who has faithfully represented the true nature of God - that all his friends were wrong to say that faith and righteousness are rewarded. Only after Job's friends make a sacrifice to God and are prayed for by afflicted Job does God restore all Job's good fortune.
There are many parallel accounts about Job and one such account, found in the Pseudepigrapha is the Testament of Job. There are legendary details such as the fate of Job's wife, the inheritance of Job's daughters, and the ancestry of Job.
In folktale manner in the style of Jewish Midrash , it elaborates upon the Book of Job making Job a king in Egypt. Like many other Testament of ... works in the Old Testament apocrypha, it gives the narrative a framing-tale of Job's last illness, in which he calls together his sons and daughters to give them his final instructions and exhortations. The Testament of Job contains all the characters familiar in the Book of Job, with a more prominent role for Job's wife, given the name Sitidos, and many parallels to Christian beliefs that Christian readers find, such as intercession with God and forgiveness.
Unlike the Biblical Book of Job, Satan's vindictiveness towards Job is described in the Testament as being due to Job destroying a non-Jewish temple, indeed Satan is described in a far more villainous light, than simply being a prosecuting counsel. Job is equally portrayed differently; Satan is shown to directly attack Job, but fails each time due to Job's willingness to be patient, unlike the Biblical narrative where Job falls victim but retains faith.
The latter section of the work, dedicated like the Biblical text to Job's comforters, deviates even further from the Biblical narrative. Rather than complaining or challenging God, Job consistently asserts his faith despite the laments of his comforters. While one of the comforters gives up, and the others try to get him medical treatment, Job insists his faith is true, and eventually the voice of God tells the comforters to stop their behavior. When most of the comforters choose to listen to God's voice, they decide to taunt the one remaining individual who still laments Job's fate.
There is a minority view among the rabbis of the Talmud, that of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, that Job never existed (Midrash Genesis Rabbah LXVII, Talmud Bavli, Bava Batra 15a). In this view, Job was a literary creation by a prophet who used this form of writing to convey a divine message or parable. On the other hand, the Talmud (in Tractate Baba Batra 15a-16b) goes to great lengths trying to ascertain when Job actually lived, citing many opinions and interpretations by the leading sages. Job is further mentioned in the Talmud as follows :
Two further 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 (see ), or by Elihu, or Isaiah.
One unique midrashic view is that Job was the Pharaoh of Egypt during the time of Moses. Therefore, there would be a justification for why Job was punished. Because he allowed the Israelite people to suffer and enslaved them, he deserved everything that happened to him (if one has the ability to prevent suffering, he should).
According to the Talmud, Job was seventy years old when the book started.
Some of the laws and customs of mourning in Judaism are derived from the Book of Job's depiction of Job's mourning and the behavior of his companions. For example, according to , the behavior of Job's comforters, who kept silence until he spoke to them, is the source for a norm applicable to contemporary traditional Jewish practice, that visitors to a house of mourning should not speak to the mourner until they are spoken to.
In most traditions of Jewish liturgy, the Book of Job is not read publicly in the manner of the Pentateuch, Prophets, or megillot. However, there are some Jews, particularly the Spanish-Portuguese, who do hold public readings of the Book of Job on the Tisha B'Av fast (a day of mourning over the destruction of the First and Second Temples and other tragedies).
The cantillation signs for the large poetic section in the middle of the Book of Job differ from those of most of the biblical books, using a system shared with it only by Psalms and Proverbs. A sample of how the cantillations are chanted is found below.
Many quotes from the Book of Job are used throughout Jewish liturgy, especially at funerals and times of mourning.
Maimonides, a twelfth century rabbi, discusses Job in his work The Guide for the Perplexed. According to Maimonides (III 22–23), each of Job's friends represents famous, distinct schools of thought concerning God and divine providence.
Bildad, for example, portrays the standard Jewish view, as well as the Islamic Mu'tazili view, that righteousness is rewarded by God (Job 8:6-8), although one may have to be patient for the reward to come. Therefore, if Job is righteous, as he claims to be, God will reward him eventually.
Moreover, Job reflects the view of Aristotle, that God destroys the innocent and the wicked together (Job 9). If Job held this point of view, then he did not believe in divine providence, even if he did believe in God's existence.
According to Maimonides, the correct view of providence lies with Elihu, who teaches Job that one must examine his/her religion (Job 33). This view corresponds with the notion that "the only worthy religion in the world is an examined religion." A habit religion, such as that originally practiced by Job, is never enough. One has to look deep into the meaning of religion in order to fully appreciate it and make it a genuine part of one's life. Elihu believed in the concepts of divine providence, rewards to individuals, as well as punishments. He believed, according to Maimonides, that one has to practice religion in a rational way. The more one investigates religion, the more he/she will be rewarded or find it rewarding. In the beginning, Job was an unexamining, pious man, not a philosopher, and he didn't have providence. He was unwise, simply grateful for what he had. God, according to Elihu, did not single out Job for punishment, but rather abandoned him and let him be dealt with by natural, unfriendly forces.
Conversely, in more recent times, Russian existentialist philosopher Lev Shestov viewed Job as the embodiment of the battle between reason (which offers general and seemingly comforting explanations for complex events) and faith in a personal god, and one man's desperate cry for him. In fact, Shestov used the story of Job as a central signifier for his core philosophy (the vast critique of the history of Western philosophy, which he saw broadly as a monumental battle between Reason and Faith, Athens and Jerusalem, secular and religious outlook):
"The whole book is one uninterrupted contest between the 'cries' of the much-afflicted Job and the 'reflections' of his rational friends. The friends, as true thinkers, look not at Job but at the 'general.' Job, however, does not wish to hear about the 'general'; he knows that the general is deaf and dumb - and that it is impossible to speak with it. 'But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God' (13:3). The friends are horrified at Job's words: they are convinced that it is not possible to speak with God and that the Almighty is concerned about the firmness of his power and the unchangeability of his laws but not about the fate of the people created by him. Perhaps they are convinced that in general God does not know any concerns but that he only rules. That is why they answer, 'You who tear yourself in your anger, shall the earth be forsaken for you or the rock be removed from its place?' (18:4). And, indeed, shall rocks really be removed from their place for the sake of Job? And shall necessity renounce its sacred rights? This would truly be the summit of human audacity, this would truly be a 'mutiny,' a 'revolt' of the single human personality against the eternal laws of the all-unity of being!" (Speculation and Apocalypse).
According to the mystical approach, Job is being punished because he is a heretic. One reason why Job can be seen as a heretic is because in Chapter 3, he automatically assumed and was convinced that he did not sin and God therefore has no right to punish him. Another reason why Job can be viewed as a heretic is because he did not believe in reincarnation. He believes that once a person dies, it is all over for him/her, without any mention of an afterlife.
According to Job, who reflected the views of Aristotle, God gave the world over to astrology. This is evident in Job's lamentation, "Curse the day I was born on" (3:2) Job cursed his birthday because he believed that his birthday was bad luck, in the astrological sense. Given the context of the passage, it is more likely that this phrase refers to Job wishing he'd never been born at all.
According to Nachmanides, Job's children did not die in the beginning of the story, but rather were taken captive and then return from captivity by the end of the story.
Rev. 9:6 alludes to ; compare 2 Thes. 2:8 to ; 1 Cor. 3:19 quotes ; Heb. 12:5, Jas. 1:12, and Rev. 3:19 all parallel and ; compare Jas. 4:14 to ; compare Heb. 2:6 with ; compare Heb. 12:26 with ; Rom. 9:20 alludes to ; Rom. 11:33 parallels ; compare Acts 17:28 with ; compare 1 Cor. 4:5 with ; compare 1 Pet. 1:24 with ; compare Lk. 19:22 with ; Rom. 1:9 parallels ; compare 1 John 3:2 with ; Rev. 14:10, 19:15 parallel ; both Rom. 11:34 and 1 Cor. 2:16 quote Isa. 40:13, which parallels ; Mt. 25:42 alludes to ; Jas. 4:6 and 1 Pet. 5:5 both quote Prov. 3:34, which parallels ; compare Acts 1:7 with ; Heb. 4:13 parallels ; Mt. 16:26 alludes to ; compare Jas. 1:5 with ; 1 Jo. 1:9 alludes to ; Jas. 5:4 alludes to ; Rev. 16:21 alludes to ; Mt. 6:26 alludes to ; and finally, Rom. 11:35 quotes . (see Good News Bible special edition)
Christian themes include God's mercy (not treating sinners as they truly deserve), grace (treating unworthy sinners as they do not deserve), compassion (toleration of much discrediting, inappropriate mortal speculation impugning the divine character, and allegations of unrighteous/unfair dealings with men), restoration (where sin abounds, generosity superabounds) omnipotence, omnisapience , omnipresence, omniliberty, aseity and infinite love.
The book of Job contains several verses which have been taken by Christians to be prophecies of the Messiah, anticipating him as a mediator between Job and God. These may be found at 9:33, 16:19-21, 17:3, 19:23-27, and 33:23-28.
In chapter nine, Job recognizes the chasm that exists between him and God: “For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together.” Job’s regret is that he has no arbiter to act as a go-between; that Job can not reconcile himself with God anticipates the need for the Messiah to become Incarnate. In verse 33, Job wishes that there was an “umpire” (Heb. mokiah) to decide between him and God. One scholar says, “This person would have to be superior in authority to either party, ”; thus the arbiter for whom Job hopes would have to himself be divine, or else he would no more be qualified to “lay his hand upon” God than is Job.
This idea of a divine arbiter is returned to at Job 16:19. Job again expresses his desire for a witness, and then declares, “my eyes pour out tears to God, that he would maintain the right of a man with God”. Job addresses God, desiring that God will advocate on Job’s behalf with himself. Job knows that no man such as himself, conceived in sin, can appeal to God on his behalf; so God must do it himself. The language used earlier is that of a judicial judgement , in which God is both judge of and lawyer for Job. Job “draws a distinction in God” , and this distinction anticipates the multiplicity of God’s persons.
Job’s faith in this arbiter is again brought up in chapter 19. It is commonly accepted that the “Redeemer” of 19:25 is the same person as the witness of 16:19. This verse in particular is often seen as an anticipation of Christianity. Telgren notes that it has been suggested that verses 25 and 26 have a poetic structure of ABBA. If this is true it would support the notion that God is himself the Redeemer, by associating him with the living Redeemer in the parallel structure. The RSV’s “Redeemer” is a translation of the Hebrew go’el. That this go’el could refer to God is explicitly demonstrated in the Psalms and Proverbs, and elsewhere. Many people believe that Job was like a replica of Jesus who suffered an astonishing amount of pain.
Throughout the whole Lent the two books of the Old Testament read at Vespers were Genesis and Proverbs. With the beginning of the Holy Week they are replaced by Exodus and Job. Exodus is the story of Israel's liberation from Egyptian slavery, of their Passover. It prepares us for the understanding of Christ's exodus to his Father, of his fulfillment of the whole history of salvation. Job, the sufferer, is the Old Testament icon of Christ. This reading announces the great mystery of Christ's sufferings, obedience and sacrifice.Alexander Schmemann, "A Liturgical Explanation for the Days of Holy Week"
The Roman Catholic Church traditionally reads from the Book of Job during Matins in the first two weeks of September. In the revised Liturgy of the Hours, Job is read during the Eighth and Ninth Weeks in Ordinary Time.
In Palestinian folk tradition, Ayyub's place of trial is Al-Joura, a village outside the town of Al Majdal (Ashkelon). It was there, God rewarded him with a Fountain of Youth that removed whatever illnesses he had, and restored his youth. The town of Al-Joura was a place of annual festivities (4 days in all) when people of many faiths gathered and bathed in a natural spring.
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