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Literature / Book of Job

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"The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

The 18th book in the Christian Bible's established order, and appearing in the ketuvim (writings) section of the Hebrew Tanakh. Despite being near the middle, the story of Job is probably the first one written, even before the Pentateuch.

Job is an honest upright man, blessed with wealth and children, but Satan challenges God that Job is only devout because of the blessings his life has given him. God decides to prove Satan wrong and demonstrate Job's genuine piety by allowing Satan to rob him of his life of blessing, in order to show Satan that even when alone, impoverished and suffering, Job will keep the faith.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning 1958 play J.B. is the book of Job with a Setting Update to the modern day.

Structure of the book:

  • Introduction to Job (Job 1:1-5)
  • Satan takes Job's family and property (Job 1:6-22)
  • Satan attacks Job's health (Job chapter 2)
  • Job's first discourse (Job chapter 3)
  • Eliphaz's response (Job chapters 4 and 5)
  • Job's second discourse (Job chapters 6 and 7)
  • Bildad's response (Job chapter 8)
  • Job's third discourse (Job chapters 9 and 10)
  • Zophar's response (Job chapter 11)
  • Job's fourth discourse (Job chapters 12 to 14)
  • Eliphaz's second response (Job chapter 15)
  • Job's sixth discourse (Job chapters 16 and 17)
  • Bildad's second response (Job chapter 18)
  • Job's seventh discourse (Job chapter 19)
  • Zophar's second response (Job chapter 20)
  • Job's eighth discourse (Job chapter 21)
  • Eliphaz's third response (Job chapter 22)
  • Job's ninth discourse (Job chapters 23 and 24)
  • Bildad's third response (Job chapter 25)
  • Job's final discourse (Job chapters 26 to 31)
  • Elihu's rebuke of Job and his friends (Job chapters 32 to 37)
  • The Lord speaks to Job (Job chapters 38 to 41)
  • Job's restoration and the end of the story (Job chapter 42)

This book provides examples of:

  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Elihu is not mentioned in the Book of Job at all prior to Chapter 32, at which point he pops up to rebuke both Job and his three friends.
  • Angry, Angry Hippos: Chapter 40 mentions Behemoth, a powerful and virtually invincible creature that it is said only God can defeat. While the Hebrew name is ambiguous, many commentators believe that Behemoth is based on a hippo, since it eats grass, lives in a river, and has strong bones.
  • Bewildering Punishment: Job complains that if his friends are right and God is punishing him for some sin, then the punishment is this trope since God hasn't revealed what he did wrong. In fact Job's friends are wrong and Job's situation isn't a punishment for his sin at all.
  • Blatant Lies: Elihu says that he wants to see Job justified. A few lines after this he slanders Job, for supposedly enjoying his negative feelings and approving of wicked men's actions.
  • Broke Episode: The whole story is one long miserable chapter in Job's life where he has lost all his riches and goes through much suffering before he gets them back.
  • Burning with Anger: Job says in Job 30:27 (International Standard Version), "I’m boiling mad inside, and I won’t remain silent; the time for my affliction to confront me has arrived."
  • Call-Back: God's second conversation with Satan goes almost exactly the same as the first.
  • Character Filibuster: Job and his three friends really liked to talk. And God and Elihu go on for just as long. At one point God just starts listing animals and monsters for a full chapter out of the clear blue to make a point.
  • Condescending Compassion: At no point do Job's accusers offer him the food or medicine that he sorely needs living on the streets — yet they claim to be his friends. They just want to tell him how much he sucks.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Job has his property, his children, and his health ripped away from him by Satan, which God allowed while only ensuring that Satan didn't go so far as to kill Job and put him out of his misery.
  • Curse Is Foiled Again: Job has curses and misfortune heaped upon him and everyone close to him, due to a bet between God and Satan. After sucking it up and maintaining his faith and loyalty for long enough, he received double what he lost, and ten more children. However, he didn't get any of his dead children back.
  • Death Seeker: 3:21 and 22 (it goes on longer, as Character Filibuster above describes)
    They long for death and it won't come. They search for death more eagerly than for hidden treasure. It is a blessed relief when they finally die, when they find the grave.
  • Despair Speech: Job's monologues express his deep desire to be with the dead, who don't have to toil through sleepless nights as he does with his boils and pains. His wise friends criticize him for his despair, but all that does is make him mad and give him more fuel to demand some justification before God for why the just and the wicked alike are destroyed.
  • Deus Angst Machina: Escalating from losing his material goods, to his family, to his health.
  • The Devil: Unbuilt Trope. Satan is a main character, but rather than being named the Lord of Darkness, he freely circulates in Heaven and converses (albeit rather impudently) with God Himself. His role seems to be something of a trickster prosecutor, trying to prove that Job's alleged devotion to God is not really genuine. However, "Satan" was a generic noun for adversary or accuser, and that it refers to a role rather than a distinct person; as such, this is the original Devil's Advocate. As it's one of the oldest stories in the Old Testament and mentions other "holy ones," this may indicate it comes from the religion's early polytheistic period.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Despite all the suffering which Job endures, God restores his fortunes in the end, proving His faithfulness and goodness, despite the mistakes Job had made along the way. Even back then, Job kept his head above water.
  • Egocentrically Religious: Satan accuses Job of only worshiping God because God has given him material blessings; God allows him to test this claim by causing Job to suffer. Much of the rest of the book explores and challenges the belief that bad things only happen to people who do wrong or are insufficiently devout.
  • Fallen Angel: Not the actual trope but its prototype is here, and is the strongest rebuttal to those who claim the concept is incompatible with Judaism. 4:18 is below; 15:15 can also be a case, but amusingly the book makes no insinuations that Satan did anything wrong beyond being mistaken in his malicious judgment of Job.
    "If He cannot trust His own servants, and casts reproach on His angels, how much less those who dwell in houses of clay?"
  • Fatal Flaw: In the beginning of the book, Job was fearful that, while he was rightful in front of God's eyes, maybe his children have done wrong. This fear allowed Satan to imply to God that Job wasn't trusting him as much.
  • Forgotten Framing Device: The bet with Satan isn't mentioned after the initial parts of the story. Some commentators believe that this indicates that it was a later addition to explain Job's suffering, but it could just be that it wasn't considered important since the resolution was obvious.
  • Gentle Giant: Whereas Leviathan is treated as a monstrous being to be feared, Behemoth, which is believed to be either an elephant, a hippo, or something other large beast, is treated as relatively peaceful despite its incredible power.
  • God Is Good: A righteous man suffers through no fault of his own, causing him to wonder how a good, omnipotent God could let this happen. After Job discusses this with three friends, God Himself appears to provide context for Job's situation. God poises a series of rhetorical questions that show the sheer scale of existence God is responsible for, from the foundation of the Earth to the nourishment of the raven. Job agrees that he clearly doesn't have a wide enough understanding of the universe to moralize (to) an omniscient, prompting God to also dare Job to take upon God's role, whether it be humbling the proud, tearing down the wicked, and controlling the Leviathans or the Behemoths that bring chaos. Upon hearing all this, Job repents and God restores his prosperity, although not before rebuking Job's friends for not speaking rightly concerning God in trying to explain Job's suffering.
  • God Test: God Himself invokes this upon Job in Job 40:9-14:
    "Have you an arm like God?
    Or can you thunder with a voice like Him?
    Adorn yourself now with majesty and excellence,
    and array yourself with glory and beauty.
    Let loose the rage of your wrath,
    and look on every one who is proud and abase him;
    look on every one who is proud and bring him low,
    and tread down the wicked in their place.
    Hide them in the dust together,
    and imprison them in the hidden place of the grave.
    Then I will also confess to you
    that your own right hand can save you.
  • Good is Not Nice: Perhaps one of the most extreme examples of this trope of all time. To say God puts Job through the wringer is an understatement and gives him a pretty brutal verbal beat down, but in the end God Is Good and Job is rewarded for admitting his faults and keeping his faith.
  • Good Running Evil: Satan is shown to cause suffering for Job only with God's explicit permission. God is keeping Satan on a leash, so-to-speak.
  • Heal the Cutie: Job was a good, righteous man with much wealth and a large family. When the Adversary/Satan argues to God that Job is only good because of his circumstances, God permits him to take away all Job has, and later to afflict his health. In his harsh circumstances and despair, Job curses his own birth but refuses to renounce God. In the end, God restores Job's fortunes.
  • Heaven's Devils: The Book of Job is the Trope Maker, where ha-satan ("The Accuser") is a member of God's divine council. When God points out Job as a righteous and virtuous man who has never turned away from Him, Satan claims that Job is a loyal servant of God because he has everything he could possibly want, and if he lost all of that, he would curse God and turn away from him. God agrees that Satan may put his claim to the test.
  • Hope Sprouts Eternal: In Chapter 14, Job compares the life of a man to that of a tree, that, unlike a man who will die and just go to his grave, a tree when it is cut down will again sprout up and regrow itself.
  • In Mysterious Ways: In the end you see Job humiliate himself before God. It was all to teach him humility and dependence on Him.
    • Or to humiliate Satan. Morale is important on battlefields, even spiritual ones — and what could shame the enemy side more than letting them do their worst and then showing them that all their efforts came to nothing? (Assuming that the modern depiction of Satan as spiteful is correct, which it may not be — see The Devil trope entry above.)
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Job is introduced as a righteous man, and in spite of the inexplicable suffering he is forced to undergo, he refuses to sin by cursing God.
  • Ironic Birthday: Although the text never specifically states that the seven sons' appointed feasting days happened on their birthdays, it is implied that at least on one of them — the eldest son's birthday — that tragedy had struck all Job's first ten children in one day when the house fell upon them and killed them.
  • Kaiju: The Behemoth (an immense land beast even bigger than an elephant) and leviathan (a giant sea serpent) are ur examples of Kaijus.
  • Kraken and Leviathan:
    • One of the Trope Namers, the Leviathan, comes from this book, described as a gigantic sea serpent. Some interpretations identify it with whales or crocodiles. The text doesn't treat it as particularly significant, just tossing it into the list of known animals and natural phenomena.
    • There is also Rahab the sea monster, whom Job mentions in Job 26:12 that God has killed.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Discussed Trope; Job's friends claim his sufferings are the result of some sin he has committed and hidden from them. Job protests that he has been upstanding for all of his life and God Himself confirms that Job's friends are speaking falsely.
  • Methuselah Syndrome: Not as long as the actual Methuselah, but still pretty long; Job lives to be 140, old enough to see his great-great grandchildren.
  • Money Is Not Power: In Elihu's rebuke, he warns: "Be careful that no one entices you by riches; do not let a large bribe turn you aside. Would your wealth or even all your mighty efforts sustain you so you would not be in distress?" (Job 36:18-19, NIV 2011 edition)
  • Mystical Plague: Job is inflicted with sores when Satan is given permission to attack Job's health. It becomes so severe that Job's wife tells him to curse God and die, which he refuses to do.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Job experienced so much suffering specifically because he was a moral and upright man, which inspired Satan to want to test his true devotion to God.
  • No Sympathy: Job's friends spend a lot of their time reasoning that Job must have done something wrong to deserve all his sufferings, and making theological arguments with Job to try to get him to agree. Job calls them out as "mischievous comforters."
  • Old Windbag:
    • Job 8:1-2 from the New International Version (1984 edition):
    Then Bildad the Shuhite replied: "How long will you say such things? Your words are a blustering wind."
    • Job says this of his friends in Job 16:3 (God's Word translation):
    "Will your long-winded speeches never end? What disturbs you that you keep on answering me?"
  • Omniscient Morality License: God points this out to Job in the end.
  • Open and Shut: Job says this of God in Job 12:14:
    If he tears something down, it cannot be rebuilt. If he shuts a door on a man, it cannot be opened. (Evangelical Heritage Version)
  • Parental Neglect: According to Job 39, the female ostrich lays her eggs in the dust but soon forgets about them and shows no interest in her young as they grow up.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Why the three friends argue that Job must have done something wrong to deserve his suffering.
  • Posthumous Sibling: Job has seven sons and three daughters after losing the first ten children to an accident caused by Satan through his bet with the Lord.
  • Put on a Bus: Job's wife past chapter 2. We never know whether Job and her separated or made amends or what; we just know that Job had seven sons and three daughters after everything gets straightened out. Though The Qur'an says they did make amends.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Defied. The Adversary/Satan challenges God that if Job suffered a lot, he would curse God for his suffering. Job has lost his children, wealth, and health in the hands of the Adversary/Satan (albeit under the permission of God as a Secret Test and the Adversary/Satan is not allowed to kill Job). Job remains faithful no matter what happened to him and how many of his friends told him to curse God. He does, at one point, break down and curse himself and the day when he was born. The end result is God Himself calling Job and his friends out, Job repents and God restores the damages by giving Job new daughters, restoring his home and his livestocks.
  • Rags to Riches: After having lost his fortune at the beginning of the book, God blesses Job at the end with twice as much wealth as he had previously.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Job was given these from his friends, claiming that his life of sufferings was the result of him sinning. God also gives him one for questioning His authority. And Elihu pops out of nowhere to deliver one to both Job and his friends. In the end, God humbles the three friends with a short one and by tasking Job to pray that they be forgiven.
  • Religious Russian Roulette: Over the course of the book, Job worked his way up to demanding answers from God, not only from the tragedies Satan inflicted, but from his know-it-all friends dragging down his morale. God does step in eventually in response to Job's demands, but doesn't give an answer and only says "Who are you to speak back to Me?"
  • Replacement Goldfish: God restores Job's wealth and family after the ordeal is over. His old children are still dead, so God grants Job a new set of replacement, more beautiful children.
  • Riches to Rags:
    • Job says this of the wicked in Job 27:19:
    He goes to bed as a rich man, but his wealth does not remain. He opens his eyes, and it is all gone. (Evangelical Heritage Version)
  • Rules Lawyer: As David Plotz points out, he accused God of wrongdoing, but didn't technically curse Him, as Satan had wanted.
  • Sacred Hospitality: "No stranger ever had to spend the night outside. I have opened my door to the traveler." (Job 31:32, Evangelical Heritage Version)
  • Sarcasm Mode:
    • Job, in response to Bildad the Shuhite's third discourse:
    Job answered:
    “Well, you’ve certainly been a great help to a helpless man!
    You came to the rescue just in the nick of time!
    What wonderful advice you’ve given to a mixed-up man!
    What amazing insights you’ve provided!
    Where in the world did you learn all this?
    How did you become so inspired? (Job 26:1-4, The Message)
    • God, during His speech with Job.''
    God: What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!
  • Shameful Strip: Job says this of God in Job 12:19:
    He causes priests to be led away naked, and he brings the pillars of society down to ruin. (Evangelical Heritage Version)
  • Shutting Up Now: Job gets an earful from God, and responds with "I clap my hand to my mouth."
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: Satan tried to invoke this reaction, and Job's own wife suggested it so he could be put out of his misery. It didn't work.
  • Smug Snake: Satan. He doesn't stay in the story long enough to see how it all turns out.
  • Spare a Messenger: Bad things constantly happen to Job, and each time there is one survivor who seems to have survived only so Job knows what's going on.
  • Spiteful Spit: Job 17:6 has Job saying, “He has made me a byword of the peoples, and I am one before whom men spit." He also says in Job 30:10, "They abhor me; they keep aloof from me; they do not hesitate to spit at the sight of me."
  • Stalker with a Crush: Job in Job 31:9-12 says:
    “If my heart was ravished by the wife of my neighbor,
    and I lay in wait at his door,
    may my wife grind for another,
    may others kneel over her!
    For that would have been debauchery,
    a criminal offense,
    a fire burning down to Abaddon,
    consuming the roots of all my increase.
  • Stepford Smiler: Job comments on being this in Job 9:27-28 (NIV 1984 edition):
    "If I say, 'I will forget my complaint, I will change my expression, and smile,' I still dread all my sufferings, for I know you will not hold me innocent."
  • A Taste of the Lash: "Sons of fools and nameless nobodies, they were driven out of the land with whips." (Job 30:8, Evangelical Heritage Version)
  • Too Happy to Live: The book starts out with everything going well for Job, who is happy, devout, prosperous and has a loving family. Guess what happens next.
  • The Tooth Hurts:
    • "The lioness may roar, and the lion cub may growl; but even the ivory teeth of the full grown lion are broken." (Job 4:10, International Standard Version)
    • "I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth." (Job 29:17, NIV 1984 edition)
  • Trauma Conga Line: An Ur-Example. Job loses his family, his home, his possessions and his health, all in apparently under an hour, simply because Satan didn't like him and/or needed to tear someone else down to feel better about himself. Servants rush in to inform Job of the latest tragedy to plague his estate even while previous servants are still informing him of the one before it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?
    • Satan appears only in the first two chapters to challenge God and then apparently just walks off as the rest of the book focuses on Job and his three friends.
    • For that matter, Elihu pops out of nowhere, delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to both Job and his three friends, and then just disappears again.
  • Wham Line: For most of the story, it's just Job and his friends arguing over his fate and Job protesting that he doesn't deserve any of this. Until, without warning, we get this: "Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind"
  • What the Hell, Hero?: God's lengthy speech to Job was more of a rebuke for him questioning His authority. He then calls out Job's friends for their arrogant "he had it coming" accusations of Job.
  • What You Are in the Dark: The main plot is set up with a bet between God and Satan over whether or not Job is truly devoted in his faith or just a fair weather follower of the Lord. Satan thinks he'll curse God's name once he loses everything while God thinks he'll stay true in his devotion. God is right.
  • With Friends Like These...: Job's visitors keep insisting that he must have done something to deserve all his suffering, and they turn on him when he denies it, essentially "kicking him while he's down." In the end, God is far angrier with them than with Job, but pardons them when Job, despite everything, brings an offering on their behalf.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: When God appears before Job, He gives a speech describing His creation, essentially daring Job: "I created the entire universe. You mean to tell Me you know better than I do?!"
    • The above goes into almost giddy detail, like how much fun it is to watch ostriches run.
    • Several verses also mention the concept of hydrologic cycles, telecommunications using lightning and deep sea exploration before they were discovered.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Job's three new daughters Jemimah, Keziah, and Keren-Happuch are said to be more beautiful than any other women in the land.
  • You Are Not Alone: Job never finds out why God let him suffer, but he is reassured that God loves him and has not forgotten him even the midst of his disgrace. That knowledge alone is enough to console him.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: "Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed." (Job 14:5, NIV 1984 edition)
  • You Talk Too Much!: From Zophar the Naamathite to Job: "Shouldn’t a multitude of words be answered, or a person who talks too much be vindicated?" (Job 11:2, International Standard Version)
  • Zen Survivor