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The Book of Job


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The Book of Job
The Book of Job is thought to have been written about 500 years after Genesis. Since scholars differ widely on when the earliest parts of the Hebrew Scriptures were written down (estimates vary from about 1450 B.C.E. to a mere 750 B.C.E.), this doesn't narrow it down much. However, if we split the difference and assume that the earliest parts of Genesis hit the parchment in approximately the 10th century B.C.E.(about a century after the date historians assign for the fall of Troy), that places Job somewhere near the end of the 6th century B.C.E., chronologically between the Hymn to Demeter and the Oresteia.

An important thing to note in reading this text is that the word "Satan" means "Adversary" or "Accuser"; it does not mean "Evil One" (or anything of the kind),[1] and it is not the proper name of the person who afflicts Job. To the the extent that "Satan" serves as his proper name, it is so only in the same way that "Adam"--meaning "Man"--serves as the proper name of the first man; it is a functional designation that has come to be regarded as the character's name.

Thus, we must be on our guard against reading the modern conception of "Satan" into the Book of Job, much as we had to be on our guard in reading Genesis 3 against the common fallacy that the "serpent" mentioned is some sort of bestial manifestation of the devil.

Study Questions

  1. What do you think the Book of Job is all about? Can you identify a "moral of the story"?
  2. What, if anything, does Job get out of it?
  3. How would you divide it into parts? Why?
  4. Why do you think the author framed it as he did? How does the frame narrative (God and the Adversary) interact with the internal narrative (Job and friends)?
  5. What happens to the Adversary?
  6. Is there any progression in Job's responses to his friends?
  7. What does Elihu's speech add to the text? (Would the text work as well without it? Why/why not?)
  8. In the exchange between Job and God, how does God address Job's concerns? Are they speaking the same language? Track the imagery each one uses.
  9. What do you think of the conclusion? Is it OK by you? How is justice served? What is God's take on it all?


1Interestingly, the word "devil" in English--used these days, like "Satan," to refer to a supreme Evil Being or spirit held responsible, in Judaeo-Christian belief, for the temptation of man--comes from the Greek diabolos, whose literal meaning is "slanderer." Thus, both "devil" and "Satan" have, in the centuries since the Hebrew Scriptures were written, acquired a considerably stronger and more markedly negative meaning.

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