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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 showing 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)
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  • 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, the description of Behemoth (it eats grass, lives in a river, and has strong bones) suggests that it is possibly based on a hippo.
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  • 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 basically 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."
  • 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.
  • Call-Back: God's second conversation with Satan goes almost exactly the same as the first.
  • 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.
  • 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. It is suggested the name Satan should be read as adversary or accuser, and that it refers to a role rather than a distinct person; as such, this is the original Devil's Advocate.
  • 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.
  • 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 God cannot trust some of His own angels and has charged some of them with folly, how much less will he trust those made 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 responds that of course Job is a loyal servant of God; 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.
  • Honorable Elephant / Everything Is Better With Dinosaurs: Whereas Leviathan is treated as a monstrous being to be feared, Behemoth, which is believed to be either an elephant or a sauropod dinosaur, is treated as a relatively Gentle Giant despite its incredible power.
  • 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.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Job is introduced as a righteous man, and even in spite of the inexplicable suffering he is forced to undergo, he refuses to sin by cursing God.
  • 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.)
  • 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 (a dinosaur-like creature 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 even making theological arguments with Job to try to get him to agree. Job calls them out as "miserable 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)
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Why the three friends argue that Job must have done something wrong to deserve his suffering.
  • 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.
  • Rags to Riches: After having lost his entire 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: 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!
  • Science Hero: God himself throws in several scientific facts as a proof of his authority over his world, from water cycle to telecommunication. He also throws in several biological facts during his speech.
  • 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)
  • 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. Of course, 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 has been deceived by a woman,
    or if I have laid wait at my neighbor’s door,
    then let my wife grind for another,
    and let others bow down over her.
    For this is a heinous crime;
    yes, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges.
    For it is a fire that consumes to destruction
    and would root out 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."
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Job's family, servants, and employees, as a wager between two supernatural beings. Satan, literally, the Accuser, in the Bible proper has the authority and right to test ANYONE through suffering, within limits. In Job's case, God had sheltered him disproportionately up to that point, hence the extreme fridge-stuffing.
  • 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 entire 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


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