Job, book of

Job, book of
A major book of the wisdom literature of the OT, of unknown authorship, probably written during or soon after the Exile (6th cent. BCE). The book questions the justice of a God who was expected to offer protection and prosperity in return for loyalty and obedience. How then explain the suffering and pains of people who were pious, ‘blameless and upright’ (Job 1:1)? Job was such a one in this dramatic poem. In a short time he lost children, property, and health. If God was just, why did he let this happen? The book of Job has a special poignancy in the age of the Holocaust (Shoah)—so many prayers answered by total silence.
The structure of the book is that of a prose prologue and epilogue, while chs. 3 to 42:6 are the poem in which there is a dialogue between Job and three friends; there are three cycles of six speeches, with a reply to each by Job. This is followed by a further intervention (chs. 32–7) from a fourth friend, the young Elihu. Job's ‘comforters’ (16:1–2) explain why it is not unreasonable that he should be suffering such distress and they exhort him to endure it with fortitude and without complaint—much to Job's indignation. Job rails against God, blasphemously, cursing with his mouth and proclaiming his innocence. The day of his birth should be deleted from the calendar (3:3–7). He issues a challenge to God, even if he is killed by doing so. There is only silence. There is no one to act as umpire between himself and God. Then at last God does reveal himself and Job's obstinate pride is brought low. He can no longer assert his righteousness in the face of God speaking out of the whirlwind (38:2–4). What God says is very much what the friends had argued, but it reduces Job to repentance and God's generosity responds—though it is rather a crude response in that it is simply that Job's former prosperity is not only restored but doubled (42:10), and his three new daughters are the most beautiful in the land (42:15).
Job's three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, would vindicate God by claiming that there is a correspondence between sin and suffering. In the epilogue God is shown to rebuke the friends for this naïve orthodoxy (42:7) which in effect he has himself affirmed: he is inscrutable (38:4) and the laws of his creation are just, regular, immutable, and magnificent, by no means to be questioned (40:8).
The orthodox doctrine was that the good and the wicked receive their just deserts in life; the author of the book of Job felt that this was irreconcilable with the facts as he knew them. He has left a superb poem, but as the eighteen illustrations by William Blake (1825) suggest, the book is ultimately mysterious.

Dictionary of the Bible.

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  • Job, Book of —    A great diversity of opinion exists as to the authorship of this book. From internal evidence, such as the similarity of sentiment and language to those in the Psalms and Proverbs (see Ps. 88 and 89), the prevalence of the idea of wisdom, and… …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • JOB, BOOK OF —    pronounced by Carlyle one of the grandest things ever written with pen; grand in its sincerity, in its simplicity, in its epic melody and repose of reconcilement ; one perceives in it the seeing eye, the mildly understanding heart, true… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Book of Job — The Book of Job (, various interpolations have been claimed to have been made in the text of the central poem. The most common such claims are of two kinds: the parallel texts , which are parallel developments of the corresponding passages in the …   Wikipedia

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