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The Book of Job

Authors: Jo Milgrom and Yoel Duman


The enigma of the book of Job is expressed in the satirical cartoon series Southpark, in which Kyle (aka Job), recovering from hemorrhoid surgery, gets a visit from Rabbi and Rebbetzin Schwartz. They try to cheer Kyle up by telling him the story of Job. In the Rabbi’s version, Job is a wonderful man, has many children, a great wife and much livestock and praises God. God gets a terrible idea from Satan, who says that Job only praises God because he is so well off: “Take away all his goods and see what happens.” Everything is lost and Job gets deathly sick, but still praises God. Kyle says, “That’s it? Why would God do such a thing to a good person?” The Rabbi, perplexed, answers: “I don’t know.” Kyle’s closing remarks are: “There is no God.”

This is Bible study in our own day. It’s true and it’s not true. It’s partial and like anything partial, a lot is left out and some is added, just as in the world of midrash

Missing from the Southpark version of the story of Job are Job’s wife's problematic response to Job's disaster, Job’s extended discussion with his companions, God’s awesome revelation to Job and the detailed account of Job’s restoration. Both written and visual commentary on the book of Job have highlighted some of these figures and scenes, often well beyond their importance in the book. These commentaries reread and revisualize Job, through associations with the issues of their own times and in accordance with local, religious and individual agendas.

In our essay, we will go back to the 4th century and examine the art of that painful book throughout the centuries in order to track how Job and his story metamorphosed in the eyes of artists and why.

Early Christian art

Job first appears in the art of 4th century Rome in association with Christian views of death and burial.

Catacombs of Sts. Peter and Marcellinus, early 4th century

Catacombs of Via Dino Campagni, 320 - 360

In the paintings of the Roman catacombs, Job assumes the classic stance of the thoughtful scholar; in the funereal context of the catacombs, he embodies (and recommends) a contemplative approach to death.

In one catacomb painting, Job's wife accompanies him. Although she appears in the biblical text in only one short passage, she stars in commentary, midrash and the visual arts. As we shall discuss, in some cases, she is cast as a caring wife and in others, as a shrew. In the catacombs, she stands above and behind Job, holding a stick and looking away from him. What does this positioning of the couple tell us?

Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, 359

The many vignettes on the contemporary Junius Bassus sarcophagus – scenes from the Hebrew Bible and New Testament – can help us, since they too express early Christian beliefs on death and resurrection. Job appears here again as a robust philosopher, contemplating his fate. His wife holds a cloth to her face and extends her hand toward Job; from later iconography, it appears that, as in the catacombs, she originally held a stick, which broke in the course of the centuries. Later examples will clarify that she covers her face because Job's sores stink; the stick enables her to give him food while keeping her distance. Thus, both in the catacombs and in the sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, Job's wife is a comforting figure.

A third figure stands between the couple on the sarcophagus. The identity of this figure can be determined by comparing our scene with the adjacent panel – the fall of Man. There, Adam and Eve flank the serpent; from this juxtaposition we can conclude that Job and his wife flank Satan. Is this early Christian artist saying that Job’s (everyman’s) suffering is the result of Original Sin? In any event, early Christian art sees Job as a contemplative, pondering life and death.

Byzantine art

In a ninth century Greek manuscript of the book of Job, the same three figures from Junius Bassus evolve dramatically.

Septuagint of Job, 8th - 9th century

Dominating almost half the picture, Satan, on the left, becomes the Chimera of Greek mythology: a dragon, a lion and a serpent. Job is still robust, wearing the remnant of a toga; but he looks pathetic, covered with sores and scratching his head and body. His sorrowing wife stands at the right. Here the monstrous torment of Job by Satan, rather than the couple's philosophical and practical response to death, is the main focus.

In the next picture from the same manuscript, Job’s life is literally circumscribed by his suffering

He took a potsherd to scratch himself and sat within his own waste Job 2:8

Septuagint of Job, 8th - 9th century

Job and his wife continue to speak:

9His wife said to him, “You still keep your integrity! Blaspheme God and die!” 10But he said to her, “You talk as any shameless woman might talk! Should we accept only good from God and not accept evil?”

Overcome by her husband’s suffering, she suggests what we would call today “assisted suicide”. Job responds angrily to her “foolishness”.

We must note at this point that the Septuagint reading of Job’s wife’s speech is significantly expanded, declaiming her own parallel misery:

9 Then after a long time had passed, his wife said to him, “How long will you persist and say, ‘Look, I will hang on a little longer, while I wait for the hope of my deliverance?’

For look, your legacy has vanished from the earth—sons and daughters, my womb’s birth pangs and labors, for whom I wearied myself with hardships in vain. And you? You sit in the refuse of worms as you spend the night in the open air. As for me, I am one that wanders about and a hired servant—from place to place and house to house, waiting for when the sun will set, so I can rest from the distresses and griefs that now beset me. Now say some word to the Lord and die!”

In this version, Job’s wife speaks “after a long time” not only of his suffering, but of her own. As a result, her outburst is more understandable than in the Hebrew text. As we shall see, these two versions reflect two contrasting attitudes toward Job’s wife. While some see her suggestion as abetting Satan , others read it as the desperate solution of a helpless, caring wife.

In our picture, Job, stripped of his toga, is reduced “after a long time” to a loin cloth, exposing his boils and wounds. Hands play out the conversation. Job’s wife leaves him, gesturing as if to say “I just don’t understand you!” Job pushes her away, as if to say “It’s clear you don’t understand me.”

A century later, his three companions accompany Job and his wife.

Leo Bible, 10th century

They are dressed as kings, although they are nothing of the sort in the book itself. Job is central in his misery; no longer a robust philosopher, he is now naked, covered with sores and emaciated. The treatment of Job’s wife clarifies our earlier pictures; again she holds out a stick with food, while covering her face to avoid Job’s stench. The now regal companions are perhaps based on the iconography of the three Magi in scenes of Jesus’ nativity. Job’s wife is reminiscent of Mary at the Crucifixion. And Job is Jesus. Job has now become the type of Jesus, from Nativity to Crucifixion.

Another Byzantine manuscript, this time from the 13th century, is our first example of the suffering Job crowned with a halo. It is also the first portrayal of musicians in association with Job

Septuagint Job, 12th - 13th century

Later on, these musicians will become a standard and puzzling presence in the iconography of Job. Here they illustrate a verse from Job 21 that talks about the paradoxical good fortune of the wicked:

12 They sing to the music of timbrel and lute,
And revel to the tune of the pipe;

Until now, we have seen how Job was treated in the Roman world; first in Rome itself and subsequently in Byzantium. We will now follow Job’s transformation in the world of medieval and Renaissance Europe.

Job in the West

Chartres Cathedral, 13th century

The Cathedral of Chartres is a major monument of high Gothic art in the 12th and 13th centuries. Three central issues dominated Church thinking in this period: 1) the rise of the adoration of Mary as the embodiment of the Church, 2) the unity of Christ and the Church and 3) attacks on Catholic orthodoxy. The Catholic Church was beset in this period by challenges to its authority, including the militant revolt of the Albigensians. It seems that the sculptures that decorate the façade of Chartres were meant to project the struggle against these heresies, strengthening the status of Mother Church.

The figure of Job appears in Chartres as part of the enormous Royal Portico populated entirely by figures from the Hebrew Bible. Reflecting the above agenda, Job lies central in his agony. As we have seen, elsewhere Job is seated, in accordance with the text. Here, Satan lifts his face heavenward, cackling with joy at Job’s suffering. Job’s supine posture allows Satan to dominate him, his demonic grip extending from head to toe, as in the biblical text. At his feet, Job’s wife (arms now missing) probably held out his food on a stick, as in earlier images. At Job’s head, stand the so-called friends. Two of them are planning their arguments, while the third bends over Job gesturing, his hand touching Satan’s. If Job is the Church, Satan, Job’s wife and the “friends” represent the challenge. Christ, center and above accompanied by angels, represents the Church’s victory, validating the suffering of Job.

The suffering of Job achieves its most macabre expression in two 14th century French paintings from a manuscript of the Bible Historiale. The Bible Historiale is a French translation and adaptation of Peter Comestor’s Latin paraphrase of the historical books of the Bible. Written by the cleric Guyart des Moulins in the 1290s, the original version abbreviates the book of Job to the bare minimum of its plot. In later versions, a translation of the entire book of Job was added. In our manuscript from ca. 1340, both the long and the short Jobs are included, side by side. Our two pictures accompany the two texts.

Bible historiale, Paris, 14th century


In both paintings, Job is a deathly skeleton accompanied by his wife and the three companions. But the moods of the two paintings are different. In the shorter version, finger pointing illustrates confrontation with Job in the middle. His legs are crossed, identifying him with Jesus. His wife points upward as if to say “Curse God and die”. Job looks at her, but at the same time points to one of the companions, as if they are quarreling, while the third friend stands back in silent gloom.

In the longer version, Job sits to the side as if listening. His wife and companions are talking about him, rather than to him. She might be affirming Job’s suffering, while the lead companion throws up his hands as if to say, “He must deserve it”.

Job has become Death itself; his very existence is a problem for those who surround him.

Job the Patient and Job with Musicians

Speculum, Basel, 1471 - 1481

Speculum, Augsburg, 1473

Job’s character undergoes another significant transformation in 15th century northern Europe as witnessed in the two drawings above. His sores, so prominent earlier, have disappeared. His prayerful hands emphasize the quality of patience and stoicism. Job sits awkwardly in both illustrations. In the left hand drawing, his knees are bent, since he is sitting on the dunghill; but on the right, the dunghill has disappeared. The original iconography has been decontextualized.

Job is caught between two aggressive opponents. The extended arms from each direction harass Job’s body. A particularly grotesque Satan, with breasts, hooves and a tail is whipping Job. Opposite stands Job’s wife, holding a stick. Earlier, she had given Job food using this stick, but now it is parallel to Satan’s whip.

Up to now, Job’s wife appeared as a comforter. But in 15th century Europe we begin to see a negative attitude toward her. The text of the Swiss Speculum (above left) identifies our picture: Job flagellabatur a demone et ab uxore (Job was whipped by the Devil and by his wife). The German Speculum also sees her as menacing. Thus in both cases she is, as St. Augustine had already said, a helper of the Devil, undermining Job’s faith.

Finally, in the Speculum a mysterious divine (?) element hovers over Job, indifferent witness to his suffering.

In the art of northern Europe of the late 15th century, three musicians suddenly appear accompanying Job the pious. They also appear in several French and English poems and plays of the time, but their origin is unknown. While they often seem to be additional mockers of Job, some of the visual and literary sources cast them as comforters. Sometimes, they take the place of Job’s companions; in other cases they are additional characters.

Book of Hours, Belgium, 1470

Triptych of a Flemish Master, 1480

As we have seen above musicians first appear in Byzantine art; but there they are not characters in Job’s drama, but mere symbols of the success of the wicked (see Job 21).

In this 15th century Book of Hours, they appear to be ridiculing the praying, haloed Job. Job’s wife claps her hands and taps her foot, in rhythm with the music.

At exactly the same time, the musicians appear in great detail in a panel of a Flemish triptych. Eight scenes from the story of Job fill the panel. At front stage we see Job twice, seated on the dunghill. On the left (2) a hideous Satan flails the praying saint. On the right (4), two musicians blast their horns while the third is collecting his honorarium from the victim himself. According to the literary sources, Job pays them with his scabs, magically transformed into gold. In the center of the painting (5), Job’s wife is talking with the musicians. According to the English poem, The Life of Holy Job:

The mynstrelles than shewid and tolde to Job his wyfe,

That he so reward them where fore she gan to stryfe

In the continuation of the poem, she complains that Job has enough money to pay the musicians, but not to feed her.


Job’s wife also appears in the typical meeting on the dunghill (3) and again in the scene at his deathbed (8). Thus she is the linchpin of the complex action and enormous cast of the painting. Once again, she is cast as another tormentor of Job.

Just as they suddenly appear, so the musicians disappear without a trace by the mid-16th century.

Job in Jewish literary and visual Midrash

The book of Job is referenced frequently in Jewish midrash and commentary from their earliest stages, although not as intensively as other books of the Bible. The major theme in these Jewish interpretations contrasts Job’s and Abraham’s trials, especially with regard to the Akedah. However, there is very little Jewish art on Job before the modern era. Job does not appear in haggadot, in haftarot or in mahzorim for the simple reason that the book of Job is not part of the Jewish liturgical cycle. The same is true of the books of Daniel, Chronicles and Ezra and Nehemiah. Curiously, these very books are cited in Mishna Yoma I, 6 as the material read to the High Priest to keep him awake on the eve of Yom Kippur. Nonetheless we have a skimpy handful of art on Job in Jewish books, spanning the 13th through the 15th century and originating in both northern and southern Europe. How do these few examples of Jewish iconography relate to the Christian iconography we’ve seen up to now?

Munich Rashi, 13th century

Although these few works of art appear in Hebrew Bibles and commentaries, the artwork was done mainly by Christians and at least one treatment was intended for a non-Jewish audience. For example, the colophon of the Munich manuscript of Rashi’s commentary records the name of the scribe, Shelomo ben R. Shmuel; from comparison with other manuscripts, we know that the illustrator was one “Heinrich the Painter”. In other words, a Jew and a Christian collaborated on a long term project in 13th century Germany, contrary to the generally assumed alienation of the two communities. Unlike the norm, this painting shows four visitors rather than three; two of them are wearing the infamous Jewish hat (Judenhut). The speaker, probably Elihu, takes center stage. Speech scrolls represent the conversation between him and Job. Three remaining speech scrolls give voice to the other three companions. Focusing on Elihu’s speech is very unusual and even enigmatic in a manuscript in which there is only a single picture on the book of Job.

Job is naked, seated on a palette-shaped dunghill. As opposed to the preceding works, his posture goes back to that of the Roman philosopher Job, robust and thoughtful.

The iconography of Job and his wife is remarkable. His left hand is extended toward her, almost affectionately (?). Her left arm reaches out to him. She crouches next to her husband, communicating without speech. This sympathetic relationship seems to hark back to the early Christian model, as does the portrayal of Job himself. Perhaps this "Christian" model was actually Jewish.

All the faces (here and throughout the manuscript) have been rubbed out; apparently, a “correction” made by the Christian illuminator on the demand of the Jewish backer. Such iconoclasm is prevalent at this time in Ashkenazic manuscripts – see for example the Bird's Head Haggadah.

Cambridge Hagiographa, 1347

The only rendering of Satan in medieval “Jewish art” that has come down to us is in Cambridge Ee. 5.9, an illuminated Hagiographa (Writings), dated in its margin to 1347, and created in Germany, as verified by several Yiddish comments of its scribe. Satan is a spectacular monster, with a grotesque, horned head, tail and webbed feet as in the Speculums discussed above. He stretches over the stem of the aleph to strike Job’s head, as in the Chartres relief; but he has no whip as in other renditions. Job, with blistering sores, reclines on the dungheap. His angry wife stands as far as possible from him on the left. Their faces have been erased, as in the Munich Rashi. In sum, while the iconography of this Job identifies it clearly as the work of a Christian artist, like the Munich Rashi, it straddles both worlds.

Our last group of medieval illustrations of Job comes from 15th century Italy.

EMET Books, 1450 - 1474

Rothschild Miscellany, ca. 1470

On the left, the painting is from a manuscript of the Hebrew text of Job, Proverbs and Psalms (called by the acronym Sifrei EMeT – the books of TRUTH); the manuscript was commissioned by the Medici family, the rulers of Florence. Here, scarred Job scratches himself with a shard but appears to be listening, although his gaze is far off. The three companions are seated:

They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights.

                                   None spoke a word to him for they saw how very great was his suffering.   Job 2:13

But two of the three gesture, indicating speech, while the third clasps his hands piously, a gesture normally associated with Job. Therefore, our view is that this painting summarizes the thirty chapters detailing Job’s meeting with his companions, rather than just illustrating Job 2:13.


On the right, the Rothschild Miscellany was commissioned by Moses ben Yekuthiel Hakohen, a wealthy Italian Jew, in 1479. This pair of pictures carries a happy title “the Lord gave Job twice what he had before” (Job 42:10), (contra Sed-Rajna’s claim that this is Job’s beginning). This period of prosperity for Italian Jewry is reflected in the portrayals of Job’s restoration; plenty, peace, even better than before. Job’s material wealth is shown in the left-hand scene; land, flocks, real estate. All is good with the world. In the right hand picture, Job’s family is restored. He is seated in the center of his palazzo, a bearded patriarch, surrounded by his seven sons and three daughters; his wife is absent. All signs of suffering and loss have magically disappeared. This pair of pictures, attached to Jewish commentary on the last part of the book of Job, is a radical departure from the more common stress on Job the martyr. It may be the only example of pre-modern “Jewish art” on Job; while the other paintings in Hebrew manuscripts are very similar to the Christian art of the times, Job in his palazzo is Job from a Jewish perspective.


Before parting from the art of pre-modern Europe, we must show you a most unusual Job.

Martin van Heemskerck, Job’s triumph 1559

Not the suffering, not the restored, but the defiant Job is seated upon a huge tortoise (a symbol of patience and endurance) and pulls behind him his detractors: Satan, his wife and his so-called friends. They are looking at each other, as if stupefied by Job’s vindication. In the faded background is a scene from Job’s earlier life; his wife stands and gesticulates impatiently while the three companions are still overcome by Job’s tragedy.


Sed-Rajna, G. The Hebrew Bible in Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts, 134.

Muslim art

We next treat four Islamic paintings of Job (Ayyub), all created in Persia within a period of just five years in the late 16th century.

Qisas Nishaburi, BNF

Qisas Dayduzami, Topkapi

Qisas Nishaburi, NYPL

Qisas Nishaburi, Berlin

The paintings illuminate various versions of the Islamic midrash called Qisas al Anbiya (Stories of the Prophets), which deals with the pre-Islamic prophets. In all four paintings we find a stream and in three, a tree, usually at the center; these are well-known edenic motifs. Are they connected with the interpretation of the Eden serpent as Satan?; are they evocations of the idyllic situation (Eden, Job’s beginnings) and the disastrous change that is finally reversed? Their common element seems to be Job’s restoration, rather than his suffering. This accords with Job’s appearances in the Quran and in the Qisas al Anbiya, which marginalize the suffering, while stressing Job’s great faith in Allah and His mercy.

In two of the paintings Job is half-naked, in other words still in a state of suffering, but never scratching his wounds as in much of Christian art. In the other two paintings, he is dressed and has been restored. In contradistinction to Christian art, the Islamic art on Job portrays a compassionate wife, who is named Rahma (mercy). She appears in two out of four of our pictures, at the point when she is bringing food to her husband who has been restored; according to the Qisas, she does not recognize him at first. Jibril (Gabriel), the archangel, appears in all of the pictures, representing God. In some cases he is simply overseeing the restoration and in others, actively bringing it about with food or clothing. In a single painting, the figure of Iblis (Satan) appears above Job’s wife and parallel to Jibril, summarizing the conflict between good and evil.

On Blake’s Job

The Book of Job was a subject of intense interest to the British romantic poet and artist, William Blake, throughout his life. He is the only pre-20th century artist who deals with the psychological aspect of Job’s rise to consciousness.

In his later years, Blake produced a unified series of twenty-one engravings “illustrating” the book. The first seven engravings accompany the two opening narrative chapters of the book (Job’s beginning, Satan’s challenge, Job’s catastrophes and the smiting of Job). The last six pictures illustrate the final chapter of the book, Job’s restoration. Five pictures concern the argument between Job and his companions and three pictures accompany God’s speech out of the whirlwind. We have chosen seven of the engravings for discussion: Job’s beginning, the smiting of Job, Eliphaz’s vision, Job’s nightly torment, God’s whirlwind, Leviathan and Behemoth, Job’s restoration. We have chosen these pictures for their visual interest and their theological significance.


Picture 1 Job’s beginning

W. Blake, Job 1

Blake introduces us to Job’s family, in this first of twenty-one images. His children are kneeling in prayer, the good book is open on the parents’ laps, sheep are dozing. Instruments, unused and unsung, are hanging on the tree. A brilliant sun sets over a church on the left and a crescent moon rises on the right over a tent site. The scene is peaceful, but passionless.

The central image is set within an exterior line drawing accompanied by texts. This combination of image and text in the margins will set the pattern for the entire series. The triangular top of a tent fills the upper margin. The text, “Our Father which art in heaven hallowed be thy Name” (Matthew 6:9) appears within a cloud above the tent. The cloud emanates from an altar at the center of the bottom margin.

Below, the opening verse of the book is flanked by a bull and a ram. These are related to the sacrificial altar in the center, on which are quotations from the New Testament:

The word kills, [but] the spirit giveth life 2 Corinthians 3:6

It is spiritually discerned 1 Corinthians 2:14

Above the flames of the altar, and serving as the picture's title, is the statement,

Thus did Job continually Job 1:5,

referring originally to the sacrifice that Job performed weekly to atone hyper-meticulously for any possibility of his children’s sins. Is the “Father which art in heaven” (above) aware of the conflict stated below between commandments and faith?

At first blush this picture seems like a mere illustration of the book's opening; but examination of the visual and textual details reveals a striking interpretation. Blake reads Job’s piety as routine, static and unconscious; this is the basis for Job's trials. Blake is setting us up for a shock in the coming scenes.


Picture 6 Satan smiting Job

W. Blake, Job 2

We skip over Satan’s challenge and the test of Job’s piety and over the first round of catastrophes to arrive at Blake’s treatment of Satan smiting Job.

The outer frame sets the mood: creepy spiders, broken pottery, a broken shepherd’s crook, a frog and a grasshopper. These creatures seem allude to the Ten Plagues of Egypt. They are accompanied by the reference to Job’s boils, also one of the Egyptian plagues.

Job’s resigned statement appears at the top:

Naked came I out of my mother’s womb and naked shall I return thither


This is the dismal, ominous outer scene.

The central engraving is a violent storm. Its shape is triangular: Job and his wife are the base; the apex is scary-beautiful, demonic, haloed Satan, standing on his victim. This handsome Satan stands in stark contrast with the traditional Satan we have seen above.

W. Blake, Satan

Flemish Master, Satan

His left hand pours poison on Job, while his right hand hurls arrows, reflecting Job’s words in a later chapter:

For the arrows of the Almighty are in me;
Their poison drinks up my spirit Job 6:4

As can be seen from this quotation, Job attributes his suffering to God; Blake is saying that Satan is an aspect of God, not his nemesis as in medieval iconography. The genitalia of Satan are an additional monster in the medieval painting; in Blake, Satan is asexual.

While not emaciated, Job’s supine position reflects his resignation.

Job’s grieving wife is a sympathetic figure throughout Blake’s work, in contrast to her negative character in many of the treatments seen earlier.

Picture 9 Eliphaz’s dream

The ninth picture of the series deals with Eliphaz’s dream vision in Job 4.

Eliphaz is quoted at the bottom of the outer frame. He raises his arm dramatically, declaiming his vision, while Job and his wife gaze intently. Nearby, the two other companions are frozen in fear.

In fact, Eliphaz appears twice in this engraving: as the confident teller of dreams below and as a terrified dreamer above.

An imperious God stands before Eliphaz. The spikes in Eliphaz’s hair are an extension of God’s radiance:

A spirit passed before my face and my hair stood on end.

A figure stood before my eyes that I could not identify and silence that I could hear.

Note that the text itself does not identify the speaker in the vision as God.


An oval halo crowns God, who stands within an aura from which sparks like arrows fly toward Eliphaz. A thick cloud frames the entire vision and extends into the margins. Within this marginal cloud is the content of Eliphaz’s vision regarding divine Justice: No human can be righteous in God’s eyes.


Blake reads this passage as the beginning of Job’s new consciousness. Eliphaz is the conduit for the “collective unconscious”, but the companions, and even Eliphaz himself, are not affected by this message from the “Divine”, since they are enslaved to Orthodoxy.

Picture 11 Job’s nightmare

W. Blake, Job 7

The major text underlying this picture is from Job 7, in which Job says that in his suffering he hoped to find some solace in sleep; but God comes to him in his dreams and tortures him. In this engraving, Job is caught between creatures beneath his bed that are pulling him down to hell and God, hovering above, malevolently. God’s right arm points to the Tablets of the Law and his left arm to hell: The all-powerful God is coercing Job into following the letter of the Law or else… For Blake, this is a proof that the Law is invalid.

Blake’s engraving of this scene is similar in many ways to his painting entitled “And Elohim created Adam…”. Is Job the universal Adam?

W. Blake, Elohim creating Man

In the Creation painting, Adam is wrapped in the Serpent; in the Job engraving God is wrapped in the Serpent, whose head seems to grow out of God’s head. God is more benign in the Creation painting than in the Job engraving, he is blessing Adam. Nonetheless, in Blake’s theology, this Creator God is a false God, because he deals with the material world rather than pure spirit. The monstrous God in the Job engraving is anticipated in the Creation painting. The images of Adam and God and Job and God are merging. It’s as though the suffering Adam will become the suffering Job, the Job who protests against his very existence already in chapter 3.

The picture is accompanied by copious text, from various parts of Job, as well as from the New Testament. Particularly significant is the long quotation from Job 19, which Blake translated differently than the King James Version, his usual source. The quotation also diverges from the Hebrew original. Blake’s reading is that the Redeemer will be met once Man (Job) is divested of his mortal body and is able to experience the true, spiritual world. Job is still caught between Heaven and Hell, but Earth itself, because of its very materiality, is his nightmare.

Picture 13 Out of the whirlwind

W. Blake, Job 38

The next picture we deal with in Blake’s opus is the Lord’s stunning appearance out of the whirlwind (Job 38). The demonic God and the suffering Job are gone. This God speaks out of a womblike whirlwind, reminiscent of Michelangelo’s God of Creation in the Sistine Chapel. He no longer torments Job; instead his right hand reaches out in blessing. Blake reads against the biblical text, which describes an imperious God holding forth haughtily out of the whirlwind and confronting Job with his insignificance.

The hands of Job and his wife respond in prayer. It is the three companions who are doubled over in terror. Their agitated hands are in total contrast to the calm figures of Job and his wife. In God’s speech itself, neither the companions nor Job’s wife are mentioned.

Typically, biblical quotations accompany the central engraving. Below the engraving, as a caption, appears the first verse of chapter 38:

Then the Lord answered Job out of the Whirlwind.

Strangely the next verse of the text (God’s disdainful challenge to Job) appears at the top of the page’s margin, almost out of sight. Below this quotation five figures, arms linked, float above clouds: an image from Psalms 104:

Who maketh the Clouds his chariot and walketh on the Wings of the Wind.

But the quotation is minimized at the lower margin; why doesn’t the caption accompany the illustration? And why make reference to this particular Psalm?

Further down the page is another quotation from Job 38, mentioning God as the bringer of rain and dew; at the bottom edge is a tree, whose branches have been bent down by the storm.

These enigmatic elements can be explained as Blake’s reinterpretation of the whirlwind as a symbol of God’s benevolence, rather than as a manifestation of God’s power

Picture 15 Leviathan and Behemoth

W. Blake, Job 40

As always, the passage below the picture (Job 40:15) indicates its major focus.

Behold now Behemoth which I made with thee

The phrasing of this verse is noteworthy for two reasons. First, the word “behold” emphasizes
the need to look at and contemplate these beasts (the term “behemoth” indicating more than one).
Second, the words “which I made with thee” invite a psychological interpretation, because it

appears that the beast is part of the person, Job. The other quotations, in the margins, emphasize
man’s inability to understand the external world.
In the central engraving itself, the nimbed God is flanked by two brooding angels. The dispirited
Lord points downward to the lower world. Job, his wife and the companions follow Gods hand,
peering over the edge as if into an abyss.
Two-thirds of this plate is occupied by the monsters, Behemoth and Leviathan. Behemoth looks
like an armored hippopotamus, while Leviathan is a classic sea dragon. They are enclosed within
a womb-like sphere, reminiscent of the early verses of God’s speech out of the whirlwind:

Who closed the sea behind doors
When it gushed forth out of the womb,
When I clothed it in clouds,
Swaddled it in dense clouds,
When I made breakers My limit for it,
And set up its bar and doors,
And said, “You may come so far and no farther;
Here your surging waves will stop”? 38: 8 – 11

It’s as if God is saying to Job, “You’ve been focused and either satisfied or angry regarding
external reality. Now, look inside at what is running you.” Job needs to understand that these
monstrous beings are his primal instincts and are not to be denied, but embraced, because they
are the basis of human creativity.
Blake presents this climactic part of God’s speech to Job saying that even if we cannot
understand the mysteries of the outer or inner world, still we must engage them.

Picture 21 Job's triumphal restoration

Blake, Job beginning

W. Blake, Job 42

The final picture in Blake’s series is entitled “So the Lord blessed the end of Job more than the
beginning (Job 42:12). It is the companion piece to the engraving of Job's beginning. There are
three points to address in comparing the two: the outer frame, the verses and the interior picture.
Both scenes take place within a tent at the bottom of which is an altar. The verse within the altar
in the restoration scene rejects the importance of sacrifice and sin, parallel to the opening picture,
where the verse on the altar is a rejection of the Law.

Job’s restored family is a standing chorus here, joyously singing and playing musical
instruments, as opposed to the first in the series where they are seated solemnly, focused on the
written word, the instruments hanging silently on the tree. The moon sets as the sun rises,
reversing the focus of the first engraving, where the setting of the sun augurs darkness.
The text above the tent now exults in praise of God’s works on earth, while the first engraving
quoted stylized piety, invoking the heavenly God.

Blake's water color of Job's restoration

Job in Modern Art

Jews dominate the art of Job in the 20 th century. While the Holocaust is a central catalyst for their
work, the art of Job already appears before the Holocaust and also relates to non-Holocaust
issues. The common denominator is that Job is an iconic image of the incomprehensibility of the
world. Only in the 20 th century did the world of art open fully to Jews and only in the 20 th
century could Job be reinterpreted in a secular manner. His tragedy is all of human tragedy, his
protest is both heroic and unfathomable.


Pre-holocaust Job

Zadkine, The Misery of Job, 1914

Our first example of a modern Job fits the hallmarks of our era. Ossip Zadkine came from an
assimilated/converted Jewish family in Vitebsk, who provided him little or no traditional Jewish
background. Arriving in Paris in 1910, he was influenced by cubism on the one hand and
Roman and African sculpture on the other to “search for life in the simplification” of forms. His
Job of 1914, carved from elm wood, expresses his personal difficulties, rather than being a
theological, political or philosophical statement. The four figures, presumably Job (lying face
down), his three companions and his wife (bending over him), appear to have no relationship
with one another – modern alienation.

Zadkine's The Destroyed City (1951) is a man without a heart and is dedicated to the city of
Rotterdam, destroyed by the Nazi Luftwaffe. It may not be named Job, but it is a Jobian work, a
much more powerful sculpture, of related iconography, than the elmwood sculpture of 1914,
which feels self-absorbed in comparison. Zadkine was wounded during WWI and the later
sculpture is by the artist 30+ years older with a lot more life experience to express. As we shall
see the raised arms are similar to Abraham Rattner’s work of about this time. Both men were in
the US during WWII.


The Holocaust as reflected in Job

The Holocaust was certainly the overwhelming Jewish experience of the 20 th century; in trying to
give meaning to this horror, Jews reached back to the Bible and found the book of Job waiting.
Both in literature and in art, the figure of Job became a central icon dialoguing with the victims
of the Holocaust.

After serving in World War I, Abraham Rattner became part of the American expatriate
community of Paris, until returning to the United States in 1940. He joined other Jewish
expatriates and refugees, including Ossip Zadkine, in the vibrant art scene of New York City.
The Holocaust marks the beginning of Rattner’s treatment of Jewish and biblical topics.

Abraham Rattner, 1949

In his painting of 1949, Job’s head and body move toward abstraction; his face is raised,
questioning the Almighty. His sores are patches of color in the abstract triangle of his body.
He’s surrounded by fire. Most unique are his arms, disproportionately huge, raised to heaven. If
arms could speak, the volume would be deafening.

Ziva Amishai- Maisels writes on Rattner development:

“… in later versions his gesture is more hesitant, as he asks God what he has done to be so
punished… Job’s sores also take on another meaning in the versions of 1958-59, where his body
breaks down into an abstract composition of flame-colored facets and dripping blood, and is set
against a blazing background.”


Depiction and Interpretation, p. 165


Jacob Steinhardt

Steinhardt, 1945

The German Expressionist Jacob Steinhardt treated Job repeatedly over 50 years. In his earlier
and later works, Steinhardt portrayed Job as depressed and withdrawn. During and immediately
after World War II, his treatments evoke the Holocaust and his feelings of protest. Only at this
time do Steinhardt’s Jobs look heavenward, mouth open, questioning God and expressing

Steinhardt, 1957

Nathan Rapoport

Rapoport, 1967

Much of Nathan Rapoport’s work concerns the Holocaust, through which he lived. Regarding his
cast bronze sculpture of Job, now found in the gardens of Yad Vashem, Rapoport writes:
“I think…that the rebirth of Israel and the Jewish people are an echo of the book of Job. Our
people kept faith. We did not change our beliefs, our ethics, and we came out stronger from our

However, some commentators have asked whether Rapoport’s figure of Job is the man of faith,
sure of his belief or the man of protest, lifting his face heavenward asking God, “why”.


Leonard Everett Fisher

God in man # 11, naked came I (Job), 1964

In unsettling contrast to the image of Job the emaciated martyr, prevalent both in medieval
Christian art and in some modern Jewish art, Leonard Everett Fischer portrays Job as a robust,
aggressive man, ready for combat. This view of Job reflects both Fischer’s biography (which
included active service in World War II) and his interest in heroic figures in general. But it is
also a reaction to the perceived helplessness of Jews in the Holocaust and the desire to redefine
Jewish identity. The title of the painting, based on Job 1:21, refers to the stoic Job, unbroken by
his own tragedy.


Marc Chagall

Chagall, 1975

Marc Chagall treated the subject of Job several times. In this painting from 1975, Job is only
partially clothed, as in many traditional paintings. But he is not emaciated and there is no sign of
him acting as representative of the Holocaust martyrs. He stands in an unnatural posture,
together with his wife, who holds out a cup or donation box (pushke). A crowd (perhaps his
acquaintances) stands opposite, coming to visit him:

All his brothers and sisters and all his former friends came to him and had a meal with
him in his house. They consoled and comforted him for all the misfortune that the Lord
had brought upon him. Each gave him one kesitah and each one a gold ring. Job 42:11

A Chagallian potpourri populates the scene: an angel with open scroll flying above, goats, a
Christ on the cross, a Torah scholar, etc. We suggest that the central structure of the painting, a
circular movement composed of Job and his wife and the people of Israel, is the key the
Chagall’s statement regarding Job: renewal and hope.


Adi Nes

Job and his companions, 2006

Adi Nes’ Job is spectacularly different from what we have seen up to now. The scene has been
transported to a seedy neighborhood of south Tel Aviv. Removed from the theological
conversation of the book of Job, they are our neighbors, perhaps talking about their friend, who
is down on his luck. They seem to be more involved in their discussion than in Job himself. He
sits alone, unfocused, bedraggled and lost. This is a true example of modern midrash, which
creates a contemporary dialogue with an ancient text.


We have seen through this survey of art on the book of Job that the difficult and challenging
form and content of the book has engendered radically different interpretations, the artist like the
writer often finding in Job a mirror.



Article Sources:

Job 1


1 There was a man in the land of Uz named Job. That man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2 Seven sons and three daughters were born to him; 3 his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred she-asses, and a very large household. That man was wealthier than anyone in the East.

4 It was the custom of his sons to hold feasts, each on his set day in his own home. They would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 When a round of feast days was over, Job would send word to them to sanctify themselves, and, rising early in the morning, he would make burnt offerings, one for each of them; for Job thought, “Perhaps my children have sinned and blasphemed God in their thoughts.” This is what Job always used to do.

6 One day the divine beings presented themselves before the Lord, and the Adversary came along with them. 7 The Lord said to the Adversary, “Where have you been?” The Adversary answered the Lord, “I have been roaming all over the earth.” 8 The Lord said to the Adversary, “Have you noticed My servant Job? There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil!” 9 The Adversary answered the Lord, “Does Job not have good reason to fear God? 10 Why, it is You who have fenced him round, him and his household and all that he has. You have blessed his efforts so that his possessions spread out in the land. 11 But lay Your hand upon all that he has and he will surely blaspheme You to Your face.” 12 The Lord replied to the Adversary, “See, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on him.” The Adversary departed from the presence of the Lord.

13 One day, as his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the she-asses were grazing alongside them 15 when Sabeans attacked them and carried them off, and put the boys to the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 This one was still speaking when another came and said, “God’s fire fell from heaven, took hold of the sheep and the boys, and burned them up; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 This one was still speaking when another came and said, “A Chaldean formation of three columns made a raid on the camels and carried them off and put the boys to the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 This one was still speaking when another came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother 19 when suddenly a mighty wind came from the wilderness. It struck the four corners of the house so that it collapsed upon the young people and they died; I alone have escaped to tell you.”

20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, cut off his hair, and threw himself on the ground and worshiped. 21 He said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

22 For all that, Job did not sin nor did he cast reproach on God.


Job 2


1 One day the divine beings presented themselves before the Lord. The Adversary came along with them to present himself before the Lord. 2 The Lord said to the Adversary, “Where have you been?” The Adversary answered the Lord, “I have been roaming all over the earth.” 3 The Lord said to the Adversary, “Have you noticed My servant Job? There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil. He still keeps his integrity; so you have incited Me against him to destroy him for no good reason.” 4 The Adversary answered the Lord, “Skin for skin—all that a man has he will give up for his life. 5 But lay a hand on his bones and his flesh, and he will surely blaspheme You to Your face.” 6 So the Lord said to the Adversary, “See, he is in your power; only spare his life.” 7 The Adversary departed from the presence of the Lord and inflicted a severe inflammation on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 He took a potsherd to scratch himself as he sat in ashes. 9 His wife said to him, “You still keep your integrity! Blaspheme God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You talk as any shameless woman might talk! Should we accept only good from God and not accept evil?” For all that, Job said nothing sinful.

11 When Job’s three friends heard about all these calamities that had befallen him, each came from his home—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could not recognize him, and they broke into loud weeping; each one tore his robe and threw dust into the air onto his head. 13 They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights. None spoke a word to him for they saw how very great was his suffering.


Job 3


1 Afterward, Job began to speak and cursed the day of his birth. 2 Job spoke up and said:

3 Perish the day on which I was born,
And the night it was announced,
“A male has been conceived!”

4 May that day be darkness;
May God above have no concern for it;
May light not shine on it;

5 May darkness and deep gloom reclaim it;
May a pall lie over it;
May what blackens the day terrify it.

6 May obscurity carry off that night;
May it not be counted among the days of the year;
May it not appear in any of its months;

7 May that night be desolate;
May no sound of joy be heard in it;

8 May those who cast spells upon the day damn it,
Those prepared to disable Leviathan;

9 May its twilight stars remain dark;
May it hope for light and have none;
May it not see the glimmerings of the dawn—

10 Because it did not block my mother’s womb,
And hide trouble from my eyes.

11 Why did I not die at birth,
Expire as I came forth from the womb?

12 Why were there knees to receive me,
Or breasts for me to suck?

13 For now would I be lying in repose, asleep and at rest,

14 With the world’s kings and counselors who rebuild ruins for themselves,

15 Or with nobles who possess gold and who fill their houses with silver.

16 Or why was I not like a buried stillbirth,
Like babies who never saw the light?

17 There the wicked cease from troubling;
There rest those whose strength is spent.

18 Prisoners are wholly at ease;
They do not hear the taskmaster’s voice.

19 Small and great alike are there,
And the slave is free of his master.

20 Why does He give light to the sufferer
And life to the bitter in spirit;

21 To those who wait for death but it does not come,
Who search for it more than for treasure,

22 Who rejoice to exultation,
And are glad to reach the grave;

23 To the man who has lost his way,
Whom God has hedged about?

24 My groaning serves as my bread;
My roaring pours forth as water.

25 For what I feared has overtaken me;
What I dreaded has come upon me.

26 I had no repose, no quiet, no rest,
And trouble came.


Job 4


1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite said in reply:

2 If one ventures a word with you, will it be too much?
But who can hold back his words?

3 See, you have encouraged many;
You have strengthened failing hands.

4 Your words have kept him who stumbled from falling;
You have braced knees that gave way.

5 But now that it overtakes you, it is too much;
It reaches you, and you are unnerved.

6 Is not your piety your confidence,
Your integrity your hope?

7 Think now, what innocent man ever perished?
Where have the upright been destroyed?

8 As I have seen, those who plow evil
And sow mischief reap them.

9 They perish by a blast from God,
Are gone at the breath of His nostrils.

10 The lion may roar, the cub may howl,
But the teeth of the king of beasts are broken.

11 The lion perishes for lack of prey,
And its whelps are scattered.

12 A word came to me in stealth;
My ear caught a whisper of it.

13 In thought-filled visions of the night,
When deep sleep falls on men,

14 Fear and trembling came upon me,
Causing all my bones to quake with fright.

15 A wind passed by me,
Making the hair of my flesh bristle.

16 It halted; its appearance was strange to me;
A form loomed before my eyes;
I heard a murmur, a voice,

17 “Can mortals be acquitted by God?
Can man be cleared by his Maker?

18 If He cannot trust His own servants,
And casts reproach on His angels,

19 How much less those who dwell in houses of clay,
Whose origin is dust,
Who are crushed like the moth,

20 Shattered between daybreak and evening,
Perishing forever, unnoticed.

21 Their cord is pulled up
And they die, and not with wisdom.”


Job 38


1 Then the Lord replied to Job out of the tempest and said:

2 Who is this who darkens counsel,
Speaking without knowledge?

3 Gird your loins like a man;
I will ask and you will inform Me.

4 Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?
Speak if you have understanding.

5 Do you know who fixed its dimensions
Or who measured it with a line?

6 Onto what were its bases sunk?
Who set its cornerstone

7 When the morning stars sang together
And all the divine beings shouted for joy?

8 Who closed the sea behind doors
When it gushed forth out of the womb,

9 When I clothed it in clouds,
Swaddled it in dense clouds,

10 When I made breakers My limit for it,
And set up its bar and doors,

11 And said, “You may come so far and no farther;
Here your surging waves will stop”?


Job 40


15 Take now behemoth, whom I made as I did you;
He eats grass, like the cattle.

16 His strength is in his loins,
His might in the muscles of his belly.

17 He makes his tail stand up like a cedar;
The sinews of his thighs are knit together.

18 His bones are like tubes of bronze,
His limbs like iron rods.

19 He is the first of God’s works;
Only his Maker can draw the sword against him.

20 The mountains yield him produce,
Where all the beasts of the field play.

21 He lies down beneath the lotuses,
In the cover of the swamp reeds.

22 The lotuses embower him with shade;
The willows of the brook surround him.

23 He can restrain the river from its rushing;
He is confident the stream will gush at his command.

24 Can he be taken by his eyes?
Can his nose be pierced by hooks?

25 Can you draw out Leviathan by a fishhook?
Can you press down his tongue by a rope?

26 Can you put a ring through his nose,
Or pierce his jaw with a barb?


Job 41


10 His sneezings flash lightning,
And his eyes are like the glimmerings of dawn.

11 Firebrands stream from his mouth;
Fiery sparks escape.

12 Out of his nostrils comes smoke
As from a steaming, boiling cauldron.

13 His breath ignites coals;
Flames blaze from his mouth.

14 Strength resides in his neck;
Power leaps before him.

15 The layers of his flesh stick together;
He is as though cast hard; he does not totter.


Job 42


1 Job said in reply to the Lord:

2 I know that You can do everything,
That nothing you propose is impossible for You.

3 Who is this who obscures counsel without knowledge?
Indeed, I spoke without understanding
Of things beyond me, which I did not know.

4 Hear now, and I will speak;
I will ask, and You will inform me.

5 I had heard You with my ears,
But now I see You with my eyes;

6 Therefore, I recant and relent,
Being but dust and ashes.

7 After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am incensed at you and your two friends, for you have not spoken the truth about Me as did My servant Job. 8 Now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to My servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. And let Job, My servant, pray for you; for to him I will show favor and not treat you vilely, since you have not spoken the truth about Me as did My servant Job.” 9 Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did as the Lord had told them, and the Lord showed favor to Job. 10 The Lord restored Job’s fortunes when he prayed on behalf of his friends, and the Lord gave Job twice what he had before.

11 All his brothers and sisters and all his former friends came to him and had a meal with him in his house. They consoled and comforted him for all the misfortune that the Lord had brought upon him. Each gave him one kesitah and each one gold ring. 12 Thus the Lord blessed the latter years of Job’s life more than the former. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand she-asses. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first he named Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. 15 Nowhere in the land were women as beautiful as Job’s daughters to be found. Their father gave them estates together with their brothers. 16 Afterward, Job lived one hundred and forty years to see four generations of sons and grandsons. 17 So Job died old and contented.


Mekhilta Bahodesh 10


You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, [nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold]

R. Ishmael says, You shall not make before me an image of those who serve my servants in heaven: not the image of an image of angels, cherubim or Ophannim.

R. Nathan says, You shall not make…with me: It is so that you will not say, "Lo, I shall make something like an image and bow down to it,' that Scriptures says, 'You shall not make…with me.'

And so Scripture says, You will therefore be very careful, for you saw no form whatsoever (Dt. 4:15).

R. Aqiba says, You shall not do…with me: You will not act with me in the way in which others act with the things that they revere. When some sort of good comes upon them, they honor their gods: Therefore, they sacrifice to their net (Hab. 1:16). While when some sorr of bad comes upon them, they curse their gods: And it shall come to pass that when they are hungry, that they shall fret and curse their king and their gods (Is. 8:21). But as to you, if I bring good upon you, give thanks, and should I bring suffering upon you, give thanks as well. And so David says, I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord…I found trouble and sorrow, but I called upon the name of the Lord (Ps. 116). So does Job say, The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, Blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21) That is the case for the measure of goodness. As to the measure of punishment, what does his wife say to him? Do you still hold fast your integrity? Blaspheme God and die. (Job 2:9). And what does he say to her? You speak as one of the impious women speaks. Shall we receive good at the hand of God and shall we not receive evil? (Job 2:10)


Mishna Yoma, Chapter 1


6 If he was a Sage, he would expound; if not, the younger Sages would expound before him. If he was accustomed to read, he would read. If not, they would read to him. And what would they read to him? From Job and from Ezra and from Chronicles. Zechariah ben Kebutal said, Many times I read to him from Daniel.


Testament of Job Chapter 6


1 And immediately my wife came near me and crying aloud and weeping she said: "Job! Job! How long wilt thou sit upon the dung-hill outside of the city, pondering yet for a while and expecting to obtain your hoped-for salvation!" 2 And I have been wandering from place to place, roaming about as a hired servant, behold they memory has already died away from earth. 3 And my sons and the daughters that I carried on my bosom and the labors and pains that I sustained have been for nothing 4 And thou sittest in the malodorous state of soreness and worms, passing the nights in the cold air. 5 And I have undergone all trials and troubles and pains, day and night until I succeeded in bringing bread to thee. 6 For your surplus of bread is no longer allowed to me; and as I can scarcely take my own food and divide it between us, I pondered in my heart that it was not right that thou shouldst be in pain and hunger for bread. 7 And so I ventured to go to the market without bashfulness. and when the bread-seller told me: "Give me money. and thou shalt have bread’’. I disclosed to him our state of distress. 8 Then I heard him say : "If thou hast no money, hand me the hair of thy head, and take three loaves of bread in order that ye may live on these for three days’’. 9 And I yielded to the wrong and said to him "Rise and cut off my hair !‘‘ and he rose and in disgrace cut off with the scissors the hair of my head on the market place while the crowd stood by and wondered.

16 In short then, Job, after the many things that have been said to me, I now say in one word to thee : 17 "Since the feebleness of my heart has crushed my bones, rise then and take these loaves of bread and enjoy them, and then speak some word against the Lord and die!

18 For I too, would exchange the torpor of death for the sustenance of my body".

19 But I replied to her "Behold I have been for these seven years plague-stricken, and I have stood the worms of my body, and I was not weighed down in my soul by all these pains. 20 And as to the word which thou sayest: ‘Speak some word against God and die!‘, together with thee I will sustain the evil which thou seest. and let us endure the ruin of all that we have. 21 Yet thou desirest that we should say some word against God and that He should be exchanged for the great Pluto [the god of the nether world.] 22 Why dost thou not remember those great goods which we possessed If these goods come from the lands of the Lord, should not we also endure evils and be high-minded in everything until the Lord will have mercy again and show pity to us 23 Dost thou not see the Seducer stand behind thee and confound thy thoughts in order that thou shouldst beguile me


Babylonian Talmud Baba Bathra 15a – 16b


R. Joshua b. Levi b. Lahma who said that Job was contemporary with Moses — [The proof is that] it is written here [in connection with Job], O that my words were now [efo] written, and it is written elsewhere [in connection with Moses], For wherein now [efo] shall it be known. But on that ground I might say that he was contemporary with Isaac, in connection with whom it is written, Who now [efo] is he that took venison? Or I might say that he was contemporary with Jacob, in connection with whom it is written, If so now [efo] do this? or with Joseph, in connection with whom it is written, Where [efo] they are pasturing? — This cannot be maintained; [The proof that Job was contemporary with Moses is that] it is written [in continuation of the above words of Job], Would that they were inscribed in a book, and it is Moses who is called 'inscriber', as it is written, And he chose the first part for himself, for there was the lawgiver's [mehokek, lit. 'inscriber's'] portion reserved. Raba said that Job was in the time of the spies. [The proof is that] it is written here [in connection with Job], There was a man in the land of Uz, Job was his name, and it is written elsewhere [in connection with the spies], Whether there be wood [ez] therein. Where is the parallel? In one place it is Uz, in the other ez? — What Moses said to Israel was this: [See] if that man is there whose years are as the years of a tree and who shelters his generation like a tree.

A certain Rabbi was sitting before R. Samuel b. Nahmani and in the course of his expositions remarked, Job never was and never existed, but is only a typical figure. He replied: To confute such as you the text says, There was a man in the land of Uz, Job was his name. But, he retorted, if that is so, what of the verse, The poor man had nothing save one poor ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up etc. Is that anything but a parable? So this too is a parable. If so, said the other, why are his name and the name of his town mentioned?


On the "conquest" of Yetzer HaRa


Yoma 69b


And [they] cried with a great [loud] voice unto the Lord, their God. What did they cry? — Woe, woe, it is he [Yetzer hara'] who has destroyed the Sanctuary, burnt the Temple, killed all the righteous, driven all Israel into exile, and is still dancing around among us! Thou hast surely given him to us so that we may receive reward through him. We want neither him, nor reward through him! Thereupon a tablet fell down from heaven for them, whereupon the word ‘truth’ was inscribed. (R. Hanina said: One may learn therefrom that the seal of the Holy One, blessed be He, is truth).

They ordered a fast of three days and three nights, whereupon he was surrendered to them. He came forth from the Holy of Holies like a young fiery lion. Thereupon the Prophet said to Israel: This is the evil desire of idolatry, as it is said: And he said: This is wickedness. As they took hold of him a hair of his beard fell out, he raised his voice and it went [was audible] four hundred parasangs. Thereupon they said: How shall we act?

Perhaps, God forbid, they might have mercy upon him from heaven! — The prophet said unto them: Cast him into a leaden pot, closing its opening with lead.

Because lead absorbs the voice, as it is said (Zechariah 5): And he said: This is wickedness. And he cast her down into the midst of the measure, and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof. They said: Since this is a time of Grace, let us pray for mercy for the Tempter to evil. They prayed for mercy, and he was handed over to them. He said to them: Realize that if you kill him, the world goes down. They imprisoned him for three days, then looked in the whole land of Israel for a fresh egg and could not find it. Thereupon they said: What shall we do now? Shall we kill him? The world would then go down. Shall we beg for half-mercy? They do not grant ‘halves’ in heaven. They put out his eyes and let him go. It helped inasmuch as he no more entices men to commit incest.


Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XIX


12. Thus it is written, Then wouId I speak, and not fear Him; for I am not so with myself (Job IX, 35). Job said: I am not like him [Adam]: he said, the woman whom thou gavest to be with me, etc.: thus he hearkened to his wife, but I did not hearken to my wife. R. Abba b. Kahana said: Job's wife was Dinah, for he said to her: Thou speakest as one of the vile women (nebaloth) speaketh (ib. 10).5 What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive eviI (Job loc. cit.)? Said R. Abba: It is not written shall I receive, but shall we receive: shall we be upright in prosperity but not upright in times of evil! For all this did not Job sin with his Iips. Said R. Abba: With his lips he did not sin, but with his heart he sinned.


Augustine, On the Apostles' Creed

What a testimony, my brethren, did this holy man deserve of the Lord! And yet him a bad woman sought by her persuasion to deceive, she too representing that serpent, who, like as in Paradise he deceived the man whom God first made, so likewise here by suggesting blasphemy thought to be able to deceive a man who pleased God.


Quran 21 (The Prophets)

83 And Job, when he cried unto his Lord, (saying): Lo! adversity afflicteth me, and Thou art Most Merciful of all who show mercy. Then We heard his prayer and removed that adversity from which he suffered, and We gave him his household (that he had lost) and the like thereof along with them, a mercy from Our store, and a remembrance for the worshippers;


Quran 38


41 And remember Our servant Job, when he called upon his Lord: The Shaitan has afflicted me with toil and torment. Stamp with your foot; here is a cool washing-place and a drink. And We gave him his family and the like of them with them, as a mercy from Us, and as a reminder to those possessed of understanding. And take in your hand a green branch and beat her with It and do not break your oath; surely We found him patient; most excellent the servant! Surely he was frequent in returning (to Allah).


Qisas el anbiya of el-Kisaai


When it was Friday sunset, Gabriel descended and greeted him, saying, "I am Gabriel, who brings you glad tidings, Job, of God's forgiveness." Taking him by the right hand, he said, "Rise, with the permission of God!" And Job stood up.

The earth rushed at his feet and suddenly from beneath him there flowed a spring, whiter than snow, sweeter than honey, more fragrant than camphor. When he drank from it, every single worm on his body fell off, and Job was amazed at the great number of worms. The he washed in the spring and his beauty was restored. Gabriel brought him two vestments, and he put on first one and then the other. He gave him also a quince from Paradise, of which he ate half, leaving the other for his wife, Rahmah.

When Rahmah came and did not see Job in his usual place, she turned to the right and the left, but could find no trace of him. Then Job asked her, "What are looking for, woman?"

"Do you know anything of Job, the afflicted?" she asked. "I left him right here, but now I do not see him."

Job smiled and said, "I am Job." And she rushed to him and they embraced.

Then God restored their possessions, children, servants and livestock, as He hath said, And we restored unto him his family and as many more with them, through our mercy. And God showered down upon him locusts of gold which gathered on his robes; and God spoke to him saying, "Job, art thou not satiated?"


The Life of Holy Job



Syttyng on the Dongehill, this gode and blessed man,

Cam his wyf and to hym seid, "yet in thi simplicite,

Thou here art permanent corset thi god and dye than,

Thou beste what is thi pacience? Nowe in thyn aduersite,

This shalt thou neuer recouer, trust verily me."

Job said, "folysshe woman, I counsel the be styll,

For be that takyth gode thing sumtyme must take ill."


This sore syk man syttyng on this foule Dongehill,

There cam mynstrelles before hym, pleying meryly,

Mony had he none to reward aftyr his will,

But gave theym the brode Scabbes of his sore body,

Whiche turned vnto pure golde, as sayth the story,

The mynstrelles than shewid and tolde to Job his wife,

That he so reward them where fore she gan to stryfe.


Than saying vnto Job in angre this woman,

"To mynstrelles and players thou [y]evyst golde largely,

But thou hidest thi gode from me lyke a false man";

And with many seducious words openly,

There hym rebuked with langage most sharply,

Job all sufferd and thout yt for the best,

To obserue pacience and so live in rest.

La Pacience de Job

See p. 180 on instruments

According to 1971 edition, p. 368, after l. 5971

Adont vont querir les bestez et menent a Job, et sonant les instrumens et dit….


Augustine, On the Creed


What a testimony, my brethren, did this holy man deserve of the Lord! And yet him a bad woman sought by her persuasion to deceive, she too representing that serpent, who, like as in Paradise he deceived the man whom God first made, so likewise here by suggesting blasphemy thought to be able to deceive a man who pleased God. What things he suffered, my brethren! Who can have so much to suffer in his estate, his house, his sons, his flesh, yea in his very wife who was left to be his tempter! But even her who was left, the devil would have taken away long ago, but that he kept her to be his helper



John Calvin, Sermon 9 on Job 2


And therefore some expound this sentence thus: Bless the Lord, that is to say, provoke God to anger, and then thou diest for it: revenge thy self on him once ere thou die: for thou seest well enough that he hath deceived thee.


And it is not to be doubted but this woman here was an instrument of Satan, and therefore it is not to be marveled if she be like a Proserpine, that is to say a she-devil, a fiend of hell, to set Job in such a rage, that he should lift up himself against God, and fall to rushing against his majesty.


But if the matter be thoroughly considered, the natural meaning of it is this rather : Bless God and die : that is to say, well mayst thou persist to bless God as much as thou wilt, but when


thou hast all done, thou shalt gain nothing by it, it is but lost labor : thou must die notwithstanding, do what thou canst: it is fully determined that it shall be so : for thou seest that God hath not heard thy prayers, whether thou glorify him or not : it is all one.