Study Guide

Book of Job Pain and Suffering

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.