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The Book of Job

“The Book of Job” is a widely read book of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament of the Christian Bible). It is highly valued as a work of literature. It is generally estimated to be written in Israel around the 6th century BCE, but its author and period of composition are unknown.

It consists of two prose parts (prologue and epilogue) and a long poetry written in verse between them.

With permission of God (Yahweh), Satan tests Job, who is a righteous and religious man without flaw, to see if he can keep his faith when he faces a trial. Satan takes away Job’s wealth, kills his ten children, and makes him get a skin disease that affects his whole body. Job cries out against God, complaining of unjust God, who makes evil people happy and makes good ones unhappy.

Job’s three friends regard his suffering as a retribution for his sin (retribution principle), but he argues his innocence, and criticizes God.

Job and His Friends by Ilya Repin (1869)
Job and His Friends by Ilya Repin (1869)

God preaches to Job about the difference in level between God as the creator of all nature, and humanity, which is nothing more than a creation. God admonishes Job for his anthropocentric hubris and rebellion against God, but on the other hand God recognizes Job as a person of pure faith beyond retribution principle. In the end, God blesses Job, and Job repents of his sins.

The Book of Job ends as a didactic tale, with a reconciliation between God and Job. However, even though God gave back wealth and life to Job double, and God gave ten new children to Job, there is no way that it could heal Job’s wounds. His ten dead children will never come back again. Job’s experience is simply unreasonable. That unreasonableness is God’s will itself beyond human understanding; in other words, actuality itself beyond human control — we can’t interpret it with retribution principle and poetic justice.

In The Book of Job, We could possibly read affirmation of life or this world including such unreasonableness. Metaphorically speaking, Job, who asks God why you make me have such a terrible experience, is like a person who was affected by a natural disaster and asks the Earth why you caused it. They will never know the answers to such questions. The world is beyond human meaning and reason.