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The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

Reading Guide

The best approach to Job is to defer discussion of its grand ideas such as justice and suffering and simply to read the entire book as a story. The book has characters and a plot with a beginning, middle, and end. It begins by introducing Job as a righteous sheik ( 1.1–5 ). The drama begins in the heavenly court with a wager between God and Satan on whether Job's piety is genuine (chs. 1–2 ). God agrees to the testing of Job. The wager and testing remain hidden from Job and his friends, contributing to the pervasive irony * of the book. Irony is present when the reader knows more than the characters in the story know. Only the reader knows that it is not because of his sins (as the friends think) but because of his righteousness that Job suffers. In the first test, Job loses property and children but accepts it humbly. The second test afflicts his person. Initially accepting even this evil ( 2.7–13 ), he ultimately erupts in a curse upon the day of his birth (ch. 3 ). His friends object and heatedly defend divine justice and wisdom by a variety of traditional arguments: Job must have done some evil, perhaps unthinkingly; we are sinners in any case, fragile creatures of a few short years; a human being cannot know all the rules defining proper behavior; entrust yourself to God in an emotional rather than an intellectual solution. His unsympathetic friends provoke Job to abandon his passivity and desire for obliteration. He demands to see God; using legal language, he summons God into court for the adjudication of his complaint. His dialogue with the friends extends over three cycles (chs. 4–27 ), ending when communication breaks down completely. Alone, Job begins a sustained address to God with an oath of innocence ( 27.2 ), continuing it in his summation and final oath in chs. 29–31 . In the mean-time, an anonymous poem on the inaccessibility of wisdom (ch. 28 ) suggests the futility of the previous dialogues and points forward to a divine intervention by insisting that God alone knows the way to wisdom. In chs. 32–37 , Elihu appears as an absurd answer to Job's demand for a mediator between himself and God. Dramatically, Elihu's speeches retard the action and heighten the expectation of the LORD's appearance in ch. 38 . In a long-awaited intervention, God answers Job out of the whirlwind, demonstrating by examples (rather than by arguments) that the world is indeed governed wisely (chs. 38–39 ) and justly ( 40.6–41.34 ). To each speech Job responds humbly and then withdraws his suit and accepts God's version ( 40.3–5; 42.1–6 ). In the epilogue, God declares Job has won the disputation with the friends and restores his family and his place in the community. For details on the dramatic movement, see the commentary.

Some scholars regard the poetic cycles ( 3.1–42.6 ) as the original core to which a prose framework (chs. 1–2 and 42.7–17 ) was later added. Many also suggest that the Elihu speeches are secondary. The evidence, however, for the original unity of Job is compelling: Job is the same stalwart man in the dialogues and in the frame; prose and poetry in the Bible are not radically distinct styles; there are verbal cross-references between the poetic cycle and the prose frame; the Elihu speeches make sense in the literary structure.

In Jewish tradition, Job fascinated the rabbis, as is attested by many discussions about him in the Talmud. Interest centered on his status as a gentile * (some believed he was a Jewish proselyte) and on the question whether he was ultimately motivated by love or by fear. Christian tradition remembers the endurance (the translation “patience” is misleading) of Job (Jas 5.11 ). Job became a type or example of the virtuous and faithful person to church Fathers. The many homilies of St. Gregory the Great (died 604) sum up patristic tradition about Job and point to medieval usage: Job is an image of Christ * and of the church, and an example of spiritual and moral life.

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