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Jewish Responses to the Problem of Evil. What does the Story of Job tell us about the existence of evil, and how to respond to suffering?. Images from The story of Job.

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jewish responses to the problem of evil

Jewish Responses to the Problem of Evil

What does the Story of Job tell us about the existence of evil, and how to respond to suffering?

Images from

the story of job
The story of Job...

Job 1:1-11In the land of Uz there lived a man named Job. He was perfectly righteous, fearing God and shunning evil.

He had 7 sons, 7 daughters, hundreds of cattle, sheep, camels and donkeys, many servants and was widely considered to be the greatest of all the people in Uz


Job 1:6One day the sons of God came to present themselves before Yahweh, and Satan was among them.


Job 1:7Yahweh asked Satan, 'Where have you come from?' and Satan replied, 'Roaming about the earth, going here and there.'


Job 1:8Yahweh said to Satan, 'Have you taken note of my servant Job? There is none like him on earth, perfectly righteous, fearing God and shunning evil.'


Job 1:13One day Job's sons and daughters were eating and drinking at the house of their eldest brother.


Job 1:16‘The fire of God fell from heaven – it burned up the sheep and the servants, consuming them!'


Job 1:18'It struck the four corners of the house, and it collapsed on the young people. They are dead.'


Job 2:7And so Satan left Yahweh's presence and inflicted painful boils on Job from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head.


Job 2:9After much time had passed, his wife said to him, 'Are you still holding on to your perfect righteousness? Curse God and die!'


Job 2:11-12When Job's three friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar heard about the evils that had befallen him, they came to comfort and console him. When they spotted him from a distance, they did not recognize him.


Job 4:1, 7Then Eliphaz spoke, saying, 'Consider this. Who that was innocent has ever perished? Where have righteous people ever been destroyed?'


Job 5:17-18'Blessed is the man who God corrects! Do not despise the discipline of Shaddhai. He wounds, but he also bandages. He strikes, but he also heals.'


Job 9:15-17'Even though I am innocent, if I summoned God, he would not listen to my case--he who crushes me with a tempest, and multiplies my injuries for no reason.'


Job 22:1-2, 4-5Then Eliphaz spoke, saying, 'Do you think it's for your piety that God punishes you and brings justice on you? It is for your great wickedness and innumerable sins!'


Job 22:7, 9-10Job answered, saying, 'I have never deviated from his commands, but his hand is heavy against me despite my groaning. If only I knew where to find him, I would go to his house and I would state my case before him.'


Job 38:1-3Then Yahweh answered Job out of the whirlwind, saying, 'Who is this speaking in ignorance? Gird your loins like a man and I will question you, and you will answer me!'


Job 38:4-6'Where were you when I was laying the foundation for the earth? Who determined its measurements? On what are its foundations sunk? Who laid its cornerstone?'


Job 38:22, 24'Do you bring out the constellations in their seasons? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you establish their rule over the earth?'


Job 40:3-5Job answered Yahweh, saying, 'I am insignificant. How can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth and will say no more.'


Job 40:6, 8-9Then Yahweh spoke to Job from the whirlwind, saying, 'Do you criticize my justice? Do you declare me wrong and yourself right? Do you have an arm as strong as God's and a voice as thunderous?'


Job 42:1-3, 6Job answered Yahweh, saying, 'I know you can do all things, and no plan of yours can be thwarted. I have spoken of things I do not understand. Therefore I despise myself and repent.'

key points
Key points:
  • The story of Job is a challenge to the widely held theology of the time in Judaism – that God rewards & protects the good, and punishes those who are guilty
  • Job challenges this view: He refuses to accept that God works like this & refuses to see his suffering as punishment
  • His anger is not just about his own suffering but about innocent suffering in general
  • God declares Job was right to question, but as a human, Job is unable to comprehend the will of God.
  • Job must trust God, even though he doesn’t understand
jewish beliefs about the devil
Jewish beliefs about the Devil
  • God creates Good as well as evil & is responsible for the good & evil in the world
  • The devil is not an independent agent of evil
  • He is a servant of God, acting according to God’s will
  • It is unthinkable in Judaism to believe that Satan disobeyed / rebelled against God
a satisfactory explanation
A satisfactory explanation?
  • What explanation for evil do we get from the story of Job?
  • How satisfactory is this for explaining the problem of evil?

Discuss these questions and write down your responses – a paragraph for each.