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Thebook of Job belongs to the books referred to as Wisdom books in theBible. The book narrates the sufferings that befall Job a successfulfarmer who lived in UZ and whose entire livestock was eliminated bylightning and marauders. After his livestock had been destroyed, astrong desert wind claimed all of his daughters and sons. Inaddition, his body was infected with sores that were itching andpainful. His wife, seeing what had befallen his husband despiteknowing his dedication to God, tried to convince him to curse Godhowever, Job did not. Besides, Job had three visitors who attemptedto find reasons for his predicament, and they maintained that he musthave gone against God`s will and that his situation was a punishmentfor his wrongful deeds. However, Elihu Job’s fourth visitor gave adifferent explanation for his sufferings. For Elihu, God waspurifying him, and He was doing this through sufferings. Afterreceiving the four visitors God manifested Himself to Job andexplained His action an account that humbled him. As the Book comesto an end, Job is blessed with double the wealth he had before thesufferings, in addition to three daughters and seven sons. Besides,he died 140 years later. This story resonates with the Westernconcept of sufferings, faith, and morality.
First,in the western culture, suffering is seen as a preparation for betterthings to come. For instance, during the fight for independencyfirst for Americans, followed by the feminist movement and then thecivil right movement, sufferings were seen as the only way ofachieving victory. According to John Piper in the article Job: TheRevelation of God in Suffering, Job is depicted as glorifying Godthrough his suffering. Besides, Piper argues that God does not makean attempt to justify his action which shows that he saw His actionas having Job`s best interest. This is the same idea held by thewestern culture on suffering. For instance, during the civil rightmovement, the black leaders such as Martin King Jr. acceptedsuffering such as by being jailed as a way of liberating the blacksfrom the shackles of racial inequalities. Thus, there is a tendencyto view suffering as a good thing. According to Larry Waters in thearticle, Reflection on Suffering From the Book of Job,Job’ssuffering was God’s way of changing Job status and situation andhence, just like the western view, suffering is seen as somethingpositive (Waters, 9). This idea of suffering is similar to Elihu’sexplanation of Job suffering in the book of Job. In fact, there is atendency to view suffering as the only way of moving from oneposition to another or challenging the status quo. Using the sameexample of the American fight for independence, the forefathers couldhave chosen to remain under the rule of British monarch and no bloodwould have been shed. However, this would mean continued oppression. Job rebukes his wife saying that while they have received good thingsfrom God, they could also receive evil from Him too. Thus, sufferingwas inevitable if the America’s forefathers wanted to experience achange in the leadership of the country and this is seen in theiracceptance of sufferings by fighting against the British as they sawno other alternative to achieving independence. In other words, thebook of Job influences the Western idea of suffering by depicting itas positive, something to be desired and the only way to good things.There is also another facet to the question of why suffering happensto Job. According to Ethan Dor-Shav, in the article Job’s path toEnlightenment, Job suffering was not as a result of his sins, but forthe outstanding righteous. This idea has influenced the western ideaof suffering as it depicts suffering as being experienced by peoplewho are targeted to succeed or perform exemplary and not those doomedto fail.
Thebook of Job influences the Western idea of faith in many ways. First,it depicts faith as an importance aspect of achieving. It translatesto not giving up when faced with challenges. For instance, what wouldhave happened had Job conceded to his wife suggestion of cursing God?He would not have received the ten children, double the wealth he hadbefore the suffering and 140 more years. Second, the book of jobdepicts faith as the pushing power whenever one is going through thesuffering of any kind. However, faith in the Western culture does notnecessary mean the same as trust in God but having the hope ofsomething good coming out of one`s current bad situation. Thisresonates with the Western saying of the light being at the end ofthe tunnel, with the latter symbolizing sufferings. Third, the threefriends that visited Job are similar to what the Western culture viewas obstacles to success. This is because they stood between Jobrealizations of the reason for his suffering. This cultivates theidea that one must have a sense of direction or else they will notachieve what they are meant to achieve. The other way of the book ofJob has influenced the western culture is the idea of morality.First, doing good does not always have immediate positive results.Sometimes even when one has perfected something, things do not alwaysgo as planned. The failure does not mean that one did somethingwrong, instead the book of Job depict failure or a bad situation asbeing in the middle of doing good and the positive results. In thebook of Job, Job argued that he was innocent despite the threefriends insisting otherwise. For instance, according to Garry Sloanin the article, the Book of Job Faith vs. Reason, the book of Jobquestion why the wicked prosper, live long, sleep well and commandrespect while the righteous suffer.This shows that morality whichmeans the right or wrong does not necessarily have immediate positiveresults, but undoubtedly have positive outcomes. It is Job’sfailure to go against God that he was rewarded at the end, but thiswas after he went through sufferings. The book of Job tends toresonate with the Western saying that the end justifies the means.This means that while some actions may be good the end may not bewhile the reverse is also true. Using the same example of the fightfor independence, the forefathers had to shed blood of theoppressors, but from the book of Job, this does not make them good orbad. It is only the results which were undoubtedly positive that theaction of these men and women can be said to be good. Had Job wrongedGod, probably, He would have left him to learn his lesson, butbecause of his innocence his glory was reinstated.
Inconclusion, the book of Job gave a new interpretation to the conceptof faith, suffering and morality and this has greatly shaped thewestern view of these concepts. For instance, suffering is considereda good thing and a way of testing one’s resilience. Besides,suffering is depicted as targeting victors and not losers. Theinfluence of this understanding of suffering in the western culturecan be seen in the way the American’s forefathers acceptedsuffering during the fight for independence while they had a chanceto give in to British rule. Besides, there are numerous Westernsaying that shows acceptances of sufferings and hopes after they areover. In addition, Job situation applies to the civil rightsmovement. On the other hand, the book of Job is similar to thewestern saying of the end justifying the means as while Jobrighteousness resulted in his suffering at the end it led to hisglory. Lastly, faith depicted in the book of Job is evident in thewestern view of accepting suffering, trying one more time, havinghope and trust in what one believes in without considering otherpeople’s views.
Dor-shav,Ethan. “Job’s path to Enlightenment.” 2008. Accessed fromhttp://azure.org.il/include/print.php?id=20
Piper,John. “Job: The Revelation of God in Suffering.” 1985. Accessedfromhttp://www.desiringgod.org/messages/job-the-revelation-of-god-in-suffering
Sloan,Gary. “The Book of Job Faith vs. Reason.” 2003. Accessed fromhttp://www.liberator.net/articles/SloanGary/BookofJob.html
Waters,Larry. “Reflection on Suffering From the Book of Job.”Bibliotheca Sacra 154, 1997https://www.dts.edu/download/publications/bibliotheca/BibSac-Waters-ReflectionsOnSufferingFromTheBookOfJob.pdf