איש היה בארץ־עוץ איוב שמו והיה האיש ההוא תם וישר וירא אלהים וסר מרע׃

There was a man in the land of Uz, his name Job, and he was a man, who was complete, and he was upright, and he feared God, and he turned away from evil.

       ויולדו לו שבעה בנים ושלוש בנות׃

And seven sons and three daughters were born to him.

ויהי מקנהו שבעת אלפי־צאן ושלשת אלפי גמלים וחמש מאות צמד־בקר וחמש מאות אתונות ועבדה רבה מאד ויהי האיש ההוא גדול מכל־בני־קדם׃

And his possessions were seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred female donkeys, and very many servants, and he was a man who was greatest of all the sons of the east.

The Book of Job begins with an emphasis on (1) the piety of the main character, (2) his progeny, and (3) his material possessions. In the ancient mind (as the modern, at times) this life of privilege and comfort is a sign that deity favors this person. The narrator aims to deconstruct this idea.

Job is not a man who is evil. He is presented as a good man. He is depicted as “perfect” or “complete” (תם), “righteous” or “upright” (ישר), one who “feared God” (ויר אלהים), and one who “turns away from evil” (וסר מרע). The narrator goes as far as to say that Job was the greatest man in the east (האיש ההוא גדול מכל־בני־קדם).

This is why the message of the book is shocking. It reminds the reader “bad things happen to good people.” Also, it informs the reader that the “good life” is not something guaranteed. One can begin well and suddenly things can change quite quickly for reasons beyond one’s understanding.

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