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JOB, BOOK OF (named for its hero (Heb. אִיּוֹב), ancient South Arabian and Thamudic yʾb; Old Babylonian Ayyābum, Tell el-Amarna tablet, no. 256, line 6, A-ia-ab; either from yʾb, "to bear ill-will" or compounded of ay "where?" and ʾab"[divine] father"), one of the Hagiographa, Hebrew Ketuvim, which constitute the third division of the Hebrew Canon.

Position within the Hagiographa

In most printed Hebrew Bibles the first three books of Ketuvim are Psalms, Proverbs, Job; in bh3 and bh5 however (which are based on the Leningrad manuscript of 1008 c.e.), they are Psalms, Job, Proverbs. The latter sequence is the one prescribed by the famous baraita in Bava Batra 14b. As in the case of the Prophets (Nevi'im), the baraita requires that the nonhistorical books constitute a solid block arranged according to descending numbers of *sedarim. Proverbs contains the same number of sedarim (eight) as Job; the deciding factor in its being placed after it, however, was not that it contains fewer verses but that it shares with the book which has the next highest number of sedarim (four) in the group, namely Ecclesiastes, the attribution to Solomonic authorship in its superscription. The proof is the sequence of the remaining two books in the group: although the Song of Songs has fewer verses than Lamentations, the circumstance that it has the same number of sedarim (neither book being divided into sedarim) left the arranger free to place it first, so that it might stand next to its Solomonic fellow Ecclesiastes. So, too, Ezekiel has fewer verses than Isaiah (1,273 as against 1,291), but the baraita gives it the precedence because it has more sedarim (29 as against 26). The baraita, however, separates the historical book Ruth from the body of historical Hagiographa that follow the non-historical block and places it before this block – in order that David-authored Psalms may be preceded by the Davidic genealogy at the end of Ruth. The foregoing is a refinement of L. Blau, in: je, 3 (1902), 143–4 (following H.L. Strack).

critical analysis

The Framework and the Poem: Job the Patient and Job the Impatient

It is customary to speak of Job as a wisdom book. But it is so much more sophisticated, not only in its message but also in its technique, than Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, or even the extra-canonical book of *Ben Sira, that it is really in a class by itself. To begin with, it exhibits the striking feature of consisting of a narrative prose framework – the Prologue, chapters 1–2, and the Epilogue, 42:7–17 – and a poetic disputation, 3:1–42:6. The Prologue is easy to follow, and the transition from it to the Poem is natural. The Epilogue, taken by itself, is also fairly easy to follow, except that 42:11–17 seems to come much too late (see below). Puzzling, however, is the logic of such an Epilogue, especially verses 7–10 thereof, to such a Poem.

the story of the prologue

(Chapter 1). Job was an inhabitant of the land of *Uz. This location places Job within the territory of Edom (see Lam. 4:21), the nation to which Job's three friends also belong (see below). Moreover, it clearly places the mortal protagonists, with the possible exception of Elihu, in the land whose wisdom was proverbial (see Jer. 49:7; Obad. 1:8).

His wealth, consisting (like that of the Patriarchs in Genesis) primarily of livestock and slaves, exceeded that of any other man among the *Kedemites. He also had seven sons and three daughters. After the children's (annual?) week of feasting, he used to offer burnt offerings for all of them to make expiation for any irreverent thought they might have admitted into their hearts when their consciences were dulled by wine. The *Satan (accusing angel), however, argued with the Lord that piety coupled with such wealth could not be termed disinterested. Let the Lord try depriving Job of it, and he would surely denounce the Lord to his face. So Job in a series of calamities lost all his property, and his sons and daughters, all in one day. Job learned of these disasters from four successive messengers. On hearing the message of the last one, he performed the usual acts of mourning (1:20), but never a disparaging word about God crossed his lips. On the contrary, he declared: "Naked I came out of my mother's womb,/ And naked again I will depart.// The Lord has taken what the Lord gave:/ The name of the Lord be blessed."// The resourceful Satan now argued that after all the true test of disinterested piety was bodily suffering. With God's permission, he struck Job with a terrible inflammation of the skin from head to foot, and Job sat in the dust scratching himself with a sherd. But still Job did not "sin with his lips." On the contrary, to his wife's suggestion that he denounce the God who had requited his loyalty so shabbily, he retorted indignantly, "You talk like a base woman! Can we both accept the good from God and not accept the bad?" Job had three friends in three different parts of the Kedemite world: Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. These, on learning of Job's misfortunes, met, and journeyed together to the home of Job in order to condole with him and comfort him. This is stated explicitly, and their reaction to the spectacle of his misery (2:12–13) leaves no doubt about the sincerity of their friendship.

the epilogue

Not everybody can be a Job, and if the foregoing were followed by an account of how, moved as was Job's wife by their grief for him but equipped with more education and eloquence, the friends declared that the God who requited Job's loyalty so shabbily was unworthy of it and delivered themselves of some critical reflections on God's conduct of the world – and how Job again demonstrated his unique steadfastness, and not only by not heeding these suggestions but by replying to them forcefully – nobody would be surprised. Indeed, some scholars have suggested that the first three verses of the Epilogue presuppose just such an exchange between Eliphaz and his two companions, on the one hand, and Job, on the other. However, it is primarily on the Prologue and the Epilogue that the traditional picture of Job as a patient sufferer (in English, the King James Version of Epistle of James 5:11 has made "the patience of Job" a household word) is based, for in the Poem, Job is for the most part a critic of Providence. In fact some moderns deny that 42:7–10 does presuppose a conventionally saintly Job and claim that it wishes to teach that God approves just of honest critics like the Job of chapters 3ff. and is mildly contemptuous of apologists like the friends of chapters 4ff. Proponents of this view argue (1) that if the Lord rebuked the friends for speaking as Job's wife had spoken, he might be expected to rebuke Job's wife too, and (2) that 13:7–10 actually predicts that God is going to rebuke the friends for "speaking falsely for God." These arguments are easily disposed of. With regard to the former, the Bible does not place women wholly on a par with men. The limited influence of Job's wife as a woman – and one not even distinguished enough for her name to be recorded – made her expression of objectionable views a less serious matter than that of the friends. Besides, she was not fully a person in her own right, but largely an extension of her husband. Thus in 31:9–10 Job thinks that if he were guilty of adultery it would be a fitting punishment for him if another man enjoyed his wife; how she might feel about it does not concern him; much worse are Deuteronomy 28:30a; Amos 7:17a; etc. To the second argument, all that Job says in 13:3ff. is that God will rebuke his friends if they butt in with their stupid apologetics while he is addressing his indictment to God, for then they would be speaking falsehood directly to – not for – God. Since therefore, the friends do hold their peace until Job has finished his arraignment of God, 42:7–10 is not a fulfillment of 13:10. The author of the bulk of 3:1–42:6 was indeed of the opinion that the facts of life are as Job presents them rather than as Eliphaz and his friends do; but their honest error (it is not the monstrous one that is commonly imputed to them; see below 3 (a) (i)) is a less serious offense in his estimation than Job's presumptuous demand of an explanation from God. He represents God as rebuking Job, not his friends, 38: 1–42:6, and Job as humbly and contritely admitting his fault – twice, 40:3–5 and 42: 1–2, 3ab–b, 5–6 (42:3aa and 4 are out of place). It simply cannot be denied that "the prose framework" presupposes between Prologue and Epilogue a very different disputation from chapters 3–26; 29–31; 38:1–42:6. Fortunately, a large fragment of this very different disputation has been preserved. H. Fine has demonstrated that chapters 27–28 are a reply by Job as known from chapters l–2 – we shall call him "Job the Patient" – to people whom he addresses in the masculine plural and accuses of having urged him to "stop being a sucker" who "does not sin with his lips" and, as the Lord has noted approvingly after the first trial (2:3) and Job's wife uncomprehendingly after the second (2:9), "still holds fast to his integrity" instead of denouncing God. That this is the case with most of 27:2–6 had already been seen, though Fine was unaware of it, 30 years before by F. Buhl, and one can only marvel that Buhl had failed to see that the following is the only natural and honest interpretation of all of 27:2–6: "(2) Witness God who denies me redress,/ Shaddai who has made me wretched!// (3) So long as my breath is in me,/ The life-breath from God in my nostrils,// (4) My lips shall never speak godlessness,/ My tongue never utter impiety. // (5) Far be it from me to declare you right!/ I will not give up my integrity until I die.// (6b) Never in my life has even my heart blasphemed./(6a) I have held fast to my righteousness and I will not let go of it."// (Notes: On 5b. In an attempt to harmonize this line with chapters 3–26, most writers interpret it to mean, "I will never give up my assertion of my integrity." But such a forced meaning could at most be justified if the friends in 3–26 disputed Job's claim to be a good man or if Job himself in those chapters claimed to be without sin; neither is the case, as will be demonstrated further on. On 6a. Since, therefore, 5b can only mean what it says, we-loʾ aʾrpeha must be given its natural future meaning – in 6a, idiom sanctions the imperfect before mi-yamai, as can be seen from i Sam. 25:28.)

There can be no doubt but that just as the rebuke of the traditional saint Job to his friends who had fallen into error is many times longer and more detailed than his rebuke to his wife for the rash suggestion she made under stress, so the friends had expressed their view in a many times longer and more elaborate speech than Job's wife. For the unmistakable implication of 27:7ff. is that the friends had argued that very often just the wicked fare best on earth – exactly as the unconventional Job (Job the Impatient (jip) does in chapter 21. And conventional Job opposes this view in 27:7ff. with no less warmth than the unconventional Job's conventional opponents do in 15:20ff., 18:5ff, or 20:4ff. As for chapter 28, N.H. Tur-Sinai's rearrangement appears correct, as does his interpretation in the main. Its theme is: Wisdom is God's, and He has taught man that it is wise to be godly. The concluding and climactic sentence, "Behold, wisdom is to revere my Lord (perhaps to be emended to ʾElohim, "God," cf. 1:1, 8; 2:3), understanding is to shun evil," is unmistakably intended to recall the description of Job the Patient in 1:1, 8; 2:3, and to imply that the smartest thing a man can do is emulate Job the Patient. For chapters 27–28 constitute a single speech by this very Job the Patient, and it is to this that 42: 7–8 refers when it says, twice, that "my servant Job" (cf. 1:8; 2:3) "spoke properly" about yhwh. Only the speech in which Eliphaz and his companions "did not speak properly" about God has not been preserved, though it is unmistakably presupposed by chapter 27. The original book of Job the Patient (jp), then, was made up as follows: (i) 1:1–2:8, Job's disinterested piety. Put to much crueler tests than the one by which Abraham (Gen. 22) proved that he was a true yereʾ ʾElohim (Gen. 22:12) or god-fearing, i.e., pious, man, Job proved that he was a yareʾ ʾElohim ḥinnam (cf. Job 1:9), i.e., was unconditionally god-fearing or pious. (ii) 2:9–10. Job defends, against his wife, the view that men must remain devoted to God under all circumstances. (iii) 2:11–13. Arrival of Job's three friends. (iv) Now missing: the urging of the friends that Job repudiate the God who has so shamefully failed him. (v) Chapters 27–28. Job's emphatic refusal (27:2–6), citing the unwisdom of wickedness (27:7ff.) and the wisdom of godliness (chapter 28). (vi) A second missing passage, in which God assured Job that he would reward his steadfastness (cf. Gen. 22:16). It is far more likely that 42:7a is an integral part of jp and refers to such a revelation of approval and promise than that it was written by an editor or – even less likely – by the author of the book of Job the Impatient (jip) for the purpose of connecting 38:1–42:6 with 42:7bff. For in the former God intimates to Job in no uncertain terms that he has spoken improperly about Him, and Job contritely admits it, twice: 40:3–4 and 42:2, 3ab–b, 5–6 (verses 3aa and 4 are variants of 38:2–3). (vii) 42:7b–17. God's rebuke to the friends for their aberration and reward to Job for his constancy.

[Harold Louis Ginsberg]

Against the Buhl-Fine-Ginsberg theory of two books of Job – jp and jip – Gordis (1978, p. 578) argues that "the existence of one book of Job is a datum, while the theory of two books of Job is a hypothesis. Thus the burden of proof rests upon the proponent of the new theory. Its power to persuade depends upon the degree to which it is free from difficulties of its own." In fact, Gordis (1978, pp. 287–311) endeavors to work around the canonical Book of Job's bracketing chapters 27–28 with the expression "Job again took up his discourse, saying" in 27:1 and 29:1. The demonstration by Buhl, Fine, and Ginsberg that chapters 27–28 can and should be read as a document distinct from chapters 3–26 and 29:1–42:6 accounts for the bracketing of these chapters in the canonical Book of Job. Moreover, the Buhl-Fine-Ginsberg theory accounts for chapter 28 as a long and involved rhetorical question posed by Job, "As for wisdom where may it be found?" (28:12) culminating in Job's answer to his impious friends, "To humankind He [God] said, 'Behold: piety [lit., fearing of God] is wisdom, and ethical behavior [lit., shunning of evil] is discernment'" (28:28). The latter assertion is reminiscent of the description of Job in 1:1, 8 and 2:3 as indeed "fearing God and shunning evil." Gordis's, albeit more conventional (in terms of the trends in 19th- and 20th-century biblical studies) theory, no less than the Buhl-Fine-Ginsberg theory, also ignores the datum of a single book of Job. Indeed, Gordis treats chapter 28 as a separate composition, which he calls "The Hymn to Wisdom," and which he describes as "clearly an independent lyrical poem." In fact, it is not a "Hymn to Wisdom," but a declaration that the fear of God is the true wisdom. Moreover, again ignoring the bracketing of chapters 27–28 as a unitary entity within the canonical Book of Job, Gordis (with a majority of modern commentators) assigns 27:13–23 to Zophar while he combines 27:1–8 with 26:1–4 to create an enigmatic reply of Job to Bildad. In reconstructing Bildad's speech in this manner, Gordis (and even Tur-Sinai 1967, p. 378) ignore one of Gordis's monumental contributions to the understanding of the Book of Job (Gordis 1965, p. 187): Job always addresses his friends in the plural so that when as in chapter 12:7–8 "the use of the singular verb and suffixes 'ask thou,' 'will teach thee,' 'to thee,' 'speak thou'" indicates "a restatement by Job of the Friends' admonition to him." Gruber (Jewish Study Bible, 2003) solves this problem by going beyond Tur-Sinai's and Ginsberg's reassigning 25:2–6 to Job and assigning 26:2–14 to Bildad. All that is required is to understand that the headings of the two chapters were mistakenly reversed in antiquity.

[Mayer I. Gruber (2nd ed.)]

Job the Impatient (jip)

chapters 3–26; (b) 29:1–42:6

All this has been grafted onto the foregoing. Its two constituent blocks may be titled:

(a) Job and the Three Friends; (b) Job, the Intruder Elihu, and God and Job.

job and the three friends, chapters 3–26

If one thing is obvious, it is that here, far from being a conventional saint, Job strongly criticizes providence while the friends defend it. In chapter 3, Job terminates the seven days' leaden silence of himself and his visitors (2:13) with a bitter outcry against the unreasonableness of allowing men to be born who were fated, like himself, to have such a life that they can only wish for death. Thereupon, in the order in which they have been introduced, each of the friends tries to reason with him but is rebutted (chapters 4–14). The cycle is repeated (chapters 15–21). A third cycle is begun, but at least in the book as it has come down to us it remains incomplete. There is a complete speech by Eliphaz (22) and there is a complete reply by Job (23–24), but after that there is only a fragmentary speech which is attributed (with questionable propriety) to Bildad (25) and a fragmentary speech by Job (26).

The First Cycle (chapters 4–14)

Job's friends try hard to comfort him. Things are bound to end up well for Job, says Eliphaz, since he is a good man and only the wicked end badly (4:6–7). Since no human being is impeccable, a good man sometimes incurs chastisement, which redounds to his own benefit, 5:17ff. Segal rightly argues that Job 5:17, "Nay, happy is the man whom God reproves! – Do not reject Shaddai's discipline," can only be a modification of Proverbs 3:11, "My son, do not reject the Lord's discipline; Do not spurn his reproof," since it destroys the parallelism of the latter and does it by substituting in the first hemistich for the negative imperative of Proverbs 3:11 the "happy is the man" construction of Proverbs 3:13. Thus Eliphaz utilizes the very passage in classical wisdom literature which is incompatible with a view that Job's misfortunes prove that he is a moral degenerate. That the classical doctrine of retribution requires such a conclusion and that the friends draw it (then why don't they curse him and walk away in disgust?) is itself a dogma of current Job exegesis. To be sure, Eliphaz is of the opinion that it is dangerous for Job to disregard the teachings of wisdom, for a man may ruin his own and his children's future not only by wickedness but also by folly: 5:1–5; 4:21; 5:6–7 (see Ginsberg, 1969, 95–96). But if Job will do what wisdom prescribes for cases like his – namely, turn to God in humble repentance and, where possible, make restitution for the wrongs he had done – it is absolutely certain that his latter estate will be even more enviable than his former one (5:8–27). Like Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar conclude their perorations with this assurance, and they add to it at the very end: Such are your prospects, Job, the diametrical opposite of those of the wicked (8:20–22; 11:16–20). In the case of Zophar (chapter 11), this exuberant conclusion might seem to be at variance with 11:5–6. But if it were, the former would prove that Zophar did not mean the latter seriously, not the other way around. In fact, the latter passage is nothing more scathing than an assertion that Job's impression that the sum total of his guilt is too insignificant to warrant even benevolent chastisement, and merely illustrates the truism that human memories cannot compare in retentiveness with God's memory. Job, however, has no patience with his friends' well meaning defense of God and advice to himself. In his first and second replies, he maintains that it is unreasonable of God to be so harsh with a human being like Job – whose years are so short; who, whatever his sins, represents no threat to God (chapter 7); and who, after all, is God's handiwork, for which He might be expected to have some positive sentiments (chapter 10). As for the friends, Job accuses them of lack of feeling. In his third reply, finally, Job contemptuously dismisses his friends' competence to judge his case and rudely asks them to shut up while he formally arraigns God. And whereas in chapter 7 Job merely complained to God (see 7:11) and in 9:33–35a; 10:1ab he merely indulged in the fancy of how he would indict God if he could plead with Him on equal terms, he now takes his life in his hands (13:13–14) and does challenge God to justify his spiteful treatment of him. What sort of sadism (13:25) he demands, is this, requiring purity of that which is impure by its very nature (14:4), showing not the slightest magnanimity in view of man's helplessness (13:25) and his pitifully short span of life (14:5–12), but jealously guarding Job's guilt (14:21) as a usurer might guard the proofs of his debtors' indebtedness? Contrary to the prevailing belief, 13:7–10 does not mean that God will under all circumstances take the friends to task for painting a false picture of a just world order, but only if they do so while Job is formally indicting God; since, therefore, Eliphaz and his two companions hold their peace until Job has finished indicting God, our passage does not anticipate 42:7–8. But Job has both questioned their sincerity (for the first cycle, this must be admitted) and made hash of their wisdom.

The Second Cycle (chapters 15–21)

Between that and his daring arraignment of God, no wonder that in the second cycle (chapters 15–21) the tone of the three sages is notably chillier than in the first. Of course they do not, any more than in the first cycle, declare that Job is a scoundrel, for that would be contrary to their innermost convictions. Eliphaz, in fact, again (as in 4:6) alludes to Job's proverbial piety (15:4: Or would you, of all people, offend against piety/ And eavesdrop on God's deliberations?) Nor do they deny that Job may still have a glorious future, because that too would be contrary to their belief. Instead, Eliphaz repeats his original warning of the evil consequences of forsaking the teachings of the wise (15:19: To them alone (i.e., to the sages – not the ancients – of verse 18) has earth been given;/ No outsiders have shared it with them.), and all three of the friends subtly indicate their pique by dwelling only on the negative aspect of the law of retribution – the unenviable fate of the wicked – leaving its complementary aspect, the happy fate of the just, only to be inferred. And Job? With consummate art the author makes him soften his tone toward the three others just in face of their hardened tone toward him. By beginning his response to Eliphaz' admonition with (16:2) "I have heard such talk countless times./You are all illusory comforters,"// he admits that at any rate their intention is to comfort him, and he immediately adds that he realizes that they are not aware that their consolations are illusory: "If (16:4) you were in my place,/ I would be talking just as you are// I would speak to you words of condolence/ And shake my head in commiseration.// (5) With my mouth I would brace you,/ Sympathy from my lips would give you strength (for yḥsk, which arose through contamination by verse 6, read yḥzqkm after 4:3)."// To be supplied mentally at this point is: "As Eliphaz remarked at the beginning of the discussion, that is exactly what I used to do formerly (4:3–4)." Eliphaz, however, had added an expression of his surprise that Job should be helpless (verb lʾy) now to render to himself the same service that he used to render to others in misfortune. In obvious allusion to this, Job continues: "(16:7) Alas, now God's enmity has made me helpless,/ His hostility (8) has overpowered me.// He has arisen against me as an accuser;/ It is his vexing (read כעשו, cf. 10:17) that testifies against me."// Job then enlarges in sundry figures of speech on God's persecution of him, and then repeats:(16:19)/ "Truly, now my opponent is in heaven,/my adversary is on high."// In his second speech (chapter 19), Job tearfully begs his friends not to address him harshly but rather (19:21), "Oh, pity, pity me, at least you, my friends,/ For I have been struck by the hand of God." // And in his last speech in this cycle (chapter 21), Job takes up the theme on which they have all harped in order to comfort him, of villains always getting their deserts. Significantly enough, he begins with "Just listen to my statement,/ And see what becomes of your comfortings"// (21:2) and ends with "So alas, you comfort me with futilities,/ Your arguments remain illusory" (21:34, reading ʿml as in 16:2.) // What he says in between is naturally that the facts are the opposite of what they claim (21:7–16). Actually, he demands, how often does calamity overtake the wicked (21:17–18)? And Job refuses to be comforted by the assurance that if retribution fails to overtake the reprobate it will yet overtake his children: what does the scoundrel care about what happens to his household after his death (21:19–21)? After verse 22, which is not clear, the same thought is repeated to the end of the chapter. All this is said not in anger but in sorrow, and Job's listeners would be the hyenas that the prevailing exegesis makes them out to be if they did not respond accordingly. But they do.

The Third Cycle (chapter 22)

The third cycle is a torso, and only one friend's speech, that of Eliphaz, has been preserved; but it is enough. Like all of the friends' speeches in the first cycle, so the one preserved in the third (chapter 22) concludes with an assurance that as soon as Job makes his peace with God, God will restore him to greater bliss than ever, because (22:30) "God (read El, apparently) saves the blameless;/For your innocence you shall be saved." // As in the case of the first speech of Zophar (chapter 11, paragraph i above), the concluding reassurance seems to be at odds with the opening. But as in that case, in the first place, the conclusion is, by definition, the speaker's final word and, in the second place, the opening does not mean what it seems to mean at a superficial glance. Job 22:4 means, "Does he fear you that he should arraign you, enter into a lawsuit with you?"; 22:5–7, 9–11 "are a tongue-in-cheek parody of the sort of bill of particulars of his offenses that Job has been demanding of God (12:18ff.); Eliphaz does not wish to imply that Job is such a monster"; and 22:12 means, "You surely cannot expect God to deign to take the trouble to oblige you with such a bill of particulars." Job's reply (chapters 23–24) to Eliphaz is much in the spirit of his replies in the second cycle, except that he says nothing about the friends. For he expresses perplexity rather than bitterness about his own fate and the world order generally, and he expresses the wish rather than a demand to be able to talk it over with God (chapter 23). Chapters 25 and 26 are but fragments – probably the former (despite its superscription) as well as the latter from a speech or speeches of Job – and nothing more has been preserved of the third round of speeches. That a large block of material from "Job the Patient," namely chapters 27–28, should be preserved just where a large block of "Job the Impatient" is missing are two facts which it seems must somehow be connected, but just how cannot be considered here.

[Harold Louis Ginsberg]

Concerning the reassignment of 25:2–6 to Job (so already Tur-Sinai and Ginsberg) and the reassignment of 26:2–14 to Bildad see above at the end of the discussion of Ginsberg's theory of two books of Job, jp and jip. For the reasons for assigning 25:2–6 to Job see below concerning the place of the dream vision in the ideology of Job.

As for the common perception that the third cycle has undergone significant damage, this perception is fostered by the notion that one is meant to reconstruct the speeches of Bildad and Zophar from 27. Once, however, one recognizes (a) that 27–28 represent an alternative response of Job to a different set of challenges than those posed in jip; and (b) that by reversing 25:1 and 26:1 one has rediscovered the missing speeches of Job and Bildad, it is plausible to accept the contention of Mayan Ganim (12th century) and S.R. Driver that Zophar had simply said everything he had to say in the first and second cycles, and that little if anything was lost from the third cycle.

[Mayer I. Gruber (2nd ed.)]

job; elihu the intruder; god and job. chapters 29:1–42:6

Job (chapters 29–30)

In his classic study of the Book of Job in the 1971 ej Ginsberg writes: "No longer arguing with his visitors, Job first laments his appalling change of fortune (29–30). He was once fabulously prosperous (expressed figuratively in 29:6) and influential: even the oldest and most honored and revered deferred to him, for he was friend, champion, and benefactor of the poor, the weak and the unfortunate. And he was confident that he would live long in undiminished vigor and power (29:18–20). Now, alas, he is despised and abused even by the children of outcasts (30:1–15). His grief is so intense that he suffers physically; he feels that God is implacably pursuing him and that his days are numbered (30:16ff., 25–26 belong in chapter 31, e.g., after 31:20). Then in chapter 31, Job utters an elaborate declaration of innocence: he has lived up to the highest ethical standards, and has not even strayed from the path of strict monotheism (31:26–28). (31:37–40 are properly the conclusion of verse 8, and verse 1 a preface to verses 9ff.) The conclusion is: (31:35–37) This is my case; I desire nothing so much as a statement of God's case." By stating, "His grief is so intense that he suffers physically," Ginsberg reflects the conventional view in modern biblical scholarship, which ignores the presentation in chapters 1–2 of the circumstances that brought Job to curse the day on which he was born (2:1), and which brought his three friends – Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar – to visit him. In fact, 2:7b records that, with God's permission, the Adversary "afflicted Job with a foul pox from head to toe" while 2:12 records that – apparently because of the debilitating effect of the aforementioned dermatological affliction – when the friends saw Job in the distance on their way to his home, "they could not recognize him." Job himself refers to his diseased condition in the so-called dialogue or symposium (chapters 3–26). For example, in 19:17, Job declares, "My breath is offensive to my wife// my stench to my own children" (so Pope), and in 19:20 he declares, "My bones stick to my skin and flesh// I escape with the skin of my teeth" (njv), and in 19:21 he pleads with his three friends, "Pity me, Pity me, you [who are supposed to be] my friends, for a plague [Hebrew idiom known also from Ugaritic and Akkadian; the literal meaning is 'a divine hand'] has struck me." So it is not that overreacting, as it were, to the death of Job's seven sons and three daughters that made Job sick and possibly in need of psychological counseling. Rather, it is the fact, as often happens, Job's debilitating illness struck him precisely when he was in mourning over the sudden and untimely death of his sons and daughters. Job's friends, as it is reported in 2:11, set out "to comfort him and console him." The Hebrew lanud commonly translated "to comfort" (see again in 42:11) is a gesture-derived expression referring originally to shaking one's head in sympathy for a sick or bereft individual (see also Jer. 15:5; 18:16; and see the extensive discussion in Gruber, Aspects, pp. 406–7). Indeed, the prologue relates that when Job's three friends saw his debilitated physical condition, they expressed complete empathy by crying and by throwing dust upon their heads and sitting on the ground with Job for seven days and seven nights without saying a word to Job. However, when Job himself finally speaks up at the end of those seven days and seven nights and says, "I wish I were dead, or, better yet, that I had never been born, or at least that I might have died at birth," his highly educated and well-meaning friends do not simply respond with, "We hear you; tell us more about how you feel" (see Gitay; and see Gruber 1998). Instead, similar to what takes place nowadays during many a hospital visit and in many a house of mourning, Job's three friends get carried away with themselves, and suggest again and again that people who suffer death, bereavement, and disease have it coming to them (Eliphaz in 4:7–8: "Think now, what innocent man ever perished? Where have the upright been destroyed? As I have seen, those who plow evil and so mischief reap them" (so njv); Bildad in 8:4: "If your sons sinned against Him, He dispatched them for their transgression"). Zophar even suggests that the reason that Job declares, "I have been innocent" (Zophar quoting Job in 11:4; precisely what the reader is supposed to remember from the prologue, chapters 1–2) is that Job is the victim of a divinely bestowed loss of memory: "God made you forget your sin" (Zophar to Job in 11:6c; translation following Tur-Sinai 1967).

Indeed, the Book of Job is a complex and profound literary work that may not be reduced to a single message. However, a major theme of both the prose and the poetry of the Book of Job, from beginning to end, is the failure of Job's friends to provide him with moral support. Instead they argue with Job and blame him for his suffering. As the dialogue in the Book of Job indicates, the well-intentioned comforters insult the mourner. They tell him that he talks too much (8:2; 11:2–3; 15:2–3; 18:2). Job takes note and quotes their having said this in 16:3 where the 2d person singular pronominal suffixes prove that it is Job rather than the friends, who are being addressed (see below on the use of 2d person singular and plural as keys for when Job and the friends, respectively, are addressed). Job, in contrast, continually has to remind his friends that they are supposed to console/condole rather than insult him (6:14–30; 13:4–12; 16–2, 4; 19:1–5: "How long will you [plural, clearly addressing the three friends] grieve my spirit and crush me with words? Ten times you have humiliated me, And are not ashamed to abuse me. If indeed I have sinned, My error remains with me. But, in fact, you are overbearing toward me, reproaching me with my disgrace" (cf. njv). In 21:2 Job has the daring to say, "Listen well to what I say, and let that [i.e., just being quiet long enough to give a fair hearing to what I have to say] be your consolation" (so Rashi!).

Unfortunately, many of the modern commentators seldom remind the reader that both Job (chapter 13) and God (chapter 42) tell us that persons who insult the mourner or the victim of illness must be called to account and must seek expiation for their sin (see Gruber 2003). In contrast, the talmudic rabbis (mk 28b) and the halakhic codes (e.g., Sh. Ar., Yoreh De'ah 376:1) took to heart Job's repeated suggestion that the best his friends might have done would have been to maintain their silence. They derive from the initial silence of Job's friends in 2:13 the profound lesson that would-be comforters should not say a word to the mourner unless and until she/he indicates verbally or nonverbally a willingness to listen. In fact, in the Shulḥan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah, the halakhah provides two concise and profound manuals of pastoral care. One of these manuals is called "Laws of Visiting the Sick" (chapter 335), and the other is called "Behavior of Comforters" (chapter 376). Perhaps, the Book of Job is underutilized in the literature of pastoral care because the Book of Job itself was damaged in the early Middle Ages after Yannai had already utilized the original Book of Job in which the dream vision was properly assigned to Job and not to Eliphaz, in whose mouth the dream vision seems to justify blaming the victim (in fact, the latter interpretation is embodied in Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed. Book 3, chapter 25).

[Mayer I. Gruber (2nd ed.)]

Elihu (chapters 32–37)

This is a famous enigma. If not for 32:1–5, one would have had the distinct impression that Job's three visitors were no longer with him when he spoke chapters 29–31, especially as God himself answers Job, chapters 38ff. – hardly after letting a mortal speak first. Now we suddenly learn that not only they but still a fourth visitor, who has not been mentioned before, is still present: Elihu. As a younger man, he has waited while they conversed with Job (read ḥikkah be-dabberam ʾet ʾIyyov), but when they fail to respond to Job's last utterance he feels that the duty of justifying God has devolved upon him. Y. Kaufmann has well summarized Elihu's pronouncement. Elihu's purpose is to refute Job's denial of providence. He seeks to do so by citing alternately examples from what occurs occasionally and from what occurs constantly or regularly, three of each. First (32:6–22) he explains to the three friends why he is intruding: his elders have failed to refute Job, which goes to show that wisdom is amatter not of age but of genius; therefore his urge to say what they ought to have is irrepressible. Here his conceit makes his bombast somewhat amusing, after that the latter is merely irritating. Then (33:1–13) he turns to Job, "You claim you could prove you are in the right but a tyrannical God refuses to talk to you. Well, I am no god; if you do not win against me, it is because your case is without merit." Example no. 1 from the occasional, 33:14–33. God does so communicate with men, and in more ways than one. You cannot deny that he sometimes warns a man to mend his ways by means of a dream or an illness; the man "gets the message," acts accordingly and his life is spared. Example no. 1 from the permanent. This time the preface is addressed to the wise (34:1–12): Job, by asserting that God has wronged him, has associated himself with rogues and villains. The proof itself (34:13–14): Every living creature exists only by God's kindness; if he withdrew the breath of life from it, it would perish forthwith. Example no. 2 from the occasional, 34:16–37. Potentates are often overthrown suddenly. By whom but by God? For what but for misrule, oppression, and injustice? Example no. 2 from the permanent, chapter 35. God has distinguished man from the beasts by endowing him with a conscience. Surely, he to whom we owe our sense of right and wrong does not do wrong. Example no. 3 from the occasional, 36:2–21. It is a variant of no. 1. Besides illness other forms of suffering may serve as a warning from God, and a man may determine his own fate by heeding or ignoring it. Example no. 3 from the permanent. 36:22–37:24 is not a mere introduction to the third example, which is itself chapter 28 (so Kaufmann). Chapter 28 quite rightly follows directly on chapter 27, and the character of chapters 27–28 has already been elucidated under 2 (b). 36:22–37:24 itself is Elihu's example no. 3 from the permanent: the rain by means of which God supplies the food needs of nations (36:27–31) and (chapter 37) the majesty and terrors of thunder and tempest, of snow and rain and cold, by which God may either benefit or castigate (37:12–13), as also the wonders of the firm dome of heaven, which God can utterly darken with clouds and then clear up again (37:15–22). Wise people cannot but revere such a God. But 38:22–35 says the same thing as Elihu's example no. 3 from the permanent, and says it lucidly and succinctly instead of turgidly and long-windedly. The effort to understand the Elihu speeches is often great, all out of proportion to the profundity of the thought; and since the gem chapter 28, as has been said, is no part of them and so cannot be regarded as redeeming these shortcomings, Kaufmann's view that the Elihu chapters are, and were from the start, integral to what we have called "Job the Impatient" is untenable. More plausible is R. Gordis's view that the author added them in his old age, since the styles of good writers have been known to deteriorate in old age (but to such an extent?). But the more widely held view of Pope that they are by a later hand is at least equally plausible.

[Harold Louis Ginsberg]

Greenstein, in "Job's Initial Speech," in Studies in Honor of Menahem Cohen, ed. S. Vargon et al. (2005), pp. 256–58, demonstrates that Elihu's reference to the description of a dream in 33:15 supports the Tur-Sinai-Ginsberg thesis that assigns 4:12–21 to Job rather than Eliphaz (see above and below).

[Mayer I. Gruber (2nd ed.)].

God and Job (chapters 38:1–42:6)

Twice God answers Job "out of the storm," 38:1 and 40:6. The original opening formula of the second reply has been superseded by a verse (40:7) from the opening of the first (38:3), but it has been preserved, telescoped into Job's second acknowledgment of defeat, as 42:3aa, 4. Since, however, God's first attack has already elicited from Job the abject surrender: "(40:4) Behold, I am worthless – / What can I say in reply? // I put my hand to my mouth. (5) I spoke once – I shall not a second time;/twice, but I shall not again," // the need for a second attack is not obvious, and many claim that the second one is also inferior from an artistic point of view and is a later interpolation. Neither speech can be said to offer a direct answer to Job's questions about the reasons for his own suffering and about the general lack of any discoverable relationship between men's characters and their fortunes. The first, the more sparkling and pointed of God's two replies, may be summarized and paraphrased as follows: You did not even exist when the world was created, you haven't even seen more than a fraction of it, and the idea of your running it is grotesque. Pity the world if it had to depend on you to make the sun rise and set, the gazelle drop her young at the proper season and the young scramble to their legs and grow up all without any help, etc.! In the context of the book, this can only mean that for such an insignificant being as man to ask the Lord of the Universe for an explanation is "to darken/obscure counsel ignorantly with words" (38:2; 42:3aa); and whatever those words may mean exactly, the implication is that one must serve God not only in spite of all adversity but without even the expectation of an explanation.

[Harold Louis Ginsberg]

Israel Knohl, The Divine Symphony (2003), p. 116, asks what it is about God's description of the wonders of Creation in chapters 38–41 that prompts Job to declare: "I had heard You with my ears, but now I see You with my eyes. Therefore, I recant and relent, being [that I am] only dirt and dust" (42:5). The answer to Knohl's question is to be found through careful attention to what Job asks of God throughout the cycle of speeches in chapters 3–26. Indeed, Job and his friends have been arguing as to whether or not the friends know how to provide comfort. Likewise, Job and his friends have been arguing as to whether or not Job, the paradigmatic sufferer, has it coming to him. On both of these counts, Job, in chapter 42:7 is vindicated while the friends are asked to seek forgiveness and to ask that Job intervene on their behalf with God. There is, however, a third issue that appears in Job's speeches in chapters 3–26 when he addresses God in the second person singular. He asks that God acknowledge that Job has asked to have a dialogue with him (13:18–28; 23). In so doing, it is Job who brings up the subject of the personified sea (Hebrew and Ugaritic yam; 7:12), who is also called *Leviathan. The latter entity is commonly understood to be a mythological monster. This monster, in turn, is commonly understood to be a personification (in Israel's Canaanite heritage best known from the epic poetry of *Ugarit) of the yearly struggle for dominion over the cosmos between the deified storm and rain (*Baal) the pair Sea/River [e.g., Ps. 114:3, 5], and the deified summer drought. Concerning the interpretation of references to the Sea personified as Leviathan or Serpent (Heb. tannin; see in Job 7:12) or Rahab or the Elusive Serpent (Job 26:13) or the Twisting Serpent (Isa. 27:1) as reflections of the aforementioned seasonal pattern, see T.H. Gaster, Thespis (1961), especially pp. 141–48. Two of the most prominent Jewish interpreters of Job in the 20th century – M. Buttenwieser (Job, 1925) and Gordis – argued, on the other hand, that Leviathan in the Book of Job is simply the crocodile. For the demonstration that Heb. tannin refers to the crocodile only in Ezekiel 29:3 and 32:2 see C. Cohen in Studies in Honor of H.M.Y. Gevaryahu, vol. 2 (1991), pp. 75–81.

In fact, the seasonal pattern posited by Gaster is not a feature of life in the southern Levant. Moreover, the treatment of references to a battle between either the God of Israel or the Canaanite Baal as mythology (from Greek mythos meaning "lie") suggests that the idea that there was at some time in the remote past a battle between God and the personified Sea, which seriously challenged God's omnipotence is a kind of collective false memory. In fact, the record of destructive tidal waves generated by earthquakes far out at sea, which killed thousands and even hundreds of thousands of people, seems to belong more to collective repressed memory than to collective false memory because it is virtually unmentioned in history books. When just such a tidal wave – now commonly known by the Japanese term tsu-nami – killed more than 100,000 people in Southeast Asia in December 2004, suddenly the newspapers recovered from humankind's repressed memory the distinct possibility that such a tidal wave had put an end to the Minoan Civilization in 1628 b.c.e. and the fact that, inter alia, such a tidal wave had destroyed the city of *Acre in 1303 c.e.

Now it is precisely this natural force – the sea or tidal wave described as a monster or serpent – that Job mentions in 7:12 when he asks God, "Am I the sea or the Dragon [tannin] that You have set a watch over me?" Bildad (in Gruber's reassignment of 26:2–14) brings up this monstrous entity again in 26:12–13: "By His power He stilled the sea; By His skill He struck down Rahab. By His wind the heavens were calmed; His hand pierced the Elusive Serpent." And so, Job has every reason to be satisfied that in finally acceding to his oft-repeated request that God only show that He is listening to Job's entreaties. God responds and indeed refers to the monstrous Leviathan, the personification of the forces from beneath the depths of the sea that wreak havoc. And here God does not engage in theodicy, confirming Eliphaz's, Bildad's, and Zophar's contention that people suffer because they have it coming to them. On the contrary, he intimates that in his own home suffering from his undeserved illness and his undeserved bereavement Job should have been the center of a universe in miniature and should have merited the empathy of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. However, in the larger world out there God has endowed with a measure of free choice not only humans but also other entities including the tsu-nami, a.k.a., the Leviathan. In this grand scheme of things, Job's debilitating case of what appears to be a not uncommon, life-threatening form of psoriasis assumes vastly less cosmic significance. In the end, however, God as portrayed in the Book of Job does, as it were, take out time from dealing with the monstrous tsu-nami to address Job directly and not, as many a modern mortal potentate might be wont to do, by way of some minor official. In so doing, God suggests that at least for the readers of Job – humans, who have not yet harnessed the forces of destruction from beneath the sea – the abiding challenge is to learn how to speak and, better still, how to keep silence in the face of our friends and neighbors, who have a right to cry out in their physical and emotional pain. Indeed, all people can learn to simply nod their head in empathy (Heb. lanud). After all, even God listens and even answers with empathy, even if only in chapter 38 of one of the Bible's longest books.

In Job 40:9–14, in God's second speech out of the whirlwind, which conventional biblical scholarship (see Ginsberg above) has found wanting, God challenges Job, "Have you an arm like God's? Can you thunder with a voice like His? … See every proud man and humble him, And bring them down where they stand. Bury them all in the earth; Hide their faces in obscurity. Then even I would praise you for the triumph your right hand won you." Harold S. Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981), argues that the profound message of this passage is that although God would like us to have all the happiness we deserve, He cannot or will not save innocent victims from cruelty or chaos. A century before Kushner, Benjamin Szold (Job 1886; in Hebrew) warned against expecting to find in God's speeches from out of the whirlwind in Job 38–41 an answer to the question as to why bad things happen to good people. After all, argued Szold, the book was not written by God; it was written by a theologian. At the end of the day, therefore, the best that this theologian can offer us is not a theodicy but an anthropodicy. And this, no less than the beautiful Hebrew poetry of the Book of Job, is one of the abiding messages of this great book of Scripture (see below).

C. Newsom (Job 2003, pp.234–58) points out, "Almost every commentator notes that the divine speeches refuse to engage Job's arguments on his terms." This fact prompts Newsom to compose a brilliant essay, which almost rivals Job 38–41 in its literary artistry and intellectual sophistication. Nevertheless, it appears that "almost every commentator" has failed to heed not only Szold's sound advice that the Book of Job cannot be expected to supply an answer to the question as to why bad things happen to good people but also to heed the simple fact that while Jeremiah may have asked, "why do the wicked prosper," Job, strange to relate, does not ask, "Why do the innocent suffer bereavement and disease?" Consequently, the author of the divine speeches cannot and should not be faulted for not providing an answer to the question Job does not ask. All the more, no holistic reading of the Book of Job, can fault the divine speeches for not repeating the answer given to Job's own particular suffering in chapters 1–2. There it is related that Job was, like the proverbial albino mouse in the proverbial laboratory maze, the subject of a highly successful experiment. In this experiment, Job did not curse God. A highly sophisticated theory as to how each and every individual is duly rewarded in good measure for virtuous behavior and duly punished for misbehavior is set forth, in fact, in Moses' Naḥmanides, The Gate of Reward, which includes a short commentary on the Book of Job. Indeed, Naḥmanides may have been inspired to work out a veritable higher mathematics of reward and punishment precisely because neither jp or jip offers an adequate explanation of the brilliant question, which Job does not actually ask in the canonical Book of Job. This question is, "Just how are people rewarded for their virtue and punished for their misdeeds?" After all, much human experience often seems aptly described by Job 9:22: "It is all one; therefore I say, 'He [God] destroys the blameless and the guilty'"; and Job 21:30: "For the evil man is spared on the day of calamity, on the day when wrath is led forth."

What does Job actually ask, and what precisely does God reply? In fact, the Book of Job contains altogether 16 questions introduced by the interrogative particles lammah (9), maddu'a (6), and mah (1). None of these 16 questions is, "Why do good people suffer?" On the other hand, Job does ask three times in chapter 3 (v. 11, 12, 30) and once more in 10:20, "Why was I born?" This rhetorical question seems to mean simply, "I wish I had not been born." In 18:3 it is Bildad who asks Job why he thinks that Bildad and his two friends are foolish while in 19:22; 21:4; 27:12 Job addresses "why" questions to his three friends. In 33:13 it is Elihu who asks Job why he can possibly call God to account for not replying to people when, in fact, God does respond to people in dreams. Elihu supports his argument by quoting almost verbatim from Job's account of a dreadful dream (Elihu in 33:15ff. referring back to 4:13, on which see above).

In 7:20 Job asks, "Why [lammah] do you make me your target?" The holistic reading of the canonical Book of Job does not require an answer for this, which was provided in chapters 1–2. This answer, that Job was being tested and did not deserve to suffer, is confirmed in 42:7: "You [Eliphaz and your two friends] did not speak right about me as did my servant Job." In 7:21 Job asks, "Why [mah] do you not forgive my transgression and forgive my iniquity?" The latter question is certainly not about why bad things happen to good people. Indeed, in 9:29; 21:7, and 24:1 Job does echo Jeremiah in asking, "Why do the wicked prosper?" Asking the question is itself a challenge to the contention of Eliphaz (4:7), Bildad (8:12–22), and Zophar (20) that the wicked are punished and the just rewarded.

This search for the "why" question, which, scholars often contend, the divine speeches ought to answer, leaves us with only two more candidates: 30:2 and 13:24. The first of these, 30:2, "What can I gain from the strength of their hands, from men whose vigor is spent?" is most assuredly not addressed to God. It is, as Gordis (1978, p. 330) explains, a virtual quotation, explaining why Job did not employ as shepherds the fathers of the young men, who now scorn him. This leaves us with only 13:24 where Job asks God, "Why do you hide your face?" And this is precisely the question, which the divine speeches answer most directly in 38:1 and again in 40:1: "the lord answered Job from out of the whirlwind." In fact, God even responds directly to Job's challenge in 9:19, 13:8, 31:35 that God please grant him a day in court to bring a veritable lawsuit against God. This response is stated in 40:2 in the form of a rhetorical question: "Will the reprover contend with Shaddai// Will He [God] provide an answer to one who seeks to reprove God?" (cf. Tur-Sinai 1967, p. 554) God's question seems to mean, "Job, you summoned God into the courtroom. Are you certain that you want to go through with this lawsuit?" What could be a more appropriate response to Job's having asked for a day in court? Moreover 42:5, in which Job says, in response to the last of the God speeches, "I have heard about you with my ears, but now I see you with my eyes," Job acknowledges that God has indeed granted Job's wish, expressed in 19:25–27 (in njv): "But I know that my Vindicator lives; In the end He will testify on earth – This, after my skin will have been peeled off. But I would behold God while still in my flesh, I myself, not another, would behold Him; would see with my own eyes."

So – in the end – the circle is closed. God meets Job in court, and He confirms to Job's friends and to all readers of the Book of Job (42:7) that indeed bad things do happen to good people and that victims should not be insulted by would-be comforters – quite a profound lesson in anthropodicy, albeit it not the theodicy we might have expected from a theophany. For such a theodicy one must look instead to Maimonides' and Naḥmanides' demonstrations that bad things do not really happen to impeccable people or to the promise in the Book of Daniel (12) that in the long run those who sleep in the dust – the good and the bad (cf. Job 3:13) – will all receive their appropriate eternal rewards. In the interim, the abiding message of God to Job's would-be comforters is enshrined in halakhah. And that is no small achievement of the book's author and of the faith community that preserved and cherished the Book of Job.

[Mayer I. Gruber (2nd ed.)]

The Origin and the Literary Evolution and Character of the Book of Job

Ezekiel 14:12–20 reveals an acquaintance on the part of a writer of the early sixth century b.c.e. with a tradition about a saint of old by the name of Job who was presumably identical with the hero of the canonical book of that name. Of the two saints whom Ezekiel names together with Job, namely, Noah and Daniel, the former is the well known hero of the Flood. For Daniel, he is apparently the one who is also known from Ugaritic literature, see *Daniel. Details about Job are known only from the Book of Job. It is held that in this book a later composition, "Job the Impatient" (jip), has been grafted onto an older one, "Job the Patient" (jp), and it stands to reason that the latter is closer to the original tradition about Job than the former. But jp itself consists of more than one stratum. Observations made by writers like W.L. Batten, A. Alt, and H.A. Fine point to the following stratification: (a) jpa, 1:1–5, 13–22; 42:11–17. These 22 verses constitute a simple but complete story, which knows nothing about any role of Satan; for (1) in 1:13, "his sons" refers back to the "Job" in verse 5b, not to "the Satan" in verse 12b; (2) the text does not say that the calamities of 1:13–19 were caused by the Satan (contrast 2:7), and in 42:11 we read that the friends comforted Job "for all the misfortune that God had inflicted upon him"; and finally (3) the blessing of God in 42:12–13 presupposes the previous loss of his property and his children in 1:13–19 but not the inflicting of an unbearable dermatitis in 2:7–8, 13. (b) jpb, 1:6–12; chapter 2; chapters 27–28; 42:7–10 plus some lost sections on which see the last part of section 2. The author of jpb was a writer of high quality. Finding in jpa that Job lived in the Kedemite region of Uz (see above, Sec. 2a) he furnished him with friends from three other Kedemite tribes or localities. He obviously created Eliphaz the Temanite out of two of the names in Genesis 36:11, and it is probable that he spun Zophar the Naamathite out of two other names in the same verse. Some texts of the Septuagint actually have Zophar there for Zepho, and the writer either had an aberrant reading nʿmt for gʿtm or was bold enough to modify gʿtm to nʿmt for his purpose. How he arrived at the name Bildad is uncertain (perhaps he thus modified Bedad, Gen. 36:35), but the gentilic Shuhite was obviously suggested to him by the last name in Genesis 25:2. Remembering that his characters are non-Israelite (and probably pre-Mosaic) he has them employ the divine names El, Eloah, and Shaddai, but never yhwh. He is the author of the lovely poem which is chapter 28. By introducing the Satan, an angel with the permanent office of accuser, he reveals that he dates from the Persian period, since the earliest datable passage in which he occurs with this role is Zechariah 3:1ff. jpa may possibly be of late pre-Exilic authorship, though one has the feeling that it too is post-Exilic. The real genius of the Book of Job is, of course, the author of jip (whether or not it originally included the Elihu chapters and the second God-Job exchange, see end of 3). He not only changed Job from a conventional saint to a negator of retribution and providence, but he built up a structure of consummate literary art. To the limiting of their speech to pre-Yahwistic divine names, he adds a Kedemite linguistic coloring. Kedem, the cradle of the Kedemite stock, is primarily the Middle Euphrates region (those Kedemites who lived farther south were believed to be descendents of Abraham and Lot, both of whom migrated from the original Kedem). Now, Kedem in this sense stands in synonymous parallelism with Aram in Numbers 23:7, and a famous native of this region is styled Laban the Aramean and represented as speaking Aramaic, Genesis 31:24, 47. It is therefore for the sake of local color that this writer, whose knowledge of Hebrew (and of Hebrew Scriptures) was excellent, not only makes his characters keep using the noun millin ("words," infrequent in Hebrew) and interlard their speech with such hair-raising Aramaisms as sahed (the classical parallel synonym of ʿed "witness" is yafeaḥ, and he surely knew it) and geled ("skin"), and such forms as minhem ("from them," Heb. mehem). The subtle devices by which he makes the friends express their pique in the second round by dwelling only on the punishment of the wicked, or Job employ against his opponents telling allusions to words previously spoken by one of them, have already been pointed out. A serious hindrance to the modern reader's appreciation of his art are, apart from minor corruptions, the many displacements of lines. Both are particularly liable to occur in lyrical texts, where the logic of the story and of prose syntax, which are such an effective check on corruption in prose narrative, are totally wanting. Torczyner (Tur-Sinai) observed that a principal reason why the characters often seem to be speaking pointlessly or even arguing against themselves is that in the received text 4:12–19 stands in a speech of Eliphaz. The critics never tire of deprecating the complacency of Eliphaz and his friends. Yet here he cites a terrifying nightmare in which he was told that God accounts no man righteous because He is an impossible tyrant even with the angels. On the other hand it is Job who has just said: I wish I were dead because there I would have calm and rest and I would not have trouble. As it is (3:26) I have no calm, no tranquility, and no rest, and trouble has come upon me (3:25) For I had a dread and it has come true, just what I feared has come to pass. It is in 4:13–16, 12, 17–20 that Job goes on to tell what that premonition of disaster was: a dream in which an angel informed him obliquely that he was living in a fool's paradise if he imagined that his righteousness was a guarantee against ruin: God, who found fault with his angels, certainly did not recognize any such category as righteous men. This, so far from being the view of Eliphaz, is so repugnant to him that in chapter 15, in verses 14–16 of which he cites it as Job's view, he berates him for it mercilessly. On the other hand, it is Job who says in 6:10 end, "I have not withheld the words of a holy being," and who throughout the discussion keeps complaining that God is unreasonable. This insight of Torczyner's (Tur-Sinai's) makes many other things in the disputation fall into place. Grafted onto jpb, jip must be younger than jpb. In effect, Segal has shown that it abounds in parallels to other books of the Bible, and that in all but a small fraction of cases Job is either demonstrably or probably dependent on those other books. The clear case of Proverbs 3:11–13 > Job 5:17 has already been cited (in 3, a, i), but since the age of Proverbs 1–9 is controversial this observation is of little help in arriving at a terminus post quem for jip. A decisive case, however, is Isaiah 44:24b > Job 9:8. Not only has the former perfect parallelism and the later none, in the former levaddi, "I alone," is just the point: God made everything, no one else had any part in the creation of either the sky or the earth. In the latter, on the other hand, the only reason why the author added levaddo, "all alone," after noṭeh shamayim was that he found levaddi after noṭeh shamayim in the former, which served him as model. (It follows that the parallelism is also due to borrowing on the part of Job in the case of Isa. 41:20 > Job 12:9; Isa. 50:9 > Job 13:28; Isa. 59:4 > Job 15:35; et al.). On these grounds Segal dates Job (i.e., jip) after Deutero-Isaiah, that is, after the third quarter of the sixth century b.c.e. (That jip, in borrowing the phrase in question, assigned to the word noṭeh a different meaning from the one it has in its original context is an observation for which see Ginsberg, 1968.)

[Harold Louis Ginsberg]

The Name Eliphaz

As the name of the leader of the three wise men who enter the house of the bereft and infirm Job, and, despite their initial good intentions, insult him and blame his dead children for their own untimely death, the name *Eliphaz is most appropriate. According to Genesis 36:10 Eliphaz was the first born son of Esau. Esau, according to Gen. 25:30 and 36:1, is the progenitor of Edom, the nation depicted as Israel's arch-enemy in Malachi 1:2–4. Moreover, Eliphaz, the son of Esau is identified as the father of Amalek in Genesis 36:10. Amalek, of course, is the enemy of Israel, who is described in Deuteronomy 25:18 as follows: "undeterred by fear of God [the foremost quality of Job in 1–2; and the essence of true wisdom in Job 28:28], he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear." Other than to ascend a ladder and hold up a sign as to who is the hero and who is the villain in Job 3–26, the author of the canonical Book of Job, could not have done more than naming that villain Eliphaz to suggest that the anti-hero of the Book of Job is the wise person who comes to a house of mourning and insults both the mourner(s) and the mourned by saying that they had it coming to them. This author has done his/her very best by suggesting that as Isaac is the link between Abraham and Jacob so is Eliphaz the link between Esau and Amalek. Yet, most of the standard commentaries attach no special meaning to the deliberate choice of the name Eliphaz for one who, like his son Amalek, hits the book's real hero when he is down. Acutely aware of the not so subtle message of calling Job's protagonist by the name of the son of Esau and the father of Amalek, a number of midrashim quoted in Ginzberg's Legends, 1, p. 422 suggest that when Job reminded Eliphaz that he was, after all, the son of Esau, Eliphaz replied, "I have nothing to do with him; 'a child shall not bear the iniquity of one's parent'" (Ezek. 18:20). Another midrash quoted in Ginzberg'sLegends, 5, 322 accounts for Amalek's reprehensible behavior not as something he might have learned from his parents but as the kind of behavior that results when a great prophet neglects the education of her/his children because of excessive involvement in the public domain! Obviously, both of these midrashim seek to tone down the biblical author's message that people who insult the bereaved and the infirm belong to the enemies of Israel.

Why Kedemites?

Gruber 1998 noted that the characterization of Job as "greater than all the Kedemites" (1:3) ought to remind one of King Solomon, whose "wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the Kedemites …" (1 Kings. 5:10). Here again as in the choice of the name Eliphaz (son of Esau and father of Amalek) for the anti-hero the author of the canonical Book of Job already intimates that the true wisdom is not with Eliphaz and his friends but with Job as Job will argue in 12–14 and as God will concur in 42:7 where again God, not fortuitously, addresses specifically Eliphaz and says, "you and your two friends" (i.e., Bildad and Zophar). And yet, perhaps part of the greatness of the artistry of the Book of Job is that despite all the not so subtle hints scattered all over the book, readers must rediscover who spoke rightly and who did not. Ultimately, the difficulty lies not in the difficult vocabulary that requires years of study of ancient languages but in the unpleasant realization that if bad things really do happen to good people on a regular basis (as is suggested in the talmudic dictum in Bava Batra 15a, which sees Job not as a one-time historical personage but as a paradigm (Heb. mashal) of all innocent victims), then it could happen to anyone of the innocent readers of the Book of Job. Just as some persons go into what psychologists call denial when they receive a death sentence from a cardiologist or oncologist, so do many readers and commentators on the Book of Job go into denial when they face up to the fact that the Book of Job says a great deal about the fact that bad things happen to good people and as little as possible about why this happens.

The Dream Vision in the Book of Job and Beyond

In the 1960s Tur-Sinai and Ginsberg were alone in construing the teaching revealed in the dream vision (chapter 4:12–19; and referred to again by Job in 6:10 ("I have not withheld the words of a holy being"; see Ginsberg 1967, p. 99) and in 9:1 ("Indeed, I know that it is so: 'how can a human be vindicated before God'?") and clearly mocked by Eliphaz in 5:1, 8 ("Just call – see if anyone answers you! To whom of the 'holy' beings can you turn? I [Eliphaz], on the other hand, resort to God, to God do I address my plea"; Ginsberg 1967, p. 99) and again in 15:11–19:

Do these comfortings [by Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar] fail to satisfy you
Because you know some word that reached you by stealth?
What sinful haughtiness!
What monstrous pride!
To blow your wind at these men
And to belch forth such words:
"How can a mortal be judged righteous
a human born of a woman accounted just?
If he [God] disapproves of his sacred abode [the sky]
If the very skies [whose purity is described in Exod. 24:10]are not pure in His sight,
How much less a thing loathed and detested,
a human, who drinks godlessness like water!"
Listen [says Eliphaz to Job], and let me [Eliphaz] tell you [Job],
relate what I have seen …
(translation from Ginsberg 1967, pp. 100–2 with modifications for the sake of greater clarity)

On the basis of the clear evidence that Job saw in the dream vision a vindication of his own position that his suffering is not the cause of some heinous sin since, as is revealed in the vision, even the sky and the stars and moon therein would not pass muster if summoned to account before the divine Judge, Tur-Sinai and Ginsberg assign also chapter 25, vv. 2–6 to Job:

Dominion and dread are His;
He imposes peace in his heights [Heb. oseh shalom bi-meromav;
the source of the first
clause of the final line of the Kaddish!; see below]
Can His troops be numbered?
On whom does His light not shine?
How can a human be in the right before God?
How can one born of a woman be cleared of guilt?
Even the moon is not bright,
And the stars are not pure in His sight.

By the end of the 20th century numerous other scholars adopted and elaborated upon the Tur-Sinai-Ginsberg thesis with respect to the place of the dream vision in the Book of Job. These scholars include G.V. Smith, in: vt, 40 (1990); Margaret B. Crook, The Cruel God (1959); J.C.L. Gibson, in: Scottish Journal of Theology, 28 (1975), Y. Gitay, in: jnwsl, 25 (1999), and especially E.L. Greenstein in numerous publications including the commentary on Job in the Hebrew Commentary Series Mikra LeYisrael (2006). Gruber (1998; 2003) demonstrated that, in fact, the treatment of the dream vision as a defense of the individual who must give an account of himself before the divine Judge rather than an attack by Eliphaz upon Job's claim of integrity is reflected in a series of Jewish liturgical poems associated with the penitential season that precedes the Jewish New Year (Rosh Ha-Shanah) and culminates in the Day of Atonement. Moreover, he suggested that rather than attributing to the sixth century c.e. liturgical poet *Yannai a radical rearrangement of the Book of Job, anticipating Tur-Sinai, Ginsberg, and Greenstein, one can assume the following: at least the earliest of the synagogal poets who elaborated upon the dream vision as a defense of humankind standing before the divine tribunal on Rosh Ha-Shanah and the Day of Atonement read Job in its original form before the unfortunate series of displacements in the current Hebrew text, which the aforementioned modern scholars recognized. Gruber was able to buttress this claim by pointing to various biblical texts recovered from *Qumran in which the order of verses, pericopes, and even chapters differs radically from the standard Hebrew text of Hebrew Scripture. For additional data as to how blocks of text were displaced in the copying of ancient manuscripts, see Greenstein 2005, pp. 260–62.

Holistic Interpretation of the Book of Job: Beyond Ginsberg and Gordis

One of the most important trends in late 20th century and early 21st century biblical scholarship is holistic interpretation. Holistic medicine, which developed during the same era, utilizes the data and techniques developed in treating specific maladies of specific organs and tissues to treat the entire person far more effectively than either the new techniques alone or the old-fashioned family physician. By the same token, holistic biblical interpretation seeks to utilize the data garnered by classic 19th and 20th century atomistic exegesis in order to fully understand not only individual units but also entire books as they appear in the ancient Hebrew and Greek versions of the Jewish Bible. Two of the important exponents of holistic interpretation, who have contributed immensely to improved understanding of the Book of Job, are E.L. Greenstein and Carol Newsom.

Following up on Gordis's argument that the canonical Book of Job is a datum while its division into previous compositions is only a theory, holistic interpretation tends to see 42:7b–17 not only as the fitting rebuke of Job's friends for having urged him to curse God and the fitting laudation of Job for having rebuked his friends in 27–28 but as the equally fitting conclusion to the canonical Book of Job, which has privileged the infinitely more profound work which Ginsberg calls jip. In 42:7b–8 it is stated, "And the lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, 'I am angry at you and your two friends because you did not speak rightly about me as did my devotee Job. Now take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams and go to my devotee Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. And let Job, my devotee, pray for you; for him will I accept and not treat you badly, since you have not spoken rightly about me as did my devotee Job.'"

Significantly, in this passage God employs the expression "show deference" (literally, "lift up someone else's face") for precisely the generally forbidden activity (see e.g., Lev. 19:15) of which Job, himself accused Eliphaz and his friends in 13:6–10:

Will you tell lies on behalf of God
speak falsehoods on his behalf?
Will you show bias in his favor,
play the advocate for God?
Will it be pleasant when he takes you to task?
Can you mock him as you mock mortals?
And accuse you he surely will
If you show partiality in the dispute.
(Translation adapted from Ginsberg 1967, p. 98.)

Thus it turns out that Job in the very heart of his debate with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar has accused these friends of showing partiality in a dispute in order to justify God in the face of Job's undeserved suffering. What the reader of the canonical book is meant to know from chapters 1–2 is that, in fact, Job is totally innocent. He is the subject of an experiment. Job does not know this, nor do the friends. Job proves that God was correct and "the Adversary" mistaken. Contrary to the dire prediction of "the Adversary" in 1:10 and 2:5, Job does not curse God. He insists again and again that (a) he has done nothing to deserve the untimely tragic death of his seven sons and three daughters; (b) his three friends who have come to visit a bereft and infirm individual have misbehaved by blaming the victim rather than sitting silently and nodding their heads; and (c) all he wants from God is that God should dialogue with him and acknowledge him.

Consequently, when God rebukes the friends in 42:7–8, he confirms the correctness of what Job has insisted throughout his speeches in chapters 3–26; 29–31. Moreover, when God does address Job in 38–41 he has acceded to Job's simple request uttered in 9:32–35: "For God is not a man, like me, whom I could answer when we came to trial together. If only there were an arbiter between us, who would lay his hand upon us both, who would remove God's rod from me so that my dread of Him would not terrify me. Then I would speak, and not fear Him, for He is far from just to me." And, in fact, at the end of the book, God does address Job (see below concerning the God speeches). Moreover, by God's saying that Job has spoken rightly and the friends not, God has vindicated Job both in his complaint that his friends do not know how to comfort a bereft and infirm individual and in his conviction that his suffering is totally undeserved.

[Mayer I. Gruber (2nd ed.)]

The Message and Meaning of Job

The problem of the final meaning and message of the book, no less than that of its provenance and composition, has elicited over the centuries a wide variety of responses. To some sages of the Talmud and Midrash, Job is to be regarded as one of the few truly God-fearing men of the Bible (Mid. Lekaḥ Tovto Gen. 47:12), the most pious gentile that ever lived (Deut. R. 2:4), exceeding even Abraham in this regard (bb 14b). To others, he was a blasphemer (ibid.). According to R. Joshua b. Hananiah (second century), Job served God out of love, the highest possible motivation; according to R. Johanan b. Zakkai (first century), it was only fear that prompted Job to serve God (Sotah 5:5). Maimonides (Guide, 3:22–23) attributes Job's defiant questioning of God's justice to his defective knowledge of God; defective, since it was based on the mere acceptance of authority. However, when Job attained a true, philosophical knowledge of God (after the theophany from the whirlwind), he realized that it alone constitutes true happiness. No misfortune, however grave, can trouble a man once he is in possession of a truly philosophical knowledge of God gained through revelation. The latter instructs him that God's knowledge, rule of the world, and providence are in no wise to be compared to man's conception of these matters. "If a man knows this, every misfortune will be borne lightly by him."

Modern commentators are sharply divided as to what the author of Job meant to teach his readers. The problem arises from the fact that in the speeches of God from the whirlwind (Job 38–42), God majestically ignores the issue as Job has posed it. Instead of giving an explanation of Job's sufferings, God confronts Job with a series of seemingly irrelevant, ironic questions intended to convince him of the paltriness of human knowledge and power. The rhetorical questions, encompassing the unfathomable wonders of creation, the immensity of its expanse, and the marvels of nature, in whose presence man's understanding and power are as nought, seem to imply that it is presumptuous of man to question God's justice. This reading appears to be borne out by God's challenge: "Wilt thou even make void My judgment? Wilt thou condemn me that mayest be justified?" (40:8). Even more, Job acknowledges (40:4) that he is "of small account" and that in view of God's unanswerable questions, he will "proceed no further" (ibid.) with his questioning of God's justice. Indeed, Job is mildly rebuked by God for speaking out of ignorance and of "darkening counsel" (38:2). Yet, the friends are even more sharply rebuffed by God, since by their words they have enkindled his wrath: "For ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as My servant Job hath" (42:7). Taken at face value, the implication is that Job's repeated assertion of the lack of a visible correlation between his life of rectitude and the dreadful fate visited upon him disproves the friends' contention that suffering is proof of sin. If one were to employ the argument from silence, then the absence of any charge of guilt against Job in God's reply would constitute divine vindication of both Job's innocence and his argument. In sum, the book would teach (Terrien): (1) that the old doctrine of a causal connection between suffering and moral evil is untenable; (2) that the splendors of creation and their marvelous sustainment (38:39, 40), phenomena beyond the capacities of man, are proof of the justice of God; and (3) that the question of man's actual lot as contrasted with his rightful deserts is one on which God prefers to maintain silence. Moreover, in the face of an awareness of the divine power, as expressed in God's series of questions to Job (38:4–39; 40:9–32), Job's question becomes irrelevant. Conceivably, the thought is implied that if man could match God's power and wisdom, only then could he grasp the workings of God's providence. Job admits the total impossibility of such a feat (42:3) and concludes by abhorring his words and repenting, "Seeing I am but dust and ashes" (42:6).

The enigmatic character and dubious relevance of God's reply to Job have suggested an interpretation that, in the first instance, denies that the book was written as an attempt to solve the mystery of the suffering of the innocent. Neither the colloquy nor the theophany penetrate to the reason for Job's suffering. That reason, however, emerges quite clearly from the prologue and epilogue. Job's suffering is merely a divine test of his piety. In addition to controverting the conventional view that suffering is punishment for sin, the book proposes not an answer but an experience. The message of Job is neither theological nor philosophical. It is profoundly religious. Its origin is to be sought in the biblical concept of the consequence of sin as isolation from God (Gen. 4:14). In his agony, Job feels not only isolated from God but that God has become his implacable enemy (7:20; 9:16–18; 13:21, 25; 16:9, 12:19:6–9; 30:20) and has hidden his face from him (13:24). He insists that death would be preferable to his life of unmitigated woe (3:17) and that never to have seen the light of day would have been an even more desirable fate (3:11, 12), since in either case he would have been beyond God's hostile power. No isolation from God could be more total than this. God's reply from the whirlwind is tantamount to the assurance that suffering need not spell isolation from God. The divine revelation is itself an act of grace, so much so that in its presence, Job does not ask to be delivered from his suffering. Even more, he admits that whereas heretofore he "had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; But now mine eye seeth Thee" (42:5). God's presence is more than enough to sustain him. "It may be good to understand the cause (of suffering); but it is better to be sustained to endure" (H.H. Rowley). Unknowingly, then, Job in his suffering was vindicating God's trust in him and thus honoring God.

Georg Fohrer's interpretation is a nuance of the foregoing. The essential question the book sets out to answer is: what is the conduct proper to suffering man? The final reply of Job (40:2, 3; 42:5) is the answer to the question, conceptualized by Fohrer in the following: "In his unreserved devotion to God and in his personal fellowship with him, Job bears and endures his fate.… This is the true understanding and appropriate attitude for man towards suffering; the humble and reverential silence sustained by repose in God." Marcus sees Job as the "first existentialist." Basing himself on 40:7–14, he sums up the book's message: "Just as God exerts his heroic will to subdue the demonic elements of the universe and to sustain his creation by bringing light to the stars, rain to the sea and land, and food to all living creatures, so man must exert his will to subdue evil and overcome frustration." Thus, the book is "an exhortation to emulate God's unconquerable will." Freehof, after reviewing the various theories of the reason for suffering as put forth in the book (Prologue: suffering is a divine test; the Friends: suffering is divine punishment for sin acknowledged or unacknowledged; Job: a denial of the latter; Elihu: suffering is a divine warning and is educative), interprets the denouement as bearing a twofold meaning: (1) If God's mysterious power and wisdom fill the universe, it should not be unendurable to accept one more expression of it, human innocent suffering; (2) the very divine power manifest in creation should by implication serve man as a mandate to extend human control over nature as a means of conquering much human suffering. Gordis regards the book as aiming at two central conclusions. Since the world contains so much that is not intended for man's use and that is beyond his sway, neither the universe nor its Creator can be judged from the limited human perspective. There is implied acknowledgment on the part of God that much in the world order is imperfect. But, then, could Job, if he were to mount God's throne, do much better; could he humble the arrogant and crush the evildoers? Again, the order and harmony that pervade the natural world though faintly grasped by man is, by analogy, evidence of order and meaning in the moral sphere, though the latter, too, is often incomprehensible to man. Though the book offers no justification for suffering from the human viewpoint, it does demonstrate that "it is possible for men to bear the shafts of evil that threaten their existence if they cultivate a sense of reverence for the mystery and miracle of life … and strive to discern intimations of meaning in its beauty."

[Theodore Friedman]

Spiegel shows that the prose tale of Job "revolves around the question, "Is there such a thing as unselfish virtue." The prose tale of Job provides an affirmative answer to this question. In addition, Spiegel shows that the poem of Job "boldly assails the dogma of retribution as both untrue and unfair." Consequently, anticipating by more than half a century the post-modern holistic interpretations, Spiegel reads 42:7, "for you [Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar] have not spoken the truth about me as did my servant Job," as both the conclusion of the prose tale and as the conclusion of the poem [Ginsberg's jip]. This, Spiegel explains, means that Job 42:7 constitutes "the disavowal [by God] of the doctrine of individual retribution."

[Mayer I. Gruber (2nd ed.)]

The most radical interpretation is that offered by Tsevat. According to him the book maintains that there is no principle of divine retribution in the world. "The assertion of punishment of the wicked and reward of the righteous is without foundation.… Justice is not woven into the stuff of the universe nor is God occupied with its administration." Justice is simply a human ideal. "He who speaks to man in the Book of Job is neither a just god nor an unjust god but God." Hence, Job's denial of the notion that his suffering is evidence of his sin is closer to the final truth as enunciated in God's reply from the whirlwind than the conventional doctrine put forth by the friends.

This summary of diverse current interpretations underlines the problematic character of the book no less that its endless fascination for those who ponder the "impossible problem of reconciling infinite benevolence and justice with infinite power in the creator of such a world as this" (J.S. Mill). In the words of the sages (Avot 4:15), "It is beyond our power to understand why the wicked are at ease, or why the righteous suffer."

[Theodore Friedman]

The Book of Job as Anthropodicy Rather than Theodicy

In 1710 Baron Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646–1716) published his book, Théodicée, "the vindication of the divine attributes, especially justice and holiness with respect to the existence of evil." The English form of the French term théodicée, i.e., "theodicy," is first attested in 1797. The term invented by Leibniz is based upon the Greek noun theos, "God," 'and the Greek infinitive dikein, "to justify." Consequently, the term theodicy is a close semantic equivalent of the Hebrew term ẓidduk ha-din, "justification of the [divine] decree," which is the name of the central liturgical poem recited at the Jewish funeral service since Late Antiquity. Numerous common interpretations of the Book of Job see this book as a treatise on theodicy. Notable exceptions are the interpretations of Spiegel, Tsevat, and Kushner (see above). The Book of Job and the God who speaks to Job from the whirlwind and ultimately defends Job and castigates his friends cannot or will not justify God with respect to Job's suffering from the undeserved, untimely death of his sons and daughters. Nor does this book or the God who is represented as speaking through this book justify Job's being afflicted with a severely debilitating disease. Consequently, neither the book as a whole nor the God speeches can be construed as a treatise or treatises on theodicy. In fact, the canonical Book of Job three times skirts the entire issue of theodicy. The first time that the Book of Job skirts the issue of theodicy is by telling the readers in chapters 1–2 that, in fact, Job's suffering is totally undeserved; it is simply an experiment designed to vindicate God's trust in Job's virtue despite the charges leveled against Job by "The Adversary." The second time that the issue of theodicy is skirted is in the God speeches. Tsevat and Kushner have simply made explicit to large audiences of biblical scholars and laypersons respectively the rather unpleasant ideas, which the author of Job left to the imagination of those learned enough to plumb the depths of the author's high register Hebrew poetry. The third time that the canonical Book of Job skirts the issue of theodicy is in 42:13, "He also had seven sons and three daughters." The latter verse does not assert, God forbid, that there were born to Job seven sons and three daughters as stated in 1:2. To have said that would imply that while in the course of God's performing an experiment on an unwitting human victim God had the original children killed. Thereafter, as it were, God simply replaced them with new children. This would not be justification of God but condemnation of God. Instead, as Gordis often explained orally in his classes (but not in his published commentary), in the fairy-tale like epilogue of the book, Job's original children were restored to him just as in the Ugaritic Epic of Danel (paired with Job and Noah in Ezekiel 14:14, 20; cf. Gordis 1965, p. 68), the son Aqhat is brought back to life as a reward for the virtue of his parents and in response to his sister Pughat's eloquent and heartfelt prayers.

The Book of Job does not justify God in the face of human suffering, be it the suffering of a person who is being experimented upon as is described in chapters 1–2 or in the face of tidal waves (tsu-nami or Leviathan) that kill as many people as did the Americans at Hiroshima in 1945. Consequently, the Book of Job is not a work of theodicy. Most of the Book of Job, however, is devoted to Job's defending himself in the face of the charge reiterated again and again by his friends that people (such as Job and his children) suffer because they have it coming to them. Since, the book portrays God as vindicating Job's claim to innocence and condemning his friends for suggesting that he had it coming to him, the book may best be described not as theodicy but anthropodicy. If theodicy is the justification of God, then anthropodicy (from Greek anthropos, "human," and Greek dikein, "to justify") is the justification of suffering humans in the face of people, who add insult to injury by blaming the victim, including the bereaved and the infirm. James Moore, Post-Shoah Dialogues (2004, p. 232) previously used this same term to mean "evil [committed] byman." The essay on pastoral care by Rabbi Myriam Klotz (see Bibliography) is a rare example of the utilization of the Book of Job in a handbook on pastoral care. To be more precise, the Book of Job is not about the vocation of rabbis and other clergy that includes visiting the sick and the bereaved. In fact, most of the Book of Job deals with the question of how not to behave when attempting to carry out the two most ubiquitous mitzvot, i.e., holy obligations, which the Jewish religion regards as incumbent upon all people – regardless of their vocation – with respect to the sick and the bereaved among us. It would seem to be very simple: one needs no shofar, no lulav and no maẓẓah, not even a prayerbook. One needs only to know when to keep one's mouth shut. This was a lesson, which some of the greatest of the sages of antiquity – Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar – learned only after God Almighty emerged from the whirlwind to rebuke them for the untoward consequences of their very, very good intentions.

In Halakhah and Liturgy

Mishnah, Bava Meẓia 4:10 asserts that just as there is defrauding (and some translate overreaching; the Hebrew term is hona'ah or ona'ah) in commerce so is there defrauding in speech. Tosefta, Bava Meẓia 3:25, followed by Babylonian Talmud, Bava Meẓia 58b, explains that defrauding in speech is exemplified by a person who in response to someone else's suffering, becoming sick, and/or having the misfortune of having his children predecease her/him says to that person as did Job's friends, "Is not your piety your confidence, Your integrity your hope? Think now, what innocent person ever perished," quoting Eliphaz to Job in 4:6–7. The halakhah thus canonizes the view of Job and of God as portrayed in 42:7 that such despicable verbal behavior is an offense against the Torah.

As noted above, the initial silence of the friends of Job recorded in 2:13 until Job himself had spoken in 3:1–16 is cited as the inspiration for the rule set forth in tb, Mo'ed Katan 28b and canonized in Shulḥan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah 376:1 that would-be comforters not address the mourner until the mourner indicates either verbally or nonverbally that she/he would like to be addressed.

Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Ḥayyim 492 canonizes a medieval practice of observing three successive fasts on the first Monday-Thursday-Monday following the New Moon of Marheshvan in order to atone for any minor sin committed during the jolly festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles) and a similar three successive fasts on the first Monday-Thursday-Monday following the New Moon of Iyyar to atone for any minor sin committed during the jolly festival of Passover. The two series of three fasts are called behab (בה״ב) following the Hebrew numerals designating Monday-Thursday-Monday. The inspiration for these fasts of atonement is Job's offering sacrifice at the end of each of his children's series of parties, for "perhaps my children have sinned and blasphemed God in their thoughts" (1:5); see J.D. Eisenstein, Digest of Laws and Customs (Heb., 1917), pp. 35–36.

The daily service in the synagogue begins with the benediction, Praised are You, O Lord, our God, king of the world, who gave the rooster the discernment to distinguish between day and night. According to tb, Berakhot 60b this benediction is to be recited upon hearing the sound of the rooster at dawn. This benediction is based upon Job 38:36 where God addresses to Job the rhetorical question, "Who gave wisdom to the ibis//or who gave discernment to the rooster?" (See extensive discussion in Gordis 1978, pp. 452–453.)

Just as the daily service in the synagogue begins with a quotation from the Book of Job so does virtually every service conclude with the Mourner's Kaddish, whose last line quotes Job 25:2b, "He establishes peace in the heavens." The very same utterance, with which the Mourner's Kaddish invokes Job 25, namely, "May He who establishes peace in the heavens establish peace among us and upon all Israel, and say, 'Amen,'" is recited silently by individuals at the conclusion of the *Amidah, and it is recited also at the close of the *Grace After Meals.

[Mayer I. Gruber (2nd ed.)]

In the Aggadah

The rabbis were fascinated and troubled by Job, as is evident in the large number of aggadot about him. A primary concern is when Job lived. Opinions expressed in Bava Batra 14b–16b include the time of Abraham, the time of the tribes (when he married Jacob's daughter Dinah), the time of the Exodus, the period of the Judges, and the return of the exiles from Babylon. He is said to have been contemporaneous with both the Queen of Sheba and Ahasuerus. Some said Job never existed and his story is an allegory. The most widespread rabbinic view is that Job lived in the time of Moses and served as an advisor to Pharaoh (see below).

A closely linked question is whether Job was a Jew or a gentile. Some say that he was "a righteous proselyte" and "one of the seven gentile prophets," others that "he was an Israelite" and that halakhah can even be deduced from him. Most rabbinic opinion presents Job as a righteous gentile and sages praise his positive qualities, including modesty and hospitality. Nevertheless, this admirable non-Jew falls short in comparisons to Abraham (arn2, 7; bb 16a). Abraham is said to have served God out of love while Job served God only out of fear of losing his reward (tj, Ber. 14b), although others disagree (Mish. Sot. 5:5 and tj, Sot. 20c). Resolution is achieved in Sotah 31a, where a tradition attributed to R. Meir equates "fearing God" with "loving God" for both Abraham and Job.

Job's sufferings are explained variously. According to tb, Sotah 11a, Job joined Balaam and Jethro in advising Pharaoh on how to deal with the enslaved children of Israel. Balaam, who advised slaying male children, was himself slain. Job, who remained silent, was sentenced to suffering. Jethro, who fled, became a proselyte to Judaism (similarly tb, Sanh.106a; Exod. R. 27:3). Job is also accused of questioning divine justice in his heart, even before his actual afflictions began (tb, bb 16a–b).

Rabbinic ambivalence towards Job is based not only on the difficulties of the book of Job, itself, but on the predominant identification of Job as a gentile. Job's complaints during his suffering are frequently compared unfavorably to the endurance of the patriarchs, kings, and prophets of Israel who faced far greater trials (Deut. R. 2:4; Pes. R. 47). Some sages explain Job's restoration with the claim that "the Holy One doubled his reward in this world in order to banish him from the world to come" (tb, bb 15b). Conversely, Pesikta Rabbati links Job's punishments and redemption with the chastisements and ultimate consolation of the Jewish people (26:7, 29/30).

There may be an element of anti-Christian polemic in rabbinic efforts to denigrate Job, or in contrast, to claim him as a Jew. Such approaches, already in tannaitic sources, may be responding to Christian portrayals of Job as a patient sufferer and to Job's inclusion in Christian constructions of a pre-existent community of gentile priests outside the nation of Israel. Evidence of disputes over Job's identity appears in one of the letters of the Church Father *Jerome, where he identifies Job as descended from Esau and not Levi, "although the Hebrews declare the contrary" (Lt. 73).

[Judith R. Baskin (2nd ed.)]

In Islam

Ayyūb (Job) is briefly mentioned in several suras as the servant of Allah who underwent hardship (4:161; 21:83–84; 38:40–43); Allah therefore restored all of the fortune which he had lost. Post-Koranic literature greatly enlarges on the descriptions taken from the Bible and the Midrashim. As in Jewish literature, there are various opinions as to Ayyūb's origin and the period during which he lived. Some believe that he was a Rūmī, that is, an Edomite, and that he lived during the days of Lot, Abraham, Jacob, or Ephraim son of Joseph. His wife was Leah(!), the daughter (!) of Jacob (Gen. R. 57:4, Dinah, the daughter of Jacob was the wife of Job). Ayyūb died at the age of 93. His son Bishr succeeded him as prophet and was known as Dhū al-Kifl. It is interesting that many of the legends about Ayyūb are connected with the immediate environs of Jerusalem, Transjordan, and Hauran, and the vicinity of Damascus.

[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg]

In the Arts

in literature

The sorely tried Job, canonized by the medieval Church, has inspired far more literary, artistic, and musical work by Christians than by Jews. Two of the earliest treatments in literature were the Mystère de Job (part of the famous Mistère du Viel Testament, 1478?) and L'Hystore Job, a French verse adaptation of the Compendium in Job by Pierre de Blois. The Book of Job contains all the stuff of drama – man's struggle to understand the reason for injustice in the world – which should have made it a natural choice for Protestant writers of the 16th and 17th centuries. However, Job's very perfection and his daring and blasphemous questioning of God led to widespread neglect of the theme. Among the very few works on the subject to appear in the 16th century were the Meistersinger Hans Sachs's play Der Hiob (1547); Ralph (Robert) Radcliffe's biblical drama Job's Afflictions (c. 1550); and Robert Greene's The Historie of Job (1594). Job, a drama of the same period, is one of the few surviving literary works in Romansch (Rhaeto-Romance) and was published in 1896. Rather more interest was shown in the theme during the 17th century. In Spain, the Marrano playwright Felipe *Godínez published La gran Comedia de los trabajos de Job (1638) and Pedro Calderón de la Barca devoted one of his autos sacramentales to the subject.

The subject acquired more significance in literature from the early 19th century onward. Works based directly on the theme include Az ember tragédiája ("The Tragedy of Man," 1862) by the Hungarian writer Imre Madách; Hiob (1866), a drama by Johann Adolf Philipp Zapf; Giobbe (1872), a five-act Italian tragedy by Marco Wahltuch; and a dramatic poem (1898) by the Romanian author G. Gârbea. One outcome of the controversy roused by the biblical criticism of Ernest *Renan was a curious work by the French Socialist philosopher Pierre-Henri Leroux – Job, drame en cinq actes… par le Prophète Isaie, retrouvé, rétabli dans son intégrité, et traduit littéralement sur le texte hébreu … (1886). During the first decade of the 20th century there were some interesting treatments in German: Geschichte des Heimkehrenden (Das Buch Joram; 1905), a pastiche by Rudolf Borchardt; Sphinx und Strohmann (1907) reissued as Hiob (1917), a drama by the painter and author Oskar Kokoschka; and Der Blumenhiob (1909), a novel by Hans Kyser. In Germany, works on the theme included Fritz Weege's modern miracle play, Das Spiel Hiob (1926) and Bartholomaeus Ponholzer's religious drama, Job, der fromme Idealist (1927). Three other modern interpretations were the Swedish writer Karin Maria Boye's unfinished cantata, De sju dödssynderna ("The Seven Deadly Sins," 1941), on the theodicy issue; H. de Bruin's Dutch epic, Job (1944); and Giovanni Battista Angioletti's Italian dialogue drama, Giobbe, uomo solo (1955). Two of the most original and interesting modern treatments were those by the U.S. writers Robert Frost and Archibald MacLeish. Frost's A Masque of Reason (1945), a poetic drama in the guise of an apocryphal chapter of the Book of Job, humanized the story without robbing it of essential dignity. MacLeish's J.B. (1958), a verse play that won the Pulitzer Prize, made the hero a prosperous businessman whose life is shattered by a series of disasters. Reversing the arguments in the Bible, MacLeish has J.B.'s plausible comforters (a clergyman, a scientist, and a Marxist) exonerate him, while he insists on condemning himself. Among the very few Jewish writers who turned to the subject were the Austrian novelist Joseph *Roth, author of Hiob (1930; Job: The Story of a Simple Man, 1931); the Egyptian Karaite Murād *Faraj, whose Ayyūb (1950) was a prose version in rhymed Arabic; the Yiddish writerH. *Leivick, who published the dramatic poem In di Teg fun Iyov (c. 1953); and the French author Henri *Hertz, whose short story "Ceux de Job" (in Tragedies des temps volages, 1955) describes the grandeur and despair of the Jewish experience.

in art

In art, Job has been a popular subject since early Christian times. In the Middle Ages he was regarded as the type of the suffering Jesus, the persecuted Church, or of the Christian soul's endurance. He was portrayed sitting covered with boils, half-naked on a "dungheap," as the Septuagint picturesquely mistranslated "ashes" (Job 2:8). Sometimes Job sat on a tortoise, the symbol of patience. He was afflicted by Satan with sore boils (Job 2:7), reproached by his wife (Job 2:9–10), and visited by Three Friends (Job 2:11). All these events are represented in illustrations of Job's ordeal. The reproaches of his wife were expanded in medieval pious literature and miracle plays, with the result that she came to be depicted as a shrew; and Job's Three Friends were sometimes shown mocking him by playing musical instruments (see below). Cycles of paintings or sculpture illustrating the trials of Job include 13th-century carvings from Chartres and Rheims and The Story of Job (1480–83), a 15th-century painting by the Master of the Legend of St. Barbara (Cologne Museum). The subject was treated in an altarpiece by Rubens for the Church of St. Nicholas, Brussels, and in a series of watercolors and engravings by the English poet and painter William *Blake which include Job Laughed to Scorn (Job 30). The destruction of Job's children (Job 1:18–19) is shown in a crowded painting by Bernart van Orley (c. 1491–1542; Brussels Museum). Figures of the suffering Job, alone or accompanied by his wife and friends, or afflicted by the Devil, are found in early Christian frescoes from the Roman catacombs and from the graveyard of St. Peter and St. Marcellino; and on Roman sarcophagi. From the ninth century onward, other figures appear in Byzantine and European manuscripts, including the 12th-century Admont Bible (Vienna State Library) and the Hortus Deliciarum. At Chartres, there is a 13th-century carving of the ulcerated Job sitting on his dungheap and watched by his family. A demon places his right hand on Job's bald head and his left hand under his foot, in accordance with the biblical description: "So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot even unto his crown" (Job 2:7). There is also a 13th-century bas-relief at Notre Dame, Paris. From the 15th century onward there are impressive German woodcarvings and an illumination by Jean Fouquet to the Hours of Etienne Chevalier (Musée Condé, Chantilly). During the Renaissance, the subject was mainly popular in northern Europe. It was represented in the wings of the Jabach altarpiece by Duerer (Staedel Institute, Frankfurt, and Cologne Museum), in which Job's wife is shown dousing her husband with a pail of water. It also appears in the work of Dutch and Flemish painters, in carved choirstalls at Amiens, and in French Books of Hours. In the 17th century, the subject was treated by the Spanish masters Murillo and Ribera (both paintings are in the Parma Pinacotheca); by Georges de La Tour in a characteristic night scene also thought to represent St. Peter released from prison by an angel; and by *Rembrandt in a pen and ink drawing. Modern representations of Job include those by Max *Liebermann and Yehuda Epstein.

in music

Among the saintly patrons of music and the professional musician, "Saint Job" appeared – suddenly, but prominently – during the 14th–18th centuries in France, Germany, and England, and especially in Holland and Belgium. The tradition is thought to derive from an interpretation of Job's complaint: "Therefore is my harp (kinnor) turned to mourning, and my pipe (uggav) into the voice of them that weep" (Job 30:31); another possible source lies in the Job mystery plays, which were themselves largely based on the apocryphal Testament of Job. All these traditions are reflected in the many paintings and illustrations which show Job being consoled (and sometimes also mocked – cf. Job 30: 1, 7, 9, 14) by musicians, mostly wind-instrument players. Where the musicians were three in number, a conflation with the motif of the Three Friends is sometimes noticeable (for a survey of the subject see: V. Denis, in mgg, 6 (1957), 458–60). Motet collections of the first half of the 16th century include a number of settings from the Book of Job (by C. de Sermisy, P. de La Rue, L. Senfl, L. Morales, T. Crecquillon, and J. Clemens non Papa), mainly of the sadder verses, a symptom of the early Baroque period's emphasis on demonstrative repentance scenes. These treatments culminate in Orlando di Lasso's two extended settings: Sacrae lectiones novem ex propheta Hiob (1565, repr. 10 times by 1587), for four voices; and Lectiones sacrae ex libris Hiob excerptae musicis numeris (1582), also for four voices. The first setting is extremely pathetic, the second more restrained. Further settings of the period were those by Jacobus Gallus (Handl) and Joachim à Burck (1610).

From about the turn of the century, Protestant composers increasingly favored the half-verse "I know that my Redeemer liveth" (Job 19:25), of which there are two settings by Heinrich Schuetz. The rise of the oratorio form had meanwhile produced several works on the subject (by G. Carissimi and P. d'Albergatti). The authenticity of Bach's Cantata no. 160, Ich weiss dass mein Erloeser lebt, has sometimes been doubted. The most famous setting of this text is the contralto aria, I know that my Redeemer liveth, in G.F. Handel's Messiah (1742); its opening is engraved on the scroll held by Roubillac's statue of Handel on the composer's grave in Westminster Abbey. There were a few oratorios on the theme in the 19th century. Frederick Shepherd Converse's Job (performed in Worcester, 1907; and Hamburg, 1908) was one of the first works by a U.S. composer to be presented in Europe. There has been a marked predilection for the subject in the 20th century, probably because of its philosophical connotations. Ralph Vaughan Williams' Job; a masque for dancing (1927–30), based on a libretto by Sir Geoffrey Keynes and Gwen Raverat, was composed for the Ballet Rambert and here the decor and the dancers' movements follow Blake's illustrations. Vaughan Williams later adapted a suite for orchestra and "The Voice out of the Whirlwind," for choir and organ, from this work. For Nicolas Nabokov's oratorio Job (1932), Jacques *Maritain adapted the text from the Bible. Other modern works include György Kósa's Hiob (cantata, 1933); Hugo Chaim *Adler's Hiob (oratorio, 1933); Lehman Engel's Four Excerpts from "Job" (for voice and piano, 1932); and Luigi Dallapiccola's Giobbe (oratorio – also for scenic performance – 1949).

[Bathja Bayer]

add. bibliography:

aramaic versions (targum): Le Targum de Job de la Grotte xi de Qumran (1971); The Targum to Job from Qumran Cave xi, ed. M. Sokoloff (1974); D.M. Stec, The Text of the Targum of Job: An Introduction and Critical Edition 1994); D. Shepherd, Targum and Translation (2004). commentaries: medieval: Rashi; Ibn Ezra; and Ralbag (in the standard Rabbinic Bible). add. bibliography: Saadiah ben Joseph (892–942 c.e.), The Book of Theodicy: Commentary on the Book of Job, trans. L.E. Goodman (1988); El Commentario de Abraham ibn Ezra al Libro de Job, ed. M.G. Aranda (2004); The Book of Job with the Commentaries of Rashi, Rabbenu Jacob ben Meir Tam, and a Disciple of Rashi, ed. A. Shoshana (Heb., 1990); The Commentary of Rabbi Samuel Ben Meir (Rashbam) on the Book of Job, ed. S. Japhet (Heb., 2000), includes extensive bibliography; Le commentaire sur Job de Rabbi Yoseph Qara (1978); A Commentary on the Book of Job: From a Hebrew Manuscript in the University Library, Cambridge, ed. W.A. Wright (1906); Commentary Eines Anonymous zu Buche Hiob, ed. A. Sulzbach (1911); and see R. Harris in jqr, 96 (2005), 163–81; Samuel ben Nissim Masnuth, Majan-Gannim: Commentary on the Book of Job, ed. S. Buber (Heb., 1889); Commentary on Job by Ramban (= Moses Naḥmanides; 1194–1270) edited from manuscripts with supercommentary in Collected Works of Nahmanides, vol. 1, ed. C. Chavel (1963), 9–128 (Heb.; 1963); idem, The Gate of Reward, trans. and annotated by C.B. Chavel (1983); The Commentary of Levi ben Gerson on the Book of Job, trans. A.L. Lassen (1946). after 1920: S.R. Driver and G.B. Gray (icc, 1921, 1950); E.J. Kissane (Eng., 19462); S.L. Terrien (Eng., 1954); N.H. Tur-Sinai (Heb., 1952; Eng., 1967); G. Fohrer (Ger., 1963); A. Hakham (Heb., 1970); M.H. Pope (Eng., 19733), includes bibliography; R. Gordis (Eng., 1978), includes bibliography. add. bibliography: N.C. Habel (Eng., 1985); J.C. Hartley (Eng., 1988); J. Klein et al. (Heb., 1993); E. Dhorme (Eng., 1967); D.J.A. Clines (Eng., 1989); M.I. Gruber, in: A. Berlin and M.Z. Bretler (eds.), Jewish Study Bible (2003). studies: N.H. Torczyner (Tur-Sinai), Das Buch Hiob (1920); F. Buhl, in: bzaw, 41 (1925), 52–61; W.L. Batten, in: Anglican Theological Review, 15 (1933), 125–8; A. Alt, in: zaw, 55 (1937), 265–8; S. Spiegel, in: L. Ginzberg Jubilee Volume (1945), 323–36 (Eng. section); W.B. Stevenson, The Poem of Job (19482); M.H. Segal, in: Tarbiz, 20 (1950), 35–48; H.A. Fine, in: jbl, 14 (1955), 28–32; N.M. Sarna, in: jbl, 76 (1957), 13–25; H.L. Ginsberg, in: Leshonenu, 21 (1957), 259–64; idem, in: Conservative Judaism, 21 (1967), 12–28; idem, in: vts, 17 (1969), 88–111; idem, in: Ereẓ-Israel, 9 (1969), 49–50, 220. add. bibliography: Y. Hoffman, Blemished Perfection (1996); M. Weiss, The Story of Job's Beginnings (an innovative study of the prose prologue of the Book of Job; 1983 in Hebrew); E.L. Greenstein, in: L. Mazor (ed.), Job in the Bible, Philosophy and Art (Hebrew, 1995), 43–53; idem, in: M.V. Fox et al. (ed.), Texts, Temples, and Traditions (1996), 241–58; idem, in: jbl, 122 (2003), 651–66; idem, in: E. van Wolde (ed.), Job 28: Cognition in Context (2003), 253–80; idem, in: S. Vargon et al. (ed.), Studies in Bible and Exegesis in honor of Menahem Cohen (2005), 245–62; C. Newsom, The Book of Job (2003). the message and meaning: S.B. Freehof, The Book of Job (1958); R. Gordis, The Book of God and Man (1965); R. Marcus, in: Review of Religion, 14 (1949–50), 5–29; M. Buber, The Prophetic Faith (1949), 94ff.; H.H. Rowley, From Moses to Qumran (1963), 141–83; M. Tsevat, in: huca, 37 (1966), 73–103; S. Terrien, Job, Poet of Existence (1957); add. bibliography: R.P. Scheindlin, The Book of Job (1998); N.M. Glatzer, The Dimensions of Job: A Study and Selected Readings (1969); The Book of Job: A New Translation with introductions by M. Greenberg; J.C. Greenfield; and N.M. Sarna (1980); M.I. Gruber, in: M. Lubetski et al. (ed.), Boundaries of the Ancient Near Eastern World (1998), 88–102; idem, in: Journal of Psychology and Judaism, 22 (1998), 51–64. in rabbinic literature: Ginzberg, Legends, 2 (1910) 223–42; 5 (1925), 381–90; and see especially tb, Bava Batra 14a–16b. add. bibliography: J.R. Baskin, in: L.G. Perdue and W. Clark Gilpin (ed.), The Voice from the Whirlwind (1992); idem, Pharaoh's Counsellors: Job, Jethro and Balaam in Rabbinic and Patristic Tradition (1983); H. Mack, Job and the Book of Job in Rabbinic Literature (2004; Heb.). in jewish liturgy:add. bibliography: M.I. Gruber, in: Review of Rabbinic Judaism, 6 (2003), 87–100. in the aggadah: add. bibliography: J.R. Baskin. Pharaoh's Counsellors (1983). ancient near eastern parallels: add. bibliography: W.G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom Literature (1960); S.N. Kramer, in: vts, 3, 170–82; J. Nougayrol, in: rb, 59 (1952), 239–250; M. Weinfeld, "Job and Its Mesopotamian Parallels," in: W. Classen (ed.), Text and Context (1988), 217–218; G. von Rad, in: The Problem of the Hexateuch (1966), 281–91; Newsom, 72–89. in pastoral care: add. bibliography: M. Klotz, "Wrestling Blessings: A Pastoral Response to Suffering," in: D.A. Friedman (ed.), Jewish Pastoral Care (2001), 35–59. job's mother: I. Pardes, in: C. Meyers, T. Craven, and R.S. Kraemer (ed.), Women in Scripture (2002), 292. job's sister and mother and father: C. Meyers, in: ibid., 294. job's sisters and brothers: C. Meyers, in: ibid., 296. job's wife: E.L. Greenstein, in Beit Mikra, 49 (2004), 19–31 (in Hebrew); M.I. Gruber, in: Scriptura, 87 (2004), 261–66; I. Pardes, in: C. Meyers, T. Craven, and R.S. Kraemer (ed.), Women in Scripture (2002), 292. job's daughters: I. Pardes, in: ibid., (2002), 99–100, 107, 108, 292; Z. Ben-Barak, Inheritance by Daughters in Israel and the Ancient Near East (Heb.; 2003). job's serving girls and male servants: C. Meyers, in: Women in Scripture, 294. gesture language in the book of job: M.I. Gruber, Aspects of Nonverbal Communication in the Ancient Near East (2 vols.; 1980); idem, The Motherhood of God and Other Studies (1992). in islam: Tabarī, Taʾrīkh (1357 ah), 226–8; Thaʿlabī, Qiṣaṣ (1356 ah), 128–37; Kisaʾī, Qiṣaṣ, ed. by I. Eisenberg (1922), 179–89; Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-Buldān (1323 ah), s.v. Dayr Ayyūb; M. Gruenbaum, Neue Beitraege zur semitischen Sagenkunde (1893), 262ff.; H. Speyer, Biblische Erzaehlungen… (1961), 410–2; D. Sidersky, Origines des légendes musulmanes (1933), 69–72; ei; Maqdisī, in: Bibliotheca Geographorum Arabicorum, 3 (1906), 171. add. bibliography: A. Jeffrey, "Ayyūb," in: eis2, 1 (1960), 795–96 (incl. bibl.). in literature: add. bibliography: H.M. Kallen, The Book of Job as a Greek Tragedy (1918; 19592); E. Weitzner, The Book of Job: A Paraphrase (1960).

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JOB . The biblical Book of Job is included among the Writings (Ketubim ) in the Hebrew Bible and among the Poetic books in the Old Testament. Along with Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Sirach, it is part of the wisdom literature of ancient Israel. The character Job, however, is not an Israelite but a figure belonging to a broader ancient Near Eastern tradition. His name (Hebrew 'iyyōb ) is not a typical Hebrew name but is related to Amorite names attested throughout the second millennium bce. Similarly, Ezekiel 14:14 mentions Job, along with Noah (the Israelite version of the Mesopotamian flood hero Utanapishtim) and the Canaanite king Dan'el, as figures legendary for their righteousness. The setting of the book of Job in the land of Uz and the homelands of Job's three friends (especially that of Eliphaz the Temanite) suggest that the Israelites may have acquired the story from Edomite sources. Although evidently familiar with a variety of ancient Near Eastern literary and folk traditions, the author of the biblical book has adapted these materials to his own specific religious and cultural beliefs. Few clues exist as to the date of composition. Though Job's world is described in terms that evoke a patriarchal setting, evidence from historical linguistics suggests that the book was composed in the early postexilic period.

Contents and Structure

The structure of the book has long puzzled scholars. It begins (1:12:13) and concludes (42:717) with a simple prose story that recounts how Job, a man of exemplary piety and extraordinary wealth, is tested through the loss of his family, property, and health. Refusing to curse God even in the depth of his suffering, Job's possessions are returned twofold, a new family is given to him, and he lives another one hundred and forty years. Between the prose beginning and ending, however, there are some thirty-nine chapters of erudite and highly sophisticated poetry. Chapters 327 contain a dialogue between Job and his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, concerning the significance of his suffering, the nature of God, and God's governance of the world. Though technically not cursing God, Job accuses God of heinous injustice, sadistic violence, and gross mismanagement of the world. A poem on the inaccessibility of wisdom follows the dialogue in chapter 28. Job resumes speaking in chapters 2931, giving a defense of his life, swearing an oath of innocence, and challenging God to reply to him. Instead, the next several chapters (chapters 3237) introduce a new character, Elihu, who attempts a further rebuttal of Job. At the conclusion of Elihu's speech, God appears "out of the tempest" to address Job (38:142:6). God does not speak directly to Job's complaints, however, but challenges his knowledge of creation and his inability to provide for the wild creatures of the earth as God does. Although Job retracts his accusations against God (40:15), God resumes with a second speech, describing the terrible magnificence of the legendary creatures Behemoth and Leviathan. In his final reply (42:16), Job acknowledges that he has spoken "without understanding," and having seen God "with my eyes," he recants. The prose conclusion then follows.

Although many ancient Near Eastern literary compositions incorporate a poetic text within a prose framework, the tensions between the prose and poetic parts of Job are striking. Where the prose story describes a character whose patient endurance is unwavering, the Job of the poetic section is an angry rebel whose accusations against God are only quelled by an encounter with the sublimity of the divine. Even those differences might be accommodated as features of a psychological portrait of acute suffering, but the transition from the poetry to the prose conclusion is jarring. Whereas in the poetic speech to Job God accuses him of "obscuring counsel" and speaking "without knowledge" (38:2), in the prose conclusion God rebukes the three friends because "you have not spoken the truth about me, as has my servant Job" (42:7).

With the rise of historical criticism in biblical studies, scholars argued that the prose narrative must be an ancient folk tale that the poet who wrote Job used to frame his new poetic composition, by removing the "original" dialogue between Job and his friends but otherwise not significantly changing the story. The Elihu speeches, which differ stylistically from the rest of the poetry and interrupt the dramatic structure, were regarded as a later addition. Some scholars argued that the wisdom poem, Job's final speech, and one or both of the divine speeches came from different hands. In reaction to historical-critical excesses, however, many recent commentators have attempted to understand the book as a more unified composition, though most still regard the figure and words of Elihu as a secondary addition. However the book was composed, the tensions between the prose tale and the poetic material remain fundamental for understanding the meaning of the book. The major components of the book are composed as different literary genres and address different aspects of the religious dilemma posed by the traditional figure of Job.

The Prose Tale

Although often referred to as a folk tale, the prose narrative is more accurately described as a didactic wisdom tale. In such stories, which include the stories about Joseph, Tobit, and Daniel, the protagonist embodies moral qualities valued by the culture. Within the story the moral coherency of the world is threatened when an antagonist menaces the hero. The suffering hero perseveres in his virtue, however, and is rewarded at the end, thus restoring the consistency of the moral order and recommending the virtue that the hero exemplifies. In Job the featured virtue is a disinterested piety that does not depend on reward. What is often overlooked is that this lack of concern for reward is not the typical way in which piety is described in the Bible. In Deuteronomy, in Proverbs, in Psalms, and elsewhere, devotion to God and blessings from God are seen as concomitant. God blesses the upright, whose gratitude expresses itself in further devotion to God. The Joban prose tale, far from being a simple folk story, is a narrative exploration and resolution of a potential problem within this religious framework. Does God's blessing corrupt piety? Or can one hold onto both concepts if one can imagine a form of piety that is truly disinterested? By depicting Job's piety as unchanged in good fortune and in bad, the writer can avoid potential contradiction. The restoration of Job at the end of the book serves to reunite the two values.

The character in the story who articulates the problem is the Adversary (ha-śātān ), who argues that Job is pious only because he has been blessed and will curse God if all he has is taken away. This figure is not yet Satan, the dualistic opponent of God that he becomes in later Jewish and Christian thought. Rather, he is a member of the heavenly court charged with inspecting the earth and reporting instances of disloyalty or corruption. The same figure occurs in Zechariah 3, where he accuses the high priest of corruption. In these texts the term satan is a common noun, not a proper name. Nevertheless, in both cases the Adversary's accusations are rejected by God, and in Job he acts as something of an agent provocateur. Thus one can see how the character later develops into a figure of evil and an adversary of God himself.

The Wisdom Dialogue

The prose tale makes use of a suffering hero to examine the concept of piety. In wisdom circles in the ancient Near East, however, the enigma of suffering itself had long been a topic of reflection, and it is this aspect of Job's situation that the poetic parts of the book explore. Several poetic texts from Mesopotamia and Ugarit have been compared with Job, notably the Sumerian composition A Man and His God and the Babylonian text I Will Praise the God of Wisdom. These poems, however, are appeals and thanksgivings for relief from suffering, and as such are more comparable to biblical psalms of lament and thanksgiving than to the story of Job. The one text that bears a striking resemblance to the dialogue between Job and his friends is the so-called Babylonian Theodicy, composed around 1000 bce. Here, as in the Book of Job, a sufferer repeatedly complains to his friend concerning the inexplicable evil that has befallen him, questioning the justice of the gods and the coherency of the moral world. His friend replies each time by offering the orthodox theodicies. Although direct literary dependency is unlikely, it is evident that the Job poet composed the dialogue portion of the book according to a well-known genre.

In the dialogue, although Job gives eloquent voice to his personal sufferings, the primary issue that concerns him is the nature of God. Since he cannot perceive his sufferings as in any way justifiable, he is forced to conclude that God is not only unjust but also sadistic and obsessed with seeking out and punishing vulnerable humans (e.g., 9:1631; 14:1822; 16:916). Job extends his critique to indict God's misgovernance of the world (e.g., 12:1425 and 24:112). The most remarkable innovation in Job's religious thinking is his use of a forensic, or courtroom, model to explore his relationship with God. Although Israelite tradition sometimes described God's punishment of individuals or persons in terms of a legal judgment (e.g., Ps. 143:2; Isa. 3:1314; Mic. 6:12), Job creatively reverses the force of the metaphor and attempts to imagine how a trial with God would allow him not only to hear God's charges against him but also to bring charges of his own (e.g., 13:1827; 16:1821; 23:27).

The role of the friends in the wisdom dialogue is to defend traditional understandings of divine justice against the skeptical onslaught of the sufferer. Though the friends are often read as simply "blaming the victim," their arguments are much more nuanced. Like many people in the ancient world, they believe that one could offend the deity unintentionally or unknowingly. Thus the only rational response to inexplicable sufferingespecially for a righteous personis to acknowledge any possible wrongdoing and to appeal humbly to God for deliverance (e.g., 5:116; 8:57; 11:1320). Theirs is a thoroughly practical approach to the enigma of suffering. Only when Job persists in his blasphemous speech do they conclude that he must indeed be wicked (22:211), though their advice to him remains the same (22:2130).

Thus what separates Job and the friends is not so much a question of Job's guilt or innocence as a conflict between two models of the divine-human relationship. The friends accept that a great gulf of being separates God and humans. In the face of that mystery, supplication of God's good favor is the only possible stance. Job, however, assumes that God and humans share a common set of values concerning justice and equity that can be rationally applied to both human and divine acts. Both perspectives are grounded in Israelite religious thought, making the dialogue a profound engagement of alternative worldviews.

Job's Final Defense and the Divine Speeches

In his final speech (chapters 2931) Job mounts a defense of his life and lays out the grounds on which he assumes he and God could address their differences. Job develops his view of the divine-human relationship as an extension of his self-understanding as a leader in his own community. The divine speeches, for which there is no parallel in the extant literature of the ancient Near East, are a fierce repudiation of an anthropocentric modeling of God and an implicit rejection of retributive justice as a part of the structure of the world. Although cast as a rhetorical repudiation of Job's pretensions ("Where were you. Can you. Do you know?"), their force is to challenge Job's construction of God as essentially a projection of an ancient Near Eastern patriarch on a cosmic scale. The divine speeches are difficult to interpret. Some commentators interpret them as a reaffirmation of the cosmos-creating deity who organizes the universe and restrains its chaotic elements. The difficulty with this understanding, however, is that the deity's final speech (chapters 4041) appears rather to celebrate the place of the chaotic (exemplified in the legendary creatures Behemoth and Leviathan) alongside the accomplishments of the deity in establishing a stable order of creation (chapter 38). Indeed, the wild animals whom God nurtures (chapter 39) are precisely those that ancient Near Eastern thought considered to be emblems of the chaotic "other." Read in this way, the divine speeches are a radical challenge to traditional ancient Near Eastern theological assumptions.

Jewish and Christian Reception of Job

The Book of Job resists being read as a unified whole. Whether one deals with the tensions as evidence of successive editorial layers or as the construction of a subtle thinker who wished to juxtapose several different ways of engaging issues arising from human suffering, it remains a difficult book, the ambiguities of which have funded many different interpretations.

Early Jewish interpretation recast Job as an ethical testament in which a dying elder teaches his children the lessons of his life. The Testament of Job, probably composed in Alexandria in the first century bce, depicts Job as opposing Satan's idolatry, for which he is told in advance that he will be persecuted. Thus he becomes a figure of endurance (cf. James 5:11), and his daughters are represented as mystics to whom he gives the gift of understanding the language of the angels. Other early Jewish interpretations of Job are more critical of him, casting him as one of Pharaoh's counselors at the time of the oppression of the Israelites. This identification of Job with the Egyptians in Exodus becomes the rationale for his suffering. The rabbis cited in the Babylonian Talmud (b. Baba Batra 1516) debate whether Moses wrote the Book of Job (a manuscript from Qumran copies Job in paleo-Hebrew script, otherwise used only for the books of the Pentateuch and the name of God) and whether or not Job blasphemes. B. Baba Batra 16b subtly interprets Job 2:10, "And for all this, Job did not sin with his lips," to suggest that Job sinned in his heartan interpretation that prepares the reader for the sudden transition from the pious Job of the prose tale to the rebellious Job of the poetic dialogue.

The early Christian church viewed Job as an "athlete of God" who perseveres through his suffering, and as an antitype of Christ, an interpretation most influentially presented in Pope Gregory's Moralia in Job. Ironically, since early postexilic Judaism did not have a conception of resurrection, certain passages in Job (especially 19:2527) came to be cited during the patristic period as evidence for resurrection of the body. In the Middle Ages, Job became the patron saint of those who suffered from worms, leprosy, skin diseases, venereal disease, and melancholy. Calvin composed one hundred and fifty-nine sermons on Job, emphasizing the theme of divine providence.

The poetry of Job attracted considerable attention during the Romantic period, as Job became a prime example of the expression of the sublime in the writings of Robert Lowth (17101787; Bishop of London 17771787), Johann Gottfried von Herder (17441803), and Edmund Burke (17291797). The most important Romantic interpretation of Job, however, is William Blake's series of illustrations, made around 1823, in which Job becomes an example of the cleansing of "the doors of perception," as he moves from misperception to true vision of God. In the early twentieth century, Rudolf Otto (The Idea of the Holy ) claimed Job's encounter with God as a primary example of the experience of the holy. In the later twentieth century the figure of Job was invoked to exemplify psychological development (Carl Jung, Answer to Job ); psychological illness (Jack Kahn, Job's Illness ); absurdist existentialism (Robert Frost, "A Masque of Reason"; implicitly, Franz Kafka, The Trial ); post-religious humanism (Archibald MacLeish, "J.B."); and the radical evil of the Shoah (Elie Wiesel, The Trial of God ). In theological criticism Job has been critiqued as exemplifying the "evils of theodicy" (Terrence Tilley, The Evils of Theodicy ), and from a liberationist perspective as an example of "how to speak about God" (Gustavo Gutiérrez, On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent ). René Girard (Job, the Victim of His People ) interprets Job as a type of scapegoat. Feminist critique has rehabilitated the maligned figure of Job's wife (Ilana Pardes, Countertraditions in the Bible: A Feminist Approach ), and postmodernists have been drawn to the "self-consuming" structure of the internal contradictions of the Book of Job (Edward Good; David Clines; and Dermot Cox), or they have interpreted the book as modeling a dialogic play of voices in which no single character or perspective controls the meaning of the book. The richness and ambiguity of the book ensure that it will continue to be a provocative work that defies definitive interpretation.

See Also

Resurrection; Satan; Suffering; Theodicy.


Baskin, Judith R. Pharaoh's Counsellors: Job, Jethro, and Balaam in Rabbinic and Patristic Tradition. Chico, Calif., 1983. An important comparative study of Jewish and Christian interpretation. Besserman, Lawrence L. The Legend of Job in the Middle Ages. Cambridge, Mass., 1979. Clines, David J. A. Job 120. Waco, Tex., 1989. The best and most comprehensive commentary. Contains an extensive bibliography. Job 2142 is to be published in 2005. Clines, David J. A. What Does Eve Do to Help? And Other Readerly Questions to the Old Testament. Sheffield, England, 1990. Cox, Dermot. The Triumph of Impotence: Job and the Tradition of the Absurd. Rome, 1978. Fohrer, Georg. Das Buch Hiob. Gütersloh, Germany, 1963. Insightful exegetical commentary. Good, Edward M. In Turns of Tempest: A Reading of Job with a Translation. Stanford, Calif., 1990. A provocative postmodern reading of Job. Habel, Norman C. The Book of Job. Philadelphia, 1985. An insightful commentary that emphasizes the literary features of Job, especially the legal metaphor. Keel, Othmar. Jahwes Entgegnung an Ijob. Göttingen, Germany, 1978. An innovative use of ancient Near Eastern iconography to illuminate the imagery of the divine speeches. Newsom, Carol A. The Book of Job: A Contest of Imaginations. New York, 2003. A reading of Job in light of Bakhtinian dialogism. Newsom, Carol A., and Susan E. Schreiner. "Job, Book of." In Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, edited by John H. Hayes, pp. 587599. Nashville, Tenn., 1999. History of interpretation, focusing on Christian sources. Extensive bibliography. Oberhänsli-Widmer, Gabrielle, Hiob in jüdischer Antike und Moderne: Die Wirkungsgeschichte Hiobs in der jüdischen Literatur. Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany, 2003. The most comprehensive study of Job in Jewish tradition. Terrien, Samuel. The Iconography of Job Through the Centuries: Artists as Biblical Interpreters. University Park, Pa., 1996. An exceptionally valuable collection of materials. Wright, Andrew S. Blake's Job: A Commentary. Oxford, 1972. Important analysis of the illustrations by William Blake. Zuckerman, Bruce. Job the Silent: A Study in Historical Counterpoint. New York, 1991. Interpretation of the growth of the book of Job as a series of "misreadings," analogous to the documented misinterpretation of a Yiddish story.

Carol A. Newsom (2005)

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This masterpiece of Old Testament (OT) wisdom literature will be discussed under the following headings: Plan, Content, and Integrity; Rhythm and Structural Features; Author, Date, Canonicity, and Setting; and Teaching.

Plan, Content, and Integrity. Job is a complex mosaic of rich and evocative poetry. It has, however, a detailed plan carefully elaborated by its author:

  • 1. Prose Introduction: the affliction of Job (ch. 12).
  • 2. Three Cycles of Dialogue between Job and his friends (ch. 328).
  • a. Opening Plaint: Job curses the day of his birth (ch. 3).
  • b. First (ch. 414), Second (ch. 1521), and Third (ch. 2227) Cycles of Dialogue between Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Job.
  • c. Encomium of Wisdom, accessible only to God (ch. 28).3. Job's Review of His Case before God (ch. 2931).
  • 4. The Intervention of Elihu (ch. 3237).
  • 5. The Lord's Response to Job (ch. 3842.6).
  • 6. Prose Conclusion: the restoration of Job (ch.42.717).

1. Prose Introduction. The introduction (ch. 12), with its scenes at the heavenly court, its recurrent series of disasters, and the persevering integrity of Job, is presented as a setting for the poetry to follow. Whatever facts or popular tales may underlie the narrative, the biblical writer clearly meant to pose in unmistakable terms the problem of the sufferings of the just and the relation of these sufferings to the plan of the Creator.

2. Three Cycles of Dialogue. The dialogue, using the freedom proper to poetry, enlarges on various aspects of the problem of suffering and makes it plain that a complete answer to it is beyond the reach of the speakers, including Job himself.

  1. a. Job, who in the prose is a model of patient perseverance (see Jas 5.11), here (ch. 3) prepares the way for the remonstrances of his friends by wishing he had perished at birth.
  2. b. In three rounds of speeches (ch. 427) the friends of Job probe into the reason for his misfortunes, which they attribute to his fault. They counsel him to pray for forgiveness. Job insists both on the extremity of his misery and on the absence of any wrongdoing that would justify the imputations of his friends. The speeches are not intended each to counter the arguments of the preceding; and the progression is not a matter of logic. Thus, in the first cycle Eliphaz (ch. 45) suggests the chastening effect of affliction and the certainty of Job's restoration if he prays for it. Job's reply (ch. 67) calls for death, rebukes the timidity of his friends, and turns to God in complaint, rather than in penitence. Then Bildad (ch. 8) and Zophar (ch. 11) declare that Job's future is sure to be visibly in harmony with his guilt or innocence before God. Following Bildad, Job (ch.910) acknowledges God's might, wishes that he had an arbiter before God, and asks why his Creator afflicts His own handiwork. In ch. 1214, Job protests that God's might can be seen at times to bring about destruction, and that his friends are using unworthy arguments on God's behalf; he then turns to God and asks again why he is being chastised. The end of this speech (ch. 14) describes before God the pitiful condition of all mankind, guilt-stained and confronted with death. The two later cycles add more asperity than argument. In the second cycle, the friends (ch. 15, 18, 20) all make the point that the wicked do not remain unpunished. Job first protests (ch. 1617) that God is allowing his friends to wrong him; then, in a famous passage (ch. 19), he appeals to the vindication he still expects from God, by whom he has been struck; and finally (ch. 21) he denies outright that the punishment of the wicked is visibly evident from experience. The third cycle (ch. 2227) has suffered damage in transmission, after Eliphaz's renewed plea to Job to repent (ch. 22), so that the progress of the debate, and even the identity of the speakers, becomes difficult to follow. Many arrangements for these chapters have been proposed. The reader may take ch. 2324 as spoken by Job, with the warning that verses 24.1324 are textually of extraordinary difficulty. If Bildad is given ch. 25 and Job ch. 26, a panegyric of God's creative might, then Zophar's last speech may be found in 27.1321 and Job's response to this in 27.212. In any case, Job is still maintaining his innocence in 27.56, and the positions are unchanged as the dialogue closes. Decreasing proportions observable in the three cycles make it unlikely that any sizable number of verses belonging to the third cycle has been lost.
    The encomium of wisdom (ch. 28) has often been thought to be distinct in authorship from the rest of Job. Its message is that wisdom, which is of transcendent value, cannot be discovered by any creature, but is known fully only to the Creator. The final line (28.28) sees man's wisdom in the fear of the Lord and the avoidance of evilqualities attributed to Job in the prose introduction (1.8, 2.3). There seems no adequate reason to deny this poem to the original author of Job; it draws from the dialogue the only general conclusion that can be drawn from it and balances very well Job's bitter outcry of ch. 3. This would be the only place in the poetry where the author speaks in his own name (at least in 28.28).

3. Job's Review of His Case. In ch. 2931, Job reviews his life without reference to the debate. His past blessings are contrasted with the wretched state of those whose sons now revile him (29.130.8), his present sorrows are feelingly described (30.931), and his examination of a blameless conscience leads him at last to call upon the Almighty to enter into judgment with him (31.140). The text of this section is well preserved, though verses 31.3840, for example, are out of place.

4. Elihu's Intervention. If the Almighty does not at once answer Job's final plea (31.3537), this is due, in the Book as we have it, to the intervention of Elihu (ch. 3237). There is widespread agreement that these chapters differ in effectiveness from the rest of Job. Elihu is a youth who, in a series of monologues with prolonged and wordy introductions, impetuously takes issue with all the preceding speakers. Many see his chief contribution in the appraisal (33.1332, 36.815) of the chastening value of affliction, although this was already spoken of by Eliphaz (ch. 45). Elihu's final description of God's hidden majesty (36.2237.24) is impressive and prepares for the appearance of the Lord in ch. 38. Yet this entire section is seemingly an afterthought in the arrangement of the Book, and it is most easily explained as the work of a subsequent inspired poet.

5. The Lord's Response to Job. The speech of the Lord (38.141.26) can be seen to balance, in structure and intent, the final plea of Job (ch. 2931), to which it is the reply. Job only is addressed; Elihu and the three friends are ignored. After pointing to the marvels of His creation in the earth, the sea, and the heavens (38.238), the Lord takes up the wonders of His providence for birds and beasts (38.3939.30). There is a brief exchange with Job (40.15) ; the Lord concludes His discourse by introducing (40.714) two fabulous examples of His creative art: behemoth (40.1524), and leviathan (40.2541.26). Job then humbly repents (42.16) his presumption. Some have supposed that the behemoth and leviathan passages are later additions. They are, however, integral to this section of the Book, and there is every reason to attribute them to its original author.

6. Prose Conclusion. The conclusion (42.717) provides a resolution to the theme of the Book; it finds Job, by God's favor, restored to fully twice the benefits he had enjoyed before his affliction and interceding with God for his friends. This by no means represents the culmination of the sacred writer's understanding of the problem he has broached; rather, it is his expression of faith in the abiding goodness and justice of the Lord, in the only terms through which in his day Old Testament man could concretely relate those attributes to the case of Job. That the conclusion is by the author of the poetry has sometimes been denied, but it is so closely tailored to the requirements of the case that no alternative is really plausible.

Job is for the most part well preserved in Hebrew (for ch. 2428, see above), but the difficulties of its unusual diction are not the only problems of detail. The LXX is a kind of abridged poetic approximation of it, rather than a systematic rendering into Greek; since the days of Origen, omissions in it have been eked out from the rendering of Theodotion. A pre-Christian Targum of Job in Aramaic found in fragmentary state in a cave near Khirbet Qumran has proved to be a close rendering of the Hebrew, with the third cycle presented in the customary order.

Rhythm and Structural Features. Job employs the normal "didactic" meter of other Hebrew poetry, with two (occasionally three) hemistichs of three or four stresses each to the full verse line. These lines are grouped into recognizable larger units that may vary from couplets (two full lines) to seven-line stanzas. There is a standard length for a normal speech in the dialogue, so that the stanzas are woven into a pattern of between 20 lines (ch. 8) and 24 lines (ch. 3), but they are usually of 22 or 23 lines. This norm is borrowed from alphabet acrostics (as in Lamentations, some Psalms). Longer discourses in the first cycle are multiples of such patterns. Job's speech, or its initial pattern, always exceeds the preceding speech of a friend by a minimal number of lines. Eliphaz speaks in five-line stanzas, Bildad in 3s, Zophar in 6s. Job's speeches are more varied: patterns built on 3s and 4s after Eliphaz, others on 5s and 6s after Zophar. In the later cycles, the speeches are systematically diminished in length; otherwise, the same conventions are observed. Job's final plea (ch. 2931) is of 33 + 22 + 40 lines, with ch. 31 especially complex; the Lord's reply in ch. 3841 is of 36 + 34 (= 70) + 50 lines, including in the last grouping the 33-line description of Leviathan, in alternating 6s and 5s.

Author, Date, Canonicity, and Setting. The unknown author of Job lived in Palestine, probably in the 6th or 5th century b.c. His work shows a knowledge of various Psalms (cf. Ps 8.5 with Jb 7.17 and Ps 38[39].14 with Jb 10.20) and shares common problems with Jeremiah (Jer 12.14, 20.1418). His language is tinged with Aramaic (this is more pronounced in the Elihu passages) and with Arabic; in part, this may be deliberate local coloring. Though perhaps earlier than the final editing of Proverbs, Job, in its teaching on God's dealings with the individual (see "Teaching" below), stands intermediate between Proverbs and the later books of Ecclesiastes and Wisdom as a preparation for New Testament doctrine. That Job belongs in the canon of inspired OT books is a constant datum of Christian and Jewish tradition. Babylonian compositions, such as "I will praise the lord of wisdom, " and the so-called Theodicy, which share many elements of the problem treated in Job, are neither directly related to it nor truly comparable in form or content. The technique of Jb 31, with its disclaimer of a series of faults ("negative confession"), is a commonplace in Egyptian literature, but the parallel is of little significance. A Syro-Canaanite mythological coloring in some of the descriptions in Job (Rahab: 9.12; Leviathan and the sea: 3.8, 7.12, 26.13) echoes themes from that pagan culture.

Teaching. The Book of Job includes majestic descriptions of the omniscience and omnipotence of God; these are the attributes impressed on Job himself (40.15, 42.16). Job's own earlier testimony to them (9.224, 12.725, 23.117) is inadequate as long as he maintains that his human, created justice gives him a claim on God for an explanation of his own case. The praises of God in ch. 2526 (and again by Elihu in 36.2237.24) combine with the Lord's description of His created works in ch. 3841 to inculcate this lesson.

In the book as a whole, Job learns first, under the prodding of his friends, that the theory they all shared that a man's justice regularly goes hand in hand with visible mundane gifts from Godis false. Ultimately, he learns that the limited human justice to which he clings vanishes into inconsequence before the majesty of God; whatever there is of it is God's, who will use it, as He uses Job's sufferings, for what He will. When Job accepts this, the mystery is not removed, but the way for God's bounty is open to the full (42.717). Neither does the New Testament remove the mystery, but the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of the Son of God give to both suffering and justice their ultimate meaning for the man of faith.

The much-discussed passage Jb 19.2527 has been used as early as the time of Clement of Rome (1 Clem. 26.3) as an evidence for the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. The Hebrew text has real obscurities, however, and the versions do not agree. The Vulgate rendering of it is luminous with St. Jerome's Christian faith on the subject, and it is this rendering which is employed by St. Augustine (Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, 271 v., indexes 4 v. [Paris 187890] 41.779). On the other hand, St. John Chrysostom's statement that Job had no clear idea of the resurrection of the dead (Patrologia Graeca, ed. J. P. Migne, 161 v. [Paris 185766] 57.396) is well-known. This judgment is so much more in conformity with the actual data of the text, with the tenor of the argument in the book as a whole, and with the progress in understanding of individual retribution that can be traced throughout the OT that it would seem to command acceptance. The Job of the book bears witness to a crucial stage in that progress, but though he wishes for the possibility of a return from the nether world (Jb 14.1317), it is not given to him to affirm it.

Angels in the Book of Job are the exalted servants of God, in whom He can yet find fault (4.18, 15.15). The satan of the introduction is not the devil, but a member of the heavenly court; loyal to God and distrustful of Job, he is imagined for purposes of the story.

Bibliography: e. j. kissane, The Book of Job (New York 1946). e. p. dhorme, Le Livre de Job (Études Bibliques; Paris 1926). c. westermann, Der Aufbau des Buches Hiob (Tübingen 1956). f. horst, Hiob (Biblischer Kommentar, Altes Testament 16; Neukirchen 1960 ) 4 fasc; hans strauss, v. XVI/2 (Neukirchener Verlag 1996). h. h. rowley, "The Book of Job and Its Meaning, " Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 41 (195859) 167207. a. lefÈvre, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot et al. (Paris 1928 ) 4:107398, esp. "Étude Doctrinale" 108898. r. a. f. mackenzie, "The Purpose of the Jahweh Speeches in the Book of Job, " Biblica 40.12 (1959) 435445. p. w. skehan, "Strophic Patterns in the Book of Job, " Catholic Biblical Quarterly 23 (1961) 125142; "Job's Final Plea (Job 2931) and the Lord's Reply (Job 3841), " Biblica 45 (1964) 5162. r. a. f. mackenzie and r. e. murphy, in The New Jerome Bible Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 1990) 466488. a. schÖkel, Job (Madrid 1981). p. dhorme, A Commentary on the Book of Job (London 1967).

[p. w. skehan]

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job1 / jäb/ • n. 1. a paid position of regular employment: jobs are created in the private sector, not in Washington a part-time job. 2. a task or piece of work, esp. one that is paid: she wants to be left alone to get on with the job you did a good job of explaining. ∎  a responsibility or duty: it's our job to find things out. ∎  [in sing.] inf. a difficult task: we thought you'd have a job getting there. ∎  inf. a procedure to improve the appearance of something, esp. an operation involving plastic surgery: she's had a nose job someone had done a skillful paint job. ∎  inf. a thing of a specified nature: the car was a blue malevolent-looking job. ∎ inf. a crime, esp. a robbery: a series of daring bank jobs. ∎  Comput. an operation or group of operations treated as a single and distinct unit. • v. (jobbed, job·bing ) 1. [intr.] [usu. as adj.] (jobbing) do casual or occasional work: a jobbing builder. 2. [tr.] buy and sell (stocks) as a broker-dealer, esp. on a small scale. 3. [tr.] inf. cheat; betray. 4. [intr.] archaic turn a public office or a position of trust to private advantage. PHRASES: do the job inf. achieve the required result: a piece of board will do the a job on someone inf. do something that harms or defeats an opponent: I go out and do a job on anyone who is giving our top scorers a hard time.a good job inf., chiefly Brit. a fortunate fact or circumstance: it was a good job she hadn't brought the car.on the job while working; at work.out of a job unemployed.job2 archaic • v. (jobbed, job·bing ) [tr.] prod or stab: he prepared to job the huge brute. ∎  thrust (something pointed) at or into something. • n. an act of prodding, thrusting, or wrenching.

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Alternate Names

Ayyub (Islamic)

Appears In

The Book of Job



Character Overview

Job is the name of a book in the Hebrew Bible and the name of the book's main character. Many scholars consider the Book of Job to be one of the finest works of literature ever written. It focuses on the question of why the innocent suffer.

Job, a wealthy man, blessed with a loving wife and family, is known for his goodness and devotion to the will of Yahweh (pronounced YAH-way), the Hebrew god. The Bible indicates that Job's prosperity and general good fortune are a reward for his goodness and belief in Yahweh. However, in a meeting between Yahweh and his heavenly advisors, Satan questions Job's faith, claiming that he is faithful only because of the many blessings he enjoys. If Job were to suffer misfortune, suggests Satan, he would curse Yahweh as readily as he now praises him. Satan challenges Yahweh to test Job's faith, and Yahweh accepts the challenge.

Yahweh allows Satan to inflict a number of terrible misfortunes on Job. He kills Job's children and causes him to lose all his wealth, but Job's belief in the goodness of Yahweh remains unshaken. This show of faith does not convince Satan, however, who says that physical pain and suffering would cause Job to abandon his belief. So Yahweh allows Job to be afflicted with painful boils all over his body, and still his faith remains firm.

At this point three friends visit Job, supposedly to comfort him by explaining why Yahweh is causing him to suffer. They suggest that Job must be guilty of some sin, because Yahweh only punishes the wicked. Knowing that he is a righteous man, Job refuses to accept their arguments. Finally Job pleads with Yahweh to end his suffering and asks him to explain why he is being tormented. Yahweh appears to Job in all his glory, overwhelming him with his magnificence. He proceeds to question Job about the mysteries of the universe. When Job cannot answer, Yahweh asks him how he could possibly hope to understand the will of the almighty if he cannot explain the workings of nature. Job accepts this answer and renews his faith in Yahweh, who rewards him by restoring his health and prosperity.

Job in Context

The tale of Job was intended to address the question of why a god would allow bad things to happen to good people. The god of the Near East referred to here as Yahweh was fundamentally different from many earlier gods; in this case, there was only one god in charge of everything, and this god was described as being an all-powerful protector and provider. Yahweh was not prone to the very human emotions, like jealousy, shown by ancient Greek and Roman gods. This essential goodness of Yahweh was an important point in the adoption of monotheistic (meaning “one god”) religions in the Near East. This also meant that there had to be a reason why Yahweh, if he was indeed all-powerful, would not always provide for and protect his followers.

In the end, the story offers no answer to the question of why the innocent must suffer. Instead, the Book of Job delivers the message that one must believe in the goodness of Yahweh, even in the face of seemingly unjust punishment, because such issues are beyond human understanding.

Key Themes and Symbols

The two most important themes in the tale of Job are faith and suffering. The whole point of Yahweh's trial of Job is to test his faith, to see whether or not he is willing to accept Yahweh's actions even when he does not understand them. He does this by causing Job to suffer in every way imaginable: by taking away his children, by taking away his riches, and even by causing boils on his skin. Still, Job remains faithful.

Job in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

The original tale of Job has proven to be one of the most popular stories of the Bible, and is known to Christians, Jews, and Muslims around the world. Events of the tale were commonly depicted in illuminated manuscripts, and artist William Blake created a famous series of illustrations for the Book of Job. More recently, the 1984 novel Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein offers a science fiction version of the account of Job, with a main character that is sent bouncing through parallel universes and spends time in both heaven and hell. The 2003 comedy film Bruce Almighty, starring Jim Carrey, includes many elements of the account of Job. In modern times, the phrase “the patience of Job” is often used to describe someone who can endure a great deal of hardship or suffering without having a negative attitude.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

The account of Job suggests that suffering exists for reasons beyond the grasp of humans and should be endured to demonstrate faith in God. If enduring difficult times is a way of showing devotion, what would be the consequences of a world without suffering? Is suffering, in some ways, good?

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Job is the name of a book in the Hebrew Bible and the name of the book's main character. Many scholars consider the Book of Job to be one of the finest works of literature ever written. It focuses on the question of why the innocent suffer.

Job, a wealthy man, blessed with a loving wife and family, is known for his goodness and devotion to the will of Yahweh, the Hebrew god. The Bible indicates that Job's prosperity and general good fortune are a reward for his goodness and belief in Yahweh. However, in a meeting between Yahweh and his heavenly advisers, Satan questions Job's faith, claiming that he is faithful because of the many blessings he enjoys. If Job were to suffer misfortune, suggests Satan, he would curse Yahweh as readily as he now praises him. Satan challenges Yahweh to test Job's faith, and Yahweh accepts the challenge.

Yahweh inflicts a number of terrible misfortunes on Job. He kills Job's children and causes him to lose all his wealth, but Job's belief in the goodness of Yahweh remains unshaken. This show of faith does not convince Satan, however, who says that physical pain and suffering would cause Job to abandon his belief. So Yahweh causes Job to be afflicted with painful boils all over his body, and still his faith remains firm.

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

At this point three friends visit Job, supposedly to comfort him by explaining why Yahweh is causing him to suffer. They suggest that Job must be guilty of some sin, because Yahweh only punishes the wicked. Knowing that he is a righteous man, Job refuses to accept their arguments. Finally Job pleads with Yahweh to end his suffering and asks him to explain why he is tormenting a good man. Yahweh appears to Job in all his glory, overwhelming him with his magnificence. He proceeds to question Job about the mysteries of the universe. When Job cannot answer, Yahweh asks him how he could possibly hope to understand the will of the almighty if he cannot explain the workings of nature. Job accepts this answer and renews his faith in Yahweh, who rewards him by restoring his health and prosperity.

In the end, Yahweh offers no answer to the question of why the innocent must suffer. Instead, the Book of Job delivers the message that one must believe in the goodness of Yahweh, even in the face of seemingly unjust punishment.

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Job (jōb), book of the Bible. The book is of unknown authorship and date, although many scholars assign it to a time between 600 BC and 400 BC A lament in narrative form, the subject is the problem of good and evil in the world: "Why do the just suffer and the wicked flourish?" In the prose prologue Satan obtains God's permission to test the unsuspecting Job, whom God regards as "a perfect and an upright man" ; accordingly, all that Job has is destroyed, and he is physically afflicted. The main part of the book is cast in poetic form and consists of speeches by Job and three friends who come to "comfort" him: Job speaks, then each of the three speaks in turn, with Job replying each time; there are three such cycles of discussion, although the third is incomplete. The friends insist alike that Job cannot really be just, as he claims to be, otherwise he would not be suffering as he is. Nevertheless, Job reiterates his innocence of wrong. The sequence changes with the appearance of a fourth speaker, Elihu, who accuses Job of arrogant pride. He in turn is followed by God himself, who speaks out of a storm to convince Job of his ignorance and rebuke him for his questioning. The prose epilogue tells how God rebukes the three friends for their accusations and how happiness is restored to Job. The author did not intend to solve the paradox of the righteous person's suffering, but rather to criticize a philosophy that located the cause of suffering in some supposed moral failure of the sufferer. The texts are certainly imperfect, and there may be serious losses, corruptions, misplacements, or even additions to the original. Some scholars think that the outer prose sections may have been written separately from the passionate verse of the inner section. The book contains many eloquent passages; among them are Job's declaration of faith in the "redeemer," his speech on wisdom, and God's discourse on animals. Job is mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.

See N. C. Habel, Job (1985); L. G. Perdue and W. C. Gilpin, ed., The Voice from the Whirlwind: Interpreting the Book of Job (1991); R. P. Scheindlin, The Book of Job (1998); R. Alter, The Wisdom Books (2010); M. Larrimore, The Book of Job (2013). See also bibliography under Old Testament.

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Job in the Bible, a prosperous man whose patience and piety were tried by undeserved misfortunes, and who, in spite of his bitter lamentations, remained confident in the goodness and justice of God; also, the book of the Bible recounting his story.

Job is shown initially as a man who is wealthy and upright, surrounded by his family; he is reduced from this to sitting among ashes scraping with potsherds at the boils that afflict him, while his wife urges him to ‘Curse God, and die.’ Despite this, and despite the comforting of his friends which only aggravates his sense of despair, he remains true to his belief in God, and is in the end restored and justified.
Job's comforter a person who aggravates distress under the guise of giving comfort, with allusion to the story of the biblical patriarch, in which three friends who came to comfort him only increased his sense of injustice and wrong.
poor as Job very poor. Job after his possessions are taken from him becomes a type of abject poverty; proverbial allusions to him are recorded from late Middle English.

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Job, Book of. One of the books of Writings (Ketuvim) in the Hebrew scriptures. It describes how the righteous Job was deprived by God of all his possessions including his children and was struck down with a vile disease (1–2). His three friends try to comfort him (3–26), but Job will not accept that he has sinned against the Lord (rightly, since he has been defined as innocent for the purpose of the book). Job laments his disastrous fate (29–31) and a fourth friend attempts consolation (32–7). Ultimately God speaks to Job (38–48) and all his fortune is restored.

In Islam Job is known as Ayyūb. Qurʾān 21. 83–4 and 38. 41–4 refer briefly to his calamities, his patience, and his restoration to prosperity.

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Job / jōb/ (in the Bible) a prosperous man whose patience and piety were tried by undeserved misfortunes, and who, in spite of his bitter lamentations, remained confident in the goodness and justice of God. ∎  a book of the Bible telling of Job.