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book of job research paper

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The Historical Context of the Book of Job

August 5, 2020 | yalepress | Ancient History , Religion

Edward L. Greenstein —

Determining the time and place of the book’s composition is bound up with the nature of the book’s language. The Hebrew prose of the frame tale, notwithstanding many classic features, shows that it was composed in the post-Babylonian era (after 540 BCE). The poetic core of the book is written in a highly literate and literary Hebrew, the eccentricities and occasional clumsiness of which suggest that Hebrew was a learned and not native language of the poet. The numerous words and grammatical shadings of Aramaic spread throughout the mainly Hebrew text of Job make a setting in the Persian era (approximately 540–330) fairly certain, for it was only in that period that Aramaic became a major language throughout the Levant. The poet depends on an audience that will pick up on subtle signs of Aramaic. A geographic setting in the land of Israel, in the Persian province of Yehud, is also fairly certain. The Transjordan is referred to as the East ( qedem ), and the Jordan River is mentioned in 40:23.

The author displays a familiarity with several Semitic languages—Phoenician, Arabic, and even Babylonian, in addition to Aramaic—and an acquaintance with local Canaanite mythology and some genres of Mesopotamian literature, such as the descriptions of gods (see at the Deity’s Second Discourse) and incantations for the ease of childbirth (see at Job’s Opening Discourse). Several words and expressions can be properly understood only when foreign languages are brought into play. The poet appears to be a polymath whose knowledge of language, literature, and realia (animals, plants, law, astronomy, anatomy) is impressive. Most impressive, however, is his deep and wide familiarity with earlier works of Hebrew literature. He draws on numerous sources, and he dazzles like Shakespeare with unrivaled vocabulary and a penchant for linguistic innovation—in words, forms, and combinations.

The wide use of foreign, and particularly Aramaic, linguistic features in the poetic core serves distinct literary functions. On the one hand, the admixture of foreign words and sounds, together with the predominant Hebrew, yields additional possibilities for wordplay, assonance, and double entendre (see, for example, at 3:8). On the other hand, because the speakers in the book are Transjordanian, and to the east of Israel the Semitic idiom manifests many Aramaic features, the characteristic sprinkling of Aramaic colors the speech of the characters as dialectal, as foreign.

One may surmise that the poet who shaped the prose narrative and composed the bulk of the dialogues was an extremely well-educated Judean, probably living in Jerusalem, who was writing for an audience of like-minded intellectuals.

From  Job  by Edward L. Greenstein. Published by Yale University Press in 2020. Reproduced with permission.

Edward L. Greenstein  is professor emeritus of Bible at Bar-Ilan University and a prolific, world-renowned scholar in many areas of biblical and ancient Near Eastern studies.

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Article contents

Book of job.

  • Brian Doak Brian Doak Associate Provost for Academic Innovation, Libraries, and Research Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, George Fox University
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.013.654
  • Published online: 26 May 2021

The book of Job is the longest and most thematically and linguistically challenging of the “wisdom books” in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. In the book’s prologue (Job 1–2) the narrator introduces readers to a man named Job (Hebrew ‘iyyōb ; etymology unclear). Job’s prosperity extends into all areas of his life, and seems at least potentially linked to his moral status as completely righteous and blameless before God. The earthly scene then gives way to a heavenly setting, where a figure called “the accuser” (literally “the satan”; haśśātān ) appears before God. God boasts about Job’s righteousness, but the accuser counters, suggesting that Job’s moral achievement has been merely the byproduct of God’s protection. The accuser and God enter into a bet: Job’s children will be killed, Job’s possessions stripped, and Job’s body afflicted with a painful disease—all to see whether Job will curse God.

Job initially responds to the distress with pious statements, affirming God’s authority over his life. In a state of intense suffering, Job is joined by three friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, and then eventually a fourth, Elihu—who offer rounds of speeches debating the reasons for Job’s situation (Job 3–37). Job responds to the friends in turn, alternately lamenting his situation and pleading for a chance to address God directly and argue his case as an innocent man. The friends accuse Job of committing some great sin to deserve his fate; they urge repentance, and defend God as a just ruler. God enters the dispute in a forceful whirlwind (Job 38), and proceeds for several chapters (Job 38–41) to overwhelm Job with resounding statements on creation (38:1–38), animal life (38:39–40:14), and visions of two powerful creatures, Behemoth (40:15–24) and Leviathan (41:1–11). The book ends with Job acknowledging to God the fact that he is overmatched in the face of divine power. God condemns the friends for not speaking “what is right, as my servant Job has” (42:7), and then restores Job’s lost possessions and children (42:10–17).

Job has enjoyed a rich reception history in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and, perhaps more than any other book in the Bible except Genesis, as a world literary classic in its own right. Within the Bible, it is the most bracing statement on the problem of suffering, as it presents a situation wherein a clearly righteous person suffers immensely—putting it at odds with more straightforward descriptions of why people suffer in Proverbs, Deuteronomy, and other texts. Scholarly research on Job has focused on the book’s place among other ancient Near Eastern wisdom materials, on questions of language (given the large amount of difficult Hebrew terms in the book), on historical-critical concerns about authorship and the way the book may have come together in its present form, and on the history of the translation of the text into Greek and other ancient languages. In the 21st century, interpreters have increasingly taken up readings of Job that situate it among concerns related to economics, disability, gender, and the history of its reception in many different eras and communities.

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The Book of Job

This thesis seeks to illustrate that the classic biblical work on the problem of the innocent sufferer, the Book of Job, is still relevant in twentieth century, Western culture. The exegetical complexity of the Book of Job is outlined in order to show that the work lends itself to diverse interpretations and uses by readers outside the academic community.

This thesis then focuses on the writings of Gustavo Gutierrez, a Peruvian Catholic priest, who uses the Book of Job to empower t...

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The Oxford Handbook of the Bible and Ecology

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13 The Book of Job

Rev. Kathryn Schifferdecker, ThD, is Professor and Elva B. Lovell Chair of Old Testament at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota.

  • Published: 20 April 2022
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The whirlwind speeches at the end of the book of Job (38–41) provide an essential “voice” in the conversation about Bible and ecology. Job asks the question, “What are human beings?” (Job 7:17), and the voice from the whirlwind answers the question with a resounding silence about humanity. Nevertheless, humanity (in the person of Job) plays an important role in the whirlwind speeches, as the sole passenger on God’s tour of the cosmos. Those speeches call human beings to humility—to know their place in the world but also to wonder and to justice. These biblical texts are particularly pertinent for us today, as we wrestle with the effects of human activity on the earth’s climate and ecosystems.

In any discussion of Bible and ecology, the Book of Job has a vital part to play. In particular, the whirlwind speeches at the end of the book (Job 38–41) constitute an essential voice in the discussion. At first reading, God’s speeches from the whirlwind seem to have little to do with the rest of the book, which has been chiefly concerned with undeserved suffering and divine justice. Job, a righteous and blameless man, has watched his ordered world crumble around him. Three companions attempt to blame his sufferings on some secret sin he has committed, while Job maintains his innocence and calls on God to answer him. Finally, when all the human beings have had their say, God answers from a whirlwind, but God does not speak of Job’s suffering; instead, God takes Job on a tour of creation. 1 The first speech (chs. 38–39) touches on cosmology, meteorology, and zoology. The second speech (chs. 40–41) moves into the realm of mythology, as God describes the fearsome creature Behemoth and the primordial sea dragon Leviathan.

These whirlwind speeches of Job are the longest sustained biblical meditation on creation outside of Genesis. They are also particularly relevant for the age in which we find ourselves, as we recognize the toll that human activity has taken and continues to take on the earth’s climate and ecosystems. The question that Job hurls at God in one of his speeches—“What are human beings?” (7:17)—is a question with which we must continue to struggle as we learn our place in this complex creation of which we are a part. The whirlwind speeches offer a profound answer to that question.

Job and Ecology in Scholarship

While commentators have long recognized the central role that creation plays in the book of Job ( Gordis 1978 ; Habel 1985 ; Janzen 1985 ; Newsom 1996 ), three of the earliest works to explicitly link Job to environmental concerns were by two biblical scholars, Robert Gordis and Gene Tucker, and an activist and environmentalist, Bill McKibben.

Robert Gordis, in an article titled “Job and Ecology (And the Significance of Job 40:15),” characterizes the author of Job as “viewing the world in theocentric and not anthropocentric terms” ( Gordis 1985 :200). The whirlwind speeches, argues Gordis, provide a biblical basis for environmental ethics, particularly in terms of humanity’s treatment of animals. “Man takes his place among the other living creatures, all of whom are the handiwork of God and have an equal right to live on His earth. Man, therefore, surely has no inherent right to abuse or exploit the living creatures or the natural resources to be found in a world not of his making, nor intended for his exclusive habitation” (1985:199).

Bill McKibben, writing not for the scholarly guild but for a popular audience, published The Comforting Whirlwind: God, Job and the Scale of Creation in 1994. Putting his reading of Job into conversation with the findings of environmental science, McKibben echoes Gordis’s conclusions by highlighting the “anthropocentric bias” of humanity and arguing that the book of Job challenges that bias (2005 [1994]:32). McKibben goes on to assert that the two great imperatives of the whirlwind speeches are a call to humility and a call to joy. Together, humility and joy are “powerful enough, perhaps, to start changing some of the deep-seated behaviors that are driving our environmental destruction” (2005 [1994]:47).

Gene Tucker, in his 1996 presidential address to the Society of Biblical Literature, asks the question, “What, according to the Hebrew Bible, is the place of human beings in the natural order?” ( Tucker 1997 :6). He then explores a number of biblical texts to begin to address that question and asserts that, while “No anthropocentric perspective goes unchallenged or unchastened in the biblical tradition …The most forceful and compelling critique of the idea that humanity is the pinnacle of the natural order appears in the Lord’s address in Job 38–39” (1997:12, 13).

In the past twenty years, the book of Job has continued to enter into conversations about Bible and ecology. Of particular note is the Earth Bible volume dedicated to biblical Wisdom literature, which devotes six of its thirteen chapters to Job ( Habel and Wurst, 2001 ). In another important work, The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder , William Brown speaks of the whirlwind speeches as a “Copernican revolution”—“Job comes to realize that the world does not revolve around himself, not even around humanity” ( Brown 2010 :133). Job is also made to realize his interconnectedness with other creatures: “The bond forged in creation between Job and Behemoth … requires Job to affirm his own life in extremis, to embrace his identity as Homo alienus and his connection with all aliens … and to step lightly on God’s beloved, vibrant Earth” (2010:140).

This brief survey of scholarship on Job and ecology serves to highlight a common thread; all of these scholars have noted that the whirlwind speeches are radically nonanthropocentric. The world, according to these speeches, does not revolve around humanity. Humanity is only one part of a complex creation.

This understanding contrasts with other biblical creation theologies, notably those of Genesis 1 and Psalm 8, where humanity is given “dominion” over the natural world (Gen 1:26–28; Ps 8:6–8). Historically speaking, the creation account of Genesis 1 has had a much greater influence on Christian theology and practice than the account in Job. In this age of environmental crisis, however, the voice from the whirlwind can teach us some important things about our place in creation.

A Crucial Question

“What are human beings?”— mâ ʾĕnôš —the writer of Psalm 8 asks the question as he gazes up at the night sky ablaze with countless stars. Then he answers, in wonder and astonishment, that human beings are made just a little lower than God, and that God has given them “dominion over the works of [God’s] hands” (Ps 8:4–6).

Job, in what is probably a parody of the psalm, asks the same question— mâ ʾĕnôš . But he answers it in an entirely different way:

What are human beings, that you magnify them, that you pay attention to them, That you visit them every morning, test them every moment? 2 (Job 7:17–18)

For the psalmist, human beings are made to have dominion over the other creatures. For Job, human beings are the objects of God’s unwanted attention. While Job’s answer to the question is different from the psalmist’s, they have this in common: For both figures, humanity occupies a central position in the world, whether as the crown of creation or as the chief object of God’s overzealous attention. 3

The psalmist and Job ask the question, “What are human beings?” primarily as it pertains to humanity’s relationship with God, but in our age, it is also a crucial question to ask about humanity’s relationship with the rest of creation. The question was a significant one for the ancient Israelite authors. It is perhaps even more significant for us today, as we understand the role humanity has played in environmental degradation. Indeed, given the effects of human activity on the earth’s climate and ecosystems, many scientists argue that we now live in a new geological epoch—the Anthropocene. In this epoch, our answer to Job’s and the psalmist’s question is essential to ponder for our sake and for the sake of future generations.

In the Bible, there are differing responses to the question, “What are human beings?” Most of them, however, like Genesis 1 and Psalm 8, subscribe to a certain assumption about humanity’s place in the created order. For good or for ill, according to most biblical creation theologies, humanity occupies a central position in creation and is the primary focus of God’s attention. Given the prevalence of this assumption in the Bible, it is all the more striking that the voice from the whirlwind calls it into question.

A Call to Humility

The whirlwind speeches answer Job’s question—“What are human beings?”—with a resounding silence about humanity. The speeches cover a vast swath of creation, but in the long catalog of creatures, celestial and terrestrial, that constitutes the whirlwind speeches, there is one glaring omission. There is one creature that is conspicuous only by its absence. God says to Job:

Who has cut a channel for the flood, and a way for the thunderbolt, to cause it to rain upon the uninhabited land, the wilderness where no person lives; to satisfy the waste and desolate land and to cause the parched land to sprout grass?   (Job 38:25–27)

In the Hebrew, the point is even more explicit. Translated literally, the phrases in verse 26 are “land with no-human [ ʾereṣ lōʾ-ʾîš ]” and “wilderness with no-man [ midbār lōʾ-ʾādām ].” The very common Hebrew words meaning “human,” “man,” “person” ( ʾîš and ʾādām ) are used virtually nowhere else in the whirlwind speeches. 4 And here, in their only appearance in the speeches, they are negated: no -human [ lōʾ-ʾîš ], no -man [ lōʾ-ʾādām ]. This is a radically nonanthropocentric vision of creation.

In Psalm 8 and in the related text of Genesis 1, God gives humanity dominion over every living creature on earth, both domestic animals and wild animals (Gen 1:26–28; Ps 8:6–8). Job, in the prologue, does indeed have dominion over many creatures. He owns, among other things, 1,000 oxen and 500 donkeys (1:3). In the whirlwind speeches, however, Job has dominion over nothing. He cannot control the wild donkey or the wild ox, cousins of his domestic livestock (39:5–12). And he most certainly cannot control the mythological creatures Behemoth and Leviathan.

This point is brought home in the second whirlwind speech (chs. 40–41). Psalm 8 includes under human dominion “whatever passes through the paths of the seas” (Ps 8:8). In the second speech to Job, God challenges Job to control Leviathan, the most fearsome creature to pass “through the paths of the seas”:

Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook? Can you press down his tongue with rope? … Can you play with him as with a bird? Will you leash him for your girls? Will traders bargain over him? Will they divide him up among merchants? Can you fill his skin with harpoons or his head with fishing spears? Lay your hand upon him; imagine the battle. You will not do it again!   (Job 41:1, 5–8 [Eng]; 40:25, 29–32 [Heb])

God challenges Job to use Leviathan in any of the ways that human beings use animals—for labor, for companionship, for sport, for food—and shows any such plans to be ludicrous: “Lay your hand upon him; imagine the battle. You will not do it again!” Leviathan is fierce and wild and utterly unapproachable, a creature who laughs at paltry human weapons (Job 41:26–29). In contrast to the claims of the psalmist, this particular sea creature is not under human dominion. As if to drive the point home, while Job had likened himself in an earlier speech to a king ( melek ) (29:25), the whirlwind speeches end by calling Leviathan, “king ( melek ) over all who are proud” (41:34 [Eng]; 41:26 [Heb]).

The creation theology of the whirlwind speeches calls humanity to a place of humility in relationship to the natural world. Creation is made not for the sake of humanity; it comes into being for the delight of its Creator, and it cannot be controlled by human beings.

Ellen Davis puts the issue this way: “The great question that God’s speech out of the whirlwind poses for Job and every other person of integrity is this: Can you love what you do not control?” ( Davis 2001 :140). Can you love what you do not control—the wild animals, the Sea, Leviathan—not because of any profit you may gain from them but because they are fellow-creatures with you?

The vision of creation in the whirlwind speeches can fruitfully be used as a corrective to a consumerist view of the natural world, which values the nonhuman creation primarily in terms of how it can be exploited by human beings. To that culture, the speeches proclaim that the world is not created for the sake of humanity, that there exist creatures and places that have an intrinsic value quite apart from their usefulness to human beings. God sends rain on the wilderness where no person lives. The wild donkey and the wild ox will not serve Job. Leviathan cannot be used by Job in any of the ways that humanity uses animals.

In other words, in the whirlwind speeches, Job learns his place, and it is a place radically different from the position he occupied in the prologue (Job 1–2). In that world, Job was at the center, surrounded by concentric circles of society: first his family and household (29:1–5), then civic society—his companions and peers (29:7–10), and finally, the poor and the needy to whom Job owed benevolence (29:11–16), and to whom Job showed compassion ( Newsom 2003 :187–190). Outside these circles of Job’s influence was the “waste and desolate land” ( šôʾâ ûmĕšōâ ; 30:3).

In the whirlwind speeches, the boundaries of this ordered world are blown apart, and Job is taken out to where the wild things are. 5 Job is decentered from the position of authority he held in his former life. He is transported to the wasteland and there he learns that the world is more vast, varied, and wild than he had ever imagined.

It is striking that the whirlwind speeches celebrate exactly those places and creatures that are outside human control, that are indifferent to, and therefore dangerous to human beings: the Sea, the meteorological forces, the wild animals. The whirlwind speeches assert that no creature or land can properly be called “godforsaken,” not even the “waste and desolate land” ( šôʾâ ûmĕšōâ ) that Job scorned (30:3). These places may be human-forsaken, but they are not God-forsaken ( Newsom 2003 : 240). Indeed, in what is likely a direct reference to Job’s final speech, the whirlwind speeches assert that God sustains the “waste and desolate land” ( šôʾâ ûmĕšōâ ) (38:27; cf. 30:3). God is profligate with the rain—that most precious of resources—in that God sends it on what is, from the perspective of humans, a wasteland, unused and unusable by human beings. God sends rain on the wilderness where no person lives and causes the desert to flower though no human eyes will see it.

The whirlwind speeches put Job in his place; or, more accurately, they teach Job his place in the cosmos. Job learns humility. He learns his place in the world which God created, which God sustains, and in which God delights.

Having said all this, it must also be said that while the whirlwind speeches are radically nonanthropocentric, they are addressed to an anthropos . Job is the only passenger on this tour of the cosmos. While there is a deafening silence in the speeches concerning human beings, it is to a human being that they are spoken. God puts Job in his place, but it is not a place of abject humiliation. Instead, God grants Job a God’s-eye view of the cosmos, and thereby places him in a position of some privilege. God indeed calls Job to humility but God also calls him to wonder. It is to this point that we turn next.

A Call to Wonder

The whirlwind speeches teach Job his place in creation. They call him to humility. As McKibben has shown, however, they also call him to joy ( McKibben 2005 [1994] :40) and to wonder. God does not beat Job over the head with creation. God invites Job to wonder at the beauty of God’s creation—the sudden blossoming of the desert after rain (38:27), the magnificence of celestial constellations (38:31–32), the fierceness of the war horse (39:19–25), the soaring of the hawk (39:26), the armor-like scales of Leviathan (41:15–17). God lingers over the details and invites Job to do the same.

The wonder of creation takes center stage from the very beginning of the first speech from the whirlwind. God describes to Job the creation of the cosmos, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy!” (Job 38:7).

The celestial beings, both stars and angels, sing for joy at the creation of the earth, and as the speeches progress, it seems clear that the wild creatures themselves join in that chorus. The wild donkey laughs ( yiśḥaq ) at the “tumult of the city,” that quintessential human habitation. It does not hear the “shouts of the taskmaster” as it roams over the mountains (39:7–8). In like fashion, the ostrich laughs ( tiśḥaq ) at the horse and its rider (38:18). The horse itself “rejoices greatly as he goes out to meet the battle” (39:21). He laughs ( yiśḥaq ) at fear itself as he “swallows the ground” (39:22–24). The wild beasts of the field play ( yĕśaḥăqû ) in the mountains (40:20). Leviathan, that fiercest of creatures, laughs ( yiśḥaq ) as well, at the paltry human weapons that bounce off its impenetrable skin (41:29 [Eng]; 41:21 [Heb]).

The laughter ( śḥq ) of some of these wild creatures is directed at human beings and their inventions. It could be argued, then, that theirs is a scornful laughter. Scorn, however, is not the primary impression left by the text. These wild creatures are exulting not just in their freedom from human control but in freedom itself, the freedom to roam in the wilderness, to play in the mountains, and the freedom (on the part of the ostrich and the horse) simply to run. The joy of the morning stars at the dawn of creation echoes through the rest of the whirlwind speeches, especially in the unfettered abandon of the wild creatures at play. God shows Job a world characterized by freedom and joy. And, indeed, joy characterizes the divine being as well, as God also rejoices in the wildness of creation. The description of Leviathan demonstrates this divine delight and pride:

I will not be silent about its limbs, or its great strength, or its magnificent frame. … Its back is made up of rows of shields, closed with a tight seal. One is pressed to another so that no air can come between them. Each is joined to the next; they cling together and cannot be separated. Its sneezes flash forth light; and its eyes are like the eyelids of dawn. (41:12, 15–18 [Eng]; 41:4, 7–10 [Heb])

The whirlwind speeches celebrate the fierceness of Leviathan and the fecundity of mountain goats alike. They display God’s delight in creation and they invite Job (and generations of readers) to wonder at the works of God’s hands.

The speeches open with the image of God as the master builder, digging the foundation of the earth, using a plumb line to make sure the walls are straight, and laying the cornerstone (38:4–7). And then, in a striking change of metaphor, God the master builder becomes God the midwife, attending the birth of the Sea:

Who fenced in the Sea with doors when it came bursting out from the womb, When I made a cloud its clothing and thick darkness its swaddling clothes?    (Job 38:8–9)

The Sea, that ancient symbol of chaos, becomes in the whirlwind speeches a newborn infant, albeit an enormous and rambunctious infant. God does not destroy the Sea, as in all the other ancient Near Eastern creation myths (cf. Job 9:8). Instead, God here attends the birth of the Sea and swaddles it in shadows.

This description of the Sea is just one example of a recurrent theme in the whirlwind speeches, that of birth. Many of the animals in the speeches are described in their parental roles. The mountain goats give birth (39:1–4). The ostrich, lacking wisdom, leaves her eggs on the ground (39:13–18) while eagles feed their young with the blood of slain warriors (39:30; cf. 38:41). Even inanimate parts of the natural world are described in terms of fecundity (38:28–29).

This theme of birth connects the whirlwind speeches with earlier and later parts of the book. In the prologue, Job’s wealth is measured according to the number of his livestock and his blessings according to the number of his children. When Job loses everything, his first response is couched in the language of birth (1:21). After seven days of silence, he curses the day of his birth and the night of his conception (3:1–10).

In that first lament, Job wishes not just for death but that he had never been born in the first place. In his cursing of the day of his birth, Job attempts to undo creation itself. His language echoes that of Genesis 1. Job, however, seeks to reverse God’s first act of creation: Whereas God decreed, “Let there be light!” ( yĕhî ʾôr —Gen. 1:3), Job curses the day of his birth with the command “Let it be darkness!” ( yĕhî ḥōšek —Job 3:4). As Michael Fishbane has demonstrated, Job’s curse mirrors the sequence of events described in Genesis 1. Job begins his speech with the malediction, “Let there be darkness,” and ends it with an extended meditation on “rest.” The rest that Job hopes to find, however, is not in Sabbath but in death. In the extended curse on the day of his birth, Job articulates “an absolute and unrestrained death wish for himself and the entire creation” ( Fishbane 1971 :154).

Such a curse is a challenge to the Creator in whose hand is “the life of every living creature and the breath of every human being” (12:10). God in the whirlwind speeches responds to Job’s curse by describing not only the initial act of creation but also the ongoing life force that is the power of procreation. The blessing of birth is not about Job or any other human being. It is the means by which God ensures that life, in all its beauty and complexity, will continue.

Again, while Job learns humility in this encounter with God, he also learns wonder. Life continues despite Job’s maledictions. Life continues despite Job’s suffering. Life continues not just for human beings, but for all the creatures that inhabit this planet. The whirlwind speeches challenge Job’s initial curse in Job 3 and they invite him to wonder at the inexorable life force that animates creation.

The epilogue (ch. 42) provides perhaps the best evidence that Job has learned to delight in creation’s freedom as God does. Here, the theme of parenting continues. Job and his wife have ten more children. This time, the daughters (the most beautiful women in the land) are given names, and sensual names at that: Dove ( yĕmîmâ ), Cinnamon-Stick ( qĕṣîꜤâ ), and Horn-of-Eyeshadow ( qeren-hapûk ) (42:14). They are also given an inheritance along with their brothers, a practice unparalleled in ancient Israel.

Though the replacement of children with more children strikes the modern reader as troubling, Ellen Davis reads these details differently: “It is useless to ask how much (or how little) it costs God to give more children. The real question is how much it costs Job to become a father again” ( Davis 2001 :142).

Davis contrasts this style of parenting to the careful Job of the prologue, who offered sacrifices for his children just in case they sinned as they feasted together (1:5). “And now [in the epilogue] Job loves with the abandon characteristic of God’s love—revolutionary in seeking our freedom, reveling in the untamed beauty of every child” ( Davis 2001 :143).

This reading of the epilogue confirms the themes of freedom, joy, and wonder that characterize the whirlwind speeches. The speeches, though not conventionally comforting, move Job out of his endless cycle of grief into life again. They enable him to bring children again into a world where he risks losing them. They enable him to live freely in a world full of heartbreaking suffering and heart-stopping beauty, and to do so with a kind of abandon and delight that reflects God’s own way of being in the world. Job has learned from the whirlwind speeches something about the fundamental nature of God, God as the Creator who delights in wildness and beauty and invites Job to do the same: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,” says Job to God, “but now my eye sees you” (42:5).

“What are human beings?” asks the psalmist, gazing up at the night sky in awe. “What are human beings?” asks Job, so burdened with grief that he curls in on himself and cannot see beyond his own pain. And God answers by taking Job to where the wild things live, far outside the bounds of human control. God invites Job to humility, to learn his place in God’s world; and then God invites Job to wonder, to delight in the world with a measure of God’s own joy.

Humility and wonder. The vision of creation God gives to Job moves him to look beyond his pain and grief, moves him to life again, even after great pain. Humility—learning our place in this world—and wonder—delighting with God’s delight in the beauty and wildness of creation—have the potential to move us, too, to life again, in a world where we are too often the instruments of death and destruction.

A Call to Justice

The whirlwind speeches call humanity to humility and to wonder. They also call human beings—in their relationship with the natural world—to justice.

Justice is a primary concern in the earlier parts of the Book of Job. Repeatedly in the poetic dialogue, Job wishes for justice. “See, I cry out ‘violence!’ but receive no answer. I cry for help, but there is no justice ( mišpāṭ )” (19:7). Job accuses God of perverting the order not only of the moral realm (9:22–24) but also of the natural world (9:5–7).

Job’s companions espouse the orthodox view that God upholds justice, by which they mean retributive justice. The righteous will be rewarded and the wicked punished. God designs and governs the world in such a way that both the moral order and the natural order are firmly established (5:9–16). Bildad chastises Job for doubting God’s justice: “Does God pervert justice ( mišpāṭ )? Or does the Almighty pervert the right?” (8:3).

Job and his companions have a fairly simplistic understanding of God’s mišpāṭ , God’s justice. God will reward the righteous and punish the wicked. When Job’s suffering proves otherwise, he accuses God of injustice. Job demands his day in court; he defends his integrity and calls on God to answer him (chs. 9; 13; 23; 29–31).

This theme of justice, then, permeates the poetic dialogue; and the word mišpāṭ is often used to articulate that theme (8:3; 9:19, 32; 13:18; 14:3; 19:7; 23:4; 31:13). Given the prevalence of mišpāṭ in the dialogue, it is striking that in the whirlwind speeches, it appears only once:

 Will you even annul my mišpāṭ ?   Will you condemn me in order that you might be justified? (40:8)

This verse is part of a passage in which God moves briefly from the world of creation to the world of moral order, challenging Job to punish the wicked (40:8–14). God accuses Job of annulling God’s mišpāṭ . In doing so, God expands the meaning of the word. Job and his companions used mišpāṭ primarily as a juridical term. God speaks of mišpāṭ as something more fundamental, having to do not only with humanity and the moral order with which humanity is so concerned but also with the natural order. In doing so, God answers Job’s earlier charges. Job impugned God’s mišpāṭ in terms of God’s justice but he also criticized God’s mišpāṭ in terms of the order God built into creation.

This issue of God’s ordering of the world (both moral and natural) can be explored in a number of ways, but I do so here by describing briefly the usage in the book of Job of the verb śûk and its by-form sûk , “to fence in.” The verb is used only three times in Job. The first time is at 1:10, when the Satan says to God, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a fence ( śaktā ) around him and his house and all his possessions on every side?” Job uses the verb in 3:23. He wonders why light is given “to a man whose way is hidden, / whom God has fenced in ( wayāsek ).” The third and final occurrence of the verb is in the whirlwind speeches, when God asks, “Who fenced in ( wayāsek ) the Sea with doors / when it came bursting out from the womb?” (38:8).

These three occurrences of the word śûk/sûk illustrate three different viewpoints about God’s ordering of the world. The Satan asserts that God orders the world in such a way that the righteous are protected from all harm (1:10). The three companions share this worldview. Job, in the midst of profound suffering, argues that God does not put a protective fence around the righteous but pens them in and allows the world around them to descend into chaos (3:23).

Though the Satan and Job envision the “fencing” in different ways, the object of the verb in both cases is humanity. God is either—in the Satan’s view—protecting righteous human beings or—in Job’s view—suffocating them with overweening attention, waiting for them to sin (cf. Job 7:12–19).

In the third and final usage of the word ś ûk/sûk , God also speaks of fencing in, but redefines both the object and the scope of that action. God is concerned in the whirlwind speeches not with building a fence, whether protective or restrictive, around humanity. God’s action is cosmic in scope. God fences in the Sea and prescribes boundaries for it: “Thus far you shall come and no farther. / Here shall your proud waves be stopped” (38:11).

There is a tension here. The Sea, that primordial force of chaos, is fenced in so that it does not have free rein over the earth, but it is also given a place in creation. There is order to the world, contrary to Job’s accusations, but it is an order that—contrary to the Satan’s assertion—does not exclude all things wild and dangerous. The Sea, the snow, the wild animals, Leviathan—all these forces are given a place in creation. They are outside of humanity’s control and potentially dangerous to human beings. But they are also a vital part of God’s order, God’s mišpāṭ . The creation would be diminished without these wild creatures; its glory dimmed, its life-force faded.

It is in this larger sense of mišpāṭ that the whirlwind speeches issue a call to justice. If God’s order includes creatures and forces quite outside the realm of human existence, then humanity has the responsibility to live in such a way that that order is maintained.

The concept of “justice” is associated in biblical interpretation more often with prophetic texts than with creation texts. The key term for describing the biblical understanding of humanity’s relationship with creation is more often “stewardship.” And “stewardship” is indeed a useful way of thinking about that relationship (see Chapter 22 in this volume). It implies that we do not own what we have. It implies that we are merely caretakers on behalf of the true owner. It implies that we use what we need and conserve the gift for those who come after us. These are all good biblical insights (Gen 2:15; Exod 23:10–11; Lev 25:23).

The concept of “stewardship” has its critics among scholars of ecology and theology. Some argue that it relies too much on an understanding of humanity as separate from the rest of the earth ( Berry et al. 2006 :108). Others assert that it is too hierarchical, making God into an “absentee landlord” and consigning the natural world to the lowest end of the hierarchy (2006:68). Many scholars, however, still claim stewardship as a helpful concept for speaking about humanity’s place in creation (2006:7–12), and one that is rooted in biblical traditions.

“Stewardship” with all its complexities can indeed be a good way of thinking about humanity’s relationship with the rest of creation, but it is not the only way. It does not, for instance, fit the context of the whirlwind speeches:

Who lets the wild ass go free? … It scoffs at the tumult of the city; it does not hear the shouts of the taskmaster. … Will the wild ox be willing to serve you? Will it spend the night at your feeding-trough?   (Job 39:5,7, 9)

In the prologue, as already noted, Job was the owner of 500 donkeys and 1,000 oxen (1:3). In the whirlwind speeches, God introduces Job to the wild cousins of his domesticated livestock. The wild donkey and ox will have nothing to do with human beings. Their existence is one of unfettered freedom.

How much more is this the case for the creatures God describes in the second speech. Behemoth is a primeval land creature with bones like bronze and limbs like iron (40:18). Leviathan, that legendary sea dragon, is so fierce that no mere human can stand against it (41:10). These creatures will not serve humanity. Behemoth is made “with Job” or just in the way that Job was made (40:15). Job and Behemoth have the same Creator. Even more radically, Leviathan, not Job, is “king over all who are proud,” a creature not to be trifled with (41:34; cf. 29:25).

The wild creatures of the first whirlwind speech and the two mythological creatures of the second speech inhabit a world quite outside human civilization and completely beyond the sphere of human influence. To speak of Job’s relationship to these wild creatures in terms of “stewardship” simply misses the point. How can he be a “steward” of something over which he has no control? How can he take care of creatures who neither need nor desire such care, creatures who scorn humanity and its inventions?

The operative word, again, for talking about humanity’s relationship to the wild creatures in the whirlwind speeches is “justice.” The speeches describe a world in which humanity does not occupy the central position. Humanity has a place in that world, to be sure. Job, again, is the only passenger on this tour of the cosmos. That place, however, is not what Job thought it was. The world does not revolve around humanity. The world instead is made for the delight of its Creator, and it is full of wild, strange, and fierce creatures, creatures who live their whole lives oblivious to human beings and their daily concerns.

It is worth noting in this respect that “wilderness” in the ancient world did not evoke the same feelings of appreciation and awe (or sentimentality?) that it does for many people today. In the ancient world, wilderness and the wild animals that inhabit it were “the Other against which human culture defined itself” ( Newsom 2003 :245). In the whirlwind speeches, then, it is all the more compelling that the wilderness, that which was alien and terrifying to Job, is described in great detail, and with attention to its beauty. Job is not in any way a “steward” of the wilderness; he encounters it only as an observer. But once he encounters it, he comes to know both his own place in the larger world and the place of the wild creatures who share it with him. In God’s ordering of the world, in God’s mišpāṭ , Job is a part of creation, but so are the Sea, the lion, the ostrich, Behemoth, and Leviathan. They have an integral part to play in the whole, and justice demands that they be allowed to play that part.

Today, too, justice demands that we live in such a way that the other creatures God has created “with us” are allowed to be who God created them to be. Justice demands that we honor the right of our fellow creatures to live and move and have their being, not because they are useful to us, but because they are precious to God. Pope Francis, in Laudato Si , cites German bishops on this point: “[W]here other creatures are concerned, ‘we can speak of the priority of being over that of being useful ’ ” ( Francis 2015 :51, author’s emphasis).

The two concepts of stewardship and justice are not mutually exclusive, and both are needed today. According to Genesis 2:15 and similar texts, humanity is given responsibility for the earth, serving ( ʿabād ) it and keeping ( šamār ) it. We must exercise that responsibility with care. According to the whirlwind speeches, humanity is only one part of creation and should therefore live with humility on this earth. We must tread lightly.

It is worth noting that many of the questions God addresses to Job can be answered in the affirmative today. We do know when the mountain goats give birth (39:1). We have some understanding of how rain and snow are formed (38:28–29), and we have entered into the depths of the sea (38:16). The growth in our knowledge, however, has not resulted in an increase in wisdom. Wisdom does not necessarily correspond to advancements in knowledge or technical ability (cf. Job 28). To gain wisdom, we must learn our place in God’s world and live accordingly, with humility, with wonder, and with justice. Our lives, the lives of those we love, and the lives of all the creatures on this planet depend on it.

The question that Job and the psalmist both ask—“What are human beings?”—is a question that continues to haunt us today. Many different biblical voices speak to this question and they contribute important insights to the conversation about Bible and ecology. In this age of climate change, however, when the biodiversity of the world is under threat, the voice from the whirlwind is particularly pertinent. The world of the whirlwind speeches is a world of dazzling diversity and stunning beauty. It is a world outside the bounds of human culture and outside the reach of human activity. It is a world that exists not for humanity, but for itself, and for God.

That wilderness today looks like the plains of the Serengeti, the mountains of the Himalayas, the ice sheets of Antarctica, the sands of the Sahara, and the depths of the oceans. There still exist those places and creatures that are outside the bounds of human culture, but we understand now that they are not outside the reach and influence of human activity. They are more fragile than we realized.

“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,” says Job to God at the end of the book, “But now my own eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5). Job sees God somehow in the vision of the whirlwind speeches, in the wild, fierce, beautiful world God has made. For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, those same speeches can reveal also to us this same Creator and the wonder of the world that believers recognize not just as “nature” but as “creation.” The voice from the whirlwind can teach us wisdom—so that we might know our place in the world and learn to live in it with humility, with wonder, and with justice.

Alter, R. ( 2011 ), The Art of Biblical Poetry . Rev. ed. New York: Basic Books.

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Berry, R. J. , ed. ( 2006 ), Environmental Stewardship: Critical Perspectives—Past and Present . London: T&T Clark.

Brown, W. ( 2010 ), The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder . Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Davis, E. ( 2001 ), Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament . Cambridge, MA: Cowley.

Fishbane, M. ( 1971 ), “ Jeremiah IV 23–26 and Job III 3–13: A Recovered Use of the Creation Pattern, ” VT 21:151–167.

Francis. ( 2015 ) Laudato Sí: Encyclical Letter of the Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home . Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, see also http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html (accessed 10/8/20).

Gordis, R. ( 1978 ), The Book of Job . New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

Gordis, R. ( 1985 ), “ Job and Ecology (and the Significance of Job 40:15), ” HAR 9:189–202.

Habel, N. ( 1985 ), The Book of Job . Philadelphia, Penn: Westminster Press.

Habel, N. , and S. Wurst (eds.) ( 2001 ), The Earth Story in Wisdom Traditions . Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

Janzen, J. G. ( 1985 ), Job . Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press.

McKibben, B. (1994), The Comforting Whirlwind: God, Job and the Scale of Creation . Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Repr., Cambridge, MA: Cowley, 2005 .

Newsom, C. ( 1996 ), “The Book of Job: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections.” In Terence E. Fretheim and Daniel J. Simundson , vol. 4 of The New Interpreter’s Bible. 12 vols, 31–637. Nashville: Abingdon.

Newsom, C. ( 2003 ), The Book of Job: A Contest of Moral Imaginations . Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schifferdecker, K. ( 2008 ), Out of the Whirlwind: Creation Theology in the Book of Job . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Tucker, G. ( 1997 ), “ Rain on a Land Where No One Lives: The Hebrew Bible on the Environment, ” JBL , 116/1: 3–17.

Solomon Freehof describes the reaction of many readers of Job: “Job cries, ‘I am innocent.’ And God responds, ‘You are ignorant.’ The answer seems not only irrelevant but even unfeeling and heartless” [ Book of Job (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1958) 236].

Author’s translation. All biblical quotations are the author’s translation unless otherwise noted.

It could be argued that the Sabbath, rather than human beings, is the “crown of creation.” The Sabbath is established on the seventh day, but it is not a creature—a physical, sentient being. Human beings are created last; they are the only creatures made in the image of God; and they are the only creatures given dominion over the rest of the created order. All of these details support the claim that they are understood in Genesis 1 as the “crown of creation.”

The word ʾîš is used also in 41:17 (Heb 41:9), but there it refers to the scales of Leviathan, not to a human being.

To borrow the title from Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s story ( Where the Wild Things Are . New York: Harper & Row, 1963).

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THE MYSTERY OF HUMAN SUFFERING; A CRITICAL STUDY OF THE BOOK OF JOB VIS-À-VIS THE CONCEPT OF SUFFERING AMONG THE BAGANDA A Long Essay Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology

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The book of Job is here read through the ancient Near Eastern values of honour and shame and also in relationship to its placing within Wisdom literature. This article points out the fact that the book of Job goes beyond focus of wisdom whose primary concern is navigating life successfully. For Job, it is the concern of what Gustavo Guttiérez calls disinterested faith that puts God's honour at the centre of his struggles.

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In this article, I am discussion the problem of suffering in the book of Job from an African liberative perspective. The book brings an interesting perspective on the problem of suffering that was not common to the Israelite theology of retributive principle. Contrary to the common notion that God rewards the righteous and punish the evil, the book neither confirms the retributive principle nor denies it. The most pious Job is seen suffering for no reason except the test of faith. The conclusion is that it is a narrow perspective to define God in terms of the retribution perspective. God is beyond that principle and He is sovereign to do what he wants. The book has some problems in applying it to the African context that has a similar notion of retributive principle like that of the Israelites. The article concludes that the book helps in shaping the African view on suffering and liberates Africans from the slavery of bereavement. The book is useful for pastoral care and bereavement counselling hence it is not congruent with the African view on suffering. It does not really liberate Africans from their suffering but, it can negatively promotes pessimism on addressing the issue of human induced suffering. Introduction

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While literary categories do exist for conceiving of a figure such as Job's mediator in the Bible and its context, the range of scholarly proposals for his identity shows that there is great intrigue but little consensus. I will review some of the categories of mediator figures from ancient near eastern theodicy literature as well as biblical literature. I will also review scholarly arguments discussing the advocate’s identity will lead to a conclusion that asking “Who is Job’s advocate?” is not as fruitful a question as asking “What function does Job’s advocate serve?” My thesis is that Job’s advocate is a vehicle of hope: an hors catégorie, powerful being, conceived in moment of extreme anguish, having characteristics both of God and not of God, who helps him to articulate a basis for hope despite his experience of anguish and grief. Rather than an identifiable character in the book that can be described with precedent from the Bible or ancient near eastern literature, Job’s advocate is an imaginative faith-step in his quest for justice, that propels him toward his goal of meeting God face to face.

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The Book of Job Research Paper


The Book of Job is rich in literature. This has earned the classification as a literature masterpiece. Various authors such as Victor Hugo, Tennyson and Danny Webster, among others have praised it for works of literature. However, it is quite necessary to note that most Christians have rarely approached it in that aspect. In fact, to them, it is always an inspiration to do good deeds.

Interestingly, even though the book is ancient, it contains wonderful productions and works of literary genius. This has perplexed the world since it contains a mix of literary styles. This masterpiece is written in a poetic style. It is also considered as the first of five poetic books of the Old Testament.

These include Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Psalms and Job. Moreover, Paul (Ro 11:35) and James (Jm 5:10-11) have referred to it in the New Testament as an inspiration for patience. This authenticates the book as part of the 66 books of the Bible. In essence, this book is essential and relevant to both the world and Christians. This is because the world can draw its valuable literary works from it while Christians utilize it as inspiration to persevere and continue doing good even in tough times (Harris 45).

Dating of the book

As it has been stated above, the Book of Job is the first of five poetic books in the Old Testament. In fact, it has been commonly referred to as wisdom literature due to its contributions to it. The dating of this book has been mysterious since no specific period is provided. However, some historians have placed it in Moses’s time (pre 1500 B.C.). On the other hand, others have placed it in Solomon’s time (ca. 900 B.C.). Still other scholars have placed it in Babylonian Exile’s time (post 600 B.C.).

In essence, there is no clear date provided for the Book of Job. However, it is necessary to note that there is enough proof to show that it was actually written during the time of Old Testament. This is because Paul quotes it in his letters to both the Romans (Ro 11:35, which relates to Job 41:11) and Corinthians (1Co 3:19, which relates to Job 5: 13).

These verses prove that Job is among the books of the Bible, which were inspired by God and written at various times in history. Therefore, even though the exact date is not available, it can be placed within a period in history in reflection of the possible author (Mitchel 14).

Given that the time of Job’s life is not written as well as the date when the book was created, it is also a guess on who wrote the book. Some scholars have suggested that Solomon wrote it, others consider that Moses and others credit it to Job. On the other hand, some authors have suggested that it was written by Elihu. Still some have suggested Hezekiah, Isaiah and Jeremiah’s scribe Baruch. These arguments are based on the time it was written.

However, it is also quite important to note that historical setting of the book as this helps to identify possible writers at that time. For instance, most scholars suggest that it took place during the time of patriarchs like Abraham. If this is the case, then it was written by Moses.

On the other hand, if it happened during the time of Solomon, then Solomon would be the most likely genuine writer. Similarly, if it happened during the Babylonian exile period, then Hezekiah would be suggested. In essence, its historical placing would most likely give the writer. However, it is important to note that the book was written for inspiration. Nonetheless, it does not indicate the author for reasons that are still unknown.

Type of literature

The Book of Job is known as a masterpiece of literature. In fact, in some columns, it is referred to as literary genius. This is because of the numerous literary works utilized in its production. For instance, it contains poetry, proverbs, narrative, laws, songs, wisdom, among others. Firstly, most parts of the book are written in a poetic form through the use of songs and cycles of speech.

These works are valuable as they emphasize the use of precious literary works in ancient period. In fact, the book is among those which are considered as poetic books in the bible. Also it includes the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs and Psalms. The other type of literature used in the book is wisdom. In fact, the book is sometimes referred as wisdom literature along with Ecclesiastes and Proverbs.

This is mainly because of the level of wisdom that is contained in the book as seen in Job’s character. The other literature type utilized is the use of a song. Job praises the Lord with songs and prayers in the book despite his sufferings. The third chapter presents Job’s poetic speeches in which he curses the day of his birth (Job 3:11‑23). This portrays poetry in the book (Most 1).

Purpose of the book

The Book of Job has a number of teachings. In fact, it brings to view the fact that life is not a free sailing even for Christians. Scholars have suggested several aims of the book. These include reasons why God allows the righteous sufferer to suffer and explain the importance of patience, true faith in God and remaining steadfast in God. However, the main aspects that are covered in this book relate to the reasons for suffering.

In essence, this book serves the purpose of asking on how righteous people should suffer. Throughout the book, it is quite evident that Job suffers without sinning. Moreover, he goes on to perseverance despite calamities and diseases brought upon him by Satan. This shows a true faith and perseverance as desired by Christians. In fact, James, the brother of the Lord, affirms this when he encourages Christians to follow the steps of Job (Jm 5:11).

In essence, the book portrays how righteousness is supposed to bare under sufferings. Most Christians usually think that sufferings only come as wages of sin. However, this is contradicted in the book. It therefore shows that righteousness is required even there is suffering. Moreover, Christians should understand that they might be called upon to pass through various temptations by the devil as a proof of their loyalty to God.

Several themes are portrayed in the Book of Job. These include the theme of perseverance, trust, punishment for sins and suffering for good, among others. The theme of perseverance is highlighted throughout the book through Job’s sufferings.

It is quite interesting to know that in spite of all sufferings that Job undergoes, he does not curse God but rather himself. Moreover, his friends and wife encourage him to curse God with telling him to repent of a sin they perceive him to have committed but Job remains steadfast in his service to God (Mitchel 26).

The theme of perseverance continues throughout the book in Job’s case. However, his wife gives up and even compels him to curse God and die. It can therefore be observed that various vessels such as Job’s wife and friends are utilized to counter the theme of perseverance. However, Job dismisses all of them and continues in his loyalty to God. In the end, Job’s perseverance is rewarded in double potion.

The theme of trust is portrayed by Job and his friends who believe in God’s ability to punish sin. This remains throughout the book. In addition, the theme of punishment for sin is elaborated by Job’s friends who perceive that he has sinned against God to suffer such calamities. However, the theme of perseverance takes its place as the main theme in the book. This is proved by James when he calls Job as a man of perseverance (Jm 5:11).

Academic issues of debate found among scholars

A number of issues have risen that divide scholars on the book. For instance, the historical placing of this book has been a big issue. While some scholars place it in the time of patriarchs, others have placed in the times of Solomon. On the other hand, some scholars have placed it in the times of Babylonian Exile. This shows the differences in placing its historical setting. However, it is important to note that most of them concur on its existence and as part of the Old Testaments.

This is mainly based on the way it was written, which resembles the other books of the Bible in introduction and conclusion. Other academic issues debated in the Book of Job include the purpose of the book. This is highly debatable because there are many purposes that could be drawn from the book. Among these are the need for perseverance, the trust in God, the ways of sufferings and others (Smith 213).

Religious use

The Book of Job has varied religious use. It has helped individuals know the tempter, Satan who works to find mistakes in God’s people. The book has various religious significances. These include its defense of absolute perfection and glory of God (1:9-11).

In fact, Job proves the Satan’s wrong in his submission to God as other Christians are expected to follow (1:20-22; 2:10). Throughout the book, Job refrains from cursing God even though he suffers great loss in possession, family and diseases. Moreover, he has no knowledge that he is under temptation.

This is proved in his admission that God gives and takes (Satan brought about all problems). The book also approves patience as a means of maintaining fidelity to God. Again, it prepares people for the coming of Christ (Job 9:33; 33:23). Furthermore, it answers man’s questions regarding suffering and its relations to both righteous and wicked people. It therefore has valuable religious teachings and use (Coogan 385)

Application today

This book is important to both Christians and the world. Christians gain valuable inspiration on perseverance and the rewards expected for maintaining fidelity to God. Christians are therefore taught to serve the Lord with absolute reverence, as this is essential in ensuring a full loyalty. Moreover, the blessings associated with fidelity are overwhelming as seen in Job’s blessing at the end of his sufferings.

The Book of Job also teaches Christians that life is not a free sailing. In fact, those who serve God faithfully are tried to be swayed away by the Satan. For instance, in Job’s case, he offered sacrifices on behalf of his family to cleanse them from sins. However, the Satan wanted to test his loyalty to God in different situations as well as in sickness. He triumphed against the Satan and God blessed him with double praise.

Today, Christians are encouraged to believe in Christ and love one another. In many occasions, the devil will tempt their resolve to love one another through arguments and malice among others. However, they are to show their fidelity by loving one another despite any conditions (Kraft 1).

The Book of Job is highly influential in Christians’ life. This is mainly because it encourages them to believe no matter what situations occur. This book is the first of five poetic books of the Bible. It contains valuable literature works that have amazed the world given the ancient origin. The book does not indicate its author or the time when it has been written. However, its historical evidence is confirmed in the New Testament. Moreover, Elihu is considered to be from the family of Ram, which is relevant in Abraham’s time.

The book portrays various types of literature and themes, which include wisdom, narratives, poetry, law and others. On the other hand, it includes belief in life after death, belief in the need for mediator (Christ), perseverance and trust and so on. Job trusted in God so much as to perseverance throughout all his afflictions. The book teaches Christians to persevere in both good and bad times. Moreover, it teaches people to conquer the reality of sufferings in the world with this faith irrespectively of being righteous or not (Copeland 1).

Works Cited

Coogan, Michael. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament . Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. Print.

Copeland, Mark. The Book of Job – A Study Guide . 2009. Web.

Harris, Stephen. Understanding the bible (7 th Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2003. Print.

Kraft, Robert. Job, from The holy Bible, King James version . 1995. Web.

Mitchel, Stephen. The Book of Job . New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 1992. Print.

Most, William. The Book of Job . 2003. Web.

Smith, James. What the Bible Teaches about the Promised Messiah . Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993. Print.

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  • 12 February 2024

The ‘Bill Gates problem’: do billionaire philanthropists skew global health research?

  • Andy Stirling 0

Andy Stirling is a professor of science and technology policy at the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, UK.

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Microsoft founder Bill Gates speaks during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January 2024.

Bill Gates and other wealthy individuals who spend vast sums on research often back some types of solution over others. Credit: Halil Sagirkaya/Anadolu/Getty

The Bill Gates Problem: Reckoning with the Myth of the Good Billionaire Tim Schwab Metropolitan Books (2023)

Global wealth, power and privilege are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few hyper-billionaires. Some, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, come across as generous philanthropists. But, as investigative journalist Tim Schwab shows in his latest book, charitable foundations led by billionaires that direct vast amounts of money towards a narrow range of selective ‘solutions’ might aggravate global health and other societal issues as much as they might alleviate them.

In The Bill Gates Problem , Schwab explores this concern compellingly with a focus on Gates, who co-founded the technology giant Microsoft in 1975 and set up the William H. Gates Foundation (now the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) in 1994. The foundation spends billions of dollars each year (US$7 billion in 2022) on global projects aimed at a range of challenges, from improving health outcomes to reducing poverty — with pledges totalling almost $80 billion since its inception.

Schwab offers a counterpoint to the prevailing popular narrative , pointing out how much of the ostensible generosity of philanthropists is effectively underwritten by taxpayers. In the United States, for example, 100,000 private foundations together control close to $1 trillion in assets. Yet up to three-quarters of these funds are offset against tax. US laws also require only sparse scrutiny of how charities spend this money.

book of job research paper

CRISPR-edited crops break new ground in Africa

Had that tax been retained, Schwab reasons, the government might have invested it in more diverse and accountable ways. Instead, the dispersal of these funds is being driven mainly by the personal interests of a handful of super-rich individuals. By entrenching particular pathways and sidelining others, philanthropy is restricting progress towards the global Sustainable Development Goals by limiting options (see also strings.org.uk ).

Many Gates foundation programmes are shaped and evaluated using data from the US Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), which was founded — and is lavishly funded — by the foundation. Schwab suggests that such arrangements could be considered conflicts of interest, because in-house ‘evaluations’ often tend to justify current projects. In the case of malaria, for instance, the numbers of bed nets distributed in tropical countries — a metric tracked by the IHME — can become a proxy for lives saved. Such circularity risks exaggerating the efficiency of programmes that aim to tackle high-profile diseases, including HIV/AIDS, potentially at the expense of other treatable conditions for which solutions might remain unexplored (see also Philip Stevens’s 2008 book Fighting the Diseases of Poverty ).

Limited scope

Similarly restricted views exist in other areas, too. In the energy sector, for instance, Gates flouts comparative performance trends to back exorbitantly expensive nuclear power instead of much more affordable, reliable and rapidly improving renewable sources and energy storage. In agriculture, grants tend to support corporate-controlled gene-modification programmes instead of promoting farmer-driven ecological farming, the use of open-source seeds or land reform. African expertise in many locally adapted staples is sidelined in favour of a few supposedly optimized transnational commodity crops.

Furthermore, the Gates foundation’s support for treatments that offer the best chances of accumulating returns on intellectual property risks eclipsing the development of preventive public-health solutions, Schwab notes. For example, the foundation promotes contraceptive implants that control women’s fertility, instead of methods that empower women to take control over their own bodies. Similarly, the foundation often backs for-profit, Internet-based education strategies rather than teacher-led initiatives that are guided by local communities.

Throughout its history, the Gates foundation’s emphasis on ‘accelerating’ innovations and ‘scaling up’ technologies, as noted on its website ( gatesfoundation.org ), obscures real-world uncertainties and complexities, and ignores the costs of lost opportunities. For example, Gates’s aim to eradicate polio is laudable. But pharma-based actions are slow — and can come at the expense of practical solutions for less ‘glamorous’ yet serious scourges, such as dirty water, air pollution or poor housing conditions.

A Kenyan health worker prepares to administer a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to her colleagues, Nairobi.

Transparency is scarce on whether charitable investments in vaccine companies might benefit philanthropists or their contacts. Credit: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty

Thus, by promoting interventions associated with the technological processes of extraction, concentration and accumulation that underpinned his own corporate success, Gates helps to tilt the playing field. His foundation tends to neglect strategies built on economic redistribution, institutional reform, cultural change or democratic renewal. Yet in areas such as public health, disaster resilience and education, respect for diverse strategies, multifaceted views, collective action and open accountability could be more effective than the type of technology-intensive, profit-oriented, competitive individualism that Gates favours.

Schwab traces the origins of this ‘Gates problem’ to the 1990s. At that time, he writes, Gates faced hearings in the US Congress that challenged anti-competitive practices at Microsoft and was lampooned as a “monopoly nerd” in the animated sitcom The Simpsons for his proclivity to buy out competitors. By setting up the Gates foundation, he pulled off a huge communications coup — rebranding himself from an archetypal acquisitive capitalist to an iconic planetary saviour by promoting stories of the foundation’s positive impact in the media.

book of job research paper

Genetic modification can improve crop yields — but stop overselling it

Yet since then, Schwab shows, Gates has pursued a charitable monopoly similar to the one he built in the corporate world. He has shown that in philanthropy — just as in business — concentrated power can manufacture ‘success’ by skewing news coverage, absorbing peers and neutralizing oversight. For instance, Schwab documents how the voices of some non-governmental organizations, academia and news media have been muted because they depend on Gates’s money. While dismissing “unhinged conspiracy theories” about Gates, he describes a phenomenon that concerned activists and researchers call the “Bill chill”. By micromanaging research and dictating methods of analysis, the foundation effectively forces scientists to go down one path — towards the results and conclusions that the charity might prefer.

These issues are exacerbated by Gates applying the same energy that he used in business to coax huge sums from other celebrity donors, which further concentrates the kinds of innovation that benefit from such funding. But Schwab has found that transparency is scarce on whether or how Gates’s private investments or those of his contacts might benefit from his philanthropy. Questions arise over the presence of people with personal ties to Gates or the foundation on the board of start-up companies funded by the charity, for example.

Bigger picture

One minor gripe with the book is that although Schwab excels in forensically recounting the specific circumstances of Gates’s charitable empire, he is less clear on the wider political forces at work or the alternative directions for transformation that have been potentially overlooked. Schwab often implies that Gates’s altruism is insincere and rightly critiques the entrepreneur’s self-serving “colonial mindset” (see, for example, S. Arora and A. Stirling Environ. Innov. Soc. Transit. 48 , 100733; 2023 ). But in this, Gates is a product of his circumstances. As Schwab writes, “the world needs Bill Gates’s money. But it doesn’t need Bill Gates”. Yet maybe the real problem lies less in the man than in the conditions that produced him. A similar ‘tech bro’ could easily replace Gates.

book of job research paper

The challenges facing scientists in the elimination of malaria

Perhaps what is most at issue here is not the romanticized intentions of a particular individual, but the general lack of recognition for more distributed and collective political agency. And more than any single person’s overblown ego, perhaps it is the global forces of appropriation, extraction and accumulation that drive the current hyper-billionaire surge that must be curbed (see also A. Stirling Energy Res. Soc. Sci. 58 , 101239; 2019 ).

Resolution of the Bill Gates problem might need a cultural transformation. Emphasis on equality, for instance, could be more enabling than billionaire-inspired idealizations of superiority. Respect for diversity might be preferable to philanthropic monopolies that dictate which options and values count. Precautionary humility can be more valuable than science-based technocratic hubris about ‘what works’. Flourishing could serve as a better guiding aim than corporate-shaped obsessions with growth. Caring actions towards fellow beings and Earth can be more progressive than urges to control. If so, Schwab’s excellent exposé of hyper-billionaire ‘myths’ could yet help to catalyse political murmurations towards these more collective ends.

Nature 626 , 477-479 (2024)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-024-00394-0

Competing Interests

The author declares no competing interests.

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Reproductive rights in America

Research at the heart of a federal case against the abortion pill has been retracted.

Selena Simmons-Duffin

Selena Simmons-Duffin

book of job research paper

The Supreme Court will hear the case against the abortion pill mifepristone on March 26. It's part of a two-drug regimen with misoprostol for abortions in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images hide caption

The Supreme Court will hear the case against the abortion pill mifepristone on March 26. It's part of a two-drug regimen with misoprostol for abortions in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

A scientific paper that raised concerns about the safety of the abortion pill mifepristone was retracted by its publisher this week. The study was cited three times by a federal judge who ruled against mifepristone last spring. That case, which could limit access to mifepristone throughout the country, will soon be heard in the Supreme Court.

The now retracted study used Medicaid claims data to track E.R. visits by patients in the month after having an abortion. The study found a much higher rate of complications than similar studies that have examined abortion safety.

Sage, the publisher of the journal, retracted the study on Monday along with two other papers, explaining in a statement that "expert reviewers found that the studies demonstrate a lack of scientific rigor that invalidates or renders unreliable the authors' conclusions."

It also noted that most of the authors on the paper worked for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of anti-abortion lobbying group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, and that one of the original peer reviewers had also worked for the Lozier Institute.

The Sage journal, Health Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology , published all three research articles, which are still available online along with the retraction notice. In an email to NPR, a spokesperson for Sage wrote that the process leading to the retractions "was thorough, fair, and careful."

The lead author on the paper, James Studnicki, fiercely defends his work. "Sage is targeting us because we have been successful for a long period of time," he says on a video posted online this week . He asserts that the retraction has "nothing to do with real science and has everything to do with a political assassination of science."

He says that because the study's findings have been cited in legal cases like the one challenging the abortion pill, "we have become visible – people are quoting us. And for that reason, we are dangerous, and for that reason, they want to cancel our work," Studnicki says in the video.

In an email to NPR, a spokesperson for the Charlotte Lozier Institute said that they "will be taking appropriate legal action."

Role in abortion pill legal case

Anti-abortion rights groups, including a group of doctors, sued the federal Food and Drug Administration in 2022 over the approval of mifepristone, which is part of a two-drug regimen used in most medication abortions. The pill has been on the market for over 20 years, and is used in more than half abortions nationally. The FDA stands by its research that finds adverse events from mifepristone are extremely rare.

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, the district court judge who initially ruled on the case, pointed to the now-retracted study to support the idea that the anti-abortion rights physicians suing the FDA had the right to do so. "The associations' members have standing because they allege adverse events from chemical abortion drugs can overwhelm the medical system and place 'enormous pressure and stress' on doctors during emergencies and complications," he wrote in his decision, citing Studnicki. He ruled that mifepristone should be pulled from the market nationwide, although his decision never took effect.

book of job research paper

Matthew Kacsmaryk at his confirmation hearing for the federal bench in 2017. AP hide caption

Matthew Kacsmaryk at his confirmation hearing for the federal bench in 2017.

Kacsmaryk is a Trump appointee who was a vocal abortion opponent before becoming a federal judge.

"I don't think he would view the retraction as delegitimizing the research," says Mary Ziegler , a law professor and expert on the legal history of abortion at U.C. Davis. "There's been so much polarization about what the reality of abortion is on the right that I'm not sure how much a retraction would affect his reasoning."

Ziegler also doubts the retractions will alter much in the Supreme Court case, given its conservative majority. "We've already seen, when it comes to abortion, that the court has a propensity to look at the views of experts that support the results it wants," she says. The decision that overturned Roe v. Wade is an example, she says. "The majority [opinion] relied pretty much exclusively on scholars with some ties to pro-life activism and didn't really cite anybody else even or really even acknowledge that there was a majority scholarly position or even that there was meaningful disagreement on the subject."

In the mifepristone case, "there's a lot of supposition and speculation" in the argument about who has standing to sue, she explains. "There's a probability that people will take mifepristone and then there's a probability that they'll get complications and then there's a probability that they'll get treatment in the E.R. and then there's a probability that they'll encounter physicians with certain objections to mifepristone. So the question is, if this [retraction] knocks out one leg of the stool, does that somehow affect how the court is going to view standing? I imagine not."

It's impossible to know who will win the Supreme Court case, but Ziegler thinks that this retraction probably won't sway the outcome either way. "If the court is skeptical of standing because of all these aforementioned weaknesses, this is just more fuel to that fire," she says. "It's not as if this were an airtight case for standing and this was a potentially game-changing development."

Oral arguments for the case, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA , are scheduled for March 26 at the Supreme Court. A decision is expected by summer. Mifepristone remains available while the legal process continues.

  • Abortion policy
  • abortion pill
  • judge matthew kacsmaryk
  • mifepristone
  • retractions
  • Abortion rights
  • Supreme Court


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