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The Book of Books Book Club weekly blog


This is one of the most powerful and profound books of the Bible, and it rewards patient reading. You may find the poetic chapters of dialogue between Job and his friends (initially, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, later joined by Elihu) to be repetitive, and some skimming would be understandable, but I urge you to try to work your way through the whole thing if you can. An annotated Bible may be helpful to follow the spiraling development of the argument. You may well find yourself appalled at God's behavior, in the fable that bookends the poetry and sets up the theological issue, as God inflicts terrible suffering on someone we know to be a good man just to make a point. But again, attend to the development of the arguments and I think you will be moved by the depth of the relationship between Job and God.

The problem of suffering (the technical term in theology is "theodicy") is the entire thrust of this book: why does evil exist? why does a good man suffer? The friends see this second version of the question, worded that way, as in itself a logical inconsistency, and therefore demand that Job acknowledge his sinfulness – and then find him arrogant when he maintains his innocence and righteousness. God's answer out of the whirlwind is ultimately less an answer - to Job or us - than an assertion of the distance and absolute difference between the Creator and his creation; we cannot comprehend the workings of the creation, but can in the end only accept that its existence and purposefulness are on a plane beyond our knowing. The conclusion, in which Job's family and community are restored to him, does not negate the suffering he has endured, but God does definitively state that the efforts of the friends to blame all suffering on the sufferer are in error. Taken as a whole, then, the book can be seen as a cry of the heart by humanity about our state, responded to by a God who sees and knows our pain but cannot and will not explain it away. I find this portrait, finally, to be of a deeply sympathetic God.