The Book of Job

Coming across the book of Job in the Bible is like stumbling onto an oasis in the desert. It’s downright Shakespearean, even set up like a play wherein Satan goads God into tormenting Job with further and further pain to see if Job will renounce him; later, Job’s three pals show up to throw shade at him and taunt him for obviously not being a true believer since God has forsaken him. This is the book that Melville quotes from in Moby- Dick, “And I only am escaped alone to tell thee.” And Virginia Woolf, the daughter of famous un-believer Leslie Stephen, adds it to her repertoire in 1922: “I read the book of Job last night—I dont think God comes well out of it.”

So the quick and dirty summary: Job’s a wealthy dude with a large family and he’s very God-abiding/fearing. Satan makes a bet with God that he can get Job to denounce him, God says “Go for it, but don’t kill him.” Satan kills off Job’s entire family and has all of his wealth stolen. Job doesn’t budge. Satan’s strolling around heaven again and God brags about how great Job is, prodding Satan to try again, which he does by putting boils and other bodily ills to Job. His wife (of course! women are always evil in the Bible) counsels Job to curse God but he refuses. Then three of his friends arrive to harangue him and tell him he’s obviously good for nothing. Job philosophizes and it gets a little sleepy there in the middle. Then a 4th “friend”, Elihu shows up to continue to berate Job before God pops over to shut everyone up. God’s pissed at the three friends and Job prays for them, then Job is rewarded with double the wealth he originally had and, oddly, the exact number of sons and daughters he had that were murdered. Bananas. He lives for 140 years, happily ever after.

There’s a lot of quotable bits here, but my favorite might be verse 6:6: “Can that which is unsavory be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg?” (Verse 10:10 a close second: “Have you not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?”)