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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.