The Book of Job

The Book of Job is incredibly controversial for a number of reasons.

Yale’s Open Course series includes the videos on Youtube of Professor Christine Hayes and the Introduction to the Old Testament. The Book of Job is one she lists as her favorite or at least one that she finds the most intriguing, and she goes on in one of her talks to explain why.

Essentially, the precedent that the earlier parts of the Torah sets is that those who do good are rewarded and those who sin are punished, all part of a cosmic system of justice set forth by Yahweh.

The Book of Job throws this all out the window when HaSatan (The Satan, the Accuser), an angel servant of Yahweh, suggests that Job is only faithful and does good because Yahweh has blessed him so greatly.

We all know the drill that follows- Yahweh removes his protection, and Job gets smitten again and again, his friends and family accusing him of actually having some secret sin, and then Yahweh and Job have a dialogue.

Job makes this point, and Yahweh agrees, and yet this is all completely missed by so many people: There is no cosmic order of justice. Good and bad do not happen to people based on good and bad things. No one is rewarded or punished according to their virtue or sin; there is no cosmic justice from Yahweh.

Job, however, eventually states that people should do good for its own sake, and not for the sake for reward or out of fear of punishment.

Hey, UUs- I know you agree with Job, because I do.

This is a bizarre notion in this place, yet it’s definitely intelligible to me because that’s how my life has been. The evil prosper, the good suffer, but we should do good because it’s the right thing to do and not because evil might get us more.

Job does eventually have all his blessings restored, but not because he’s a virtuous person necessarily. My brother and I often pointed out how horrific it was that Job lost all his children- what about the children, we say?

The point of the story isn’t about taking it as a literal occurrence; it’s about extracting and reasoning out that virtue should be done for the sake of virtue, and that’s that. I rather agree. Good is good for its own sake and has its own value. It doesn’t need the blessing of anyone or anything to stand on its own. People who “behave” and “do good” because they think they’re going to get a reward in Heaven are missing the entire point of why we should do good.

And that’s what I think about that.




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