The Book of Job: A Synopsis






1:1 - 2:13


Prologue (The Legend)

Yahweh and Satan wager; Satan inflicts (God allows) evil/suffering

1:1 - 5


Narrative Introduction to Job

Yahweh proclaims Job His most righteous man – God-fearing and free from sin – essentially provoking Satan (the Accuser; the Adversary)

1:6 - 12


First Scene in Heaven

Yahweh and Satan (or Job’s adversary?) wager to prove Job’s righteousness – that is, to discern whether Job is purely pious, uninterested in reward or blessing (“Just don’t lay a hand on him.”)

1:13 - 22


Job's First Test and Its Outcome

Job suffers loss of prosperity/possessions (oxen, asses, herdsmen; sheep, shepherds; camels, camel drivers) and children, but remains righteous

2:1 - 7a


Second Scene in Heaven

Yahweh and Satan make a more pointed wager – to strike Job bodily (“Just don’t kill him.”)

2:7b - 10


Job's Second Test and Its Outcome

Deepening calamity – Job suffers loss of personal health (“skin for skin” – skin ulcers, leprosy; skin is stripped away; ritualistically symbolic); wife speaks; Job makes ambiguous response but remains patient

2:11 - 13


Narrative Conclusion

Narrator introduces Job's friends and alludes to Job’s growing pain/suffering; Job and friends wait seven days and nights in silence (meditating/reflecting?)





3 - 14


First Round of Discourses

Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar



Job's Cry of Pain (or Job’s Lament)

"To Have Been or not to Have Been" – Job looks at the miseries of man’s life and regrets the day he was born (Did seven days alter Job’s consciousness/psyche?)

4 - 5


Eliphaz's First Speech

"Remember the Consolation You Have Given Others" – Eliphaz charges Job with impatience and notes suffering results from sinfulness

6 - 7


Job's Response to Eliphaz

Job maintains his innocence, complains of his friends, declares the miseries of man’s life, and addresses God



Bildad's First Speech

"Trust the Tradition of the Ancestors" – Bildad defends God’s justice, accuses Job, and exhorts him to return to God

9 - 10


Job's Response to Bildad

Job seeks common ground with God in law and workshop, acknowledges God’s justice (though He often afflicts the innocent), laments, and begs delivery



Zophar's First Speech

On the hidden depths of divine wisdom – Zophar reproves Job for justifying himself and invites him to repent

12 - 14


Job's Response to Zophar

Job extols God’s power and wisdom, maintains his innocence, reproves his friends, declares the days of man short, and talks of afterlife – does it exist?









15 - 21


Second Round of Discourses

Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar



Eliphaz's Second Speech

Response to Job challenging his implied standpoint – Eliphaz returns to the charge of sinfulness against Job and describes the wretched state of the wicked

16 - 17


Job's Response to Eliphaz II

On comfort, witness, and the energy of hope – Job appeals to the judgment of God, again proclaims his innocence and hope in God, expects rest in death



Bildad's Second Speech

The place of the wicked in a moral universe – Bildad again reproves Job and describes the miseries of the wicked



Job's Response to Bildad II

A sense of kinship beyond a sense of total abandonment – Job complains of his friends’ cruelty, describes his sufferings, and looks to judgment and vindication by God, but wants it in this life (“while still in my flesh”)



Zophar's Second Speech

The portion of the wicked in a moral universe – Zophar declares the shortness of the prosperity of the wicked and their sudden downfall



Job's Response to Zophar II

The true horror of the fate of the wicked – Job shows that the wicked often prosper in this world, even to the end, wants them – not their sons – judged!





22 - 27


Third Round of Discourses

Job, Eliphaz, Bildad (possibly Zophar); dialogue begins to break down



Eliphaz's Third Speech

Response to Job, direct attack, and renewed appeal for submission – Eliphaz falsely imputes many crimes to Job, but promises him prosperity if he repents

23 - 24


Job's Response to Eliphaz III

A search for Yahweh in space and time – Job wishes to be tried at God’s tribunal and talks of God’s providence and the ways of the wicked; speaks again of injustice and prays for “direct” justice for the wicked



Bildad's Third Speech

The dialogue begins breaking down – Bildad proclaims God’s justice before whom no man can be justified (in five short verses)

26 - 27


Job's Response to Bildad III (possibly Zophar III around 27:8)

Job declares his view of the wisdom and power of God, asserts again his own innocence; and notes that hypocrites will be punished in the end (or is this Zophar III at 27 or 27:8?); talk is of eventual justice (on descendents, widows)





28 - 31



Job’s monologue, dramatic reflections



A Meditation on Wisdom

The inaccessibility of Wisdom (is this Job?) – Man’s industry searches for many answers, but true wisdom is taught by God alone



Job Begins His Summation

For the defense:  Recollection of things past; total harmony w/ Yahweh – Job relates his former happiness and the respect that all men showed him



More Summation

Recognition of things present; total God-forsakenness – Job shows the wonderful change of his temporal estate, from welfare to great calamity



A Final Oath

Total integrity – Job, to defend himself from the unjust judgments of his friends, gives a sincere account of his own virtues, and brings his words to an end





32 – 37


A Voice for Yahweh

Elihu’s Speech; some translations choose to leave it out (as if not original with rest of story/drama)

32:1 – 37:24


Elihu Speaks as Prophet (Mediator?) – Perhaps moves emphasis from justice to wisdom? Or to what?  Prepares the way for Yahweh’s appearance?

The sudden appearance of Elihu as inspired (brash?) young prophet – angry at Job for seeking (and questioning God’s) justice; angry at friends for condemning Job; blames Job for asserting his own innocence; reminds Job that God is greater than man; charges Job with blasphemy; sets forth the power and justice of God; declares that the good or evil done by man cannot reach God, but God will look into the causes of each; shows God’s wisdom and power by His wonderful works; speaks of representative/advocate for man to God at 33:23; notions of justice, wisdom, irrationality/randomness of justice?  “wise of heart” cannot perceive God





38:1 - 42:6


Job Gets His Trial

Yahweh makes his case and Job responds

38:1 - 40:2


Yahweh's First Speech or Interrogation

The voice from the Whirlwind – God interposes and shows from the things He hath made that man cannot comprehend His power and wisdom

40:3 – 5


Job's Response to Yahweh

Job submits (or repents, a more Christian notion).  N.B.:  these verses go missing from the Latin Vulgate, Aquinas’s translation for his exposition on Job

40:6 - 41:34


Yahweh's Second Speech or Interrogation

God (unsatisfied with Job’s first response?) initially confronts Job about his assertions regarding divine justice and God’s apathy and uninvolvement in the world; then God boasts of His power in the behemoth and the leviathan (hippopotamus and crocodile) – the first of all his creations, even before man

42:1 – 6


Job's Response to Yahweh II

Job's second submission (or repentance again, in most Christian translations); speaks this time of understanding, knowing, seeing; Does he indicate he understands?  Has Job finally encountered/achieved wisdom?  Has God?  What does this “ending” imply for Job’s consciousness?  For God’s?





42:7 – 17



Order and freedom in felicity

42:7 - 10a


Yahweh's Response to the three (3) Friends (Where’s Elihu?)

Job's last test – God reprimands Eliphaz and his two friends (Bildad and Zophar), telling them to sacrifice through Job so that God might accept Job’s prayer

42:10b - 17


Restoration and More

Happy ever after? – God gives Job twice as much as before; (returns?) seven sons and three daughters; daughters (not sons) are named and given status equal to sons (meaning anything?); Job lives a long, happy life

Compiled from Alden, Aquinas: Exposition on Job; Saadiah ben Joseph: The Book of Theodicy; Janzen, Mitchell: The Book of Job; Sacks: Book of Job with Commentary; Lord Wharton: The Holy Bible (Douay Version); The Tanakh (JPS translation); St. John’s College: “C.G. Jung” preceptorial dialogues (Summer 2007); Philosophy and Theology seminar dialogues (Summer 2009 and Summer 2011).