Job is the name of a book in the Hebrew Bible and the name of the book's main character. Many scholars consider the Book of Job to be one of the finest works of literature ever written. It focuses on the question of why the innocent suffer.

Job, a wealthy man, blessed with a loving wife and family, is known for his goodness and devotion to the will of Yahweh, the Hebrew god. The Bible indicates that Job's prosperity and general good fortune are a reward for his goodness and belief in Yahweh. However, in a meeting between Yahweh and his heavenly advisers, Satan questions Job's faith, claiming that he is faithful because of the many blessings he enjoys. If Job were to suffer misfortune, suggests Satan, he would curse Yahweh as readily as he now praises him. Satan challenges Yahweh to test Job's faith, and Yahweh accepts the challenge.

Yahweh inflicts a number of terrible misfortunes on Job. He kills Job's children and causes him to lose all his wealth, but Job's belief in the goodness of Yahweh remains unshaken. This show of faith does not convince Satan, however, who says that physical pain and suffering would cause Job to abandon his belief. So Yahweh causes Job to be afflicted with painful boils all over his body, and still his faith remains firm.

Job's faith is tested by both Yahweh (God) and Satan. This stained glass window shows Satan torturing job.

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

At this point three friends visit Job, supposedly to comfort him by explaining why Yahweh is causing him to suffer. They suggest that Job must be guilty of some sin, because Yahweh only punishes the wicked. Knowing that he is a righteous man, Job refuses to accept their arguments. Finally Job pleads with Yahweh to end his suffering and asks him to explain why he is tormenting a good man. Yahweh appears to Job in all his glory, overwhelming him with his magnificence. He proceeds to question Job about the mysteries of the universe. When Job cannot answer, Yahweh asks him how he could possibly hope to understand the will of the almighty if he cannot explain the workings of nature. Job accepts this answer and renews his faith in Yahweh, who rewards him by restoring his health and prosperity.

In the end, Yahweh offers no answer to the question of why the innocent must suffer. Instead, the Book of Job delivers the message that one must believe in the goodness of Yahweh, even in the face of seemingly unjust punishment.

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