Job, book of the Old Testament. It is attributed
to Job, the principal character of the book.
scholars have dated the book variously from Mosaic
to postexilic times. The time presently favored
by most scholars, however, is the later postexilic
period, or from 500 to 250 BC.
author, who is unknown, is thought to have used
an Israelite or Edomite folktale or epic dating
perhaps from the beginning of the Israelite monarchy
as a framework for his poetic dialogue. Later, another
writer (or editor) added the speeches of a youthful
fourth friend (chap. 32-37). The book is part of
the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, which
includes Ecclesiastes and Proverbs.
Book of Job consists of five distinct sections:
a prose prologue (chap. 1-2); a series of dramatic
discourses between Job and three of his friends,
Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar (chap. 3-31); a discourse
between Job and Elihu, a fourth friend (chap. 32-37);
God's speeches from the whirlwind (38:1-42:6); and
a prose epilogue (42:7-17).
Job is a "man . . . blameless and
upright . . . one who feared God, and turned away
from evil" (1:1). He is pious, rich, and the head
of a large, contented family. Then on a day "when
the sons of God came to present themselves before
the Lord" (1:6), God asks Satan
what he thinks of Job's piety and righteousness.
Satan proposes that Job would curse God if he were
to lose all his wealth; so God and Satan agree to
test Job. Satan proceeds to take away Job's possessions,
even his sons, and finally to afflict Job with extremely
painful boils. Job refuses, however, to curse God.
Three of his friends, having heard of his misfortunes,
now arrive to comfort him, but they are dumbfounded
at their first sight of Job.
Job and His Friends
The second section, after Job's first complaint
(chap. 3), consists of three cycles of speeches.
During each cycle each one of his three friends
speaks once and Job, directly replying to each in
turn, answers three times. The gist of the speeches
of the three friends is that Job's misfortunes and
suffering must result from some wickedness on the
part of Job and therefore he is justly served. Job,
steadfastly proclaiming his innocence, soon becomes
irritated, then angry, with his friends for their
apparently unwarranted, superficial judgments; still
he continues to seek an explanation for his sufferings:
"Oh that I had one to hear me! Here is my signature!
Let the Almighty answer me" (31:35).
third section consists of the speeches of Elihu.
His wrath is kindled against Job "because he justified
himself rather than God" (32:2) and against "his
three friends because they had found no answer,
although they had declared Job to be in the wrong"
(32:3). Elihu contends that Job has added "rebellion
to his sin" (34:37) by questioning God's judgment.
His support for this contention is the belief that
"the Almighty—we cannot find him; he is great in
power and justice" (37:23).
In the fourth section, God speaks from out of a
whirlwind. He seems to ignore completely Job's desire
for an explanation or justification of his suffering;
instead, he humbles Job by challenging him to explain
how the universe was created and how it is ordered.
Job's "error," apparently, is his presumption that
God's ways and his omnipotence are humanly comprehensible.
In seemingly irrelevant questions (40:8), God both
rebukes Job and makes his most direct reply to Job's
earlier question: "What is the Almighty, that we
should serve him? And what profit do we get if we
pray to him?" (21:15). Recognizing at last that
he has spoken out of ignorance and that he may come
no closer to God than his vision of him, Job now
In the last section, God rebukes Job's three friends (Elihu
does not appear) because they "have not spoken of me what
is right, as my servant Job has" (42:7). He gives to Job twice
the wealth and possessions he formerly owned, seven sons and
three beautiful daughters, and a contented old age. The epilogue,
like the prologue, is in prose, and it most clearly reflects
the probable folktale origins of the poetic discourses.
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