The Theme of Suffering in the Book of Job

The Book of Job is a part of the Old Testament. This book tells a story of Job who is loyal and obedient to God but has to go through much suffering.

This part of the Bible touches fundamental question of guilt, punishment, justice, good and evil. Job, who is sure in his innocence, does everything in order to serve God as good as possible. Because of reasons unknown to him he is deprived of all his property and money. His children die and he becomes sick with terrible disease. All misfortunes happen to Job because of argument between God and Satan. God believes that Job is good and loyal man because that is his inner nature and Satan argues that Job is so obedient only because he has everything to enjoy his life. God agrees to test Job and allows Satan to deprive him of everything but his life. Satan uses this opportunity and makes everything possible trying to change Job’s firm belief in God and his kindness. Three friends who come to visit Job in his misfortune are very important characters of the book. Three men, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar express firm belief of early Christianity that God punishes only sinners. They persuade Job that he must have done something wrong but Job is sure that he is innocent. Job is firm in his faith and Satan fails to turn him away from the right path. As Job responds to his friends: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). By these words Job expresses his obedience and faith.  At the same time Job asks God to explain him the reason of his misfortunes and finally God give his answer. He states that Job is not aware of big quantity of other creatures that exist in the Universe. Despite this world is created and ruled by God people are not the only creatures in the Universe and in some cases God has to meet the demands of these creatures. God is the only One who can see the entire picture and make the right decision because he possesses absolute knowledge and wisdom. The knowledge of people is limited and that is the reason they can not make right conclusions and perform right actions. Job confesses that his doubts are senseless. God sends his friends who doubted in Job’s innocence to ask Job to pray for them. In the last part of the book Job is rewarded for all his suffering. He is given twice more than he had had before.

This book is an attempt to approach the problem of evil. God’s answer to Job gives keys to understanding why good people suffer from evil. Job’s sufferings get new meaning in this book of the Old Testament. Doubts of Job’s friends reflect an attitude to suffering which had existed before. Suffering was considered as a punishment for the crime committed. In the story of Job suffering and misfortune become a test to check up Job’s obedience. Suffering also is used as a kind of train which helps Job to grow in his faith and to become a better Christian.

To my personal opinion despite God gives a long and poetic speech explaining the source of Job’s suffering his explanations are somewhat difficult to understand. Invisible creatures that inhabit our world do not have the power over God since He is the only ruler and creator of this Universe. From the other side they may influence people. This means that this is done under his control. Since theoretically God has control over all creatures in the Universe this means that evil things are done by God and he only uses evil creatures as his tools. Satan is translated like adversary, a person who condemns guilty people. This explanation probably corresponds to the theory which depicts suffering as a test. God uses suffering in order to know that Job is really loyal and obedient to him. In addition suffering becomes also a kind of training. Job’s sprit becomes stronger when he obediently stands all sufferings. If I had an opportunity to ask the writer a question concerning this story I would probably ask how people should distinguish if they lead a righteous life. Sinners are punished for sins they commit. Good people are trained by suffering. How should person distinguish in the case of misfortune if he led a good life and God is satisfied with him and only wants to try his faith or he gets a punishment for some sins. I believe that very little people sin and do bad things on purpose. This means that sufferings and deprivation must become a signal for them that they have committed a certain mistake. With the new interpretation of suffering we get in the Job’s story this system does not work any more. Innocent people can also be punished and this means that in reality it becomes difficult to distinguish an innocent person from the sinner.

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