Job & His Comforters
Job is a discomforting book, for it deals with a very thorny question: the suffering of those who do not deserve to suffer. Job is portrayed as an eminently just man. He has fulfilled all of his responsibilities and more. He has offended in nothing. Indeed, Job has lived as the very embodiment of the ideals set forth in Israel’s “traditional wisdom,” as contained in the Book of Proverbs.
Well could Job expect, then, the happiness that the Book of Proverbs confidently held out to those who adhered to the dictates of Israel’s traditional wisdom. Instead, however, he is visited with all manner of evil, disgrace, humiliation, and suffering.
Various possible answers to Job’s questions are tried, weighed, and mostly found wanting. For this reason, the book may be described, like the Book of Ecclesiastes, as speculative. Its answers are tentative rather than definitive. Its mental map is not entirely filled in. Its themes are more probed than proved. It ends on the note of faith in God, but, like Ecclesiastes, it permits speculative thought to explore the darker, more mysterious dimensions of that faith.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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