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An Analysis of The Book of Job

The book of Job is found in the Old Testament and is an epic poem written by many anonymous authors about a man of God named Job. Some Jews speculate that the author was Moses Rabbeinu other speculate the prophet Isaiah; others just accept that it was sent down by the Holy Spirit. Job lived in the land of Uz during the times of the Patriarchs; he was most likely a contemporary of Abraham. The structure of Job is in the manner of a poem, with a prologue at the beginning and the end of the book. Each verse is written in prose and many versus in the form of questions. This is most likely because the Book of Job deals with questions that mankind has; the questioning structure in the beginning and middle of Job foreshadows the end when God speaks and answers some of these questions. Job was a practical ordinary man who was not sinless, but knew how to deal with his sins in essence making him blameless. Job was renowned for his riches, his love of his children and God-fearing beliefs. Job lived a comfortable life until Satan begins inflicting pain and suffering upon him.

The major conflict in the Book of Job occurs in the first few versus where Satan challenges Job’s commitment to God. Satan insisted that Job would curse God in his heart for taking away his possessions; God accepts the challenge and Job is put to the test. At first, God gives the condition that Job himself is not to be harmed, Satan concurs and Job’s crops, livestock and children and devastated. After these events, Job does not curse God but falls to his knees and gives thanks for the good times that he has had. Job acknowledges God’s right to give him things and take them away at his own whims. Satan then insists that since God put up the condition of not harming Job the test was biased in God’s favor. God then allows Satan to give Job sores all over his body contending that any man can give up his possessions but once his health is in jeopardy, he will denounce God. Satan uses Job’s wife as an instrument to convince him to condemn God. She tells Job to curse God so he can die and be rid of pain, but Job refuses still full of faith. While Job is bedridden, three of friends visit him and conclude that he has committed a great sin against God, Job defends his innocence but his friends are unsupportive. In his suffering, Job proves to be faithful and does not renounce God. After much debate with his friends, a man named Elihu appears and relays the words of God. Job becomes angered and begins to see God in a different light, he thinks he has put up with enough poor treatment and feels God is unjust and unfair. Job has taken the first step in cursing God; God realizes this and through Elihu, conveys that men who are righteous will eventually receive what is promised to them. Elihu also tells Job that he is a righteous man and he is well intentioned, but his idea of God is too small and reflects on his own ignorance. The way Job is serving God is flawed, which is why he is experiencing so many difficulties. Elihu also reassures Job that God is not acting badly to him out of spite, but to teach him a lesson. Job wonders why and demands to speak with God. God then decides to speak to Job who is filled with doubt; God asks Job a series of questions related to philosophy and nature, of course Job does not know how to answer them. Job is in awe of God’s presence and wisdom and is once again humbled, he realizes that he does not have the right to question God’s actions. God and Job continue to speak and God begins to address the problem with Job, that is his heart is too proud. Two animals are observed, a Behemoth, which represents the evil within a person. The underlying reason as to why God made Job observe this animal is to inquire whether Job is prepared to handle internal evils, and he proves himself able. Job is the faced with the Leviathan, who represents external evils. When asked whether he can handle them, he is unable because there are things that he has no control over. God makes Job realize that he is not as perfect as he strives to be because there are imperfections embedded in his being that he is unaware of. At the end, Job has a totally new outlook of God, realizes that he was wrong to be upset with God, and repents. God then condemns Job’s three friends for their skepticism of him and says that once Job has prayed for them, they will be forgiven. Job prays for his friends and they are pardoned, his riches are restored and he lives a very long life.

The book of Job is connected to everybody’s life because no bodies life is without suffering. Currently, I can relate to what Job was going through, but not to the same physical extent as he endured. This year I decided to forget about my previous social life, which involved going to raves and partying every weekend. As soon as I left the scene a lot of people criticized what I was doing and did not think I could go three months without partying. I decided to fill my weekends with work, so I could save up for University and work full time on school during the weekdays. Many of my old friends call me a brainer but I don’t really mind because I’ll have a promising future while they’ll have nothing worth living for. Like Job, I’ve faced a lot of scrutiny over my life choices, but in the end I think I will get through this rough patch and ultimately prevail and be prosperous just a Job was.

The central messages of the book of Job are that God gives us good times and bad times, we should not only expect to receive good without enduring some suffering afterward. God said, "therefore, hear me, you men of understanding, far be it from God that he should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that he should do wrong. For according to the work of a man he will requite him, and according to his ways, he will make it befall him. Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice." (Job 34.10-12). It may seem cruel that higher entity tortures lesser beings, but by enduring hard times, we are made stronger, grow with experience, and gain wisdom; God always honors those who are virtuous. Throughout our lives, we are faced with unavoidable evils, which with the help of God can be managed. Additionally, the Book of Job encourages inner strength. The Behemoth, a representation of inner strength is described by God as,” first of the works of God; let him who made him bring near his sword!" (Job 40.19). When Job is being attacked by his friends, he remains strong and has faith in God. Job possesses tremendous inner strength for a simple man. Although it may be hard to do, when faced with criticism we must stick to our personal convictions and stand up for what we believe in. The most important theme of Job is the role of suffering in Christian life. Reverand Ray Steadman believes that,

He suffered because suffering, in a Christian, is a way of allowing God to demonstrate that Satan is a liar and a cheat. That is what is going on in the book of Job. Satan had made proclamation before all the universe that men served God only because God blesses them, and that if you remove the blessing, men would curse God to his face; that man does not see any intrinsic value in God himself, but it is only his own self-interest that makes him serve God.

Job suffered in order to prove Satan wrong; God does not inflict pain and suffering on people out of spite, he does it in order to teach us fundamental lessons about life. In addition to teaching us about life, suffering also allows us to learn more about ourselves; through praying and humbling ourselves before God, we gain a different perspective on life. The book of Job helps us to understand the realities of life, the greatness of what goodness God has given to us, and the true role of our God, that is to be our teacher.

Works Consulted

  • http://www.pbc.org/dp/stedman/job/index.shtml
  • http://www.shamash.org/listarchives/iyov/jobintro

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