The Bible Story Of The Suffering God Allowed To Be Brought On The Good Man Job, And The Misguided Critics Who Thought He Was Being Punished For Sins

This is a subseries of Bible passages from the Book of Job, which, incidentally, is a valuable read for anyone who wonders whether the Bible really does say that individual Christians will be rewarded by God with prosperity, and that loss of prosperity and suffering are a sign of God's disfavour or punishment for wrongdoing. It's part of a series of Bible passages on what the Old Testament says about suffering.

This is part 1 of 3 in section 13, 'The suffering of the good man Job, - counterbalance to the rest of the Old Testament'.

Contents of the sections

In the Old Testament Book of Job, the Bible says:

Job chapter 1 (TEV)

1 There was a man named Job, living in the land of Uz, who worshiped God and was faithful to him. He was a good man, careful not to do anything evil. 2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, one thousand head of cattle, and five hundred donkeys. He also had a large number of servants and was the richest man in the East.

4 Job's sons used to take turns giving a feast, to which all the others would come, and they always invited their three sisters to join them. 5 The morning after each feast, Job would get up early and offer sacrifices for each of his children in order to purify them. He always did this because he thought that one of them might have sinned by insulting God unintentionally.

6 When the day came for the heavenly beings to appear before the Lord, Satan was there among them. 7 The Lord asked him, "What have you been doing?"

Satan answered, "I have been walking here and there, roaming around the earth."

8 "Did you notice my servant Job?" the Lord asked. "There is no one on earth as faithful and good as he is. He worships me and is careful not to do anything evil."

9 Satan replied, "Would Job worship you if he got nothing out of it? 10 You have always protected him and his family and everything he owns. You bless everything he does, and you have given him enough cattle to fill the whole country. 11 But now suppose you take away everything he has-he will curse you to your face!"

12 "All right," the Lord said to Satan, "everything he has is in your power, but you must not hurt Job himself." So Satan left.

13 One day when Job's children were having a feast at the home of their oldest brother, 14 a messenger came running to Job. "We were plowing the fields with the oxen," he said, "and the donkeys were in a nearby pasture. 15 Suddenly the Sabeans attacked and stole them all. They killed every one of your servants except me. I am the only one who escaped to tell you."

16 Before he had finished speaking, another servant came and said, "Lightning struck the sheep and the shepherds and killed them all. I am the only one who escaped to tell you."

17 Before he had finished speaking, another servant came and said, "Three bands of Chaldean raiders attacked us, took away the camels, and killed all your servants except me. I am the only one who escaped to tell you."

18 Before he had finished speaking, another servant came and said, "Your children were having a feast at the home of your oldest son, 19 when a storm swept in from the desert. It blew the house down and killed them all. I am the only one who escaped to tell you."

20 Then Job got up and tore his clothes in grief. He shaved his head and threw himself face downward on the ground. 21 He said, "I was born with nothing, and I will die with nothing. The Lord gave, and now he has taken away. May his name be praised!" 22 In spite of everything that had happened, Job did not sin by blaming God.

Job chapter 2 (TEV)

1 When the day came for the heavenly beings to appear before the Lord again, Satan was there among them. 2 The Lord asked him, "Where have you been?"

Satan answered, "I have been walking here and there, roaming around the earth."

3 "Did you notice my servant Job?" the Lord asked. "There is no one on earth as faithful and good as he is. He worships me and is careful not to do anything evil. You persuaded me to let you attack him for no reason at all, but Job is still as faithful as ever."

4 Satan replied, "A person will give up everything in order to stay alive. 5 But now suppose you hurt his body-he will curse you to your face!"

6 So the Lord said to Satan, "All right, he is in your power, but you are not to kill him."

7 Then Satan left the Lord's presence and made sores break out all over Job's body. 8 Job went and sat by the garbage dump and took a piece of broken pottery to scrape his sores.

9 His wife said to him, "You are still as faithful as ever, aren't you? Why don't you curse God and die?"

10 Job answered, "You are talking nonsense! When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?"
Even in all this suffering Job said nothing against God.

11 Three of Job's friends were Eliphaz, from the city of Teman, Bildad, from the land of Shuah, and Zophar, from the land of Naamah. When they heard how much Job had been suffering, they decided to go and comfort him.

12 While they were still a long way off they saw Job, but did not recognize him. When they did, they began to weep and wail, tearing their clothes in grief and throwing dust into the air and on their heads. 13 Then they sat there on the ground with him for seven days and nights without saying a word, because they saw how much he was suffering.

Job chapter 3 (NLT)

1 At last Job spoke, and he cursed the day of his birth. 2 He said:

3 "Cursed be the day of my birth, and cursed be the night when I was conceived. 4 Let that day be turned to darkness. Let it be lost even to God on high, and let it be shrouded in darkness. 5 Yes, let the darkness and utter gloom claim it for its own. Let a black cloud overshadow it, and let the darkness terrify it. 6 Let that night be blotted off the calendar, never again to be counted among the days of the year, never again to appear among the months. 7 Let that night be barren. Let it have no joy. 8 Let those who are experts at cursing - those who are ready to rouse the sea monster - curse that day. 9 Let its morning stars remain dark. Let it hope for light, but in vain; may it never see the morning light.
10 Curse it for its failure to shut my mother's womb, for letting me be born to all this trouble.

11 "Why didn't I die at birth as I came from the womb? 12 Why did my mother let me live? Why did she nurse me at her breasts? 13 For if I had died at birth, I would be at peace now, asleep and at rest. 14 I would rest with the world's kings and prime ministers, famous for their great construction projects. 15 I would rest with wealthy princes whose palaces were filled with gold and silver.
16 Why was I not buried like a stillborn child, like a baby who never lives to see the light? 17 For in death the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest. 18 Even prisoners are at ease in death, with no guards to curse them. 19 Rich and poor are there alike, and the slave is free from his master.

20 "Oh, why should light be given to the weary, and life to those in misery? 21 They long for death, and it won't come. They search for death more eagerly than for hidden treasure. 22 It is a blessed relief when they finally die, when they find the grave.
23 Why is life given to those with no future, those destined by God to live in distress? 24 I cannot eat for sighing; my groans pour out like water. 25 What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come to be. 26 I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest; instead, only trouble comes."

Job chapter 4 (GWT)

1 Then Eliphaz from Teman replied [to Job],

2 "If someone tries to talk to you, will you become impatient? But who can keep from talking? 3 Certainly, you have instructed many people: When hands were weak, you made them strong. 4 When someone stumbled, you lifted him up with your words. When knees were weak, you gave them strength. 5 But trouble comes to you, and you're impatient. It touches you, and you panic. 6 Doesn't your fear of God give you confidence and your lifetime of integrity give you hope?

Job chapter 4 (CEV)

7 No truly innocent person has ever died young. 8 In my experience, only those who plant seeds of evil harvest trouble, 9 and then they are swept away by the angry breath of God. 10 They may roar and growl like powerful lions. But when God breaks their teeth, 11 they starve, and their children are scattered.

12 A secret was told to me in a faint whisper-- 13 I was overcome by sleep, but disturbed by dreams; 14 I trembled with fear, 15 and my hair stood on end, as a wind blew past my face. 16 It stopped and stood still. Then a form appeared-- a shapeless form. And from the silence, I heard a voice say,
17 "No humans are innocent in the eyes of God their Creator. 18 He finds fault with his servants and even with his angels. 19 Humans are formed from clay and are fragile as moths, so what chance do you have? 20 Born after daybreak, you die before nightfall and disappear forever. 21 Your tent pegs are pulled up, and you leave this life, having gained no wisdom."

Job chapter 5 (TEV)

1 Call out, Job. See if anyone answers. Is there any angel to whom you can turn? 2 To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do. 6 Evil does not grow in the soil, nor does trouble grow out of the ground. 7 No indeed! We bring trouble on ourselves, as surely as sparks fly up from a fire. 8 If I were you, I would turn to God and present my case to him. 9 We cannot understand the great things he does, and to his miracles there is no end. 10 He sends rain on the land and he waters the fields. 11 Yes, it is God who raises the humble and gives joy to all who mourn.

17 Happy is the person whom God corrects! Do not resent it when he rebukes you. 18 God bandages the wounds he makes; his hand hurts you, and his hand heals. 19 Time after time he will save you from harm; 20 when famine comes, he will keep you alive, and in war protect you from death. 21 God will rescue you from slander; he will save you when destruction comes. 22 You will laugh at violence and hunger and not be afraid of wild animals. 23 The fields you plow will be free of rocks; wild animals will never attack you. 24 Then you will live at peace in your tent; when you look at your sheep, you will find them safe. 25 You will have as many children as there are blades of grass in a pasture. 26 Like wheat that ripens till harvest time, you will live to a ripe old age. 27 Job, we have learned this by long study. It is true, so now accept it.

Job chapter 6 (NIV)

1Then Job replied:

2 "If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! 3 It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas-- no wonder my words have been impetuous. 4 The arrows of the Almighty are in me, my spirit drinks in their poison; God's terrors are marshaled against me. 5 Does a wild donkey bray when it has grass, or an ox bellow when it has fodder?

"What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient? 12 Do I have the strength of stone? Is my flesh bronze? 13 Do I have any power to help myself, now that success has been driven from me?

14 "A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty. 15 But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams, as the streams that overflow 16 when darkened by thawing ice and swollen with melting snow, 17 but that cease to flow in the dry season, and in the heat vanish from their channels.

24 "Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong. 25 How painful are honest words! But what do your arguments prove? 26 Do you mean to correct what I say, and treat the words of a despairing man as wind?

Job chapter 7 (TEV)

1 Human life is like forced army service, like a life of hard manual labor, 2 like a slave longing for cool shade; like a worker waiting to be paid. 3 Month after month I have nothing to live for; night after night brings me grief. 4 When I lie down to sleep, the hours drag; I toss all night and long for dawn.
5 My body is full of worms; it is covered with scabs; pus runs out of my sores. 6 My days pass by without hope, pass faster than a weaver's shuttle.

7 Remember, O God, my life is only a breath; my happiness has already ended. 8 You see me now, but never again. If you look for me, I'll be gone. 9 Like a cloud that fades and is gone, we humans die and never return; we are forgotten by all who knew us.
11 No! I can't be quiet! I am angry and bitter. I have to speak. 12 Why do you keep me under guard? Do you think I am a sea monster? 13 I lie down and try to rest; I look for relief from my pain. 14 But you-you terrify me with dreams; you send me visions and nightmares 15 until I would rather be strangled than live in this miserable body. 16 I give up; I am tired of living. Leave me alone. My life makes no sense.

17 Why are people so important to you? Why pay attention to what they do? 18 You inspect them every morning and test them every minute. 19 Won't you look away long enough for me to swallow my spit? 20 Are you harmed by my sin, you jailer? Why use me for your target practice? Am I so great a burden to you? 21 Can't you ever forgive my sin? Can't you pardon the wrong I do? Soon I will be in my grave, and I'll be gone when you look for me.

Job chapter 8 (NIV)

1 Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:

2 "How long will you say such things? Your words are a blustering wind. 3 Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? 4 When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.
5 But if you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, 6 if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place. 7 Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.

8 "Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, 9 for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow. 10 Will they not instruct you and tell you? Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?
11 Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh? Can reeds thrive without water? 12 While still growing and uncut, they wither more quickly than grass. 13 Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless.

20 "Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers. 21 He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. 22 Your enemies will be clothed in shame, and the tents of the wicked will be no more."

Job chapter 9 (NLT)

1 Then Job spoke again:

2 "Yes, I know this is all true in principle. But how can a person be declared innocent in the eyes of God? 3 If someone wanted to take God to court, would it be possible to answer him even once in a thousand times? 4 For God is so wise and so mighty. Who has ever challenged him successfully? 16 And even if I summoned him and he responded, he would never listen to me. 17 For he attacks me without reason, and he multiplies my wounds without cause. 18 He will not let me catch my breath, but fills me instead with bitter sorrows. 19 As for strength, he has it. As for justice, who can challenge him? 20 Though I am innocent, my own mouth would pronounce me guilty. Though I am blameless, it would prove me wicked.

21 "I am innocent, but it makes no difference to me - I despise my life. 22 Innocent or wicked, it is all the same to him. That is why I say, 'He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.' 23 He laughs when a plague suddenly kills the innocent. 24 The whole earth is in the hands of the wicked, and God blinds the eyes of the judges and lets them be unfair. If not he, then who? 27 If I decided to forget my complaints, if I decided to end my sadness and be cheerful, 28 I would dread all the pain he would send. For I know you will not hold me innocent, O God. 29 Whatever happens, I will be found guilty. So what's the use of trying?

32 "God is not a mortal like me, so I cannot argue with him or take him to trial. 33 If only there were a mediator who could bring us together, but there is none. 34 The mediator could make God stop beating me, and I would no longer live in terror of his punishment. 35 Then I could speak to him without fear, but I cannot do that in my own strength.

Job chapter 10 (NIV)

1 "I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul. 2 I will say to God: Do not condemn me, but tell me what charges you have against me. 3 Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands, while you smile on the schemes of the wicked? 4 Do you have eyes of flesh? Do you see as a mortal sees? 5 Are your days like those of a mortal or your years like those of a man, 6 that you must search out my faults and probe after my sin-- 7 though you know that I am not guilty and that no one can rescue me from your hand? 8 "Your hands shaped me and made me. Will you now turn and destroy me? 9 Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again? 10 Did you not 11 clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews? 12 You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.

13 "But this is what you concealed in your heart, and I know that this was in your mind: 14 If I sinned, you would be watching me and would not let my offense go unpunished. 15 If I am guilty--woe to me! Even if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head, for I am full of shame and drowned in my affliction. 16 If I hold my head high, you stalk me like a lion and again display your awesome power against me. 17 You bring new witnesses against me and increase your anger toward me; your forces come against me wave upon wave.

18 "Why then did you bring me out of the womb? I wish I had died before any eye saw me. 19 If only I had never come into being, or had been carried straight from the womb to the grave! 20 Are not my few days almost over? Turn away from me so I can have a moment's joy 21 before I go to the place of no return, to the land of gloom and deep shadow, 22 to the land of deepest night, of deep shadow and disorder, where even the light is like darkness."

Job chapter 11 (NIV)

1 Then Zophar the Naamathite replied:

2 "Are all these words to go unanswered? Is this talker to be vindicated? 3 Will your idle talk reduce men to silence? Will no one rebuke you when you mock? 4 You say to God, 'My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight.' 5 Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you 6 and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom has two sides. Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin.

7 "Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? 8 They are higher than the heavens--what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave --what can you know? 9 Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea.

10 "If he comes along and confines you in prison and convenes a court, who can oppose him? 11 Surely he recognizes deceitful men; and when he sees evil, does he not take note? 12 But a witless man can no more become wise than a wild donkey's colt can be born a man.

13 "Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, 14 if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, 15 then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear. 16 You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by. 17 Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning. 18 You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. 19 You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid, and many will court your favor. 20 But the eyes of the wicked will fail, and escape will elude them; their hope will become a dying gasp."

Job chapter 12 (GWT)

1 Then Job replied [to his friends],

2 "You certainly are [wise] people, and when you die, wisdom will die.
3 Like you, I have a mind. I am not inferior to you. But who doesn't know these things? 4 I am a laughingstock to my neighbors. I am one who calls on God and expects an answer. A man of integrity, a man who is righteous, has become a laughingstock.

5 "A person who has an easy life has no appreciation for misfortune. He thinks it is the fate of those who slip up.

6 [But] robbers' tents are prosperous, and there is security for those who provoke God, for those whose god is their power.

Job chapter 13 (NLT)

3 Oh, how I long to speak directly to the Almighty. I want to argue my case with God himself. 4 For you are smearing me with lies. As doctors, you are worthless quacks. 5 Please be quiet! That's the smartest thing you could do. 6 Listen to my charge; pay attention to my arguments.

13 "Be silent now and leave me alone. Let me speak - and I will face the consequences. 14 Yes, I will take my life in my hands and say what I really think. 15 God might kill me, but I cannot wait. I am going to argue my case with him.
16 But this is what will save me: that I am not godless. If I were, I would be thrown from his presence.

17 "Listen closely to what I am about to say. Hear me out. 18 I have prepared my case; I will be proved innocent. 19 Who can argue with me over this? If you could prove me wrong, I would remain silent until I die.

20 "O God, there are two things I beg of you, and I will be able to face you. 21 Remove your hand from me, and don't terrify me with your awesome presence. 22 Now summon me, and I will answer! Or let me speak to you, and you reply.

23 Tell me, what have I done wrong? Show me my rebellion and my sin. 24 Why do you turn away from me? Why do you consider me your enemy? 25 Would you terrify a leaf that is blown by the wind? Would you chase a dry stalk of grass?

26 "You write bitter accusations against me and bring up all the sins of my youth. 27 You put my feet in stocks. You watch all my paths. You trace all my footprints. 28 I waste away like rotting wood, like a moth-eaten coat.

Incidentally, some Bible critics consider the Book of Job to be a depiction of cruel and unreasonable injustice on the part of God. But they fail to see the purpose of the book. Most of the Old Testament concerns God's punishment on societies for sins such as violence and oppression of the poor. It does not say that every incidence of such suffering is a punishment from God, and it does not address the reasons for the suffering of individuals. However, it may have been easy to extrapolate that when individuals suffered tragedy, they were being punished for something, so their suffering was their fault. Thus, we have the disciples of Jesus asking him when they saw a man who'd been blind from birth, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" The Book of Job is an essential corrective to this mistaken belief, since it's about how suffering can happen to the best of us for no obvious reason. If it wasn't for the Book of Job, a terrible stigma could have grown up against people who suffered tragedy, because other people might have been mistakenly considering that the Bible shows that they must be suffering as a result of God's punishment. Thus, the Book of Job could have prevented the suffering of many who might otherwise have suffered the effects of judgmentalism on top of the tragedies they were already suffering. Of course, the prophets who spoke of the impending suffering of societies who didn't repent of their sins could have made a point of admonishing against judging individuals who suffered. But a handful of passages in the midst of so many others could easily be overlooked. It's more difficult to do that with an entire book.

Also, the Book of Job may well have been a solace to thousands or even millions going through suffering over the centuries. Job's poignant words can give people the comforting feeling that at least they're not going through their suffering alone. They can give people a healing catharsis or soothe them with a sense that feelings they can't articulate or that are bothering them are being expressed. The Book of Job can give people hope that their suffering will end and that their fortunes may be restored, and renew their confidence in God. It might have been of especial comfort to Israelites caught up in the aftermath of the Babylonian invasion of Israel and their exile to Babylon, which the Old Testament prophets had said was punishment for the sins of their society, but who hadn't personally committed sins worthy of such a punishment. They may have gained solace from a book about how suffering isn't always a punishment for sin despite the personal accusations people may make, and hope that God was looking out for them despite the way things appeared and would restore their fortunes at some point.

If the Book of Job has been a comfort to thousands or millions over the centuries, and has prevented a cruel stigma growing up against those who suffer tragedy, then Job may well consider that his suffering was worth it, even the loss of his children, especially if he'd see them again in the after-life, which is only a point of speculation, but a possibility.

The main Bible pages on this site:

Bible Bible Part 1: Bible Quotations, The Holy Spirit, People And Their Stories
Bible Part 2: The Lives and Suffering of the Ancient Israelites
Bible Part 3: The Bible, Articles About Alleged Inaccuracies in it, And Stories of People who Became Christians.
Or go directly to the next in the series: Some Of The Misguided Criticism And Advice Given By Job's Friends, And His Justification Of Himself.

The selections of Bible quotations have been put together by Diana Holbourn.

Throughout this series, wherever the initials TEV appear, they stand for Today's English Version (The Good News Bible).

Other initials:

Warning Against Believing Everything you Hear or Read

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There are a lot of pages on this website with quotations from the Old Testament on them. Many of these are unfortunately rather gruesome, since the main theme of the Old Testament is warnings and stories about how it says societies were punished for mass lawless and hurtful behaviour, even to the extent of having war brought on them by God, that seem to have been designed to scare societies where crime and violence were rampant into behaving more ethically. In case there is any misunderstanding, it should be understood that this website does not endorse war as anything other than a last resort. The position of the website owner can be gleaned from the articles:

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