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Job

Job (jōb) [key], book of the Bible. The book is of unknown authorship and date, although many scholars assign it to a time between 600 B.C. and 400 B.C. A lament in narrative form, the subject is the problem of good and evil in the world: "Why do the just suffer and the wicked flourish?" In the prose prologue Satan obtains God's permission to test the unsuspecting Job, whom God regards as "a perfect and an upright man"; accordingly, all that Job has is destroyed, and he is physically afflicted. The main part of the book is cast in poetic form and consists of speeches by Job and three friends who come to "comfort" him: Job speaks, then each of the three speaks in turn, with Job replying each time; there are three such cycles of discussion, although the third is incomplete. The friends insist alike that Job cannot really be just, as he claims to be, otherwise he would not be suffering as he is. Nevertheless, Job reiterates his innocence of wrong. The sequence changes with the appearance of a fourth speaker, Elihu, who accuses Job of arrogant pride. He in turn is followed by God himself, who speaks out of a storm to convince Job of his ignorance and rebuke him for his questioning. The prose epilogue tells how God rebukes the three friends for their accusations and how happiness is restored to Job. The author did not intend to solve the paradox of the righteous person's suffering, but rather to criticize a philosophy that located the cause of suffering in some supposed moral failure of the sufferer. The texts are imperfect, and there may be serious losses, misplacements, or even additions to the original. The book contains many eloquent passages; among them are Job's declaration of faith in the "redeemer," his speech on wisdom, and God's discourse on animals. Job is mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.

See N. C. Habel, Job (1985); L. G. Perdue and W. C. Gilpin, ed., The Voice from the Whirlwind: Interpreting the Book of Job (1991); R. P. Scheindlin, The Book of Job (1998); R. Alter, The Wisdom Books (2010); M. Larrimore, The Book of Job (2013). See also bibliography under Old Testament.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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