God makes a deal with the devil
One day, Satan went up to see God, and they talked about a man named Job,1 who God said was the most righteous and godly person in the world. Satan was of the opinion that Job only seemed so good to God because God was so good to Job. He said if God would curse Job, then Job would curse God. The all-knowing God wanted to find out if Satan was right, so he gave Satan permission to do whatever he wanted to Job, as long as he didn’t physically harm him.
So Satan sent raiders to steal Job’s 500 donkeys, 1000 oxen, and 3000 camels. God helped him by sending fire from heaven to burn up Job’s 7000 sheep. Satan also sent a strong wind to knock down a house and kill Job’s ten children, and he got most of Job’s many servants killed too. Then God made everyone else Job knew shun him. Job responded by tearing his clothes off and worshiping God. Righteous Job didn’t think God had done anything wrong by letting Satan murder his children.
When Satan came to see God again, God pointed out that Job still loved him, even after Satan had convinced God to destroy nearly everything Job had for no reason. Satan explained that Job was too selfish to care about his children and servants dying. But if God attacked Job personally, that would be enough to make him curse God. The all-good God decided to see if Satan was right, so he gave Satan permission to do whatever he wanted to Job, as long as he didn’t kill him.
So Satan covered Job with painful sores. God helped him by giving Job horrible nightmares, and sending wicked people to beat him up, spit at him, and laugh at him. Job got a fever, and his skin started changing color and peeling off. His wife advised him to curse God for ruining his life, so God would put him out of his misery. Job admitted that God was the cause of his trouble, but he didn’t see why his all-good God should be expected to do only good things all the time.
A friendly conversation
Then Job’s three “friends”, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, came over to discuss his situation with him. After they arrived, Job suddenly changed his tune and said he wished he’d never been born. Eliphaz told him that bad things only happen to bad people. He said if Job was really so blameless, he should have nothing to worry about. And he should be more appreciative of the things God had done to him!
Job responded to Eliphaz by calling all three of his friends unhelpful and unreliable and inconsiderate and godless. He said he was suffering more than his friends could imagine, and it was all God’s fault. Job asked God to just kill him now, before he was driven to say something really disagreeable to God. But if God did that, then he wouldn’t be able to find out if Satan was right. So he chose to let Job keep suffering.
Job said he just wanted God to leave him alone. Bildad told him to shut up. He said God is always just, so if Job’s children had been killed, it must be because they had sinned against God. He said God doesn’t reject the blameless, and if Job would just stop being so evil, God would restore his wealth.
Job said he actually was blameless, but God seemed to think he wasn’t. And you can’t argue with a stubborn, unjust tyrant like God, who enjoys hurting innocent people for no reason. Job speculated that God had been waiting all Job’s life for him to do something he could punish him for. Or maybe God had suddenly decided to punish him now for everything he had done wrong in his youth.
Job didn’t know what he might have done wrong, but he wished God would explain it to him and forgive him for it, whatever it was. Zophar said he too wished God would remind Job of what he had done. He thought God’s punishment was insufficient for Job’s sin. He said Job just needed to stop all that sinning, and then he would have no more trouble.
But Job insisted that he was righteous and blameless. He challenged his friends, and God, to name one thing he had ever done wrong. He said just the fact that he was ready to dispute God’s accusations proved that he was innocent. He said his friends were unfairly biased in favor of God, and they should stop trying to defend God, because to do that, they had to lie.
“You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” —God, to the guys who spent the whole story defending God, while Job insisted that God was horribly cruel and unjust.
Eliphaz said Job was a fool to think he knew any more about God than anyone else did. Job told his friends they should shut up, because they were bad at comforting people. He said he had never been violent, yet God, his angry, unjust, merciless enemy, kept violently attacking him. Job told his friends to continue insulting and accusing him. But then he complained when they did, deciding that he didn’t want to hear what they thought he had done wrong after all.
Job’s friends said he was being thoroughly punished because that’s what God always does to the wicked. But Job said actually God usually lets wicked people thrive. God lets people get away with wickedness, and then punishes their innocent children that the wicked don’t even care about. Job knew better than God; he said the wicked people are the ones who should be punished. Job was getting impatient with God. God was supposed to be perfect, not a mere fallible human, so there was no excuse for him to be so unjust.
Eliphaz said God wouldn’t punish Job like this for being righteous, so Job must be guilty of endless sins. That was the only possible explanation for Job’s misfortune. He accused Job of stealing from the poor rather than helping them, despite already being rich. He said Job was just like all the wicked people who lived before the flood. He said if Job would just stop being wicked and obey God and get rid of all that money Eliphaz imagined he was hoarding, God would make him happy and successful again.
Job decided he needed to go and convince God that he was innocent and that God was wrong to torment him. That should be easy enough, except he couldn’t find God anywhere. Job said he had always followed God’s ways perfectly, but God didn’t care. He just did whatever horrible things he wanted to Job, and no one could stop him. Job said God didn’t care about all the actual evil people, and how much they mistreated the poor. God didn’t think they were doing anything wrong, and he had no plans to punish them, ever.
Bildad explained that God, being perfect, had incredibly high standards, so he naturally thought everyone else was horrible in comparison and needed to be punished, no matter how good they were. Job sarcastically thanked his friends for offering such impressively wise and helpful insights, and then he insulted their fathers.
Job said he would never concede to his friends’ wicked claims, but would stick to the truth: He was completely innocent and righteous and very generous, and always had been, and God had decided to deny him justice and ruin his life for no reason. He said God continued to hurt him even as he cried out to him for help. He didn’t think any human could be as evil as God was.
Then some guy named Elihu came out of nowhere, talked for six chapters, and was never mentioned again. Elihu agreed with Job that God was unjust, and he criticized Job’s friends for their baseless accusations and said he wanted to vindicate Job. But he never did. Instead, he joined in with Job’s friends and claimed that Job was wicked and that God was justly punishing him.
God adds insult to injury
Then God finally appeared and spoke to Job,2 but he didn’t explain that the real reason he was tormenting him was to try to prove to Satan that Job loved him unconditionally. If he told Job about that, then he would have to admit that Satan was right: Righteous Job was perfectly willing to say bad things about God, as long as they were true.
So instead, God avoided the subject and asked Job a bunch of irrelevant and nonsensical questions. He made fun of Job for not being as old as the universe, and for not being capable of weather modification and megascale engineering. He bragged about how cruel and violent his creation was. God denied that he owed Job anything, and he pretended that Job was claiming he didn’t need God. Blameless Job accepted God’s bullshit and decided to “repent”.
Then God confirmed that all the terrible things Job had said about him were true, and everything his three friends had said in God’s defense was false. Job’s three friends had to make a burnt offering to God so they wouldn’t be punished for foolishly claiming that God was just. Like everyone else, God completely ignored Elihu.
Now that God’s failed test of Job’s loyalty was over, he made Job twice as wealthy as before, made people like him again, and gave him a long life. He also gave Job a new set of ten children, because God thinks families are replaceable.
The moral of the story
If you do horrible things to people, they won’t like you anymore.