Job (01) - When Bad Things Happen to Good People
Job 1:1–12 - There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. 1:2 Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. 1:3 His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east. . . . 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 1:7 The LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” 1:8 The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” 1:9 Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 1:10 “Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 1:11 “But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” 1:12 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD. . . . 2:3 The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.” 2:4 Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. 2:5 “However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face.” 2:6 So the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.” 2:7 Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 2:8 And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes. . . . In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
This story, because of the complexities of the language and structure has been understood in various ways: some see it as a theodicy, defending God from unrighteousness in the calamities of men; some see it as an ancient fairytale which provides no resolution to the question, Why do bad things happen? Some see it as an enigmatic portrayal of the problem of evil. Some see the “three friends” as providing some good counsel mixed with evil. Some see the friends as coming to attack Job. So we must understand the grand narrative of Job in a way that makes the sense of the text and understand Job’s place in the Wisdom Literature of Scripture. The Jewish Study Bible commentary begins with these words, “JOB IS THE MOST DIFFICULT BOOK of the Bible to interpret, not only because of its elaborate arguments, especially in the LORD’S speeches in the final chapters, but also because of its highly poetic language . . .” There is a prose prologue (1:1–3:1) and prose epilogue (42:7–17). The center of the book are a group of poetic speeches by Job, his friends, and the LORD (3:2–31:40). This section is the interaction of the cycles: Job and Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Eliphaz speaks, Job replies, Bildad speaks, Job replies, Zophar speaks, Job replies. Two full cycles (4:1–14:22; 15:1–21:34) like this take place, then in the third cycle (22:1–31:40), Zophar does not speak, and Job’s final speech (26:1–31:40) is much longer. At 32:2 a new character, Elihu, enters and speaks uninterruptedly (though with several breaks) from 32:6 to 37:24. At 38:1 the LORD speaks, replying not to Elihu but to Job, who has not spoken since 31:40. The final epilogue begins with God chastising the “friends” and asking Job to sacrifice and pray for them (42:7), before the restoration of Job’s blessings (42:10).
Rabbi Kushner says, God comes to us in the incarnation of people to help. What gets you out, your theology or your friends?