You know, I knew before I started the book of Job that it was not going to be an easy read. I knew that the gist of the book was that it was all about a guy being tortured by God, and I knew that it was 42 chapters long. How could that possibly be pleasant? But even knowing all this going into it, I really was not prepared for just how torturous it would be. And more importantly, I was not prepared for the reason it would turn out to be so torturous, because said reason actually turned out to be not at ALL what I expected. I’ll just get right to summarizing the book and then you’ll see what I mean:
Chapter 1 introduces us to Job, who lives in the land of Uz and is basically the best dude ever. He is “blameless and upright,” and he “fears God and shuns evil.” He has 7 sons and 3 daughters, and he’s rich. He has thousands of sheep and camels, hundreds of oxen and donkeys, and many servants. This chapter literally describes him as “the greatest man among all the people of the East.” Wow, those are some strong words. Sounds like Job’s life could not possibly get any better, right? Well, that’s right, because we quickly find out that it’s all downhill from here. It’s here that we are introduced to a little character named … mmmm Satan. This is only the second time Satan has been mentioned thus far in the Bible, and once again, he waltzes into the story with basically zero explanation:
6. One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. 7. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” 8. Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” 9. “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” 12. The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Well sheesh, that was easy!! All Satan has to do is challenge God to a bet, and bam! Job is screwed. Screwed big time, because Satan has a real field day with his newfound free ticket (from God) to torture Job. He causes all of the following to happen to Job at once: a) A group of people called Sabeans steal all Job’s donkeys and oxen while they’re grazing/plowing, and they kill Job’s servants. b) All Job’s sheep (and more servants) are killed by “the fire of God” from the heavens (yes I’m serious). c) The Chaldeans steal all Job’s camels and kill more servants. d) ALL 10 of Job’s children are killed by “a mighty wind from the desert” that causes the oldest brother’s house to collapse on them.
So … let’s take a tally here … it looks like at this point, Job has lost … ohh, everything. Every single thing. Well, except his wife I guess. But mostly everything. And how does Job respond to this? He falls down to the ground to worship God rather than curse him. Bam! Score: God 1, Satan 0. Oh but Satan ain’t done just yet, baby. He’s not gonna give up that easily. He goes back to God again, and taunts him, “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” So God’s like, ok fine. One more bet. A double dog dare, if you will. But again he tells Satan, “Just don’t kill him.” So Satan goes out and strikes Job with “painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.” At this, Job is in horrible pain, but he still does not curse God … yet. It doesn’t take too many days of suffering, though, (7 to be exact) before he starts to get prettttyy cranky.
And here is where the book totally threw me off when I read it: Everything up through the affliction of sores happens in the first two chapters, and that covers the entirety of the portion of the book where God and Satan inflict terrible new calamities on Job. That’s it. We then spend the next 35 chapters of the book on Job and several of his buddies (plus one other dude who eventually interjects later) speculating on WHY God has done this to him. And that is literally all these chapters are – Just Job and his three buddies (Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar), blabbing and arguing like hell with each other to try to figure out God’s intent with all of this. It is so torturous and boring to read that I almost felt like it was an affliction/punishment put on me for attempting to read the book.
The gist of Job and pals’ arguments is thus: Job spends these chapters slowly getting more and more pissed that he’s being tortured like this, even though he is a good man and has never done anything wrong. Job’s buddies get mad at him because they think that he must have done something wrong if God is inflicting all this pain and punishment on him. They think he’s being stubborn by refusing to admit whatever he’s done wrong. But Job insists that he has done nothing to deserve it, and he wants a chance to argue his case to God and prove his innocence, and ask God why he has done this to him. They go back and forth with their arguing for 29 chapters (chapters 3 – 31). Twenty. nine. chapters. I kid you not.
In chapter 32, some dude named Elihu randomly shows up and decides he wants to pontificate on the whole thing. Elihu says that Job and his buddies all have it wrong – God may inflict pain, but he has a plan that mortals cannot comprehend, and that if a person prays to God and admits their sins and begs for God to show them the right way, then God will help them and will restore them to full well-being. I guess he’s saying that man should just trust that God is doing what is best, because he always does. Mortals can’t comprehend these things, but God will be merciful to us if we admit that and ask him for help and forgiveness. Elihu’s yapping on this topic goes on for 6 chapters.
In chapter 38, God fiiinnnnally breaks his silence and answers Job. And after waiting and suffering through 35 chapters of the characters speculating and arguing about this in excruciatingly repetitive fashion … the revelatory answer we get from God is … drumroll please … not very revelatory. Or satisfying. It’s not much different from Elihu’s explanation, actually – God basically tells Job, “You can’t understand what it’s like to be a sovereign being and create everything on Earth and rule over it and keep it all running … so don’t even try to understand or question it.” He takes a pretty snarky/condescending tone too, with lines like, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” And, “What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!” You almost expect a “you little punk!!” to be thrown in there somewhere. God goes on like this for 4 full chapters.
Overall the gist of God’s rant really seems to be – Don’t question me. I’m a total badass and I know what I’m doing. Don’t sass me. Just deal. And Job gets his point loud and clear. In chapter 42, the last chapter of the book, Job answers God: “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
God is happy with Job’s response and his apology, so he restores Job’s fortunes and gives him twice as much as he had before (and presumably cures the sores/illness too). All his brothers and sisters and friends return to him (they were previously kinda staying away from him due to his gross sores and stuff). God gives him 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 donkeys. He also blesses Job with 7 NEW sons and 3 NEW daughters. Umm … o.k. I guess kids are replaceable. If one (or 10) dies, just have a new one (or 10) and it’s all the same, right? No big. Also, all Job’s new daughters are super hot. Probably hotter than the original daughters anyway? So it all works out in the end. Job lives to be 140 years old and sees his kids and grandkids out to the 4th generation. Life is grand once again! And everyone lives happily ever after, the end.
Good and Bad Stuff
I’m realizing that this book doesn’t lend itself very well to my normal “Good Stuff” and “Bad Stuff” review format, so I’m just going to give my general thoughts on it instead.
First off … I do find it interesting that the Bible tackles the age-old question of “why do bad things happen to good people?” It’s been a couple thousand years since this book was written, but we humans have yet to solve this mystery. What about the answer that this book gives to this question though?? The reason behind why God “lets bad things happen to good people” in Job’s specific case is the stupidest, most ridiculous situation ever. It’s literally just because he’s bored enough to make a bet with Satan one day. It’s like hey, nothing’s on TV today, I’m just flipping through the channels, surfing the internet … what else can I do for some entertainment?? Oh! Torture Job! And then when Job asks God
for an explanation, the answer God gives is basically, “Don’t question me dude, I know what I’m doing!!” And then, “O.k. FINE, I guess I’ve tortured you long enough, I’ll stop now and make up for it, since you groveled nicely.” And that’s it. What a revelation!
In a sense though … I have to admit, I almost kind of get a kick out of the fact that the answer we get from God is so harsh. Because let’s be honest, life is harsh. Every day someone gets a big promotion at work, but someone else gets cancer. A new cute puppy is born, and then a little baby gazelle in Africa gets mauled and eaten by a lion. Someone convinces all their friends to pray for little Bobby who’s in a coma, and then when Bobby miraculously recovers, they all run around jumping for joy and bragging about how God answered their prayers. YAY!! Meanwhile, little Sally in the next town over has just been raped and murdered and her body thrown in a ditch. God didn’t answer Sally’s prayer, did he?? Sally loses. Bobby wins. Why? Because FUCK YOU, that’s why!! Don’t question God’s ways, dummy! You can’t understand them, only he can.
But still, even with God’s “don’t question me” attitude, he ultimately does give Job the chance to humble himself and ask for forgiveness, and then he restores Job to full health and wealth. Which still leaves me cold on why Sally and many others don’t get that chance (e.g. what about my friend Jaspreet who died of cancer at age 33 a few months ago??). And regardless of God’s “answer” to Job of why he tortured him, in reading this book we get to see all the gory details behind how it went down (God’s bet with Satan) – and they are totally stupid. So it’s like, o.k. fine, we’re just mortals and we’re not supposed to ask why God does what he does, but we get to see his exact motivations for it in this particular example, and they are dumb. And pointless, other than to teach people a lesson to not question God.
The other thing is, practically every book of the Bible up to this point has made God’s motivations for doing bad things (and good things) to people very clear. And it has been quite simple: If you don’t follow God fully, and if you worship other gods, you are in huge trouble. Also if you are a family member or a pet or livestock of the person who committed these sins, you are also screwed by default. Collateral damage. However if you follow God completely, and God likes you, you get wealth and power. Unless you’re Job, in which case you get screwed because God got bored and made a bet with Satan. The End.
So what’s the point of this book? I don’t really know, other than, “God knows what he’s doing dude, just trust him and go with it. Even if he makes your life hell due to his apparent gambling problem.” Does this help me, really? God can screw me over randomly, but so can nature. I’d actually much prefer to think that no one’s running this whole show at all rather than to think that there’s some sovereign being up there effing with some of us just cause he’s bored. At least if no one’s running the show then we’re all on equal footing – nature doesn’t give a crap about anyone. That feels much more comforting to me than thinking that some dude in the sky might suddenly decide to screw with me for shits & giggles.
So what is my rating of Job? I would give it a ……
I feel like the book is fairly pointless, but at least it got me thinking a bit. I toyed with giving it a 2, but bumped it back down to 1.5 because of how torturously boring chapters 3 through 38 were. Uggh. Next up we have Psalms. 150 chapters (!!??) They mostly look short though … I think?? Please God, let them be short.