The Book of Job is one of those Bible works that clearly served a theological purpose: solving the problem of evil. Ancient Hebrews assumed that the universe was created by an all-powerful and intelligent deity who also gave laws to govern the lives of his Chosen People. But this created a dilemma: how could an all-powerful God allow for evil in his own creation? The Book of Job attempts to address this issue, but does so in a sloppy manner that really does not give any genuine answers.
After introducing our hero, who is fabulously rich, we then see God presiding over the “Sons of God” (assumed in modern times to be angels), and then Satan is introduced. Rather than being depicted as God’s worst enemy, he seems to have free access to God and to openly challenge his authority and make proposals against him, which God actually accepts, permitting Satan to torment Job within certain limitations!
First, Satan destroys all of Job’s wealth and kills all his children. Then another discussion between God and Satan results in Job being smitten with boils all over his skin. Then three of Job’s friends come to visit him. They all argue that Job must have sinned grievously to merit such a terrible punishment (never mind that, in Deuteronomy 24:16, it is specified that children cannot suffer for their fathers’ sins, so why were Job’s children all killed?). Job protests his innocence.
Eventually, God himself enters the conversation and challenges Job, demanding that Job try to match God’s own wisdom. But in doing so, God seems to make a critical blunder.
Job 39: 13-18
“The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully, though they cannot compare with the wings and feathers of the stork. She lays her eggs on the ground and lets them warm in the sand, unmindful that a foot may crush them, that some wild animal may trample them. She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers; she cares not that her labor was in vain, for God did not endow her with wisdom
or give her a share of good sense. Yet when she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at horse and rider.”
Anyone who observes real ostriches caring for their young knows this is not true. God seems to have confused ostriches with some other animals that do abandon their eggs after laying them.
The female ostrich lays her fertilized eggs in a single communal nest, a simple pit, 30–60 cm (12–24 in) deep and 3 m (9.8 ft) wide, scraped in the ground by the male. The dominant female lays her eggs first, and when it is time to cover them for incubation she discards extra eggs from the weaker females, leaving about 20 in most cases. A female ostrich can determine her own eggs amongst others in a communal nest. Ostrich eggs are the largest of all eggs (and by extension, the yolk is the largest single cell), though they are actually the smallest eggs relative to the size of the adult bird. — on average they are 15 cm (5.9 in) long, 13 cm (5.1 in) wide, and weigh 1.4 kilograms (3.1 lb), over 20 times the weight of a chicken‘s egg and only 1 to 4% the size of the female. They are glossy cream-coloured, with thick shells marked by small pits. The eggs are incubated by the females by day and by the males by night. This uses the colouration of the two sexes to escape detection of the nest, as the drab female blends in with the sand, while the black male is nearly undetectable in the night. The incubation period is 35 to 45 days, which is rather short compared to other ratites. This is believed to be the case due to the high rate of predation. Typically, the male defends the hatchlings and teaches them to feed, although males and females cooperate in rearing chicks. Fewer than 10% of nests survive the 9 week period of laying and incubation, and of the surviving chicks, only 15% of those survive to 1 year of age.
Job, facing these challenges, confesses his ignorance before God and submits to his mercy. Then God admonishes Job’s friends.
Job 42: 7-9:
After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.
But Job’s friends assumed that God was perfectly just in all his actions; that was their whole point! So the truth about God is that he is a psychotic tyrant who allows his creation to be treated like disposable toys?!
After all this, Job is blessed once more with wealth, twice what he had before, and also has ten more children to replace the ten he lost, and finally lives to a ripe old age. But what about all the good people who never get their wealth back, who never have more children, and/or die young?
One must wonder, if Job was indeed so righteous, why Jesus would have said:
Matthew 19:24: “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” In other words, it is impossible. Or maybe that’s why the Apostle Paul later introduced the concept of grace through faith, to give the rich a way to be saved without giving up their wealth. But then Jesus would never have said: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)
Ironically, atheism, so reviled by Bible believers, lets God off the hook. If there is no God or anything supernatural, then there cannot be anyone to blame for evil, not even Satan. Evil just happens for no reason, other than human free will. The only reason people assumed an all-powerful God made the universe was due to ignorance. Perhaps there is a God of limited power, a God that can be defeated by Satan, that started the universe, but we have no way of confirming that.
There is simply no objective truth or moral consistency to be found in the Bible. Least of all in a story like the one about Job!