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Despite the colloquialism about the “patience of Job”, in the majority of the biblical book, Job was not patient. In fact, he was angry with God, shaking his fist at the heavens, and demanding an answer from the Almighty to a most troubling question: Why, O God, is there innocent suffering in this world??

The book of Job has three parts, a prose introduction and postlude with a long poem in the middle. There are two possibilities that explain how the two sources came together. Either the prose and poetic sections were separate and independent sources that were combined by a redactor sometime between 700-400 BCE, or the poem came first and, unable to accept the conclusion of the poem, someone added the prose at a later date.

The prologue and postlude describe the famous wager between God and Satan, with the devil betting that if God took away all of Job’s wealth, family and health, he would lose his faith and curse God. In the end, according to this source, Job is steadfast in his faith and is rewarded many times over.

The poem, the bulk of the book, has a quite different story line. Job’s friends come to console him with explanations for his suffering: God is testing you, God has a plan for you, your ancestors did something bad and you are paying the price, and so on. To all of this, Job cries: Nonsense! and demands that God come before him in a trial to be judged as an unjust God. He wants to put God on trial. Job receives no answer until a voice speaks out of a whirlwind: Where were you when I created the foundations of the earth?, and Job is left with no explanation. If we assume that the whirlwind is a literary device, then Job’s answer to the question of why the innocent suffer is a heartrending: I don’t know, I just don’t know.

Two Job stories, two different endings.

Dr. Carl Krieg received his BA from Dartmouth College, MDiv from Union Theological Seminary in NYC, and PhD from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is the author of What to Believe? the Questions of Christian Faith, and The Void and the Vision. As professor and pastor, Dr. Krieg has taught innumerable classes and led many discussion groups. He lives with his wife, Margaret, in Norwich, VT.

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