When Job questions God, Edward L. Greenstein finds precedence in Near Eastern legal texts
Suing God. To most it would seem an absurd notion—but not to Job. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures.
The angel known as the Satan (Hebrew for “the adversary”), as told in the Book of Job, challenges God to test the devotion and piety of the righteous man Job. Job loses all of his worldly goods, his children and servants, as well as his health. Will he accept his fate or curse God?
Having been dealt such tremendous blows, Job and his companions can only assume that he has committed a grave sin to deserve such punishment, but Job can think of nothing he has done wrong. So, Job questions God about his transgression—why all these bad things have happened to him. Receiving no answer from the deity, Job finally decides that his only recourse is suing God.
As explained by Edward L. Greenstein in his article “When Job Sued God” in the May/June 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Job understood the ancient legal system well. He knows that he cannot call witnesses in a lawsuit against God. So, lacking witness, he swears an exculpatory oath, as was standard in such legal cases in the ancient Near East. He swears to his own innocence and lists numerous wrongs that he has not committed. In doing so, Job challenges God to provide the evidence against him and prove his guilt.
Finally, God responds. But in legal terms, he throws out Job’s case on a technicality. In his oath, Job claimed to know everything about God and how the universe works, so God reprimands him. Where was Job, questions God, when he laid the earth’s foundations? If Job is so wise, he must have been present at creation, God adds sarcastically.
Job has no reply. By suing God, Job gets an answer, even if it isn’t the one he wanted.
For more about how Job questions God and ends up suing God to get a response, read Edward L. Greenstein’s article “When Job Sued God” in the May/June 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
Not a subscriber yet? Join today.
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in April 2012.
Become a member of Biblical Archaeology Society, and gain All Access with your membership today
The BAS Library includes online access to more than 9,000 articles by world-renowned experts and 22,000 gorgeous color photos from…
Plus, you get access to so much more from your All-Access pass:
Biblical Archaeology Review print edition:
Enjoy the same current issues in glorious, traditional, full-color print …
Biblical Archaeology Review tablet edition:
Stay on top of the latest research! You get …
All of this rich and detailed scholarship is available to you—right now—by buying a special All-Access pass.
That’s right: when you purchase your All-Access pass, you get a ticket to four decades of study, insight and discovery. Why not join us right now and start your own exploration?
Whether you’re researching a paper, preparing a sermon, deepening your understanding of Scripture or history, or simply marveling at the complexity of the Bible – the most important book in history—the BAS All-Access pass is an invaluable tool that cannot be matched anywhere else.
You'll get to experience all the discoveries and debate in beautiful clarity with Biblical Archaeology Review, anytime, anywhere! And the Library is fully searchable by topic, author, title and keyword, as well as the Special Collections like this one.
The All-Access pass is the way to explore Bible history and biblical archaeology.
Sign up to receive our email newsletter and never miss an update.
Send this to a friend