The Book of Job is an extremely interesting and curious theodicy in the Bible.

The setup is perhaps the most interesting part: there is a man named Job in the land of Uz, and he is very rich, extremely righteous, and quite holy. One day, "the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them." God proceeds to boast to Satan that there is nobody in the world as great and upright as Job, and then Satan gets permission to "test" him. The rest of the book is mainly about how Satan and God inflict misfortunes on Job, how Job deals with it, and, ultimately, how he confronts God about all of this.

It is very important to note that this is probably not the Satan we all immediately think of. This is one of the only references to him in the Old Testament, and he appears to be more of a direct servant of God than the Satan of New Testament fame. He very explicitly asks permission of God to test Job, and God grants it; He even comes along for the ride. It is a very distinct possiblity that the Satan in this case is somekind of angel or other servant who acts very literally as The Adversary of man in that he tempts them to determine if they are truly loyal to God.

The story goes as follows (this is a very abbreviated summary, so please forgive the inaccuracies): all of Job's children, livestock, and fortunate are destroyed. His wife leaves him, and he is horribly afflicted with sores and other bodily ailments. Some friends come to comfort him, which mostly entails asking and discussing what he may have done wrong, but all the while he claims that he is righteous and didn't do anything. He grumbles a lot, but never curses God, but finally calls God to task and demands an answer for why this happened. God's answer is basically, "You're a mortal. I can create big and scary animals; can YOU? You have no idea what's actually going on. You can't see the divine plan, and shit just kind of happens sometimes." For sticking with God and not cursing him, God rewards Job by giving back all that he had and more (more and better children, more and better wives, more and better livestock, etc. As if that somehow makes up for the suffering and pain of seeing your kids die).

The book of Job is also extremely interesting in that it is really a few other, probably more ancient stories grafted together, much the same way as the story of Noah. Parts of the book were written at different times by different people, sometimes hundreds of years apart. In fact, in the original, Job probably wasn't reimbursed and rewarded in the end. The addition of the reward actually kind of defeated the whole point of the book, which was essentially:
  • shit sometimes happens that we can't understand
  • you just have to kind of take it
  • bad things sometimes happen to good people for no reason
  • you might not get rewarded for your faith
  • God can make crocodiles and hippopotami (I am serious)

It's fairly good, although kind of depressing if you try to take it seriously. It is extremely poetic, and, at times, kind of confusing because of its hybrid nature: I have read and heard of people struggling to piece together the truly strange and inexplicable portions of the book. For example, there is this one bit where a bunch of Jobs friends come to "comfort" him, and in the middle of their comforting, this one guy comes out of nowhere and starts offering strange and poetic pieces of wisdom. Was this fellow sent down by God? Is this fellow God, and is he trying to aid Job? Isn't this breaking the rules of God's wager with Satan? Wild.

Some have claimed that The Book of Job was one of the first places in Judaism where the idea of Faith in addition to Good Works was required for righteousness: Job is chastized for trying to second guess God (he had no Faith) and this is a sin despite his very Good Works.

I recall an extremely interesting treatment of the Book of Job in some short story I read a while ago. Regretably, I cannot remember the author, but the crux of the author's idea was this: Prior to Job, according to this author, God needed to offer mankind a reason for His doings, lest he lose their faith and become thought of among the forces of nature or the meaningless, arbitrary gods. God did these things to Job and inspired the book of Job so that He could be freed from having to ever offer an explanation to mankind for any of His deeds.

H. G. Wells, of all people, also had a very brief story dealing with The Book of Job. In it, a very accountant-like Satan has a conversation with God. During the course of the story, Satan does some quick calculations, and figures that, judging from the number of progeny God was said to have given Job as a reward, there must be a little bit of Job in all of us by now.

Judging from life, I suspect this to be true; if not in blood, in spirit.