אִישׁ הָיָה בְאֶרֶץ־עוּץ אִיּוֹב שְׁמוֹ וְהָיָה הָאִישׁ הַהוּא תָּם וְיָשָׁר וִירֵא אֱלֹהִים וְסָר מֵרָע׃ 1:1
Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, Job being his name, and this man was wholesome and upright and he revered God and turned away from evil.
This chapter and the next (and part of Chapter 3) comprise the prose narrative prologue to the poetry of Job, to come later. I have to admit that when I first encountered this chapter and studied it, I had a feeling similar to the one I had about Genesis Chapter 3. If you recall, I was certain the chapter possessed logical flaws (maybe even spiritual), and I believe this chapter does too. I think Gene. 3 is a myth intended to explain the difficulty of life. And I believe this chapter is a myth to help explain why bad things happen to good people. Read more later.
וַיִּוָּלְדוּ לוֹ שִׁבְעָה בָנִים וְשָׁלוֹשׁ בָּנוֹת׃ 1:2
Job 1:2 And there were born to him seven sons and three daughters.
וַיְהִי מִקְנֵהוּ שִׁבְעַת אַלְפֵי־צֹאן וּשְׁלֹשֶׁת אַלְפֵי גְמַלִּים וַחֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת צֶמֶד־בָּקָר וַחֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת אֲתוֹנוֹת 1:3
וַעֲבֻדָּה רַבָּה מְאֹד וַיְהִי הָאִישׁ הַהוּא גָּדוֹל מִכָּל־בְּנֵי־קֶדֶם׃
Job 1:3 And his livestock was seven thousands of sheep and three thousands of camels and five hundred yoked oxen and five hundred she-asses and a very great household, that this man was greater than any of the children of the east.
I believe the numbers seven, three, and five are supposed to relate to perfection or wholeness. Job was greater than all the children of the east. The east probably means east of the eastern borders of ancient Israel. So Job, and I’m not completely sure yet that he was Jewish, was living in the Diaspora.
וְהָלְכוּ בָנָיו וְעָשׂוּ מִשְׁתֶּה בֵּית אִישׁ יֹומֹו וְשָׁלְחוּ וְקָרְאוּ לִשְׁלֹשֶׁת (אַחְיֹתֵיהֶם) [אַחְיֹותֵיהֶם] לֶאֱכֹל 1:4
Job 1:4 And his sons would go and prepare a household banquet, each one his day, and send and call their three sisters to eat and drink with them.
I believe the “error” in the parentheses need not be considered an error. It is a reasonable spelling for the word translated as their ... sisters. The yad with the vowel point can be viewed as a contraction of the two letters yad and vav. The correction in the brackets, which adds the vav is only marginally necessary.
וַיְהִי כִּי הִקִּיפוּ יְמֵי הַמִּשְׁתֶּה וַיִּשְׁלַח אִיֹּוב וַיְקַדְּשֵׁם וְהִשְׁכִּים בַּבֹּקֶר וְהֶעֱלָה עֹלֹות מִסְפַּר כֻּלָּם כִּי 1:5
אָמַר אִיֹּוב אוּלַי חָטְאוּ בָנַי וּבֵרֲכוּ אֱלֹהִים בִּלְבָבָם כָּכָה יַעֲשֶׂה אִיֹּוב כָּל־הַיָּמִים׃
Job 1:5 And it was, when the days of feasting had gone around, that Job sent and sanctified them, and he would rise up early in the morning and offer burnt offerings in the number of all of them, for Job said, "Perhaps my sons have sinned and blasphemed God in their heart." Job would do thus all the time.
And what of his daughters? Did they not sin, or was the Torah only for men?
Another aspect of this verse is intriguing. This is the first and only time that sinning in one’s heart is mentioned in the Jewish bible. Thus according to this verse, it’s not just about works. Remarkable!
Job 1:6 Now the day happened that the sons of God came to present themselves to the Lord, and the adversary came also among them.
The adversary, known to much of the world as Satan, is said by the sages to be one of the sons of God (whoever they were -- the angels? All male?). But this verse makes that assumption uncertain. Because he was (also) among the sons of God, that doesn’t mean he was one of them. And is there a day that comes about in heaven from time to time? Are there days in heaven? To me this story smacks too much of a rather crude stage play. But the phrase sons of God intrigues me. I don’t think they are the same entities that are mentioned in Gene. 6:2. Those sons of God married human women. These seem to have an altogether different purpose.
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־הַשָּׂטָן מֵאַיִן תָּבֹא וַיַּעַן הַשָּׂטָן אֶת־יְהוָה וַיֹּאמַר מִשּׁוּט בָּאָרֶץוּמֵהִתְהַלֵּךְ בָּהּ׃ 1:7
Job 1:7 And the Lord said to the adversary, "From where would you be coming?" And the adversary answered the Lord and said, "From roaming about on the earth and traversing on it."
So God speaks to the adversary, who is supposed to be responsible for all the evil in the world, as if he is an ordinary heavenly creature, one with whom God converses on a seemingly equal basis. The idea that Satan controls the evil in the world (with God’s permission) is totally weird to me. It doesn’t make sense. Does Satan control gravity? Gravity is one of the features of the physical world that makes life a burden for us. Does he control the comets and meteors in space? The ones that hit the earth and wipe out much of the life on the planet? Does he cause earthquakes, floods, tsunamis? These are some of the things that make life worrisome and burdensome. From what these verses say, Satan seems to have as much control over earthly events as does God. Does that make sense to you? It doesn’t to me. Satan, if he were real, would seriously diminish God! And I don’t buy that.
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־הַשָּׂטָן הֲשַׂמְתָּ לִבְּךָ עַל־עַבְדִּי אִיֹּוב כִּי אֵין כָּמֹהוּ בָּאָרֶץ אִיש תָּם וְיָשָׁר יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים 1:8
Job 1:8 And the Lord said to the adversary, "Have you set your heart on My servant, Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a man wholesome and upright, revering God and turning aside from evil?"
I’ve often thought, perhaps foolishly, that this book was canonized because it reflected to many ordinary humans (and the sages) their own lot in life. Tragedy and hardship will come to most of us if we live long enough. A series of difficulties can cause us to feel like Job (although few of us experience the awful level of his misfortunes). But as we get older, these hardships can feel pretty dire if they incapacitate or limit us. But Job is not ordinary. He is unique in the world according to this verse. Maybe the idea being conveyed here is that if such a catastrophe can happen to Job, it can happen to any of us.
וַיַּעַן הַשָּׂטָן אֶת־יְהוָה וַיֹּאמַר הַחִנָּם יָרֵא אִיּוֹב אֱלֹהִים׃ 1:9
Job 1:9 And the adversary answered the Lord and said, "Does Job revere God without cause?"
הֲלֹא־ (אַתְּ) [אַתָּה] שַׂכְתָּ בַעֲדֹו וּבְעַד־בֵּיתֹו וּבְעַד כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־לֹו מִסָּבִיב מַעֲשֵׂה יָדָיו בֵּרַכְתָּ וּמִקְנֵהוּ 1:10
Job 1:10 "Have You not put a fence about him and around his household and around all that is his from all directions? You have blessed the works of his hands, and his livestock spreads out on the land."
The word in error in the parentheses is missing a heh suffix. It is the feminine form of the pronoun you. The proper masculine form is in the brackets. I wonder, is this an inadvertent error, or is it meant to be a form of insult, or simply an improper address for God by the adversary?
וְאוּלָם שְׁלַח־נָא יָדְךָ וְגַע בְּכָל־אֲשֶׁר־לוֹ אִם־לֹא עַל־פָּנֶיךָ יְבָרֲכֶךָּ׃ 1:11
Job 1:11 "Nevertheless, now send forth Your ‘hand’ and strike at all that is his. Surely he will
blaspheme You to Your ‘face.’"
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־הַשָּׂטָן הִנֵּה כָל־אֲשֶׁר־לֹו בְּיָדֶךָ רַק אֵלָיו אַל־תִּשְׁלַח יָדֶךָ וַיֵּצֵא הַשָּׂטָן מֵעִם פְּנֵי 1:12
Job 1:12 And the Lord said to the adversary, "Behold, all that is his is in your power. Only you shall not extend your hand to him." Then the adversary went out from the presence of the Lord.
וַיְהִי הַיּוֹם וּבָנָיו וּבְנֹתָיו אֹכְלִים וְשֹׁתִים יַיִן בְּבֵית אֲחִיהֶם הַבְּכוֹר׃ 1:13
Job 1:13 And the day came about that his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of the oldest of their brothers,
וּמַלְאָךְ בָּא אֶל־אִיּוֹב וַיֹּאמַר הַבָּקָר הָיוּ חֹרְשׁוֹת וְהָאֲתֹנוֹת רֹעוֹת עַל־יְדֵיהֶם׃ 1:14
Job 1:14 and a messenger came to Job and said, "The cattle were plowing and the she-asses feeding beside them,
וַתִּפֹּל שְׁבָא וַתִּקָּחֵם וְאֶת־הַנְּעָרִים הִכּוּ לְפִי־חָרֶב וָאִמָּלְטָה רַק־אֲנִי לְבַדִּי לְהַגִּיד לָךְ׃ 1:15
Job 1:15 when Sheba attacked and took them away, and they slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and only I by myself escaped, to announce to you."
עוֹד זֶה מְדַבֵּר וְזֶה בָּא וַיֹּאמַר אֵשׁ אֱלֹהִים נָפְלָה מִן־הַשָּׁמַיִם וַתִּבְעַר בַּצֹּאן וּבַנְּעָרִים וַתֹּאכְלֵם 1:16
וָאִמָּלְטָה רַק־אֲנִי לְבַדִּי לְהַגִּיד לָךְ׃
Job 1:16 This one was still speaking, when another came and said, "A fire of God fell from the sky and burned on the sheep and on the servants and consumed them, and only I by myself escaped to announce to you."
עוֹד זֶה מְדַבֵּר וְזֶה בָּא וַיֹּאמַר כַּשְׂדִּים שָׂמוּ שְׁלֹשָׁה רָאשִׁים וַיִּפְשְׁטוּ עַל־הַגְּמַלִּים וַיִּקָּחוּם 1:17
וְאֶת־הַנְּעָרִים הִכּוּ לְפִי־חָרֶב וָאִמָּלְטָה רַק־אֲנִי לְבַדִּי לְהַגִּיד לָךְ׃
Job 1:17 This one was still speaking when another came and said, "Chaldeans set up three bands and spread out over the camels and took them away, and they slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and only I by myself escaped to announce to you."
עַד זֶה מְדַבֵּר וְזֶה בָּא וַיֹּאמַר בָּנֶיךָ וּבְנוֹתֶיךָ אֹכְלִים וְשֹׁתִים יַיִן בְּבֵית אֲחִיהֶם הַבְּכוֹר׃ 1:18
Job 1:18 This one was yet speaking when another came, and he said, "Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of the oldest of their brothers,
וְהִנֵּה רוּחַ גְּדוֹלָה בָּאָה מֵעֵבֶר הַמִּדְבָּר וַיִּגַּע בְּאַרְבַּע פִּנּוֹת הַבַּיִת וַיִּפֹּל עַל־הַנְּעָרִים וַיָּמוּתוּ 1:19
וָאִמָּלְטָה רַק־אֲנִי לְבַדִּי לְהַגִּיד לָךְ׃
Job 1:19 and behold, a great wind came from beyond the wilderness and struck at the four corners of the house and it fell upon the young ones and they died. And only I by myself escaped to announce to you."
All right, what have we got here? Apparently within moments of each other, armed bands from Sheba and from Chaldea attacked separately, there was fire from the sky, and a tornado swept through the immediate vicinity. This has to be one of the most outrageous miracles in the bible. No one knows for sure where the land of Uz was. It’s assumed to have been east of ancient Israel. Some believe that Uz bordered on both Sheba and Chaldea, but there’s no certainty in this. So I suppose it’s possible for the two attacks to have been nearly simultaneous. But what of the fire and the wind? A great coincidence? I find myself seriously questioning this story.
וַיָּקָם אִיֹּוב וַיִּקְרַע אֶת־מְעִלֹו וַיָּגָז אֶת־רֹאשֹׁו וַיִּפֹּל אַרְצָה וַיִּשְׁתָּחוּ׃ 1:20
Job 1:20 Then Job arose and rent his robe and shaved his head and fell toward the ground and prostrated himself.
וַיֹּאמֶר עָרֹם (יָצָתִי) [יָצָאתִי] מִבֶּטֶן אִמִּי וְעָרֹם אָשׁוּב שָׁמָה יְהוָה נָתַן וַיהוָה לָקָח יְהִי שֵׁם יְהוָה 1:21
Job 1:21 And he said, "I came forth bare from the womb of my mother, and I shall return there bare. The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away; May the name of the Lord be blessed.”
The word in error, translated as I came forth, in the parentheses is missing an aleph. The correction is in the brackets.
בְּכָל־זֹאת לֹא־חָטָא אִיֹּוב וְלֹא־נָתַן תִּפְלָה לֵאלֹהִים׃ 1:22
Job 1:22 Despite all this, Job did not sin and did not assign purpose to God.
What can we make of the last four Hebrew words, translated by me as and did not assign purpose to God? What is the storyteller trying to tell us? I see two possibilities. One, Job didn’t blame the Lord for his tribulations. Two, Job could imagine no purpose in what the Lord had done. I believe, because of what he said in v. 1:21, the scribe intended the latter message.