Pain and Suffering
The book of job has a very clear literary design. It opens and closes with a short narrative prologue and then epilogue. And then the central body of the book is dense Hebrew poetry, representing conversation between Job and four dialogue partners called “the friends.” These conversations are then concluded by a series of poetic speeches given by God to Job. The prologue introduces as to Job and we’re told that he is a blameless upright man who honors God. And then all of the sudden we are transported into the heavenly realms and God is holding court with his staff team. Among the heavenly being is a figure called “Satan”, which in Hebrew means “the Accuser” or “the prosecutor”. God present’s Job as a truly righteous man and then Satan challenges God’s policy of rewarding righteous people like Job. He says the only reason Job obeys you is because you bless him with prosperity. Let Job suffer, then we will see how righteous he actually is. And then God agrees to let Satan inflict suffering on Jobs.
The prologue is setting up the real questions this book is trying to get at. Questions about God’s Justice and whether God operates the universe according to the strict principles of Justice. And the response to those questions come as you read through to the end of the book. The ultimate reason for Job suffering is simply never revealed. So, the prologue concludes with a suffering and bewildered Job who’s rebuked by his wife and he’s approached by three friends who are going to try and provide wisdom and counsel. And they represent the best of ancient Eastern thinkers at the time about God and suffering in the human condition.
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In the next section of the book Job speaks and then his three friends begin to respond to him. The whole debate is mainly focused on three questions: Is God just? Does God run the universe in strict principle of Justice? And if so, how is Job’s suffering is to be explained? Job’s constant argument throughout his speeches is this: first of all, that he’s innocent and so the implication of that is that his suffering is not a divine punishment. Then he concludes his argument by accusing God that he either doesn’t run the world according to justice or even worse God is simply unjust. The friends on the other hand argue that God is just and conclude that Job must have sinned for God to punish him like this. Job then protest to God and demand that God show up personally to explain himself. God then shows up personally and takes Job on a virtual tour of the universe-?? carrying out Justice in a world like ours, it’s extremely complex. It’s never black and white like Job and his friends seem to think. Job challenges God’s justice. God responds that Job doesn’t have sufficient knowledge about our universe to make such claim. Job demand a full explanation form God and what God asked Job for is trust in his wisdom and character.
Job then apologizes for accusing God and acknowledges that he’s overstepped his bounds. The book concludes with a short epilogue. First God says that the friends were wrong that their ideas about justice we just too simple not true to the complexity of the world or God’s wisdom. Then God says the Job has spoken rightly about him. God still approves Job’s wrestling. How Job came honestly before God with all of his emotions and pain and simply wanted to talk to God himself. and God says that the right way to process through all of this, through the struggle of prayer. The bool concludes with Job having everything restored not as reward but a general gift of God.