The Book of Job is not simply a story, but a fable, rich with meaning and lessons to be learned. I found Job to be one of the most interesting accounts in the Bible, especially because it attempts to rationalize human suffering and the ways of the Lord. It seems to me that the idea came first, and a story was found to fit it, or one was made up, but that the entire reason for the Book of Job to be included in the Bible is for its purpose in teaching us that we must endure what troubles we are given, because it is the Will of God. I have many questions about this book, none of which can be easily answered by anyone living today: Who wrote this tale, and how did they know what took place in heaven? Did they just see Job suffering his losses, only to regain them tenfold when his faith did not swerve? These are only a few of my thoughts as I read Job, but overall, I found it a fascinating story that I wanted to explore in detail, and that is why I chose to write on it.
Job was a righteous man who lived in Uz with his seven sons and three daughters. He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yokes of oxen, five hundred donkeys and many slaves. Each year, he held a banquet where Job would have each of his children purified, for fear that they might have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. On the day that the angels came to attest before God, God pointed out to the accusing angel (Satan) how righteous and respectful Job was to Him. Satan claimed that Job’s actions and character originated with evil and self-serving motives: Job is so righteous and respectful because he has no reason to act otherwise, but if God were to give him hardship, he would curse the name of the Lord. Satan challenges God to test Job, and reluctantly, God accepts. Here, we see Satan prodding the Lord, who is supposed to be almighty and knowledgable about everything, into testing one of his faithful servants for no reason other than to prove his loyalty. This explains why God sometimes strikes down the righteous for no apparent reason, but it also makes us question whether or not God truly has our best interest at heart. God seems to have the character of a small child here, wanting to uphold his name, to show Satan that he “can too” prove that Job is faithful.
On Earth, Job was stricken with misfortune. All his children died of one tragedy or another, his animals were either stolen or struck by lightning. Job did not curse God, he rationalized the act, what God gives, He can also take away. He bragged to Satan about how faithful and righteous his servant Job was, like the small child we saw him as before. Again, Satan pushed God on, claiming that Job was still faithful and righteous because he had not been affected directly by God’s test. He persuades God to test Job once more. This time, Job’s health is destroyed in a most horrifying form. Job is covered in boils from head to toe so badly, that he uses a piece of broken pottery to scratch the dead flesh off with.
At this point, Job’s faith in the Lord is tested by his wife, who wondered why he is still so faithful to God. As we all know, the hardest part of faith is to believe when others around you do not, and can convince you that they are right while you are wrong. Still, Job rebuked his wife and refused to sin. Job had three friends: Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Namathite. These three friends heard of what happened to Job and came to offer their sympathy and grief. After about a week of prayers, Job finally broke down and cursed the day he was born. He wondered why life should be given to a person who desires only death, who has ceased to find any value in life, who has lost all hope of escape from continuous terror and torment. His friends answer him in a series of three rounds, the first being the most significant of the three.
Eliphaz answered him first, saying that Job helped others with encouraging words but now that the tables are turned, he impatiently gave up. The righteous living that he had in the past should sustain him through his trials now. No man is ever capable of a totally righteous relationship with God, it is a cycle of sin and forgiveness. Job’s resentment of discipline is very unwise, for God will not change your circumstances and a stubborn refusal to learn from them will result in death. The source of the problem is not man’s circumstances, but his heart. Eliphaz says that Job should look to God for deliverance. God does astonishing things, He helps those who are hurt and oppressed but destroys the corrupt. He tells Job to accept God’s discipline, he will learn from it and then God will bless him in many ways. Job argued that his complaint is justifiable, and if Eliphaz would comprehend his anguish, then he would understand that what God had done to him was wrong. Job does not accept Eliphaz’s view that he must have sinned and feels that his speech was inappropriate for the circumstances. Job wishes God would give him death, so he could die with the consolation that he had remained faithful to God all the way to the end. What other hope does he have? Why should he wait quietly for something to happen, when all his belongings and loved ones had been destroyed? Job also feels that Eliphaz has failed in his obligations toward him as a friend, because he doubts Job in his time of need. Job asks Eliphaz to point out his errors, to look at his sincerity and not to accuse him without giving good cause.
Job asks why God treats him like an enemy, why He will not even let sleep ease his pain. Job asks why God is focusing so much attention on him. Even if he did sin, it would not have hurt Him. So why not, in that case, show mercy and forgive him? Once he dies, it would be too late to do so. Bildad’s answers him by saying that God does not distort what is right. Job’s children died because of sin. If Job repents, God will not give him death but blessings beyond imagination. Repents of what? Job believes he is without sin. Job agrees that God does not pervert justice but does not understand how he can demonstrate his righteousness to Him. Job speaks of God’s power in creation and how he works in catastrophic events. His works are beyond comprehension. These events are all merely the effects of His presence. In all, God does as he pleases, and no enemy can oppose Him or even question Him. Because of His greatness, Job is helpless to defend himself and if he tried, he would probably be destroyed. In His sight, Job could not even utter a word without sounding guilty. Nonetheless, Job feels that he is blameless and wants to die. God, for some reason, lets the blameless people suffer just like the wicked. If it is not God doing it, then who is it? Job’s days are ending and unrealistic thinking cannot change reality. Anything that he might do to prove himself innocent would be of no value. He cannot approach God in court as he would do a man. Job says to God that he hates his life, he is going to protest to Him to stop condemning him until He has shown him his sin. He asks if somehow, God gets enjoyment from attacking him while at the same time favoring the wicked, for he knows that Job is innocent and that he is helpless against Him.
The next person to speak to Job is Zophar, who claims that since Job is so worldly, it is practically impossible for him to be righteous, too. The riches of this world corrupt mankind. Zophar wishes that God Himself would show him how wrong Job was. He asks Job to repent and turn back to God and forsake his sins, for only then will the past be totally forgotten. Job replies by saying that what Zophar has just said, anyone can know. Job then goes into a long monologue. He says that he longs for the past and for the days in which he had an intimate companionship with God. Then, he was continuously blessed by Him, he was held in honor and respect above all other men because he helped the helpless, was righteous, just and opposed the wicked. Job expected prosperity and blessing all the days of his life, he was the most respected of all men and now he is mocked by all. All he has left is a few remaining days of pain. Job begs for mercy but God ruthlessly attacks him with the intent of totally destroying him. Surely it is unreasonable to destroy a person who is already beat and broken. He went to others when they were hurt, yet no one come to his aid. Though he begs for health, all he receives is misery and horror.
Job then goes into an oath of innocence. He never looked lustfully at a woman, was never deceitful, never committed a sexual sin. He had never been unjust to his servants, never turned those away who were in need, never loved money or any other form of idolatry. Job challenges God to prove him wrong. If ever he had committed any sin, then may he be utterly cursed to the highest degree. Now, God replies to this through a voice in a whirlwind. He asks who it is that speaks these words that lack knowledge. He tells Job to prepare himself to answer Him. He asks Job what he knows about the formations of the earth’s foundations or how he formed and controls the oceans. He asks if he ever caused the morning to arrive or controlled the stars and clouds. Surely he must have lived countless years in order to speak with such great knowledge and power, says God. God asked whether he provided for the lion or the raven and kept watch over the mountain goat and deer when they give birth to their offspring. Did he give the donkey his freedom to roam the barren lands? Does he know why the ostrich is such a strange and unusual animal? Does he control the actions of the hawk and the eagle? God asks Job if the thinks that he knows so much that he is able to instruct Him.
Job is humbled and silenced by the greatness of God, yet does not renounce his former position. God tells Job that if he is going to question the way He does things, he had better have the wisdom and might to do better than He can. Since he is not God’s equal, he had no right to speak in such a manner. Job now realizes that it was not a good idea to challenge God. The only legitimate option was to submit to Him and trust Him to do what is right. Now, Job is ready to withdraw his challenge and repents. God lets Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar know that he is very angry for having spoken falsely of Him, making Job resent God. The fact that they were all speaking as if they knew exactly what God was doing is another error the friends make, for no one can presume to know the ways of the Lord. Therefore, to rectify having spoken of God in this manner, they each must take a certain amount of sacrifices to Job, and Job would offer their sacrifices to God and pray for them.
For a nice, happy ending, Job was made twice as prosperous as before. His wealth doubled, he had ten more children, and lived 140 more years of his life. The basic theme of this book is to establish an understanding of the relationship between God and His people. God’s wisdom and power are visible everywhere in creation. A willingness to look and accept what is obvious results in awe for the Creator. The clear purpose of this tale is to teach humankind that the true path to salvation and favor from God is an acceptance of whatever miseries and tests placed upon you. We are shown the three wrong stances to take through example of Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zopher, all three of whom place the blame upon Job and presume to know the ways of God. We are also shown that challanging God to prove his ways is unnaceptable, we are simple human beings and cannot presume to ask God to explain himself to us. All in all, The Book of Job is there to show us what not to do, it cautions against ever making God “angry” through your thoughts and actions, no matter what is inflicted on you. A truly fascinating and insightful book into the world of God and religion.