The Book Of Job, The Holy Bible, Complete Audiobook
The Book of Job is a book in the Ketuvim (“Writings”) section of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), and the first poetic book in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. Addressing the problem of theodicy – the vindication of the justice of God in the light of humanity’s suffering – it is a rich theological work setting out a variety of perspectives. It has been widely and often extravagantly praised for its literary qualities, with Alfred, Lord Tennyson calling it “the greatest poem of ancient and modern times”.
Job is an investigation of the problem of divine justice. This problem, known in theology as theodicy, can be rephrased as a question: “Why do the righteous suffer?” The conventional answer in ancient Israel was that God rewards virtue and punishes sin (the principle known as “retributive justice”). This assumes a world in which human choices and actions are morally significant, but experience demonstrates that suffering cannot be sensibly understood as a consequence of bad choices and actions, and unmerited suffering requires theological candour.
The biblical concept of righteousness was rooted in the covenant-making God who had ordered creation for communal well-being, and the righteous were those who invested in the community, showing special concern for the poor and needy (see Job’s description of his life in chapter 31). Their antithesis were the wicked, who were selfish and greedy. Satan raises the question of whether there is such a thing as disinterested righteousness: if God rewards righteousness with prosperity, will men not act righteously from selfish motives? He asks God to test this by removing the prosperity of Job, the most righteous of all God’s servants.
The book begins with the frame narrative, giving the reader an omniscient “God’s eye perspective” which introduces Job as a man of exemplary faith and piety, “blameless and upright”, who “fears God” and “shuns evil”. God is seen initiating the discussion with Satan and approving Job’s suffering, a device which serves three purposes: the usual explanations for suffering, that the sufferer has committed some sin of which he is unaware or that God’s actions are inscrutable, are eliminated; it makes clear that it is not Job who is on trial, but God’s policy of retribution; and the reader sees that God himself bears responsibility for Job’s suffering. The contrast between the frame and the poetic dialogues and monologues, in which Job never learns of the opening scenes in heaven or of the reason for his suffering, creates a sense of contradictory juxtaposition between the divine and human views of Job’s suffering.
In the poetic dialogues Job’s friends see his suffering and assume he must be guilty, since God is just. Job, knowing he is innocent, concludes that God must be unjust. He retains his piety throughout the story (belying Satan’s suspicion that his righteousness is due to the expectation of reward), but makes clear from his first speech that he agrees with his friends that God should and does reward righteousness. Elihu rejects the arguments of both parties: Job is wrong to accuse God of injustice, as God is greater than human beings, and nor are the friends correct; for suffering, far from being a punishment, may “rescue the afflicted from their affliction” and make them more amenable to revelation – literally, “open their ears” (36:15).