book of job summary

Job is a wealthy man that lives in a town by the name of Uz with his large family and his herds of animals. He is careful to be upright and to always be careful to avoid doing evil. One day, Satan also known as “The Adversary” appears before God in heaven and exclaims to Satan about Job’s goodness, but Satan is quick to argues that Job is only good because God has blessed him abundantly. Satan then sets a challenge to God that if given permission to punish the Job, Job will turn and curse God. God willing, gives Satan permission to punish Job to test his claim, but doesn’t allow Satan to kill Job in the process.

In the course of one day, Job receives four separate messages, each containing separate news that his livestock, servants, and ten children have all died due to marauders or natural disasters. Job is not disheartened by the news but he tears his clothes and shaves his head in mourning, yet he still blesses God in his prayers. Satan appears in heaven again, and God grants him permission to test Job a second time. This time Job is afflicted with horrible skin sores; it’s this time when his wife encourages him to curse God and to give up and die, but Job refuses, struggling to accept his misfortune he is dealt.

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, three of Job’s friends come to visit, sitting with him in silence for seven days out of respect for his mourning. On the seventh day, Job speaks to them, beginning in a conversation in which each of the four men shares his thoughts on Job’s afflictions in long, poetic statements. Job curses the day he was born, comparing life and death to light and darkness. He wishes that his birth had been shrouded in darkness and longs to have never been born, feeling that light, or life, only intensifies the misery. Eliphaz responds that Job, who has comforted other people, now shows that he never really understood their pain.

Eliphaz believes that Job’s agony must be due to some sin Job has committed, and he urges Job to seek God’s favor. Bildad and Zophar agree that Job must have committed evil to offend God’s justice and argue that he should strive to exhibit more blameless behavior. Bildad surmises that Job’s children brought their deaths upon themselves; Zophar implies that whatever wrong Job has done probably deserves greater punishment than what he has received. Job responds to each of these remarks, growing so irritated that he calls his friends “worthless physicians” who lace their advice with lies to hurt Job.

After making plans to assert his character, Job ponders man’s relationship to God; he wonders why God judges people by their actions and if God can just as easily alter or forgive their behavior. It is also unclear to Job how a human can appease God’s justice. God is unseen, and his ways are beyond human understanding; moreover, humans cannot possibly persuade God with their words. God cannot be deceived, and Job admits that he does not even understand himself well enough to effectively plead his case to God. Job then wishes for someone who can mediate between himself and God, or for God to send him to Sheol, the deep place of the dead.

Job’s friends are offended that he revokes their wisdom. They think his questions are lack fear of God, and they use many analogies to stress their ongoing point that nothing good comes of his wickedness. Job sustains his confidence in spite of these criticisms, responding that even if he has done evil, it is his own personal problem. Job believes that there is a “witness” or a “Redeemer” in heaven who will vouch for his innocence but after a while this takes a toll and proves too much for Job to handle, and he grows sarcastic, impatient, and afraid.

He starts stating everything into the third person and the injustice that God lets wicked people prosper while he and countless other innocent people suffer. Job wants to confront God and complain, but he cannot physically find God to do it; Job also feels that wisdom is hidden from human minds, but he resolves to persist in pursuing wisdom by fearing God and avoiding evil. Without provoking Job, another friend, Elihu, suddenly enters the conversation. Elihu believes that Job has spent too much energy vindicating himself rather than God. Elihu explains to Job that God communicates with humans by two ways, visions and physical pain.

He says that physical suffering provides the sufferer with an opportunity to realize God’s love and forgiveness when he is well again, understanding that God has “ransomed” or spared him from an impending death. Elihu also assumes that Job must be wicked to be suffering as he is, and he thinks that Job’s excessive talking is an act of rebellion against God. God finally interrupts, calling from a whirlwind and demanding Job to be brave and respond to his questions. God’s questions are rhetorical, intending to show how little Job knows about creation and how much power God alone has.

God describes many detailed aspects of his creation, praising especially his creation of two large beasts, the Behemoth (a large beast) and a Leviathan (Sea Monster). Overwhelmed by the encounter, Job acknowledges God’s unlimited power and admits the limitations of his human knowledge. This response pleases God, but he is upset with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar for spouting poor and unsound advice. Job intercedes on their behalf, and God forgives them. God then returns Job’s health, providing him with twice as much property as before, new children, and an extremely long life.

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