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Evaluation of Job’s Short Story

                In my previous post I laid out the “short story” of Job – the prose narrative that begins and ends the book that was, I contended, originally a free-standing story that existed independently of the poetic dialogues between Job and his friends that take up the great bulk of the book (this isn’t my idea: it’s been a standard view in scholarship for a long time).   This short story has a different view of Job, of the reason for his suffering, of his response to suffering, and just about everything else from the poetic exchanges of chapter 3-42.   Interpretations simply get fuzzy and confused when they treat the book as a literary whole – or at least the views of each of the two constituent parts gets completely altered when they are combined together into a rather large work, as was done by an unknown editor who spliced them into the book that we now have today.

                And so, just sticking with what we find in the short story, what can we say about it as a theodicy – as an explanation for why there is suffering?   I’ll lay my cards on the table here at the outset.  I love this story.  I think it’s moving, powerful, interesting, memorable, and in its way noble.   The idea that Job’s love for God is disinterested, rather than for what he can get out of it (riches, material goods, fantastic family, and so on) is touching and ennobling, in its way.    That’s my view of the piece as a work of fiction.   As a piece of fiction that is trying to teach a lesson about why people suffer, however, I think the work is a complete disaster – for reasons many of you have pointed out in comments on my post.  Here I’ll just mention two points.

                First, if the story is teaching a lesson about God and suffering, the lesson is that God is capricious and willing to ruin, maim, and destroy a person simply in order to see if s/he will still love him anyway (and to win a bet).  Imagine parents acting that way toward a child – taking away everything she has, killing off her loved ones, and beating her, just to see if she would still say she loves them.   Conservative readers will respond that it’s different, because this is, after all, GOD we’re talking about, not mere mortals.  But is God exempt from the moral standards that he himself has set?  If he wants humans to behave in certain ways, can he act in opposite ways (tormenting, maiming, and killing) and still be GOD?  Realize, I’m not condemning God here.  I’m condemning what this author wrongfully imagines to be God.  There is no way, in my judgment, that God could be like this – willing to take a bet with one of his councilors to see if he can make Job reject him by destroying his property, killing his entire family, and subjecting him to loathesome disease and physical agony.  I refuse to believe there is a God like that.  (And it’s not good enough to say that God didn’t do it, but Satan did.  Remember: Satan is not “the Devil” here.  He is one of God’s divine counsel members.  And God is the one who authorizes all of Satan’s actions, so the buck stops *there*).

                Second point: the way it all works out.  For many readers, the ending of Job makes a lot of sense: everything is restored to Job twofold after he has has passed the “test” and remained faithful to God despite his enormous sufferings.   God rewards him with the possessions that he had lost – twice as many sheep, donkey, and oxen.  And he replaces his seven sons and three daughters with seven other sons and three other daughters.

                But wait a second!  It makes sense that you can replace livestock – even double your holdings – as a reward for righteous behavior in the midst of suffering.  But can you replace children?   If you lose a child, is it all made better by having another one?   Does this mean that God can allow Satan to murder ten children, and make it up to Job later simply by replacing them later (“Don’t worry: it was just a test!”)?  For many readers this is one of the most disturbing ideas in the entire Hebrew Bible.  And, well, I’m one of them.

                So, I really do like the story as a story.  But I refuse to accept a thing it has to say about a divine being in control of this world and the way he interacts with his people.   I think that it has not just an unacceptable view of why it is people suffer but a thoroughly contemptible view.   So you ask: why do you like it as a story then?   Good question.  The reality is that I, like most people, like *lots* of stories that have characters who are despicable and plots that are surreal, unrealistic, and implausible.   Fiction is fiction, and needs to be appreciated as such.   It’s when people say “this is how it really is” (e.g., God took away your child because he is testing your faith) that I get twitchy.   Or, rather, angry.

The Poetic Section of Job
The Prose Story of Job



  1. Avatar
    Betho  September 5, 2015

    Hello Teacher, we have different visions, allow expose, we are a small town in the north of the State of Espírito Santo, Brazil. As written before on this blog, we were taught that Jesus’ disciples were rich, had possessions, however, were illiterate, were not poor, similarly, we understand that Job suffered at the hands of adverse people, by circumstances and not knowing how to deal with with the situation.

    In practical terms, the Jewish concept the righteous (tzaddik) can wait because he believes, it is the one that stays in the Eternal Path, for its logos (Dabar) and extension (see Abraham). Job was at all costs wanting to be “tsadaq” (fair) in order to quickly reverse the situation. In 40: 8, God answers Job: “… perhaps also invalidate my judgment Would you condemn me, that thou mayest be tsadaq?” In 42: 6 Job says, “… for I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes … “Moreover, this attitude was narrated as follows:” righteous in his own eyes “as in 32: 1

    The author of the book says in John 1: 1 that Job was “fair” and not “righteous in his own eyes” as in John 32: 1, there is a fundamental difference, including the original terms of the words used in the Septuagint. The Jewish teaching seen in Luke 18: 9-14 is contrary to this “be fair in their own eyes” and in Proverbs 12:15: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but who listens to advice is wise “…” after this the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge … ”

    In the Hebrew text the word ישר yashar verse 1, translated by straight, vertical, also appears in verse 8. A complement to the Hebrew text in understanding the translation is the Septuagint, where the term δικαιος dikaios verse 1, translated by fair, not It appears in verse 8, which is the word of the Eternal about Job In Job 32: 1. The term here is צדיק tsaddiyq word for fair and in the Septuagint by δικαιος dikaios without controversy. In short, using these verses, only in v1 the Septuagint mentions that Job was righteous, there is a doubt as to whom he said. What is the difference between a yashar and a tzaddik? We read in Genesis 15: 6 “… and he believed in YHWH; and he counted it to him for righteousness …” In practical terms, the righteous (tzaddik) can wait because believe.

    The Septuagint, a translation from Hebrew into Greek, translated both “yashar” as “tzaddik” with “dikaios δικαιος” and Portuguese versions as “fair”. Usually the word “yashar” is translated straight, ie without curves, but it is also translated as “straight”, then we can conclude that a “yashar” “is” one who walks a straight line, “a concrete concept . There is no concrete way to define the verb form of “tzaddik,” being an abstract word, its interpretation is complex. One of the best ways to discover the original meaning of a word is found it in a sentence where where its meaning concrete can be interpreted Sometimes, these parallels are by synonyms or antonyms and was in this sense that I quoted Genesis. 15: 6, where the word “tsedakah” root “tzaddik” is used, but ultimately what is “tsedakah”? Justice? In Genesis 30:33 we must translate “tsedakah” as justice? Yes it is possible, the King James Version loyal and did so, but perhaps not the clearest translation, quote for example Difusora Capuccino which translates to “righteousness” and Jerusalem Bible “honesty”, among others. The Hebrew term “rasha”, which has the verb meaning “to be nasty, guilty, convicted,” is the original meaning of “make noise, riot, there being bad, guilty religiously or civilly, hence it bad before God, hostile, where wicked “and its actual meaning is” to depart from the path and become lost. ” Its use with the “tzaddik” term appears in the following passages:

    Genesis 18:23 Genesis 18:25 Ex 9:27 Ex 23: 7 Deuteronomy 25: 1 2 Samuel 4:11 1 Kings 8:32 2 Chronicles 6:23 Ps 1: 5 Ps 1: 6 Psalm 7: 9 Psalm 11: 5 Psalm 34 21 Psalm 37:12 Psalm 37:16 Psalm 37:17 Psalm 37:21 Psalm 37:32 Psalm 58:10 Psalm 75:10 Psalm 129: 4 Proverbs 3:33 Proverbs 10: 3 Proverbs 10: 6 Proverbs 10: 7 Proverbs 10:11 Proverbs 10:16 Proverbs 10:20 Proverbs 10:24 Proverbs 10:25 Proverbs 10:28 Proverbs 10:30 Proverbs 10:32 Proverbs 11: 8 Proverbs 11:10 Proverbs 11:23 Proverbs 11:31 Proverbs 12 : 5 Proverbs 12: 7 Proverbs 12:10 Proverbs 24:12 Proverbs 12:21 Proverbs 24:26 Proverbs 13: 5 Proverbs 13: 9 Proverbs 13:25 Proverbs 14:19 Proverbs 14:32 Proverbs 15: 6 Proverbs 15:28 Proverbs 15:29 Proverbs 17:15 Proverbs 18: 5 Proverbs 21:12 Proverbs 21:18 Proverbs 00:15 Proverbs 00:16 Proverbs 00:24 Proverbs 25:26 Proverbs 28: 1 Proverbs 28:12 Proverbs 28:28 Proverbs 29 : 2 Proverbs 29: 7 Proverbs 29:16 Proverbs 29:27 Ecclesiastes 3:17 Ecclesiastes 7:15 Ecclesiastes 8:14 Ecclesiastes 9: 2 Isaiah 5:23 Jeremiah 12: 1 Ezekiel 13:22 Ezekiel 18:20 Ezekiel 18:24 Ezekiel 21: 3 Ezekiel 21: 4 Ezekiel 33:12 Hc 1: 4 Hc 1:13 Malachi 3:18

    The context, we can conclude that a “tzaddik” is one that remains in the Eternal Path, by his Word and by extension, a “yashar” is not necessarily a “tzaddik,” the opposite is always true in this context it is worth remembering the parable of the ten virgins, all were virgins, ie, morally pure, but only five were prudent.

    Use of the tzaddik and tsadaq verb: wrote:

    At 4:17 Eliphaz asks if man can be “tsadaq” in the presence of the Eternal.
    9: 2 Job agree that man can not be “tsadaq” in the presence of the Eternal, because it is much stronger and wiser.
    At 9:15 Job states that even if it was “tsadaq” before the Lord, receive no answer.
    In Job 9:20 it says that even if it was “tsadaq” before the Lord, would be guilty.
    At 10:15 Job says that he is “tsadaq” would not dare raise his head.
    11: 2 Sofar Naamat asks if a man full of conversation can be “tsadaq”.
    12: 4, Job cites his integrity “tzaddik”. Integrity means complete, faultless
    In Job 13:18 says he knows his “tsadaq”
    At 15:14 Eliphaz from Teman asks how can man be “tsadaq” born of woman?
    17: 9 Job quotes a “tzadik” does not deviate from its path. An indirect reference to “yashar”
    22: 3 Eliphaz from Teman said: … which imports Shaddai to be a ‘tsadaq ”
    At 22:19 Eliphaz cites the triumphant joy of the “tzaddik” on the final punishment of the “rasha”
    25: 4 Bildad of his says: … how can man be “tsadaq” before the Lord?
    27: 5 Job says: … I will defend my “tsadaq” to death.
    In Job 27:17 cites a “tzaddik” put on many garbs.

    Then we have:

    In 32: 2 “… because he” tsadaq “himself.

    At 33:12 Elihu the son of Barachel says “… he did not” tsadaq “, in relation to verse 9.

    At 33:32 Elihu the son of Barachel says “… want to” tsadaq “Job.

    In 34: 5 Elihu the son of Barachel says that Job said: “I am” tsadaq “and God denies me the right.

    35: 7 Elihu the son of Barachel asks Job, “If you are” tsadaq “, you give him?” the clouds.

    In 40: 8, the Lord responds to Job, “… perhaps also invalidate my judgment Would you condemn me, that thou mayest be tsadaq?” In 42: 6 Job says, “… for I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes … ”

    “… Jesus said to them, having answered: Those being healthy have no need of a physician, but those being sick; I came not to call the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance ….”

    Chapter 42:
    7, the Lord says “… ye have not spoken of me what is right, as did my servant Job …”, then conclude with great probability that the quotes and Job’s arguments about the Eternal, in general, they were correct, as those of Eliphaz and his friends do not.
    Nothing is said about tzaddik and tsadaq, however, we read that Job had not lost the quality of servo and intercessor, was so named and made intercession was yet in captivity.
    In 11 we read, “… and they bemoaned him, and comforted him concerning all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him …” which will be divided into two parts with questions:
    1a) “… and they bemoaned him, and comforted …” How to interpret the passive attitudes of this verse in parallel active attitudes of Chapter 1? “… and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, Perhaps my sons have sinned …”
    1b) “… about all the evil that the Lord had sent him …” How to interpret the origin of evil in parallel to Chapter 1? “… The sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also” the Adversary “between them …” and Job 2:10

    “So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” 42:12
    So the first was also blessed.

    a) Notice that Job has a priestly behavior (Catholic Teaching) and sanctified all his children, who subsequently died a few, which were not included in said God “There is no one on earth like him” 1: 8
    b) There is a point (inflection according to Bruno Ribeiro) in two states blessed. This paragraph begins with the theological debate between God and one of his sons, the HaSatan (that has the jurisdiction of which is not good).
    c) In the first state:

    c1) “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God any unpleasant thing.
    c2) and still retain its integrity, 2: 3
    c3) there thou Me (HaSatan the son of God) incited against him, 2: 3
    c4) for without cause. 2: 3
    It is strong the jurisdiction of the Son of God, the HaSatan. He has argumentative influence with the Lord.
    Job 1:12 And the Satan (accuser) came out from the presence of Yahweh.
    a) What does being in the presence of the LORD?
    Cain, after the murder of his brother Abel, “withdrew from the presence of Yahweh” Genesis 4:16

    Could all this happened and originated in a cult covering wicked and good men?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 5, 2015

      This is too long for me to answer, but if you have a short question I would be happy to address it.

  2. Avatar
    Najdy  April 10, 2017

    It’s interesting that in the quran version of the story, Job got his old family back and as many more with them. (84) (21:84)

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