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Why did testing come to Job? (Job 23:10) ERV (Easy-to-Read Version)

"But God knows me. He is TESTING [caps, mine] me and will see that I am as pure as gold" (Job 23:10).

I.e., why do the righteous suffer? (especially Job)

  • 'Why do the righteous suffer ?' is one of the questions answered within the book. But it is a deeply profound book and these questions must be answered in one's own experience as one lives. There's nothing technical in the book of Job. – Nigel J Dec 15 '18 at 10:58
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This is the same answer I used for a similar question back in September.

My personal opinion is that the Book of Job is demonstrating the human struggle to deal with his own self righteousness. Job was hugely self righteous. That was the specific issue that God was dealing with in the Book of Job.

Yes, God did declare Job as righteous but that was in relation to his outward works alone. His behavior was impeccable but his heart was sinful just like all humans. God was dealing with Job’s inherent sinfulness; his pride and his sin nature.

In the main part of the book, you see Job’s friends insisting that there must have been some kind of sin in his life because God does not punish an innocent person. Job then repeatedly defends himself, justifying his behavior. The only issue is that his behavior was not at issue with God. Job’s friends and Job all must have attended the same church (LOL) for all had the same theology. That theology was that you reap what you sow; if you have something evil happen to you, then you must have acted in some way to deserve the punishment. All three had this world view; only Job’s friends insisted Job sinned and Job insisted that he didn’t.

Chapter 32, verse one is an important verse. When Job’s three friends tire of trying to convince Job of his sin, the bible says:

Job 32:1 (KJV):

So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.

Job was so self righteous, that it appears that he has a God complex. Just read the account in chapter 29. When Job is now tired of ranting toward God, he then starts to reflect on the good old days when he was a respected person in the community. To Job, his position in the community was the most important thing that Job lost!!!! This chapter is extremely telling. Job’s pride is enormous.

Job 29 (KJV):

2 Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; 3 When his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness; 4 As I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle; 5 When the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were about me; 6 When I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil; 7 When I went out to the gate through the city, when I prepared my seat in the street! 8 The young men saw me, and hid themselves: and the aged arose, and stood up. 9 The princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth. 10 The nobles held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth. 11 When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me: 12 Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. 13 The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. 14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. 15 I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. 16 I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out. 17 And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth. 18 Then I said, I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand. 19 My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch. 20 My glory was fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand. 21 Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel. 22 After my words they spake not again; and my speech dropped upon them. 23 And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain. 24 If I laughed on them, they believed it not; and the light of my countenance they cast not down. 25 I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, as one that comforteth the mourners.

Job's heart is then revealed in Chapter 30. After the praise of himself has ended, he remembers that there are these young men that have nothing but distain for Job's present situation. Job then shows the true nature of his heart and the fact that he hates his neighbor (therefore cannot possibly love God) and in his pride, says that he would have treated these men's fathers worse than animals.

Job 30:1 (KJV)

But now they that are younger than I have me in derision, whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock.

At the end of the Book, Elihu the prophet comes in a reams out Job for justifying himself instead of justifying God. God them comes behind Elihu and does essentially the same thing.

Job then finally realizes his problem as pride and self righteousness, covers his mouth and says that he is a vile man. God, seeing Job realize and understand his inherent sin, releases Job from his plight and the mercy of God restores Job to greater than when he was self righteous. This is a great metaphor about man’s righteousness verses God’s righteousness.

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A Spirit of Fear
From the New Testament:

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7) [ESV]

Fear is a spirit, which is not given by God.

Fear is an important element to Job's story:

For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. (Job 3:25)

Job's fear was for his children:

His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. (1:4-5)

Not only did Job fear for his children, he did so continually. In other words, Job continually invited a spirit of fear, which was not from God, into his life.

The LORD's Protection
Despite Job's actions, the LORD protected him:

Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. (Job 1:9-10)

Satan protests the LORD's protection of Job. That is, they have been trying "to get at" Job for some time. Yet, despite Job continually permitting the spirit of fear inside the LORD's "hedge of protection," the LORD protects Job from any harm, because Job is blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil (1:8). Job's problem is one of ignorance: he does not know fear is a spirit not from God.

Therefore, the "testing" of Job is the LORD allowing the spirit, which is not from God, and which Job has continually brought into his life inside "the hedge of protection," to have some (limited) ability to do what Satan wants done (and has been trying to do for some time).

  • (1) I think it is a mistake to attempt premising on a short excerpt of the NT (written in Greek) the exegesis of fear as used in Job (written in Hebrew). Greek and Hebrew languages are too different from each other, notoriously in regard to the philosophical connotation and variety of concepts that each lexicon allows to express. (2) I doubt Job's daily offerings were necessarily the product of "fear" in the "NT sense" you portray (it would take some expertise in Biblical Hebrew to ascertain this question). It could very well be precaution or other sign of devotion short of fear. – Iñaki Viggers Dec 15 '18 at 14:54
  • @IñakiViggers Your point is noted. The Hebrew uses 3 different words which convey fear which the LXX conflates to 1. 1). If "fear" is a spirit, I doubt if some types of fear are and other types are not. 2). I do not believe one needs to be a student of Greek and/or Hebrew to understand a parents concern for the consequences of their children's actions. The events begin describing Job's children having their own "festivals" and as soon as these "festivals" had run their course, Job immediately offered sacrifices because, "it may be they have cursed God in their heart." - – Revelation Lad Dec 15 '18 at 16:19
  • The parental concern could be described differently by different parents in different languages, but I am certain each parent would understand exactly what the other was experiencing. 3). As to a short excerpt of the NT serving as a basis for exegesis, I would point to instances (ie God is love) which are not invalidated because the text does explicate the thought in detail, – Revelation Lad Dec 15 '18 at 16:24
  • But why should an emotion or state of mind be strictly conceptualized as "spirit"? I think that doing so tends to misconstrue us as susceptible of being nullified/replaced by some pseudo-entity. As for (3), I do not mean to invalidate basic notions such as "God is love", but the approach to profound questions requires delving in the complexities of doctrinal formulation. Personally, my problem with Christianity's instruction in general is its "doctrinal" habit to trivialize matters so as to foreclose man's profound inquiries: Trivialization is easy, but it leaves questions unsolved. – Iñaki Viggers Dec 15 '18 at 17:19
  • @IñakiViggers You arrive at understanding by first admitting the point at which you start. That is not "trivialization." It's a reality for every matter and every subject. Consider your starting point: "why should an emotion..." You believe fear is an emotion not a spirit. You believe fear creates a "state of mind." Everyone knows you can allow fear to influence actions. When that happens are you following your emotions and acting because that is your state of mind? Or are you following the spirit of fear and not using the sound mind and self control which is from God? – Revelation Lad Dec 15 '18 at 17:54
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I'm not sure that a direct answer is found in the book of Job to get the answer to the question 'why?'. When looking at God's testing of His people from Genesis to Revelation I think we can infer a few things.

  1. We don't always get the answers to the question "why?"
  2. God revealed Himself to Job in such a way that He no longer cried out to have his day in court with God.
  3. God richly rewards suffering and faith in this life for eternity. If He allows us to suffer temporarily in this life to compensate that suffering for eternity, is it worth it?

Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.”EX20:20

6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 1 Peter 1:6-8

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, Phil 2:8-10NASB

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Why do the righteous suffer?

This is the philosophical question posed by the entire book of Job. To even attempt an answer to this question, we need to understand what is meant by 'suffer'.

Job suffers in three ways. First, he suffers from the loss of almost everything he values: his family, wealth and possessions. Secondly, he suffers from physical pain inflicted on his body. Thirdly, he suffers humility - having lost everything, he loses the respect of his community, who have equated his good fortune with righteousness.

Job 23:10 - these are the words of Job - this is how he interprets his own situation, based on the understanding that everything comes from God, that loss, pain and humility are external things inflicted upon one's life, and that God decides to wield these according to human reasoning: to punish or retaliate for a wrong done, or to test someone for a later reward. After all, these are the only 'good' reasons for suffering, and since Job is wholly righteous, both by his account and by God's, the only logical reason for these 'attacks' must be that God is testing him.

But this not how God sees it. God's response to Job, expressed in vivid imagery and applying the human understanding of ancient times, gives an indication of the scope of God's view of the world, in time and space:

"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth from the womb; when I made clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? (Job 38: 4-11)

This is not simply putting Job in his place, but provides a broader perspective of what humans tend to call 'suffering':

“Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain, and a way for the thunderbolt, to bring rain on a land where no man is, on the desert in which there is no man; to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground put forth grass?" (Job 38: 25-27)

"Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, when they crouch in their dens, or lie in wait in their covert? Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food?" (Job 38: 39-41)

From God's perspective, what we understand as loss, pain and humility occurs in all life - from the 'land where no man is', to the lion and the raven seeking prey. But fulfilling these needs in the world have no apparent value to us as humans - in fact we would just as soon deny them satisfaction if it would make our own lives better. What does it matter if no rain falls 'on the desert where there is no man'? Is providing prey for the lion and food for her cubs a 'good' thing, or does it inflict suffering on other animals that are less of a threat or more beneficial to humans? Is it 'good' to deny the ravens their prey, or does this inflict undue suffering on their young?

We are only now beginning to understand that pain, humility and loss are necessary to ensure the ultimate balance of life. To view suffering as an attack or affliction that should be avoided is to ignore the reality that to live is to endure pain, loss and humiliation. No matter how righteous Job may be, it's ridiculous to think he will avoid pain in his life. Pain is an important part of our physiological system. It communicates to us that attention, energy and adjustment is required.

No matter how righteous Job is, he will not avoid loss, either. Grain and fortune are consumed, cattle die, drought and floods devastate crops, and eventually everyone dies - even children. If everyone were to view every loss as a personal attack by God, we'd all naturally feel hard done by. Loss is not a punishment anyone deserves - it's simply the cycle of life.

No matter how righteous Job thinks he is, or how righteous he may be in the eyes of God, he will not avoid humility, because as a human being, his righteousness is limited. While Job's righteousness takes into account his concern for his fellow man, God's righteousness takes into account His concern for all of life throughout eternity.

God then continues to humble Job by describing the behemoth (hippopotamus) and the leviathan (crocodile) - two creatures that express the wild strength of nature well beyond man's ability to tame and bend to his will.

Can you put a rope in his nose, or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he make many supplications to you? Will he speak to you soft words? ... Can you fill his skin with harpoons, or his head with fishing spears? Lay hands on him; think of the battle; you will not do it again! Behold, the hope of a man is disappointed; he is laid low even at the sight of him. No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up. (Job 41: 2-3, 7-10)

The book of Job challenges this idea that we can eventually either become sufficiently righteous or able to subdue nature completely, and thereby avoid all instances of pain, loss and humility.

In the end, God offers no explanation for supposedly inflicting or even allowing the pain, loss and humility experienced by Job - except to imply that explaining it would be beyond our understanding of the world. He neither acknowledges that it's a test nor punishment.

It is a fairytale ending - although Job has his fortune restored and even multiplied, we should be aware by now that his fortune is not equated with righteousness, and that he will not (and shouldn't deserve to) have it forever - such is life.

Conclusion

The righteous suffer because all of life necessarily experiences what we see as pain, loss and humility. It is intrinsic to the experience of life itself. But as humans we tend to think we're above it all, that somehow we shouldn't have to suffer - not as much as everyone else, anyway.

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why do the righteous suffer? (especially Job)

I will start by formulating the Problem of Evil as the necessity to discard one or two of the following premises, given the impossibility that all three hold simultaneously:

  1. God is benevolent.
  2. God is omnipotent.
  3. Evil exists.

Ruling out premise #3 would render this question a non sequitur (and unreasonably negate man's experience).

With this, let me paraphrase your question as:

Given Job's righteousness, why did God target him?

Because God sought to "restore" for Himself the self-assurance of His superiority. Causing Job's suffering was God's desperate tactic to [needlessly] assert His point.

Amid the context of suffering that pervades the narrative almost in its entirety, the core issue in the Book of Job is the matter of whether a person can surpass God in terms of morals or righteousness. This is palpable in Job 4:17 (New Revised Standard Version), with the spirit asking Eliphaz:

Can mortals be more righteous than God? Can human beings be more pure than their Maker?

God's undisclosed answer appears to be in the affirmative, and henceforth He sought to dismantle or revert His own shocking conclusion. It is not a mere coincidence that, from all the sons of God or heavenly beings who gathered around Him (Job 1:6), God chose Satan (in Hebrew, "the Accuser") to address God's dissimulated unease regarding Job's unparalleled righteousness.

With one exception, God's approach was to "do whatever it takes" for the sake of asserting His self-assurance with respect to Job: kill Job's servants, kill his children, go after his health. The exception is "only spare his life" (Job 2:6), and the reason therefor is egotistical on God's part: God identified the deference from a crushed Job as the only possible sign or proof that could satisfy His pursuit of self-assurance, whence God foresaw that Job's death would permanently preclude that possibility.

It is noteworthy that God's quest was unwarranted and unprovoked, though: Job's conduct never signaled an intent of rivalry between him and God. Quite the contrary, Job at all times showed honest, relentless devotion for God.

Unlike the answer posted by @alb, I would not attribute to Job sinfulness or sinful pride. Job as a rational being repeatedly inquires as to what is it that he must have done wrong. The fact that Job can only think of counterexamples does not render him arrogant or a sinner. Similarly, this other answer suggests that

pain, humility and loss are necessary to ensure the ultimate balance of life

and

the reality that to live is to endure pain, loss and humiliation

but I cannot agree with that justification of suffering in the context of someone as rational and as eagerly righteous as Job.

One cannot deny life and growing up also are, and in a more elevated sense, about reasoning and learning. Suggesting that Job deserved to suffer in order to learn and/or mend something about himself amounts to overlooking Job's outstanding attributes. Moreover, that paint/loss/humiliation suggestion inevitably implies that Job's stand in 2:10 ("You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?") was erred insofar as it still signaled no mending with respect to his longstanding devotion.

The deadlock in the Book of Job is that wrongs were inflicted on him for no apparent reason, notwithstanding that his elevated understanding would merit an accurate answer (if any exists that could actually justify those wrongs) that he repeatedly sought.

Having no proper refutation to Job's meritorious pleadings, God eluded them altogether and instead made a long recital of His vast powers. Whereas the initial question pertained to premise #1 of the Problem of Evil (as formulated above), God switched the focus to premise #2. In other words, God changed the subject. This avoidance was God's implicit confirmation of His answer [in the affirmative] to the question in 4:17.

The approach of handicapping Job and causing him to suffer was God's futile (and I would add: retrograde and regretful) attempt to prevail in the absurd contest that existed nowhere but in God's mind.

  • You honestly need to re-read the story of Job. You have totally missed the theme of pride that sticks out like a sore thumb. Who are God's children of pride? How are they used to reveal Job's problem? "Gird up thy loins now like a man ... behold every one that is proud, and abase him ... tread down the wicked in their place. Hide them in the dust together [the proud and the wicked]; and bind their faces in secret. Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee." These words are directed at all men who imagine themselves to be noble and self-sufficient. – enegue Dec 19 '18 at 2:06
  • @enegue The cliché approach of nitpicking "what to blame Job for" really does not help the reader who experiences unwarranted harm and seeks a useful answer. The excerpt you reproduce is part of God's long recitation of His power. Hence my statement that God changed the subject: God shifted the focus away from the issue best formulated in 4:17. Job's pleadings are part of a rational epistemology that ensued after Job's calamities persisted notwithstanding his unrelenting righteousness (1:22, 2:10) that even God admitted (2:3). – Iñaki Viggers Dec 19 '18 at 19:16
  • God didn't change the subject. You are simply ignorant of it. You say, "Suggesting that Job deserved to suffer in order to learn and/or mend something about himself amounts to overlooking Job's outstanding attributes." Firstly, Job was not THE Son of God, but one of the ALL-have-sinned-and-fallen-short-of-the-glory-of-God. Secondly, Job's sufferings were the only means of rescuing him. Job eventually saw his sin and repented of it in dust and ashes, but you see God as the sinner and publicly malign his name, i.e. you "curse God to his face", which is what Satan wanted Job to do. – enegue Dec 19 '18 at 20:28
  • @enegue You can get all confrontational and push as much dogma as you wish, but that outdated "theology" of obscurantism is proving increasingly ineffective in persuading and retaining members. Our reality requires us to evolve and rethink our relation with God. – Iñaki Viggers Dec 19 '18 at 20:58
  • Clearly you are happy to accommodate maligning the character of God in your rethinking of your relationship with God, so I'll leave you to it. – enegue Dec 19 '18 at 21:32

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