While the Book of Job (Iyov in Hebrew) is frequently quoted, it is a book that not many lay-people read. A challenging work philosophically, it is written in a complex, poetic style.

The Book of Job opens by describing Job as perfect, upright, God-fearing and eschewing evil. The father of seven sons and three daughters, he was exceedingly successful and wealthy.

According to the narrative, God pointed Job out to His angel Satan and commended Job’s virtues. Satan countered that, with all his blessings, it was easy for Job to be righteous. This set in motion a cycle of tragedies for Job. In one day, disaster struck. First it was reported to him that he lost all of his wealth (various livestock) and then news came that the roof collapsed on the house where his children were feasting and his seven sons had perished. Job reacted by rending his clothes and declaring “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:20). Next Satan smote Job with painful boils, but Job still refused to curse God.

Job is visited by three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, who sit with him silently for seven days and seven nights. Job finally bewails his fate, but never blames God for his situation. In response, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zaphor try to comfort Job, but each actually infers that Job, or his sons, probably deserved the punishment because of some secret sin or wickedness. A fourth friend, Elihu, responds with a discourse on Divine Providence.

Job calls out to heaven and demands a reason from God. God answers, but does not explain Himself. Rather, God reminds Job of the difference between man and God. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of earth?” (38:4). The inference is that no human can possibly understand God’s motives or methods.

The Book of Job concludes with God rebuking Job’s friends for their presumptuousness. Job is restored to health and fortune, and a new family is born to him after the tragedy.

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