Study Guide

Book of Job Quotes

  • Death

    He said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.' (NRSV 1.21)

    And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. (KJV 1.21)

    Sound familiar? This is a pretty famous quote right here—you've probably heard it more like it appears in the King James version: "the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away." Why do people say that so much? Well, because it's one of life's Big Questions. If the Lord has the power to give, why does he, um, taketh away?

    But Job doesn't ask that question—he just throws it out there as a statement: hey, it happens. Wait, what? It happens? His entire family just died, and he doesn't make a peep. When does he start to pipe up? Once the wrath of God starts to affect him physically. You'd think the death of his family would do it, but no, it's those pesky sores.

    'Why did I not die at birth,
    come forth from the womb and expire?
    Why were there knees to receive me,
    or breasts for me to suck?
    Now I would be lying down and quiet;
    I would be asleep; then I would be at rest
    with kings and counsellors of the earth
    who rebuild ruins for themselves' (NRSV 3:11-14)

    Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?
    Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck?
    For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest,
    With kings and counsellors of the earth, which build desolate places for themselves; (KJV 3:11-14)

    How's that for depressing? Well, at least death gets a nice review. If you die, you get to hang out with kings and get a good night's sleep. Not too shabby.

    At this point, Job's life is so horrible and painful that he starts to wonder what things would be like on the other side. Let's be honest—we could slap this in the middle of a Shakespeare play and no one would know the difference.

    'Can mortals be righteous before God?
    Can human beings be pure before their Maker?
    Even in his servants he puts no trust,
    and his angels he charges with error;
    how much more those who live in houses of clay,
    whose foundation is in the dust,
    who are crushed like a moth.
    Between morning and evening they are destroyed;
    they perish for ever without any regarding it.' (NRSV 4:17-20)

    Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker?
    Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly:
    How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth?
    They are destroyed from morning to evening: they perish for ever without any regarding it. (KJV 4:17-20)

    This is humans we're talking about here. That's right. Those people who are destroyed and "perish for ever without any regarding it"? That's us. Enemies of God may get the worst of it, but according to this passage, we all go back to dust. Hmmm.

    'so that I would choose strangling
    and death rather than this body.
    I loathe my life; I would not live for ever.
    Let me alone, for my days are a breath.
    What are human beings, that you make so much of them,
    that you set your mind on them,
    visit them every morning,
    test them every moment?
    Will you not look away from me for a while,
    let me alone until I swallow my spittle?
    If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of humanity?
    Why have you made me your target?
    Why have I become a burden to you?
    Why do you not pardon my transgression
    and take away my iniquity?
    For now I shall lie in the earth;
    you will seek me, but I shall not be.' (NRSV 7:15-21)

    So that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life.
    I loathe it; I would not live always: let me alone; for my days are vanity.
    What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?
    And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?
    How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?
    I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself?
    And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away my iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be. (KJV 7:15-21)

    Job makes the case here that death will hide him. After the whole nasty sores fiasco, he would choose death over existing in this pain and humiliation.

    This passage highlights one of the Book of Job's best style choices: rhetorical questions. These characters are all about asking questions to get their listeners thinking—they don't really want an answer. In fact, there usually isn't an answer.

    This time, Job is arguing that by the rules of that logic, God shouldn't be punishing him. Later on, we'll see that God uses this same strategy, but expands the scale of the questions.

    'It is all one; therefore I say,
    he destroys both the blameless and the wicked.
    When disaster brings sudden death,
    he mocks at the calamity of the innocent.' (NRSV 9:22-23)

    This is one thing, therefore I said it, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.
    If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent. (KJV 9:22-23)

    Everyone dies, but God survives…to laugh? What do you think of how God is portrayed here? Does God himself address these questions in his speech? What about in the frame story?

    'Remember that you fashioned me like clay;
    and will you turn me to dust again?' (NRSV 10:9)

    Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again? (KJV 10:9)

    Dust is a certainty—Job understands that. But if God is going to kill Job off, Job thinks he deserves an explanation first.

    'For there is hope for a tree,
    if it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
    and that its shoots will not cease.
    Though its root grows old in the earth,
    and its stump dies in the ground,
    yet at the scent of water it will bud
    and put forth branches like a young plant.
    But mortals die, and are laid low;
    humans expire, and where are they?
    As waters fail from a lake,
    and a river wastes away and dries up,
    so mortals lie down and do not rise again;
    until the heavens are no more, they will not awake
    or be roused out of their sleep.' (NRSV 14:7-12)

    For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.
    Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground;
    Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.
    But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?
    As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up:
    So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. (KJV 14:7-12)

    Nature has a chance of re-forming itself after a catastrophe, but humans are stuck. Once they're dead, they're dead. And to top it off, humans have the ability to think. Well, most of us, at least. According to Job, that means we should get an explanation for the whole process. God was the one who gave us the power of thought to begin with, right?

    'It is hidden from the eyes of all living,
    and concealed from the birds of the air.
    Abaddon and Death say,
    "We have heard a rumour of it with our ears.' (NRSV 28:21-22)

    Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air.
    Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears. (KJV 28:21-22)

    This is from the "where is wisdom" passage. Wisdom here is elusive even to death. This is because the speaker wants us to know that God himself holds all the cards and all the keys—wisdom can only be found by exploring his works in the world and remembering our powerlessness. Death itself has no wisdom because it cannot envision the whole of life, just the end of it.

  • Loyalty to God

    Then Satan answered the Lord, 'Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.' (NRSV 1:10)

    Then Satan answered the Lord and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. (KJV 1:9-10)

    Well of course Job is a stand-up guy. He has everything he could ever want. Satan's pretty sure that Job's loyalty is dependent on God' favors. Take that fence and house—and hey, his entire family, while you're at it—and maybe he wouldn't be so loyal.

    This is already starting to look like the cynical Satan we know in modern culture, assuming that humans respond only to material motivations.

    But he said to her, 'You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?' In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (NRSV 2:10)

    But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. (KJV 2:10)

    First, let's just get this one out of the way: Job called his wife a foolish woman. We all heard it. We urge you to think about what this means for Job's personal life, but here we're focused on the whole loyalty-to-God issue, so let's get down to it.

    Why didn't the author just say "In all this Job did not sin"? Why the added "with his lips"? Well, thoughtful readers, it probably implies that Job was sinning—just not out loud. There's a big difference between thinking something and saying it, right? Either way, we're pretty sure this is where doubt first starts to sneak into Job's mind.

    'How happy is the one whom God reproves;
    therefore do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.' (NRSV 5:17)

    Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: (KJV 5:17)

    Tough love is the name of the game. If God disciplines you, at least it means he's there, right? Don't forget: your average Israelite would have expected evidence for God. These writers answered that call by saying, "You want evidence? Well, here he is, punishing the best of the best."

    'For you shall be in league with the stones of the field,
    and the wild animals shall be at peace with you.' (NRSV 5:23)

    For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee. (KJV 5:23)

    This verse forms part of a long list of why we should be thankful for God. Bottom line: he'll protect us when things get messy. In this case, divine loyalty is linked with safety in the natural world. It makes sense, too. If you were a shepherd—which was likely back then—safety from wild animals would huge.

    'See, God will not reject a blameless person,
    nor take the hand of evildoers.
    He will yet fill your mouth with laughter,
    and your lips with shouts of joy.
    Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
    and the tent of the wicked will be no more.' (NRSV 8:20-23)

    Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evil doers:
    Till he fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing.
    They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame; and the dwelling place of the wicked shall come to nought. (KJV 8:20-23)

    Seems like the whole stinkin' world is divided into Lakers fans and Celtics fan—and you know whose side God is on, right? But seriously, the text is promising a lot here. Seems like if you're on the right team, you get free stuff. We're talking SWAG galore. Sounds great, but what effect would this have had on Job? He had probably heard this speech at some point in his life before he lost everything….

    'If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away,
    and do not let wickedness reside in your tents.
    Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish;
    you will be secure, and will not fear.
    You will forget your misery;
    you will remember it as waters that have passed away.' (NRSV 11:14-16)

    If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles.
    For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear:
    Because thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away. (KJV 11:14-16)

    Zophar is giving Job a major dose of "this too shall pass." It's a little less gentle, though. More like this: "Dude, you must have messed up. People who renounce their sins do fine, so why don't you just say you sinned? You must have. Just do it."

    Here's the best part: when you renounce your evil ways, you get to live in peace with nature—and its metaphors.

    'If I have rejoiced at the ruin of those who hated me,
    or exulted when evil overtook them—
    I have not let my mouth sin
    by asking for their lives with a curse. (NRSV 31:29-30)

    If I rejoice at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him:
    Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul. (KJV 31:29-30)

    Remember the whole "Job did not sin with his lips" thing (2:10)? Here it comes again. Job is trying to clear his name with his friends, but these guys might thing that by asking questions, he's done the deed. Curious about this? Head on over to our discussion of faith perspectives for more.

  • Pain and Suffering

    One day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the eldest brother's house, a messenger came to Job and said, 'The oxen were ploughing and the donkeys were feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell on them and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.' While he was still speaking, another came and said, 'The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.' While he was still speaking, another came and said, 'The Chaldeans formed three columns, made a raid on the camels and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.' While he was still speaking, another came and said, 'Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house, and suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you.' (NRSV 1:13-19)

    And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brothers house:
    And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:
    And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
    While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
    While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
    While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brothers house:
    And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. (KJV 1:13-19)

    Yikes. Talk about the Worst Day Ever. How does Job deal with all this pain?

    Also, what's the deal with that one messenger calling the blaze "The fire of God"? Wasn't this Satan's doing? He doesn't even say, "look man, this freak accident happened." He is pretty stinkin' sure that this is God's fault.

    So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. (NRSV 2:7)

    So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. (KJV 2:7)

    Satan is definitely doing the dirty work here. Has God pulled a fast one on Satan, getting him to take care of the tough stuff? Or is this Satan's doing through and through?

    'This would be my consolation;
    I would even exult in unrelenting pain;
    for I have not denied the words of the Holy One.' (NRSV 6:10)

    Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One. (KJV 6:10)

    Job has been doing a lot of complaining, but here he justifies himself. After all, God put him through a great deal of pain, and he just wants some answers. What do you think? Is Job violating his principles by questioning God?

    'My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt;
    my skin hardens, then breaks out again.' (NRSV 7:5)

    My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken, and become loathsome. (KJV 7:5)

    First, gross. Second, this seems quite a punishment for the world's most righteous Israelite, doesn't it? He loses his family and his property, and he gets the world's worst case of acne. Not fun.

    'Surely the light of the wicked is put out,
    and the flame of their fire does not shine.
    The light is dark in their tent,
    and the lamp above them is put out.
    Their strong steps are shortened,
    and their own schemes throw them down.
    For they are thrust into a net by their own feet,
    and they walk into a pitfall.
    A trap seizes them by the heel;
    a snare lays hold of them.
    A rope is hid for them in the ground,
    a trap for them in the path.
    Terrors frighten them on every side,
    and chase them at their heels.
    Their strength is consumed by hunger,
    and calamity is ready for their stumbling.
    By disease their skin is consumed,
    the firstborn of Death consumes their limbs.
    They are torn from the tent in which they trusted,
    and are brought to the king of terrors.
    In their tents nothing remains;
    sulphur is scattered upon their habitations.' (NRSV 18:5-15)

    Yea, the light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark of his fire shall not shine.
    The light shall be dark in his tabernacle, and his candle shall be put out with him.
    The steps of his strength shall be straitened, and his own counsel shall cast him down.
    For he is cast into a net by his own feet, and he walketh upon a snare.
    The gin shall take him by the heel, and the robber shall prevail against him.
    The snare is laid for him in the ground, and a trap for him in the way.
    Terrors shall make him afraid on every side, and shall drive him to his feet.
    His strength shall be hungerbitten, and destruction shall be ready at his side.
    It shall devour the strength of his skin: even the firstborn of death shall devour his strength.
    His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle, and it shall bring him to the king of terrors.
    It shall dwell in his tabernacle, because it is none of his: brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation. (KJV 18:5-15)

    Everyone experiences pain, but God is allowed to use it as a weapon against his enemies. Think carefully, though: isn't this exactly what God did to Job? Is there a difference?

    'My skin turns black and falls from me,
    and my bones burn with heat.
    My lyre is turned to mourning,
    and my pipe to the voice of those who weep.' (NRSV 30:30-31)

    My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat.
    My harp also is turned to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep. (KJV 30:30-31)

    Pain can be beautiful, it seems, and here it is wrapped up with metaphors of art. The writer was a writer, after all.

  • Questioning and Doubting God

    'But now, be pleased to look at me;
    for I will not lie to your face.
    Turn, I pray, let no wrong be done.
    Turn now, my vindication is at stake.
    Is there any wrong on my tongue?
    Cannot my taste discern calamity?' (NRSV 6:28-30)

    Now therefore be content, look upon me; for it is evident unto you if I lie.
    Return, I pray you, let it not be iniquity; yea, return again, my righteousness is in it.
    Is there iniquity in my tongue? cannot my taste discern perverse things? (KJV 6:28-30)

    This entire book pretty much turns into Job's attempt to prove his innocence. Do his friends believe him? How do Job and his friends see things differently?

    'If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of humanity?
    Why have you made me your target?
    Why have I become a burden to you?' (NRSV 7:20)

    I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself? (KJV 7:20)

    Here Job goes, questioning God. Literally. This relationship looks a lot like one between a parent and a child, don't you think? Sure, it's the kid's fault when he misbehaves, but it reflects pretty badly on the parents, too.

    'When disaster brings sudden death,
    he mocks at the calamity of the innocent.' (NRSV 9:23)

    If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent. (KJV 9:23)

    God doesn't seem like such a nice guy here. In fact, he seems kind of mean. Is this what Job is objecting to?

    P.S. Gotta love the KJV. "Scourge" and "slay" for the win.

    'But you are doing away with the fear of God,
    and hindering meditation before God.
    For your iniquity teaches your mouth,
    and you choose the tongue of the crafty.' (NRSV 15:4-5)

    Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God.
    For thy mouth uttereth thine iniquity, and thou choosest the tongue of the crafty. (KJV 15:4-5)

    Hey, KJV? Why art thou tryingeth to confusest us?

    Eliphaz is not picking up what Job is putting down. Why not? Because Job's doubt undermines Eliphaz's entire worldview. It's not that he disagrees with Job—it's that his whole religious faith doesn't allow for it.

    know then that God has put me in the wrong,
    and closed his net around me. (NRSV 19:6)

    Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with his net. (KJV 19:6)

    Job is getting aggressive here, straight up blaming God for his own doubt. Can we blame him, though? Job feels like he was set up. God says, "be good, and I'll reward you"; so Job is good, and then…he gets destroyed. Who's breaking the rules here? Job certainly gives God an earful.

  • Man's Status Before God

    'he will not let me get my breath,
    but fills me with bitterness.
    If it is a contest of strength, he is the strong one!
    If it is a matter of justice, who can summon him?' (NRSV 9:18-19)

    He will not suffer me to take my breath, but filleth me with bitterness.
    If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong: and if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead? (KJV 9:18-19)

    If God is ever-present, does Job even need to summon him? Shouldn't he just be there waiting? This kind of thinking makes our brains hurt, but that's the point; it's supposed to be confusing—for us and for Job. Many scholars think the ending doesn't pack enough philosophical punch to solve anyone's problems—least of all God's and Job's. What do you think?

    'For he is not a mortal, as I am, that I might answer him,
    that we should come to trial together.' (NRSV 9:32)

    For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. (KJV 9:32)

    Humans have ways to solve their disputes—we call them trials, and so does Job. Do God and men have that same luxury? They don't have documented manuals for trial practice, that's for sure.

    If you think back to the frame story, though, you'll remember that heaven seems to work kind of like the human world—you know, imperfectly. Once again, the poetic narrative clashes a bit with the prose frame. But it definitely gives us a lot to think about.

    'Can you find out the deep things of God?
    Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?
    It is higher than heaven—what can you do?
    Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?
    Its measure is longer than the earth,
    and broader than the sea. (NRSV11:7-9)

    Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?
    It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?
    The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea. (KJV11:7-9)

    You tell him, Zophar.

    Remember, most Israelites lived their lives in a very small area. They weren't hopping spaceships for vacation or driving cross-country just to break a record. Traveling wasn't exactly easy.

    But you know what? The scale question still holds for us: how can one person know the boundaries of the earth as well as the one who supposedly created those boundaries? 

    P.S. Check out Zophar's use of rhetorical questions. Job has no choice but to agree with him, right?

    'Those at ease have contempt for misfortune,
    but it is ready for those whose feet are unstable.
    The tents of robbers are at peace,
    and those who provoke God are secure,
    who bring their god in their hands.
    But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
    the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
    ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
    and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
    Who among all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
    In his hand is the life of every living thing
    and the breath of every human being.
    Does not the ear test words
    as the palate tastes food?
    Is wisdom with the aged,
    and understanding in length of days?' (NRSV 12:5-15)

    He that is ready to slip with his feet is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease.
    The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly.
    But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:
    Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.
    Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?
    In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.
    Doth not the ear try words? and the mouth taste his meat?
    With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.
    With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding.
    Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.
    Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up: also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth. (KJV 12:5-15)

    The writer wants us to understand God's justice isn't just for humans—it's for all other living things, too. Job can only ask human questions, because, well…he's human.

    Why do you think the writer put these words in Job's mouth?

    'Yet God prolongs the life of the mighty by his power;
    they rise up when they despair of life.
    He gives them security, and they are supported;
    his eyes are upon their ways.
    They are exalted a little while, and then are gone;
    they wither and fade like the mallow;
    they are cut off like the heads of grain.' (NRSV 24:22-24)

    He draweth also the mighty with his power: he riseth up, and no man is sure of life.
    Though it be given him to be in safety, whereon he resteth; yet his eyes are upon their ways.
    They are exalted for a little while, but are gone and brought low; they are taken out of the way as all other, and cut off as the tops of the ears of corn. (KJV 24:22-24)

    More complaining for Job. We're used to it. But notice how niftily the text switches between "God will give you stuff for serving him" and "Everyone dies, so get used to it." You have to think about both of these ideas to understand God in the Book of Job. How does Job react to this formula?

    'But where shall wisdom be found?
    And where is the place of understanding?
    Mortals do not know the way to it,
    and it is not found in the land of the living.' (NRSV 28:12-13)

    But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?
    Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living. (KJV 28:12-13)

    If mortals can't find wisdom, why do we have the ability to search for it? This is one of the crucial but unspoken questions of Job—and the whole Bible, actually. Man can think about his state in the world, but he can't escape it. Tough luck.

    'I was eyes to the blind,
    and feet to the lame.
    I was a father to the needy,
    and I championed the cause of the stranger.
    I broke the fangs of the unrighteous,
    and made them drop their prey from their teeth.' (NRSV 29:15-17)

    I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame.
    I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.
    And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth. (KJV 29:15-17)

    What did this good rapport with God get Job in the end?

    'Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
    Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
    On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone
    when the morning stars sang together
    and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy? (NRSV 38:4-7)

    Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
    Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
    Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
    When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (KJV 38:4-7)

    God really makes his point here. How? By using rhetorical questions. Job does the same thing, sure, but his questions are about human affairs. This is the big stuff, folks.

    Who has put wisdom in the inward parts,
    or given understanding to the mind? (NRSV 38:36)

    Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart? (KJV 38:36)

    God gave humans the power to understand, therefore opening himself up to questions. How's that for ironic? Or was it intentional?

  • Friendship

    Then Job answered:
    'No doubt you are the people,
    and wisdom will die with you.
    But I have understanding as well as you;
    I am not inferior to you.
    Who does not know such things as these? (NRSV 12:1-3)

    And Job answered and said,
    No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.
    But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you: yea, who knoweth not such things as these? (KJV 12:1-3)

    Are the four friends actually equals, or is that perception relative? Either way, things sure are getting venomous.

    'As for you, you whitewash with lies;
    all of you are worthless physicians.
    If you would only keep silent,
    that would be your wisdom!' (NRSV 13:4-5)

    But ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value.
    O that ye would altogether hold your peace! and it should be your wisdom. (KJV 13:4-5)

    Apparently we have just tuned in to Real Israelites: Job Edition. Job is throwing down.

    'I have heard many such things;
    miserable comforters are you all.' (NRSV 16:2)

    I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all. (KJV 16:2)

    Somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Would you call Job's friends comforters or debate partners? What's the point of all the back-and-forth anyway?

    'Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends,
    for the hand of God has touched me!
    Why do you, like God, pursue me,
    never satisfied with my flesh?' (NRSV 19:21-22)

    Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me.
    Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh? (KJV 19:21-22)

    We'd be angry, too, if our friends ditched us after all this misery.

    Also, did you notice that "God's touch" here is a bad thing? Is that always the case?

    How then will you comfort me with empty nothings?
    There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood.' (NRSV 21:34)

    How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood? (KJV 21:34)

    This isn't just three friends shooting the breeze; it's a philosophical debate with cosmic implications. And you know what that means: it's about to descend into bitter accusations and more deep thoughts.

    'Because God has loosed my bowstring and humbled me,
    they have cast off restraint in my presence.
    On my right hand the rabble rise up;
    they send me sprawling,
    and build roads for my ruin.
    They break up my path,
    they promote my calamity;
    no one restrains them.' (NRSV 30:11-13)

    Because he hath loosed my cord, and afflicted me, they have also let loose the bridle before me.
    Upon my right hand rise the youth; they push away my feet, and they raise up against me the ways of their destruction.
    They mar my path, they set forward my calamity, they have no helper. (KJV 30:11-13)

    For Job, reputation is just as important as pain. Job's predicament and attitude toward it seem to have robbed him of that luxury.

    'Your wickedness affects others like you,
    and your righteousness, other human beings.' (NRSV 35:8)

    Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art; and thy righteousness may profit the son of man. (KJV 35:8)

    Why does God punish these guys in the end? Does he think they are evildoers or just lousy friends?