Study Guide

Book of Job Themes

  • Death

    Pretty much everyone in the Book of Job dies except the main characters. But this story is about more than just mass destruction. Don't get us wrong, the mourning rituals we get after Job's entire family dies are fascinating, and we love seeing that not-so-mild mannered Hebrew Bible God. But the physical destruction in the story leads to some major philosophical musings. Suddenly, Job is thinking about how fragile and meaningless human life is. Heavy stuff. But hey, it's Job—we expect nothing less.

    Questions About Death

    1. In the Book of Job, what is God's role in human death? Is he responsible for the death of Job's whole family?
    2. Speaking of which, poor Job's family. They seem to get the short end of the stick. Are they just casualties for some larger purpose?
    3. Is Job any wiser after his family dies? 
    4. Do evil people and good people die as equals in the text? Or is that up for debate?
  • Loyalty to God

    Remember how Job renounced God and became an atheist when his entire family died? No? Oh yeah, that's because that's not how it goes down in the Book of Job. Granted, after making it through Round 1 pretty successfully, he does get a little feisty when God gives him that nasty rash. Of course, by the end, Job is back in business as a loyal God-follower. But here's a question for you: is God loyal to Job? That's right, God; we're turning the question on you.

    Questions About Loyalty to God

    1. How do the different humans think Job should act when misfortune befalls them? Do they all agree in regards to maintaining loyalty to God?
    2. In the Book of Job, is it okay to think bad things against God as long as you don't say them out loud? How do you know?
    3. What role does repentance have in the text? That is, does Job need to apologize for questioning God?
    4. When Job proves his loyalty after Round 1: Tragic Mass Death, why does God agree to let Satan try again?
  • Pain and Suffering

    Pain is a central part of the human experience; there's no way around it. The Book of Job covers all its pain bases. Physical pain? Rash, boils, and blisters. Emotional pain? Death of pretty much everyone Job knows. Spiritual pain? Yeah, the whole "why is God punishing me?" thing should count. In this story, the question isn't whether pain exists, but how to react to it in the context of divine loyalty.

    Questions About Pain and Suffering

    1. How does Job deal with the emotional pain of losing his family? Actually, does he deal with it at all? And why is his wife absent in all this? Shouldn't they be crying over their losses together?
    2. Job seems to take the whole death-of-his-family thing pretty well, but he cracks when it comes to a rash. Why is physical pain Job's breaking point?
    3. In the Book of Job, is there any method to the pain madness? Why does God allow his believers to be exposed to painful things?
    4. Does talking about his pain solve Job's problems? Or does it make them worse?
  • Questioning and Doubting God

    Usually when someone makes rules, it isn't in the rulebook to question those rules. Too bad, says the Book of Job. Job isn't denying that the rules exist, but he's challenging their application, meanwhile taking a big step philosophically for Israelite thought. So as Job doubts God, the writers of the story are beginning to doubt tradition.

    Questions About Questioning and Doubting God

    1. Who truly doubts God in the text? Job? His friends? Elihu? Think about the differences and complexities of each figure's trust in God.
    2. What role does Elihu play in terms of doubt?
    3. Can we undermine tradition by thinking critically about it? Is Job undermining his own faith?
    4. What is the source of Job's doubt? Was his doubt around before his suffering, or is it a direct result of all this awfulness?
  • Man's Status Before God

    This is it, folks. The massive, overarching question that defines the Book of Job: what is man's status in the world?

    Man's powers don't come close to God's, sure, but according to Genesis, we were made in his image. Does that give us the right to talk back? Job would shout a resounding yes, but we get mixed signals from the story.

    Oh, and there's one other problem: humans can't exactly call God on their hamburger-phones. So what about those of us who don't get direct visits?

    Questions About Man's Status Before God

    1. According to the Book of Job, should humans just suck it up and take what's handed to them by God?
    2. Is Job being a bit presumptuous? Who does he think he is, anyway?
    3. What is the relationship between God, man, and nature here? Do different figures think about it in different ways?
    4. Does Job believe in divine justice throughout the story? Or does he ever get too big for his britches?
    5. What's Satan's role in all this? Is he just another one of God's pawns?
  • Friendship

    Job has some not-so-nice friends, and boy does he know it. But it's not just that the peanut gallery is filled with bullies. Job actually feels like his reputation has been damaged by his views. Social standing is the last thing taken away from Job, and his friends essentially turn on him. Ouch.

    Questions About Friendship

    1. Do Job's friends respond to his accusations, or are they just trying to shore up their own worldviews?
    2. Why do the three men transition from chilling with Job to ripping on him?
    3. Where is Elihu in all this? Is he a friend? An enemy? Why is he even in the book?
    4. How does Job's reputation look at the end of the book? Is he humiliated, or are his friends?