Iyov (Job)

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Sefer Iyov – the Book of Job – is the third book in the Ketuvim (Writings) section of the Tanach.

According to the Talmud, Sefer Iyov was written by Moses.

You say that Moses wrote his book and the sectionof Balaam and Job. This supports the opinion of R. Joshua b. Levi b. Lahma who said that Job was contemporary with Moses — [The proof is that] it is written here [in connection with Job], O that my words were now [efo] written [Iyov 19:23],and it is written elsewhere [in connection with Moses], For wherein now [efo] shall it be known [Shemot 33:16]. (Bava Batra 15a)1

Amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls was found the Targum of Job (11Q10). This text was discovered in Qumran Cave 11 in 1956. It is comprised of one portion (chapters 17-42) of the original scroll and numerous fragments that all date to between 150 and 100 BCE.2

Traditionally, according to the Talmud, Job was one of the three advisors whom Pharaoh consulted prior to taking action against the Children of Israel as mentioned in Sefer Shemot.

Come, let us deal wisely with him — it should have been with them! — R. Hama b. Hanina said: [Pharaoh meant,] Come and let us outwit the Saviour of Israel. … R. Hiyya b. Abba said in the name of R. Simai: There were three in that plan, viz. Balaam, Job and Jethro. Balaam who devised it was slain; Job who silently acquiesced was afflicted with sufferings; Jethro, who fled, merited that his descendants should sit in the Chamber of Hewn Stone… (Sotah 11a)3

Job is also mentioned in the Talmud as living at times other than Moses. The Rabbis go to great lengths trying to ascertain when Job actually lived through various interpretations of the Tanakh.

*Bava Batra 15a-15b1
1. Job was a contemporary of Moses
2. Job was a contemporary of Isaac
3. Job was a contemporary of Jacob
4. Job was a contemporary of Joseph
5. Job was a contemporary of David
6. Job was among those who returned from the Babylonian Exile
7. Job was a contemporary of the Judges
8. Job was a contemporary of Ahasuerus

Sefer Iyov is not traditionally read as part of the liturgy for the Ashkenazim. However, it is known to be read as part of the liturgy for Tisha B’Av for the Sephardim. There are many quotes from Sefer Iyov used throughout Jewish liturgy – especially at funerals and times of mourning.

Rambam discusses Sefer Iyov in his work The Guide for the Perplexed where he discusses the idea that each one of Job’s friends actually represents distinct schools of thought concerning God and Divine Providence.

The opinion set forth by Eliphaz in reference to Job’s suffering is likewise one of the current views on Providence. He holds that the fate of Job was in accordance with strict justice. Job was guilty of sins for which he deserved his fate.… He then points out to him that his upright actions and his good ways, on which he relies, need not be so perfect in the eyes of God that no punishment should be inflicted on him.Eliphaz never abandoned his belief that the fate of man is the result of justice, that we do not know all our shortcomings for which we are punished, nor the way how we incur the punishment through them. Bildad the Shuhite defends in this question the theory of reward and compensation. He therefore tells Job that if he is innocent and without sin, his terrible misfortunes will be the source of great reward, will be followed by the best compensation, and will prove a boon to him as the cause of great bliss in the future world. Zofar the Naamathite holds that the Divine Will is the source of everything that happens: no further cause can be sought for His actions, and it cannot be asked why He has done this and why He has not done that. That which God does can therefore not be explained by the way of justice or the result of wisdom. His true Essence demands that He does what He wills; we are unable to fathom the depth of His wisdom, and it is the law and rule of this wisdom that whatever He does is done because it is His will and for no other cause. (Moreh Nevukhim 3:23)4

Christianity accepts Sefer Iyov as canonical and this Sefer is also mentioned throughout the Christian scriptures – especially in the Epistles.The Eastern Orthodox Church reads Sefer Iyov during Holy Week. The Catholic Church traditionally reads from Sefer Iyov during Matins as well as in the Office of the Dead. Sefer Iyov is also read during the eighth and ninth weeks in Ordinary Time.5

Sefer Iyov can be divided into eleven sections.
1. Prologue (Chapters 1-2)
2. First Round of Discussion (Chapters 3-14)
3. Second Round of Discussion (Chapters 15-21)
4. Third Round of Discussion (Chapters 22-26)
5. Job’s First Soliloquy (Chapter 27)
6. Job’s Song to Wisdom (Chapter 28)
7. Job’s Second Soliloquy (Chapter 29-32:1)
8. Elihu the Buzite (Chapters 32:2-36:22)
9. Song of the Rain (Chapters 36:23-37)
10. God speaks from the Whirlwind (Chapters 38-41)
11. Job’s Repentance and Restoration (Chapter 42)


Chapter 1: Job is a man from Utz who was faultless and upright. Job feared God and avoided sin. Job was a very wealthy man who had seven sons and three daughters. Job was in the habit of sacrificing burnt-offerings according to the number of his children because he feared that they had sinned and had forsaken God. The angels presented themselves before God and Ha-Satan joined them. God inquired of Ha-Satan whether Ha-Satan had taken notice of the righteous Job. Ha-Satan said that Job was only righteous because God had shielded Job from disaster. God gave permission to Ha-Satan to test Job by controlling that which belonged to Job but Ha-Satan could not afflict Job himself. Ha-Satan took up this challenge and returned to the earth. Ha-Satan tested Job through four trials. The first was the pillaging of the oxen and she-asses by the Sabeans. The second test was the death of Job’s flocks and the men who tended to them. The third test was the theft of Job’s camels and the death of those who tended them at the hands of the Chaldeans. The final test that Ha-Satan afflicted upon Job was the collapse of Job’s eldest sons’ home resulting in the deaths of Job’s children. Job’s reaction to these tragedies was to rent his cloak, tear out his hair, and prostrate himself before God. Job went on to bless God. Job did not sin or speak falsely against God even after all these tragedies.

Chapter 2: The angels presented themselves before God a second time with Ha-Satan joining them. God inquired of Ha-Satan if he took note that Job remained righteous even after all these tragedies. Ha-Satan replied that if God would test Job personally – raising hand against Job’s body – Job would surely curse God. Upon hearing this, God gave Ha-Satan leave to test Job but Ha-Satan was forbidden from killing Job. Ha-Satan took leave of God and struck Job with severe boils from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Job took a potsherd, scratched his flesh, and sat in the resulting ashes. Upon seeing the affliction of her husband, Job’s wife told him to curse God. Job replied that his wife was speaking in the ways of a degraded woman. Job asked her if we accept the good from God, should we also not be willing to accept the bad. Job did not sin with his lips. Job’s three companions – Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Tzophar the Naamathite – heard about his misfortune and came to comfort him. The three companions rent their clothes and placed dust upon their heads upon seeing the discomfort of Job. The three companions sat with Job for seven days and seven nights. None of them spoke for they saw that Job was in great suffering. After these seven days and nights, Job began to speak.

First Round of Discussion

Chapter 3: Job curses the day he was born. He wishes that he would have died immediately after his birth. Job claims that death is preferable to a lifetime of misfortune.

Chapter 4: Eliphaz responds to Job’s speech. Eliphaz reminds Job of his former strength. He goes on to explain that the innocent man never perishes but the wicked man is lost. Eliphaz goes on to tell Job of a vision that he had one night. A voice whispered and said that man cannot be more righteous than God so what right does Job have to complain for even the righteous are not assured against sin. If God is far above the angels who are not subject to corporeality, how much more so ordinary mortals who souls are trapped inside corporeal bodies. Man’s lives pass by without them seeking to perfect themselves and they die without wisdom.

Chapter 5: Eliphaz tells Job that he should not envy the wicked. Everything that occurs is through God’s will. Eliphaz implores Job to seek God through prayer. He tells Job that once he is cleansed of his sins, God will protect Job from seven types of affliction.

Chapter 6: Job resumes his complaints with the wish that his complaint could be weighed against his suffering. Job claims that his suffering is unbearable and can be worse than death. Job declares that his companions offer no aid and they should have given him instruction.

Chapter 7: Job goes on to relate his sufferings: shortness of life, finality of death, no refuge in sleep, and the insignificance of mankind. Job reproaches God claiming that He takes delight in torturing him.

Chapter 8: Bildad replies to Job and calls upon Job to repent and then he will prosper. Bildad tells Job to look back to previous generations and they will instruct him. Those who forget God will lose his security and will be caused to suffer.

Chapter 9: Job responds to Bildad asking who can win against God for He has irresistible might. Job despairs about defending himself to God for God destroys both the wicked and the faultless. There is pointlessness to forebearance.

Chapter 10: Job finds himself unable to cease from speaking. He asks God to not condemn him but instead to let him know what God accuses him of. Job declares that God has made him yet now God swallows him up. God has turned persecutor and Job wishes that he had died upon the day of his birth.

Chapter 11: Tzophar accuses Job of making arguments that are meant to silence his opposition. God judges by different standards and God’s calculations are beyond understanding. Repentance and self-correction is the road to prosperity.

Chapter 12: Job complains that his companions believe they are wiser than him and show him no respect. Wisdom, according to Job, is the product of life experiences. Job has learned of God’s wisdom and strength.

Chapter 13: Job advises silence for God hates flattery. Job implores God to remove His hand from him and to tell Job his sins so that he may respond.

Chapter 14: According to Job man is short-lived, filled with agitation, and is too insignificant to concern God. Job continues to declare that his life is to end in death and he knows that God has piled up his transgressions. Humans are deprived of hope for humans suffer pain and their souls mourn.

Second Round of Discussion

Chapter 15: Eliphaz responds to Job declaring that Job’s arguments are futile and that Job has no monopoly on experience. Eliphaz argues that humans are not inherently worthy for even the angels are not totally innocent. The wicked will receive their recompense.

Chapter 16: Job complains that his companions have given him little comfort and he is at the mercy of his enemies. Job claims that he is an innocent victim.

Chapter 17: According to Job, his companions are merely flattering God. Job asks what hope there can be if one longs for death.

Chapter 18: Bildad speaks up and tells Job that Job has not given his companions proper credit. Bildad asks Job, should God change His rules for Job’s sake? A wicked person is caught in the net of his own making and his children and wife will also suffer due to his wickedness.

Chapter 19: Job speaks up and declares that if he has indeed sinned then it is between him and God – his companions should not shame him. Job declares that God has treated him as an enemy. Job declares that his acquaintances have become estranged from him and his relatives and friends have forgotten him. However, God is eternal and will ultimately vindicate Job.

Chapter 20: Tzophar feels compelled to respond and declares that the wicked do prosper but only for a short period of time. Those who love evil will ultimately have evil turned back upon them. The wicked will ultimately be forced to make amends for God will wage war against the wicked.

Chapter 21: Job speaks up and asks his companions to listen to him. The wicked do in fact prosper and become wealthier but their prosperity is in the hands of God. Why are the wicked not punished? Job wishes for them to feel God’s wrath but God’s judgments are incomprehensible. Job anticipates his companions’ responses and tells them that they cannot console him with their vanity and their false answers.

Third Round of Discussion

Chapter 22: Eliphaz argues that our righteousness is not for God for God does not need our righteousness. He tells Job that his wickedness is great and his sins are unlimited. God is screened by the thick darkness that separates Him from the lower world and He does not see. Eliphaz charges Job with walking in the ways of the generation of the Flood and tells Job to make peace with God and he will prosper.

Chapter 23: Job responds that if he knew where to find God, he would go to God’s dwelling-place and lay out his case before God. Job declares that he has not deviated from God’s ways or his commandments. God however, will carry out that which He has decreed for Job.

Chapter 24: Job refutes Divine providence and goes on to speak about the crimes of the wicked. The wicked shun God and refuse to turn toward Him. The wicked however are here only for a short time and then they disappear.

Chapter 25: Bildad responds that mankind has no right to complain since mankind cannot attain perfection.

Chapter 26: Job responds that Bildad has said nothing useful because he knows that God is omnipotent and omniscient.

Job’s First Soliloquy

Chapter 27: Job declares that even though God has deprived him of justice he will not speak injustice or utter deceit. Job states that those who rise up against him should be declared wicked and treated as the unjust – that their souls will be cast off. Even if the wicked has descendants, they will all suffer and die and the righteous will take possession of the wicked one’s wealth.

Job’s Song to Wisdom

Chapter 28: All things that God has created are finite. Wisdom is in a different category. It cannot be found in the land or the sea but can only be attained after one first acquires fear of God.

Job’s Second Soliloquy (Chapter 29-32:1)

Chapter 29: Job longs for his former prosperity and stature. He was the rescuer of the poor, father to the orphan, and savior to the widow. He was clothed in righteousness and justice. Job thought he would die with his prosperity and stature. He was listened to by the people who took his advice and sought no other.

Chapter 30: Now, Job laments, he is humiliated at the hands of the lowly. He accuses God of causing his misery and declares that his concern for the poor was rewarded with evil.

Chapter 31: God sees every step that Job has taken and Job wants God to weigh him on the scales of righteousness so God will see Job’s faultlessness. Job does not become enticed by immorality and he has consideration for those of a lower status. Job places his faith in God and has concerns for his enemies and strangers. Job requests that his deeds be recorded.

Chapter 32: The three companions of Job cease responding to Job because he was righteous in his own eyes.

Elihu the Buzite (Chapters 32:2-36:22)

Chapter 32: Elihu responded to Job out of his anger that Job dared to judge himself more righteous than God. He was also angry at the three companions who found no response to Job and made him appear wicked. Wisdom – contrary to what Job stated – is not always dependent upon age and even though Elihu is young he cannot refrain from responding to Job.

Chapter 33: Elihu will act as a spokesman for God and will be someone for Job to debate with that will not fear him as God will make him fearful. Job accuses God of finding pretexts against him and considers Job to be his enemy. Elihu explains that God does indeed inform one of his trespasses and sins through dreams, visions, and afflictions. If a sinner repents he will be rewarded.

Chapter 34: Job has accused God of injustice however, God would not pervert justice. God treats everyone equally. Elihu responds that a sinner should accept his punishment.

Chapter 35: Job responds and asks how he benefits any more from being righteous than from being wicked. Man’s deeds only affect other men and not God but the wicked have forgotten God. Elihu responds that Job has not truly felt the full extent of God’s fury.

Chapter 36: Elihu declares that he will make his opinion known and will justify God. God watches over the righteous and he rebukes them so they may repent and live out their full life. The corrupt however are lost for they do not cry out to God and are not saved. Suffering in this world saves one from suffering in the hereafter.

Song of the Rain (Chapters 36:23-37:24)

Chapter 36: Elihu praises God’s unfathomable greatness. Indeed, rain is God’s incomprehensible wonder.

Chapter 37: The thunder that comes from God inspires awe. God manipulates the weather in order to reward and to punish. Elihu calls upon Job to stop and contemplate the wonders of God and the limitations of man’s knowledge.

God speaks from the Whirlwind

Chapter 38: God then spoke to Job and asked Job where he was when God brought about the creation. God declares that Job has never directed the world and Job cannot even fathom the creation. God asks Job who directs the meteorological events and the heavenly forces? Who provides the beasts with their needs?

Chapter 39: God further questions Job. Who knows the time of birth and who cares for the unbridled beasts? Who gives the horse bravery and understands the miracle of flight?

Chapter 40: God asks Job if he has learned his lesson and Job has nothing to say. God then spoke to Job out of a storm and tells him that if he were truly righteous he could save himself. God challenges Job and asks if Job cannot subdue the wicked of humanity can he at least overcome the animals and the sea creatures?

Chapter 41: How can the animals and the sea creatures be overcome if the would-be captor is fearful to even look at them.

Job’s Repentance and Restoration

Chapter 42: Job confesses his error and regrets his previous speech. God rebukes Job’s companions because they did not speak correctly on God’s behalf. God commanded them to take seven bulls and seven rams and offer them as burnt offerings for themselves and for Job. The companions did as they were instructed and God showed favor to Job. Job was restored to his former station and his days ended in prosperity.


1I. Epstein. “Bava Batra.” Soncino Babylonian Talmud. London: Soncino Press, 1949. [http://halakhah.com/pdf/nezikin/Baba_Bathra.pdf]
2Donald Parry. “11Q10 Targum of Job.” Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.  Bringham Young University, n.d. [http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1139&index=17]
3I. Epstein. “Sotah.” Soncino Babylonian Talmud. London: Soncino Press, 1949. [http://halakhah.com/pdf/nashim/Sotah.pdf]
4M. Friedlander (trans.). The Guide for the Perplexed. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1904. [http://sacred-texts.com/jud/gfp/index.htm]
5“Book of Job.” wikipedia.org. Wikipedia, n.d. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Job]