The book of Job recalls his trials through serious afflictions (chapters 1-2) discussion with his friends about divine judgment (chapters 3-37), Hashem’s response (chapters 38-41), and Job’s restoration (chapter 42).
This article will answer these questions (linked to the question number) following the investigative method of reporting answering the above questions of:
This article will follow the pardes method of exposition (i.e. literal meaning, exegesis, hints and allusions, secrets of the Torah) drawing from scripture, Talmud, Midrash, and Zohar with related commentaries.
The reader may ask, “Who was Job and whether or not he was an Israelite? The book of Job begins (1:1), “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was sincere and upright, G-d-fearing and shunning evil.” Unlike other biblical narratives the book of Job does not indicate the father of Job, his brothers, or the names of his children. By contrast the Torah traces the genealogy of Abraham to Adam through 20 generations (Genesis 5:3-32 and 11:10-26), mentions the names of his brothers (ibid. 11:26), and the names of all of his sons (ibid. 16:15, 21:3, and 25:2). Hence the identity of Job is unclear at this point and will be examined in the sections of “When” and “Where”.
This omission of details implies that the story of Job’s sufferings and how he dealt with them is more important than the person himself. This omission also implies, unlike Abraham, that the offspring of Job are not biblically significant.
The book of Job does not indicate whether Job was an Israelite or a gentile. The Talmud (Bava Batra 15b) records a dispute about this matter. Both views agree that Job was a prophet and prophecy amongst gentiles ended with the passing of Moses. Hence the dispute centers on when Job lived before or after the passing of Moses as discussed in the section “When”.
The first two chapters of book of Job describe his losses of:
- Wealth (Job 1:14-17).
- Sons and daughters (ibid. 1:19).
- Health (bodily afflictions) (ibid. 2:7).
The verse (Job 1:3) relates the exceptional wealth of Job, “His livestock consisted of 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of cattle, and 500 she-donkeys. The man (Job) was greater than all the children of the East.” However he lost his great wealth in one day as the verses state:
1:14 – “The cattle were plowing and she-donkeys were grazing beside them.”
1:15 – “Sheba fell upon them and took them.”
1:16 – “A tremendous fire fell from heaven and burned the flocks.”
1:17 – “Chaldeans formed three bands, spread out on the camels, and took them.”
The verse (ibid. 1:2) relates that Job had 7 sons and 3 daughters and lost them in the same day as his wealth. The verse states:
1:19 – “A great wind … struck the four corners of the house and killed the youth (i.e. his sons and daughters – Rashi).”
The verses relate that Hashem granted permission to the Satan to afflict Job but not to kill him.
2:6 – “Hashem said to the Satan, “He (Job) is in your hands but preserve his life.”
2:7 – “Satan afflicted him (Job) with severe boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.”
2:8 – “Then Job took a potsherd to scratch himself. He then sat down in the midst of the ashes.”
This ends the trials of Job. The rest of the book of Job, except for its last chapter, deals with a discussion between Job and his friends about the profound topic of suffering and divine judgment.
However the last chapter of Job speaks of the restoration of Job’s life including:
- Wealth (Job 42:12).
- Sons and daughters (ibid. 42:13).
- Health (long life) (ibid. 42:16).
In fact the verses relate that Job had twice as much as before the trials (Job 42:10), down to the exact number of animals.
42:12 – “Hashem blessed Job’s end more than his beginning. He had 14,000 flocks of sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of cattle, and 1,000 she-donkeys.”
42:13 – “He had 14 sons and 3 daughters.”
The Talmud (Bava Bara 16b) notes that the number of sons doubled from 7 to 14 but the number of daughters remained at 3. The Talmud explains that although the increase in daughters was not in quantity it was in quality in terms of their exceptional beauty as the verse (Job 42:15) says, “Nowhere in the land were women as beautiful as Job’s daughters.”
42:16 – “After his trials Job lived for 140 years.”
Although the book of Job does not indicate the duration of his trials, the Mishna (Eduyot 2:9) states that his trials lasted for 12 months. In addition the Talmud (Bava Batra 15a) states that Job lived for 210 years. Rashi (ibid. 15b) explains that since Job received twice as much as bounty after the trials he must have lived 70 years beforehand.
Comparison to Abraham
By compare the tests of Abraham to the trials of Job one may answer the following questions:
- Why did Hashem test Job in this manner?
- How does Job compare to Abraham in his reverence towards Hashem and response to his trials?
The following table compares the afflictions of Job to the tests of Abraham.
Nature of Trial
The Torah uses the word נסה for Abraham’s final test (Genesis 22:1). By contrast Job and his family were afflicted. Hence the Talmud (Bava Batra 15b) uses the word יסורין (afflictions) which implies loss of life or bodily ailments.
As mentioned above, Job suffered material and bodily afflictions. By contrast Abraham did not suffer any of these afflictions. In addition after some of the tests Hashem blessed Abraham with prosperity and posterity.
In the case of Job, Satan was the originator of the trials with Hashem’s permission. In fact the Hebrew word “השטן (the Satan)” occurs 16 times in scripture and 14 of them are in the first two chapters of the book of Job. Although the word Satan or the words ‘the Satan” do not occur at all in the Pentateuch, the Hebrew word לשטן (to prevent) occurs twice in the Pentateuch (Numbers 22:22 and 32) in reference to preventing Balaam from cursing the Israelites. However in both cases the verse mentions the angel of Hashem as the preventer. By contrast the Torah uses different divine names for the tests of Abraham but never Satan.
Abraham was tested over a period of 100 years starting from his youth and culminating at the Akeidah thereby accumulating much merit. By contrast Job was only tested over a year because Hashem realized that he could not withstand a longer set of tests.
Some of Abraham’s tests involved kings (e.g. Pharaoh, King of Sodom, and Avimelech) indicating that his tests would influence world leaders. By contrast Job was the victim of marauding armies (e.g. Sheba and Chaldeans) and his afflictions were personal thereby indicating the respective differences in their missions (i.e. world level and personal).
The Talmud draws a contrast between Abraham and Job in that both were tested by Hashem. Abraham did not complain to Hashem (Bava Batra 15b) and therefore was rewarded both in this world with wealth and long life and the world to come. By contrast the Talmud notes that Job complained about his trials and therefore was primarily rewarded in this world (e.g. wealth, long life, and offspring) but to a lesser extent in the world to come. Using this discussion the questions raised above may be answered as follows:
- In the opinion of the author Hashem tested Job in a severe manner as a result of strict divine justice in which Job did not reach his potential as discussed in the following section “When”.
- Since Job did not accept his suffering with complete acceptance he missed an opportunity to be fully rewarded in the world to come and provide a spiritual legacy for his descendants. By contrast Abraham accepted his trials with love and achieved posterity as the father of the Israelites. However the offspring of Job are not distinguished in the bible.
Since the book of Job does not provide a clear indication when Job lived, there are many opinions in the Talmud (Bava Batra 15a-b) and Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 57:4) covering a range of over 1,000 years. Both sources attempt to place Job in different contexts based upon word or concept association. In fact with such a multiplicity of opinions the Talmud records a view that perhaps the book of Job is not literal but rather a parable to understand divine justice. The Talmud (Bava Batra 15a) rejects this approach because the book of Job specifically mentions his name and country indicating that the narrative is literal. By contrast Maimonides (Guide for the Perplexed 3:12) accepts that the book of Job is a parable. The following table lists the different times, in chronological order, when Job may have lived including the source from the Talmud (Bava Batra 15a-b) or Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 57:4) and associated verses.
|Genesis 22:21, Job 1:1
|Genesis 34:7, Job 2:10
|Ruth 1:1, Job 27:12
|1 Kings 10:1-13, Job 1:15
|Esther 2:3, Job 42:15
Time of Abraham
The Midrash (ibid.) links Genesis 22:21 (i.e. the name of Uz) to Job 1:1 (i.e. Uz the country of Job) and thereby identifies Job as Abraham’s nephew:
Genesis 22:21 – “Uz, was the first born (of Nahor, Abraham’s brother).”
Job 1:1 – “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job.”
This approach directly links the name of Job to his country and establishes a connection to Abraham.
Time of Jacob
Both the Talmud and Midrash link Genesis 34:7 and Job 2:10, through an association of the word “disgraceful” to place Job in the time of Jacob. In fact both sources, state that Job married Jacob’s daughter Dinah who was raped by Shechem (Genesis 34:2). The verses follow:
Genesis 34:7 – “Jacob’s sons had come from the field when they heard (of the rape). They were grieved … because he (Shechem) had committed a disgraceful act in Israel, to lie with a daughter of Jacob and such ought not to be done.”
Job 2:9 – “Then (after suffering from the boils) his wife (Dinah) said to him: Do you still maintain your sincerity? Blaspheme (Bless) ברך G-d and die!”
Job 2:10 – “He (Job) said to her, “You talk as one of the disgraceful women. Shall we only accept the good from G-d, and not accept the (apparent) bad?”
Appendix 1 analyzes the advice of Dinah whether to bless or blaspheme.
Time of Moses
Both the Talmud and Midrash find a number of indications to link Job to the time of Moses as shown in the following table which lists the event and citation from the Talmud and Midrash where applicable. Some of these indications also provide a rationale for the suffering of Job as will be explained.
|Advisor to Pharaoh
|Exodus Rabbah 1:9
|Plague of Hail
|Exodus Rabbah 12:2
|Crossing Sea of Reeds
|Exodus Rabbah 21:7
|Protector of Canaan
|Bava Batra 15a
|Authorship of Job
|Bava Batra 15a
Advisor to Pharaoh
Both the Talmud and Midrash relate that Job was one of 3 advisors to Pharaoh. Balaam advised Pharaoh to kill the male babies of the Israelites, Job remained silent, and Jethro advised Pharaoh to leave the Israelites alone. Jethro fled afterwards because the majority was against him. Since Job did not protest he was punished with afflictions. If he had protested then there would have been a majority of advisors (i.e. Job and Jethro) against harming the Israelites which might have altered Pharaoh’s plans. In addition the Zohar (2:33a) states that Job suggested, as a lesser of evils, that Pharaoh confiscate their possessions and enslave the Israelites. In turn Job was punished, measure for measure (Sotah 8b), with loss of his wealth and bodily afflictions.
Plague of Hail
The verse (Exodus 9:20) states, “He of Pharaoh’s servants, who revered the word of Hashem, drove his servants and his livestock into their houses” to protect them from the plague of hail. The Midrash (Exodus Rabbah 12:2) comments that Job was one of Pharaoh’s servants who revered Hashem as the verse relates (Job 1:1), “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was sincere and upright, revered G-d and shunned evil.” It is instructive to note that Job revered the word of Hashem and trusted the prediction of Moses, “Gather in your livestock and all that you have in the field because any man or beast that is found in the field and not brought into a house will die from the hail (Exodus 9:19).” However Job did not make any effort to join Moses to seek freedom for the Israelites.
Crossing Sea of Reeds
The Midrash (Exodus Rabbah 21:7) relates that Samael, the angel of negative forces, complained to Hashem when the Israelites left Egypt. He stated that the Israelites were not worthy of redemption nor the miracle of splitting of the Sea of Reeds because they had worshipped idols in Egypt. Hashem answered Samael by permitting Satan to afflict Job.
The Midrash explains that as long as the Satan was preoccupied with Job he would leave the Israelites alone. The Midrash draws an analogy to a shepherd who must bring his flock across a river while under attack from a wolf. The shepherd offers a strong male goat to distract the wolf. In the meantime the shepherd brings his flock across the river and then rescues the goat from the wolf. In this parable the shepherd is Hashem; the flock corresponds to the Israelites; the strong goat represents Job, and the wolf corresponds to Satan.
If the parable is taken literally the reader may ask, “Why was Job made the victim (in the vernacular the fall guy) to compensate for the weakness of the Israelites?” The answer is that this Midrash should not be interpreted in a literal fashion and must be compared to other sources in the Midrash. As discussed above, Job may have suffered his afflictions for his role as an advisor to Pharaoh and especially according to the Zohar that he suggested slavery for the Israelites. Hence this Midrash emphasizes that Hashem should not judge the Israelites harshly because they kept their faith in redemption from Egypt (Exodus 4:31), despite many years of hardship. By contrast Job complained about his afflictions and wished that he was not born (Job 3:2-3). Hence the parable of the goat deflecting the wolf to protect the flock means that Hashem took into account the extenuating circumstances of slavery and did not judge the Israelites harshly and split the Sea of Reeds.
Protector of Canaan
The Talmud (Bava Batra 15a) also places Job at the time of Moses sending 12 spies to the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:1-20). The Talmud (ibid.) finds an allusion to Job through a word and concept association. Moses asked the spies (Numbers 13:20) to see if there are tall trees in Israel which, by allusion, refers to Job’s long life and protection of his people. In addition the Hebrew word for trees (עצים) is similar to the land of Uz (עוץ) where Job lived. Furthermore the Torah uses the singular form for tree (עץ) instead of plural to allude to Job. According to this view Job died at when the spies were sent and the inhabitants of the land were preoccupied with his funeral and eulogies. Consequently the spies were free to roam the land without drawing attention from the people (Sotah 35a).
Authorship of Job
The Talmud (Bava Batra 15a) states that Moses authored the book of Job. Although Moses was a prophet and could write about future events it is reasonable to assume that he wrote about his contemporaries. In addition, the Talmud (ibid.) finds an allusion to Moses in Job 19:23, “Would אפו my words be written; would that they were inscribed (ויחקו) in a book!” Both of these words albeit in slightly different forms apply to Moses (i.e. Exodus 33:16 – אפוא and Deuteronomy 33:21 – מחקק.) Although each of these words applies to other biblical personalities, Moses and Job are unique in scripture that both of the words relate to them.
Time of Judges
Both the Talmud and Midrash consider the possibility that Job lived at the time of the Judges, specifically at the time of Ruth. Job answers to his colleagues (Job 27:12), “Behold all of you have seen; now why have became vain (תהבלו)?” The Talmud (Bava Batra 15b) compares this verse to Ruth 1:1, “It came to pass in the days when the judges judged.” The Talmud (ibid.) comments that that there were was a general laxity in society. Hence the judges were judged by the people because of their corruption hence the apparent redundancy “judges judged.” Both the Talmud (ibid.) and Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 57:4) mention that this generation was steeped in immorality by hiring harlots and Job refrained from such activity. In this vein Job may have been a moral person compared to his generation but not compared to other biblical personalities.
Time of King Solomon
Both the Talmud (ibid.) and Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 57:4) mention the possibility that Job lived at the time of the Queen of Sheba by quoting Job 1:15 “Sheba fell upon them (cattle and female donkeys) and took them, and they slew the youths by the sword, and only I (messenger) alone escaped to tell you.” These sources imply a connection to Sheba as mentioned in 1 Kings 10:1-13). Verse 1 of this chapter relates, “When the Queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame … she came to test him with riddles.” Although there is a discussion in the Talmud whether the ruler of Sheba was male or female, the Maharsha (on Bava Batra 15b) points out that the verbs in Job 1:15 related to Sheba are in female form.
Time of Babylonian Empire
Both the Talmud (ibid.) and Midrash (ibid.) mention the possibility that Job lived at the time of the Babylonian Empire by quoting Job 1:17, “Another one came and said: Chaldeans (Babylonians) formed three bands, spread out on the camels, took them, slew the youths with the sword, and only I (messenger) alone escaped to tell you.” Neither the Talmud nor the Midrash provides a supporting verse for the Chaldeans. However Rashi (on Bava Batra 15b) explains that the Chaldeans refer to the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar.
Time of Persian Empire
Both the Talmud (ibid.) and Midrash (ibid.) mention the possibility that Job lived at the time of the Persian Empire (i.e. Ahasuerus) by quoting Esther 2:3 and Job 42:15 in reference to finding beautiful women. The verses follow:
Esther 2:2 – “(After the death of Vashti), the king’s young men … said: Let them seek for the king young women of comely appearance.”
Job 42:15 – “Nowhere in the land were women as beautiful as Job’s daughters to be found.”
Neither the Talmud nor Midrash explains the significance of Job living in the reign of different kings (i.e. Solomon, Nebuchadnezzar, and Ahasuerus). In the opinion of the author, scripture emphasizes that although Job shunned evil he did not participate fully in the history of the Israelites. While the queen of Sheba acknowledged the greatness of Solomon scripture does not mention any contact between Job and King Solomon. During the Babylonian empire the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel were active to both warn and console the Israelites without any mention of Job. Similarly during the reign of King Ahasuerus Esther and Mordechai saved the Israelites without any mention of Job.
The reader may ask, “How is one to understand that the identity of Job spans over 1,000 years, from the time of Abraham to the beginning of the second temple?” In the opinion of the author the actual identity of Job is not the main point. There may have been several individuals who played the role of a Job in addition to the actual Job recorded in his book. Rather the sages of the Talmud and Midrash identified critical points in the history of the Israelites which required moral and inspired leadership which Job did not provide.
The book of Job begins (1:1), “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job.” The commentators on the book of Job deal with the question, “Where is Uz?” By answering this question we may obtain a clue about Job’s identity or his contemporaries. The name “Uz” (whether a person or land) is only mentioned 6 times in scripture with one reference (1 Chronicles 1:42) a repeat of a verse in Genesis (36:28). Using these 6 references the land of Uz is either in:
- Aram (modern day Syria) Rashi on Job 1:1.
- Edom (modern day Jordan) Ibn Ezra on Job 1:1.
The Torah mentions Uz in reference to Aram in Genesis 10:23 and 22:21 as follows:
10:23 – “The sons of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash.
22:21 – “Uz, his first born, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel, the father of Aram.”
Shem, son of Noah and progenitor of Semitic peoples, was the father of Aram. The former verse lists the sons of Aram including Uz and presumably the land of Aram is named after him. The latter verse lists the sons of Nahor, brother of Abraham, meaning that Uz was a nephew of Abraham. Rashi (Job 1:1) identifies the land of Uz with Uz who lived in Aram because Nahor also lived in Aram (Genesis 24:10).
Scripture mentions Uz in reference to Edom in Genesis 36:28 and Lamentations 4:23 as follows:
36:28 – “Uz and Aran are the sons of Dishan.
4:21 – “Rejoice … daughter of Edom, who dwells in the land of Uz. (However) upon you also the cup of retribution shall pass.”
The former verse lists the sons of Dishan who lived in Edom (previously called Seir) before Esau captured this land. Hence we see a connection between Uz and Edom. The latter verse clearly links Uz to Edom. The verse (Job 1:3) states that Job lived in the east of Israel, “The man (Job) was greater than all the children of the East.” Hence both explanations are plausible because Aram is northeast of Israel and Edom is southeast of Israel. However neither location provides compelling clues to the identity of Job and the reason for his trials.
The book of Job does not provide a reason for his intense suffering, perplexing many about divine judgment (i.e. theodicy). In addition the reader may ask, “Why did Hashem test Job in such a harsh manner?” Both the Talmud and Midrash discuss a number of factors as follows:
- Righteous Judged at a Higher Standard
- Comparison to Abraham (Bava Batra 15b-16a)
- Deflect additional tests of Abraham (Genesis Rabbah 57:4).
- Advisor to Pharaoh
- Comparison to Israelites.
Righteous Judged at a Higher Standard
The Talmud (Yevamot 121a and Bava Kamma 50a) states that Hashem judges the righteous at a higher standard, literally exacting to a hairsbreadth, so that even minor transgressions elicit a severe punishment. The commentators on the Talmud explain that the righteous are role models, therefore Hashem and people expect more from them. Job is called (Job 1:8), “None like him (Job) on earth, a sincere and upright man, G-d fearing and shunning evil.” The Targum on this verse comments that none were like him amongst the gentiles implying that among the Israelites there were greater. In the opinion of the author, the verse means that Job could have been the greatest in his generation, hence the higher standard of judgment. In addition the Maharsha (Yevamot 121b) explains that Hashem may judge the righteous at a higher standard meaning that they may suffer in this world to atone for any sins or failings to receive a greater reward in the world to come. However Job failed to reach this objective because the Talmud states (Bava Batra 15b) that after Hashem brought afflictions upon Job he began to blaspheme and curse. Therefore Hashem doubled his reward in this world in order to reduce his reward in the world to come. Although the Talmud states that Hashem drove him from the world to come, the Maharsha explains that “drove him” means from the great reward he should have received. Nevertheless he did receive a share in the world to come because Job is not included amongst the 4 commoners who lost their share in the world to come (Sanhedrin 90a).
Comparison to Abraham
The Talmud (Bava Batra 15b) explains that Hashem selected Job for suffering as an example of a moral individual who did not completely pass his test. The Talmud (ibid.) actually compares Job to Abraham and relates, “That which scripture says about Job is greater than that of Abraham. With regard to Abraham it is written: For now I know that you fear G-d” (Genesis 22:12). By contrast with regard to Job it is written: A complete and upright man, who fears G-d and turns away from evil (Job 1:8).” Maharsha (ibid.) comments that only what is written in the verse indicates that Job was greater than Abraham but in reality Abraham was unique as the verse states (Ezekiel 33:24), “Abraham was one (unique) and he inherited the land (of Israel).”
In the opinion of the author, the verse in Job indicates Job’s great potential but he failed to realize this potential as the Talmud relates (Bava Batra 16a), “Satan said before Hashem: Master of the Universe, I have gone to and fro across the entire world and have not found anyone as faithful as your servant Abraham, to whom You said: Arise, walk through the land (of Israel … for I will give it to you” (Genesis 13:17). However when he wanted to bury Sarah, he could not find a place to bury her, and yet he did not criticize Your (divine) ways, or accuse You of having failed to keep Your promise.” The Talmud (Bava Batra 16a) adds that by Satan testing Job, the merit of Abraham is increased because the latter withstood his tests and thereby transferring merit to his descendants.
The Talmud (Sotah 27b and 31a) records a dispute whether Job served Hashem out of fear of punishment or out of love. The latter opinion quotes Job 13:15, “Were He (Hashem) to kill me, I will yearn for Him.” The former opinion notes that the word for “Him” in Hebrew is generally spelt לו. However in this verse it is spelt לא meaning “no”, implying that Job would not yearn for Hashem because of his trials. (In many places in scripture there is a difference in the way a Hebrew word is written and pronounced. The literal meaning follows the pronunciation but the exegetical meaning may also follow the spelling of the word, otherwise why did scripture write the word with a different pronunciation?) In view of this ambiguity the latter opinion quotes Job 27:5, “Until I (Job) die, I will not give up my devotion (literally wholeheartedness).” However the former opinion is not satisfied with this verse because Job is never described as loving Hashem. By contrast Isaiah (41:8) states that Abraham served Hashem with love.
The former opinion states that since Job may be compared to Abraham in his fear of Hashem, through similar wording of Job 1:1 and Genesis 22:12 respectively, he may also be compared to Abraham in his love of Hashem. However since the book of Job does not mention his love of Hashem explicitly, Abraham’s love of Hashem was more intense. In addition Abraham served Hashem with action even prepared to offer his son to Hashem. By contrast Job through his trials did not offer anything to Hashem. The verses follow:
Job 1:1 – “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. This man was wholesome and upright, G-d-fearing and shunning evil.
Genesis 22:12 – “The angel said to Abraham for now I know that you are a G-d fearing man since you did not withhold your son … from Me (divine).”
Deflect Additional Tests
The Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 56:11) writes that after the Akeidah, Abraham asked Hashem to promise that He would no longer test him. Hashem agreed to this request because Abraham had successfully passed all of his 10 tests. However if there was a need for strict justice in the world Hashem would test another righteous person, namely Job. (This view holds that Job lived in the time of Abraham based upon Genesis 22:21.)
Advisor to Pharaoh
As discussed above, both the Talmud (Sotah 11a) and Midrash (Exodus Rabbah 1:9) relate that Job was one of 3 advisors to Pharaoh. Balaam advised Pharaoh to kill the male babies of the Israelites, Job remained silent, and Jethro advised Pharaoh to leave the Israelites alone. Jethro fled afterwards because the majority was against him. Since Job did not protest he was punished with afflictions. If he had protested then there would have been a majority of advisors (i.e. Job and Jethro) against harming the Israelites which might have altered Pharaoh’s plans. In addition the Zohar (2:33a) states that Job suggested, as a lesser of evils, that Pharaoh confiscate their possessions and enslave the Israelites. In turn Job was punished, measure for measure (Sotah 8b), with loss of his wealth and bodily afflictions. This factor is the most compelling to explain Job’s suffering because an otherwise moral person failed to jeopardize his position to defend others. In this sense Rabbi Yosef Chaim, leading scholar of Bagdad in the 19th century, writes in his commentary on the Talmud (Ben Yehoyada Bava Batra 16a) that Job, to a certain extent, became an enemy of the Israelites through an allusion to his name איוב. By permuting the letters, one obtains the Hebrew word enemy אויב. It is interesting to note that the first time this word occurs in the Torah, which sets a connotation of the word, is in the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:6), “Your right hand, Hashem, crushes the enemy אויב.”
Comparison to Israelites
The Midrash (Exodus Rabbah 21:7) relates that when the Israelites left Egypt, Samael the angel of negative forces complained to Hashem. He stated that the Israelites were not worthy of redemption nor the miracle of splitting of the Sea of Reeds because they has worshipped idols in Egypt and abandoned circumcision (Exodus Rabbah 1:8). Hashem answered Samael by permitting Satan to afflict Job because, as an advisor to Pharaoh, he did not protest the enslavement of the Israelites. Moreover according to the Zohar he suggested this enslavement. (This view holds that Job lived at the time of the exodus from Egypt.)
The Midrash explains that as long as the Satan was preoccupied with Job he would leave the Israelites alone as explained above. The reader may ask, “Why was Job made the victim (in the vernacular the fall guy) to compensate for the weakness of the Israelites?” The answer is that, Job may have suffered his afflictions for his role as an advisor to Pharaoh and especially according to the Zohar that he suggested slavery for the Israelites. Hence Job bears a moral responsibility for failings of the Israelites. In comparison to Job who complained about his afflictions, the Israelites maintained their faith in Hashem.
The Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 57:4) compares this deflection to:
- Wolves attacking a flock of sheep.
- Dog barking at a feast.
The Midrash compares Job to a sacrificial goat where a shepherd will offer a goat to protect his flock from an attacking wolf. In this case when the forces of strict justice (i.e. wolf) demand action a righteous person may have to bear the responsibility of the generation especially when he did not influence them to change their ways.
The Midrash also compares Job to a barking dog who wants to eat something from a royal banquet. The king orders his servants to give the dog some bread to pacify him. In this case the forces of strict justice are compared to a dog and Job to a mere loaf of bread.
This article examined the trials of Job from different perspectives to explain the purpose of these trials. However the examination of the identity of Job (whether Israelite or gentile), the era in which he lived, and location of his dwelling are somewhat inconclusive due to lack of definitive information. However the trials he endured (i.e. loss of property, children, and health) are clearly mentioned in scripture.
In the opinion of the author job suffered these severe trials as a result of not realizing his potential and possibly for his failing to save the Israelites as an advisor to Pharaoh. This article also compared the trials of Job to those of Abraham and the resulting consequences to indicate that Job missed an opportunity to attain great merit for himself and his descendants as the Talmud (Berachot 7a) asks, “Why do some righteous suffer in this world?” The Talmud answers (according to one opinion), “The righteous who suffers is not completely righteous either in actuality or due to missed potential.”
Hence we learn from Job the importance of accepting the trials of life and the resulting reward both in this world and the world to come.
Appendix 1 -Bless or Blaspheme
The Hebrew word ברך may mean blaspheme or bless depending upon its context. In a literal sense it means bless and this meaning applies when Hashem is the subject of the verb. However when a person is the subject and Hashem the object, then the meaning may be literal (i.e. bless) or euphemistic (i.e. blaspheme). The author will explain the verses according to both meanings.
According to this approach, Dinah advised Job to praise (Malbim on Job 2:9) or acknowledge Hashem (Chidushei Hagonim on Bava Batra 15b). The Talmud advises (Berachot 54a), “One recites a blessing for the (apparent) bad that befalls him just as he does for the good (because all is from Hashem for the ultimate good whether in this world or the world to come).
It seems surprising that Dinah the daughter of Jacob would advise her husband to blaspheme Hashem and then die. Dinah adopted a fatalistic stance, thinking that it would be better for Job to die early and not endure additional pain fearing that he might abandon Hashem completely. According to either approach, Job told his wife that eventually the afflictions would come to an end. Therefore he must wait for this time and pray to Hashem. Hence he criticized his wife as one of the disgraceful women. In the opinion of the author Dinah may have been traumatized by her rape and was pessimistic about life. Hence her reaction was negative according to both interpretations of the word ברך.