WILL LOOK LATER FOR QUOTE (CITE). For two thousand years, scholars and theologians have debated the lessons set forth in The Book of Job. In the face of God’s boasting, the Accusing Angel contends that Job is not really righteous but just trying to win God’s favor. God disagrees and allows the Angel to test Job with a series of horrible events. The Angel kills off Job’s livestock and all his children, and then covers Job in boils. While he is suffering both pain and humiliation, Job’s friends argue that he must have done something wrong for God to punish in such a way. Job continuously insists he is innocent. Finally, God shows his power and chastises Job for trying to understand him. Although The Book of Job provides a cautionary lesson against trying to interpret God’s actions as divine retribution and about seeking to improve rather than be vindicated, the reader should not disregard the lessons are flawed because God rewards Job at the conclusion of the story. First, The Book of Job teaches the readers to dismiss the idea of divine retribution and not attempt to interpret God’s actions. The readers know that God does not think Job sinned, but throughout the story, the friends bully Job to confess because they believe strongly in divine retribution (that anyone who suffers is being punished by God). Eliphaz tells him, “pain does not spring from the dust” meaning afflictions are not by chance but a result of man’s actions (18). The friends assume Job must be wicked. Rather than being sympathetic, Bilad accuses Job of “filling our ears with trash” (25). In the face of Job’s mourning, Bilad just says, “Your children must have been evil” (25). They ignore his pain, as Job himself notes, “My friends are streams that go dry” (22). The friends are scared by the ordeal and need to explain it. Ironically, Job questions the divine retribution idea(_______), but he also accuses God of injustice. All of these men judge people in pain as deserving of that ruination. In their desperation to make sense of the suffering, Job’s friends miss the chance to help him, and they never guess that they are angering God by attempting to assess God’s motives. Only by rejecting the divine retribution idea could Job or the readers understand that an innocent person can suffer. In light of what happened to Job, readers should learn not to label those suffering as wicked or sinful. Another lesson that the Book of Job teaches is humility. Job speaks of God’s power and that “knowledge is his alone” (33), “no man can argue with God” (27), but those are hollow words because he shifts from arguing against his friends to arguing against God, as he contends, “Isn’t disgrace for sinners and misery for the wicked? Can’t God tell right from wrong” (73). He wants to “present my case in God’s court” (34). He seems very conceited to say that he would take his complaint to God, but common people can relate to his grief and frustration. He swears, “I am guiltless” (28), but he is guilty in attempting to question God. He claims, “God has tricked me” (48). Despite the stubborn belief in retribution by his friends, they have moments of insight as when Eliphaz rebukes Job, “What has made you so wild that you spew your anger at God” (41). Later Eliphaz again asks Job to be humble, but Job answers in arrogance that he will “counter all God’s arguments” (59). Despite Job’s anger, God does not forsake him. In the end, God reminds Job of his greater power, “Where were you when planned the earth?” (79). Job finally grasps his limits as a human. Job covers his mouth realizing he should not demand answers from God (84). He realizes he “tried to grasp the infinite” (88). Job’s transformation from conceit to humility is an important lesson of the story. Another lesson related to humility is that no matter how righteous a person may be, he should seek to improve rather than to try to extol his virtues. While many writers often laud the patience of Job that he initially shows, “we can accept bad fortune too” (8), as his torment grows, he also shows pride and superiority. Rather than having absolute patience, Job shows anger and insolence CITE. He seems to more of a real human being going through an incomprehensible misery. Job is so convinced that he was innocent that he fails to see that his own flaw is viewing himself as righteous. “How can I prove my innocence” (28), he asks instead of wondering how he could improve. Job’s complains about his fall in stature, “now I am jeered at by streetboys, whose fathers I would have considered unfit to take care of my dogs” (70) , give the reader a glimpse of his ego before his downfall. He had been proud of his wealth. Job feels ridiculed, saying “my neighbors have thrown me away”, and God “stripped me of my honor” (48), and he throws all his energy into trying to be vindicated by God. Because he acts like a real person would rather than a saint or superhero, real people can understand the lesson he learns. At the end of the story, Job prays for his friends. The readers learn that even those who seem most virtuous can look to improve themselves. The final sentences of the book raise questions as to the validity of the lessons discussed above. At the end of the book, God gave Job more than he had before. This seems to confirm the friends’ arguments that God “will yet fill your mouth with laughter” (26). By raising Job to success, the story may seem to confirm retribution and reward. However, nothing about God’s gift to Job changes the fact that he suffered even though God did not blame him for sins. It did not cancel the lesson that suffering is not connected to sin. It does not prove that all those who suffer are wicked. Perhaps the gifts were a reward simply for continuing to believe in God. Furthermore, for all the confusion this reward may create, it inspires people to continue to believe in God and to persevere through setbacks by reminding them that God did not desert Job. I WILL ADD MORE TONIGHT. Hopefully, the readers learn to help the downtrodden rather than arrogantly judging them as sinners and to keep the hope that suffering will be temporary. Conclusion: Although The Book of Job provides no answer to why good people suffer, it does remind people not to blame those who suffer or to judge them as lesser human beings, and it reminds people to hope and persevere. Today, most people would not label the cancer victim as a sinner, but neither should they think they are somehow more worthy than the homeless, the poor, or the disabled. Like Job, people today need to look for improvement no matter how virtuous they think they are.