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The Book of Job (Selections)


The Book of Job is a poetic narrative in the Old Testament describing the sufferings of Job as he loses his wealth, his family, and his health as a result of a test of the strength of his faith. Much of the book is taken up with debates between Job and his friends on the cause of his suffering; they suggest that he is responsible for his own pain, but Job maintains that he has been just, and that both the just and the wicked suffer. Finally, God speaks to Job from out of a whirlwind, insisting that it is impossible for any human to question his omnipotence. God then returns Job to health, with even more wealth and a new family.

The arc of the narrative is similar to the versions of the Lear story that Shakespeare used as the source for his plot: Job begins in happiness and security, is reduced to poverty and illness, and is finally restored to health and happiness. Much of the book is in the form of dialogues, between God and Satan, between Job and his friends, and finally between God and Job. The selections here are taken from the Geneva Bible, the version used by Shakespeare. I have modernized spelling and punctuation; verses are indicated by superscript numbers.

From The Book of Job

1Chapter 1

[Satan asks God to test the faith of Job by taking from him his wealth and family.]

1 There was a man in the land of Uz called Job, and this man was an upright and just man, one that feared God and eschewed evil.
2 And he had seven sons and three daughters.
3 His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and his family was very great, so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the East.
4 And his sons went and banqueted in their houses, every one his day, and sent, and called their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.
5 And when the days of their banqueting were gone about, Job sent, and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job thought, "It may be that my sons have sinned, and blasphemed God in their hearts." Thus did Job every day.
6 Now on a day when the children of God came and stood before the Lord, Satan came also among them.
7 Then the Lord said unto Satan, "Whence comest thou?" And Satan answered the Lord, saying, "From compassing the earth to and fro, and from walking in it."
8 And the Lord said unto Satan, "Hast thou not considered my servant Job, how none is like him in the earth, an upright and just man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil?"
9 Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, "Doth Job fear God for nought?"
10 "Hast thou not made an hedge about him and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land."
11 "But stretch out now thine hand and touch all that he hath, to see if he will not blaspheme thee to thy face."
12 Then the Lord said unto Satan, "Lo, all that he hath is in thine hand; only upon himself shalt thou not stretch out thine hand." So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord.
13 And on a day, when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house, 14 there came a messenger unto Job, and said, "The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding in their places, 15 and the Sabeans came violently, and took them; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; but I only am escaped alone to tell thee."
16 And while he was yet speaking, another came and said, "The fire of God is fallen from the heaven and hath burnt up the sheep and the servants and devoured them; but I only am escaped alone to tell thee."
17 And while he was yet speaking, another came, and said, "The Chaldeans set on three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have taken them, and have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; but I only am escaped alone to tell thee."
18 And while he was yet speaking came another and said, "Thy sons and thy daughters were eating, and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house, 19 and behold, there came a great wind from beyond the wilderness and smote the four corners of the house, which fell upon the children, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee."
20 Then Job arose, and rent his garment, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, 21 and said, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord hath given, and the Lord hath taken it; blessed be the Name of the Lord."
22 In all this did not Job sin, nor charge God foolishly.

From chapter 2

[The dialogue between God and Satan is repeated, with Satan now given permission to attack Job's body.]

1 And on a day the children of God came and stood before the Lord, and Satan came also among them, and stood before the Lord.
2 Then the Lord said unto Satan, "Whence comest thou?" And Satan answered the Lord, and said, "From compassing the earth to and fro, and from walking in it."
3 And the Lord said unto Satan, "Hast thou not considered my servant Job, how none is like him in the earth? An upright and just man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? For yet he continueth in his uprightness, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause."
4 And Satan answered the Lord, and said, "Skin for skin, and all that ever a man hath will he give for his life."
5 "But stretch now out thine hand, and touch his bones and his flesh, to see if he will not blaspheme thee to thy face."
6 Then the Lord said unto Satan, "Lo, he is in thine hand, but save his life."
7 So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils, from the sole of his foot unto his crown.
8 And he took a potsherd to scrape him, and he sat down among the ashes.
9 Then said his wife unto him, "Doest thou continue yet in thine uprightness? Blaspheme God, and die."
10 But he said unto her, "Thou speakest like a foolish woman. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and not receive evil?" In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

5Chapter 10

[Job asks why he has been singled out for punishment.]

1 My soul is cut off though I live. I will leave my complaint upon myself, and will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
2 I will say unto God, "Condemn me not: show me wherefore thou contendest with me."
3 "Thinkest thou it good to oppress me, and to cast off the labor of thine hands, and to favor the counsel of the wicked?"
4 "Hast thou carnal eyes; or doest thou see as man seeth?"
5 "Are thy days as man's days, or thy years as the time of man, 6 that thou inquirest of mine iniquity, and searchest out my sin?"
7 "Thou knowest that I cannot do wickedly, for none can deliver me out of thine hand."
8 "Thine hands have made me and fashioned me wholly round about, and wilt thou destroy me?"
9 Remember, I pray thee, that thou hast made me as the clay, and wilt thou bring me into dust again?
10 "Hast thou not poured me out as milk and turned me to curds like cheese?"
11 "Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and joined me together with bones and sinews."
12 "Thou hast given me life, and grace; and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit."
13 "Though thou hast hid these things in thine heart, yet I know that it is so with thee."
14 "If I have sinned, then thou wilt straitly look unto me, and wilt not hold me guiltless of mine iniquity."
15 "If I have done wickedly, woe unto me; if I have done righteously I will not lift up mine head, being full of confusion, because I see mine affliction."
16 "But let it increase. Hunt thou me as a lion; return and show thyself marvelous upon me."
17 "Thou renewest thy plagues against me, and thou increasest thy wrath against me; changes and armies of sorrows are against me."
18 "Wherefore then hast thou brought me out of the womb? Oh, that I had perished and that none eye had seen me, 19 and that I were as I had not been, but brought from the womb to the grave!"
20 "Are not my days few? Let him cease, and leave off from me that I may take a little comfort 21 before I go, and shall not return, even to the land of darkness and shadow of death; 22 into a land, I say, dark as darkness itself, and into the shadow of death, where is none order, but the light is there as darkness."

Chapter 14

[Job speaks of the impermanence of human life.]

1 Man that is born of woman is of short continuance and full of trouble.
2 He shooteth forth as a flower, and is cut down; he vanisheth also as a shadow, and continueth not.
3 And yet thou openest thine eyes upon such one, and causest me to enter into judgment with thee.
4 Who can bring a clean thing out of filthiness? There is not one.
5 Are not his days determined? The number of his months are with thee; thou hast appointed his bounds which he cannot pass.
6 Turn from him that he may cease until his desired day, as an hireling.
7 For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will yet sprout, and the branches thereof will not cease.
8 Though the root of it wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof be dead in the ground, 9 yet by the scent of water it will bud and bring forth boughs like a plant.
10 But man is sick and dieth, and man perisheth, and where is he?
11 As the waters pass from the sea, and as the flood decayeth and drieth up, 12 so man sleepeth and riseth not, for he shall not wake again, nor be raised from his sleep till the heaven be no more.
13 Oh that thou wouldest hide me in the grave and keep me secret until thy wrath were past, and wouldest give me term and remember me.
14 If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of mine appointed time will I wait till my changing shall come.
15 Thou shalt call me and I shall answer thee; thou lovest the work of thine own hands.
16 But now thou numberest my steps, and doest not delay my sins.
17 Mine iniquity is sealed up as in a bag, and thou addest unto my wickedness.
18 And surely as the mountain that falleth cometh to nought, and the rock that is removed from his place; 19 as the water breaketh the stones, when thou overflowest the things which grow in the dust of the earth, so thou destroyest the hope of man.
20 Thou prevailest always against him so that he passeth away; he changeth his face when thou castest him away.
21 And he knoweth not if his sons shall be honorable, neither shall he understand concerning them whether they shall be of low degree, 22 but while his flesh is upon him he shall be sorrowful, and while his soul is in him it shall mourn.

From chapter 21

[In response to his friend Zophar, who claims that the wicked are invariably punished, Job points out that the wicked do prosper.]

107 Wherefore do the wicked live, and wax old, and grow in wealth?
8 Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their generation before their eyes.
9 Their houses are peaceable without fear, and the rod of God is not upon them.
10 Their bullock gendereth and faileth not, their cow calveth and casteth not her calf.
11 They send forth their children like sheep and their sons dance.
12 They take the tambourine and harp, and rejoice in the sound of the organs.
13 They spend their days in wealth, and suddenly they go down to the grave.
14 They say also unto God, "Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways."

From chapter 24

[Job speaks of the evils humans commit against each other; compare Lear's description of human injustice in his madness.]

1 How should not the times be hid from the Almighty, seeing that they which know him see not his days?
2 Some remove the landmarks, that rob the flocks and feed thereof.
3 They lead away the ass of the fatherless and take the widow's ox to pledge.
4 They make the poor to turn out of the way, so that the poor of the earth hide themselves together.
5 Behold, others, as wild asses in the wilderness, go forth to their business and rise early for a prey; the wilderness giveth him and his children food.
6 They reap his provision in the field, but they gather the late vintage of the wicked.
7 They cause the naked to lodge without garment, and without covering in the cold.
8 They are wet with the showers of the mountains, and they embrace the rock for want of a covering.
9 They pluck the fatherless from the breast, and take the pledge of the poor.
10 They cause him to go naked without clothing, and take the gleaning from the hungry.
11 They that make oil between their walls and tread their wine presses suffer thirst.
12 Men cry out of the city and the souls of the slain cry out, yet God doth not charge them with folly.
13 These are they that abhor the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor continue in the paths thereof.
14 The murderer riseth early and killeth the poor and the needy, and in the night he is as a thief.
15 The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, and saith, "None eye shall see me," and disguiseth his face.
16 They dig through houses in the dark which they marked for themselves in the day: they know not the light.
17 But the morning is even to them as the shadow of death; if one [know them they are in the terrors of the shadow of death.
18 He is swift upon the waters; their portion shall be cursed in the earth; he will not behold the way of the vineyards.
19 As the dry ground and heat consume the snow waters, so shall the grave the sinners.
20 The pitiful man shall forget him; the worm shall feel his sweetness; he shall be no more remembered, and the wicked shall be broke like a tree.

From chapter 38

[God speak out of the whirlwind.]

1 Then answered the Lord unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said, 2 "Who is this that darkeneth the counsel by words without knowledge?"
3 "Gird up now thy loins like a man: I will demand of thee and declare thou unto me."
4 "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding, 5 who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest; or who hath stretched the line over it.
6 "Whereupon are the foundations thereof set; or who laid the cornerstone thereof 7 when the stars of the morning praised me together and all the children of God rejoiced."
8 "Or who hath shut up the sea with doors when it issued and came forth as out of the womb; 9 when I made the clouds as a covering thereof, and darkness as the swaddling bands thereof; 10 when I established my commandment upon it, and set bars and doors, 11 and said, 'Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther, and here shall it stay thy proud waves.'"
12 "Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days? Hast thou caused the morning to know his place 13 that it might take hold of the corners of the earth, and that the wicked might be shaken out of it?

15From chapter 42

[Job answers with humility; he is returned to his earlier happiness.]

1 Then Job answered the Lord, and said, 2 "I know that thou canst do all things and that there is no thought hid from thee."
3 "Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I spoken that I understood not, even things too wonderful for me, and which I knew not."
4 "Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak; I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me."
5 "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee."
6 "Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."

[God upbraids Job's friends, and demands that they repent by preparing a burnt offering, with Job interceding on their behalf. The book ends with Job returned to happiness and success.]

10 Then the Lord turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends; also the Lord gave Job twice so much as he had before.
11 Then came unto him all his brethren and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house and had compassion on him, and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him, and every man gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.
12 So the Lord blessed the last days of Job more than the first, for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses.
13 He had also seven sons, and three daughters.
14 And he called the name of one Jemimah, and the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-happuch.
15 In all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job, and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.
16 And after this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his son's sons, even four generations.
17 So Job died, being old and full of days.