In this thread on the afterlife in the Bible, I have turned to Ecclesiastes and Job as providing alternative views to what is found in most of the Hebrew Bible.  In my previous post I noted that Job appears to be two different books by two different authors edited together at some point into one long account.  The beginning and end of the book represent a short folk tale, with an intriguing view of why it is people suffer (a matter of importance to views of the afterlife, as we will see in the next post,).  Here is what I say about the tale in my book God’s Problem:


The Folktale: The Suffering of Job as a Test of Faith

The action of the prose folktale alternates between scenes on earth and in heaven.  It begins by indicating that Job lived in the land of Uz; usually this is located in Edom, to the southeast of Israel.  Job, in other words, is not an Israelite.  As a book of “wisdom,” this account is not concerned with specifically Israelite traditions: it is concerned with understanding the world in ways that should make sense to everyone living in it.  In any event, Job is said to be “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (1:1). We have already seen that in other books of wisdom, such as Proverbs, wealth and prosperity come to those who are righteous before God; here this dictum is borne out.  Job is said to be enormously wealthy, with 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 donkeys, and very many servants.  His piety is seen in his daily devotions to God: early every morning he makes a burnt offering to God for all his children, seven sons and three daughters, in case they have committed some sin.

The narrator then moves to a heavenly scene in which the “heavenly beings” (literally: the sons of God) appear before the Lord, “the Satan” among them.  It is important to recognize that the Satan here is not…

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