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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

Job - Character

THE BOOK OF JOB TAKES THE FORM of a symposium, a dramatic dialogue or debate between a man who, though righteous, has been subjected to extreme suffering, and his friends, whose speeches alternate with Job's responses. It then culminates with speeches from the LORD. Readers through the centuries have debated the book's genre. Although it has characters and speeches it is not a drama, and though it engages in argument it is not a philosophical treatise. Some scholars have suggested a fruitful analogy from the classical Greek and Roman literary tradition: the “philosophical diatribe,” a type of classical writing in which a particular viewpoint is presented as if it is being argued in a speech. In some diatribes—many of which take the form of attacks on vice—a second voice, present mainly in order to be refuted, expresses an opposing view to that of the main speaker. Although Job is not a work from this classical tradition, the dialogue between Job and his friends, and subsequently between Job and the LORD, serves to express particular viewpoints with an immediacy and passion similar to that of a diatribe, qualities that a more straightforward essay would lack. The multiple characters express variations of the same viewpoints in heightened, poetic language; but the formal, cyclical nature of the dialogue is interrupted at several points, and the speeches of the LORD raise the argument to a new level entirely, and then close off all further conversation without directly answering any of the deep and painful questions that have been raised along the way. Job is a wisdom book (see intro. to Kethuvim, pp. 1276–77), and such dialogues characterize ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature, especially that from Mesopotamia.

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