Ask Satan for something in return

The theodicy question. The 'suffering' in the Book of Job as a short attempt at explanation

Table of Contents


2. Definition of theodicy

3. The Book of Job: Structure and Contents
4. Job's suffering
4.1 Job's handling of suffering
4.2 God's answer

5. Answer to theodicy through the Book of Job


Bibliography and sources


“God either wants to remove evils and cannot; or God cannot and will not; or God does not want and cannot; or God wants and can. If God wants and cannot, he is powerless; and that contradicts the concept of God. If God can and does not want, he is envious, and that is also incompatible with God. If God does not want and cannot, then he is envious and powerless at the same time, and therefore not God either. If God wants and can, what is proper for the Godhead alone, then where are the evils from, and why does he not take them away? "1 If God is almighty - why does he allow suffering?

The question of suffering in our world has always existed and is also topical in the present. Laktanz (250-320) already dealt with the question, as the above quotation shows. Thus, theodicy can be seen as "one of the oldest and most profound challenges for believing in an omnipotent and morally perfect God"2 be understood. The theodicy question is also so widely discussed that it can also be understood as a counter-argument against God's actions. Thus, atheism is also particularly oriented towards this topic. In view of this complex question, the biblical Book of Job comes to the fore, namely here innocent suffering is concretely represented by the figure of Job. The suffering figure Job is very often examined and thematized in research. Many authors have already dealt with a possible answer to the theodicy question. Some of these impressions are taken up in this work. I refer especially to the work of Claus Westermann "Structure of the Book of Job" and to the work "Job. God - Human - Suffering ”by Renate Brandscheidt et al.

This housework deals with this biblical work, whereby it is particularly important to try to explain the question of theodicy through the Book of Job and to answer this as far as possible. To this end, a brief definition of the concept of theodicy is offered at the beginning. After the breakdown of the structure and the content, the suffering in the Book of Job is considered in particular. On the occasion of this, first of all, Job's handling of the suffering suffered and finally God's answer is outlined. In view of the analysis, a possible derivation then follows for an answer to the theodicy question, whether and to what extent this answer can be found in the Book of Job. Finally, there is a conclusion in which my collected impressions are reflected.

2. Definition of theodicy

The word theodicy is derived from the Greek words theos (God) and dike (Justice), which is a central problem of monotheistic religions. When using the two Greek words, the association often arises that it is about the righteousness of God. Klaus von Stosch presents theodicy in his work as "[...] the justification of belief in God [...]" and less as "[...] the justification of God himself".3 The questions that are asked here relate to the connection of God's omnipotence and goodness with the existence of suffering and evil on our earth. This in turn leads to many other questions, such as how God can allow suffering in the world and how he can be justified with regard to it and whether he would be able to create a world without suffering at all. The problem posed by theodicy cannot therefore be ascribed to a specific question, it rather forms a collection of the most varied of questions, from which new problems arise. As many problems as there are, so many different solutions have been tried in the past.4

Since theodicy is a major focus of philosophy, many philosophers have already dealt with the topic and tried to find answers to it. This is also the case with the French philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) to whom the classic term “theodicy” can be traced back. He describes the world as a coherent cosmos in which God holds the highest power and wisdom. For this reason Leibniz calls our world the best of all possible worlds, since God's power allows him to create the best.5 As mentioned earlier, this shows up again objections and questions about the suffering. Why is there still suffering in the world when God has created a supposedly perfect or right world?

3. The Book of Job: Structure and Contents

The book of Job, which was named after the protagonist of the story, is in the canon of the Hebrew Bible as a book of doctrinal wisdom in the Old Testament and is therefore one of the wisdom literature. Before that, there are the history books with the Book of Esther, followed by the Psalter. The Book of Job opens the section of Old Testament textbooks.

Looking at the Book of Job in its entirety, the story can be divided into three sections. The first part is the prologue, which comprises the first two chapters (1-2). He first introduces Job as the protagonist. Job lives with his family and numerous cattle in Mesopotamia and is blessed by his prosperity. He is described as a righteous, godly man who stays away from evil. Satan, however, doubts Job's fear of God and takes the view that he is only pious because of God's blessing. Then God and Satan come to an agreement in which Job is to be tested with regard to his faith in order to find out whether Job can continue to be pious even without God's return (Job 1: 9-11). First of all, Job has to suffer two strokes of fate, in which his children die and his cattle are killed. However, Job stays with God and does not give up his faith. God recognizes Job's piety in good and bad times, but Satan continues to doubt and asks God for another test, which now hits Job directly in the form of an illness. Even after this blow, Job continues to stand by God. Then his three friends visit him, whose visit concludes the prologue.

The main part (3-42,6) begins with Job's complaint about his suffering and his present life. He curses the day he was born. This is followed by an exchange of words between the friends who want to offer him an explanation of his suffering with a following solution. Job replies after every speech made by his friends. The friends are tempted to obtain Job's admission of guilt to God in order to bring about his previous life. However, Job does not agree with the theology of his friends because he feels that he has been treated wrongly. Then he turns directly to God and gets caught up in a speech that evolves from a complaint or an accusation to an accusation against God. Suddenly a previously not mentioned fourth friend of Job appears who also tries to teach him. But Job pays no heed to this and continues to long for God's answer. God answers Job by depicting creation with its own order and trying to make him believe that not everything in the world is comprehensible for people. This seems to have opened Job's eyes as he apologizes and submits to God for his wrongdoing.

Finally, there is the epilogue (42: 7-17) in which God condemns friends based on their theology. Additionally, Job's life is restored through God by having children again, being blessed with double wealth, health, and long life. The epilogue ends with Job's death, and so does the book.

4. Job's suffering

Suffering, hardship, death, crises and catastrophes are present to us humans and they will happen to everyone in a certain way. The suffering forms a very strong feeling and a circumstance that no one wants. It is a part of our life that happens to both the just and the unjust and it cannot be imagined without it. Often suffering is equated with pain and misery and associated with guilt and sin. Hence, it seems unfair to most of the people. In order to put this suffering in a "right light", many people turn to God with their complaints so that he can redeem them from their pain (both physically and mentally). Suffering puts us humans to the test to keep our rightful beliefs. It is the same with Job. He is put under a test and accuses God of his suffering.6 In this chapter it will now be shown how Job deals with his experienced and lived suffering. His reactions are especially examined. Then we see to what extent God answers Job and whether his complaints about suffering are heard.

4.1 Job's handling of suffering

The sufferings of Job within his speech are speeches turned towards God, which take the form of a request, a wish, a confession or a confidence in God. To this end, the complaints can be divided into three areas. On the one hand, Job directs his complaint directly to God; on the other hand, “I complaints” appear in which Job complains about his current situation. In addition, reference is made to so-called “enemy lawsuits”. Due to its size, these enemy complaints are not dealt with any further within this work, since they are directed much more against the friends of Job than against God. This suffering, which Job utters, relates only to suffering suffered.

At the beginning of chapter three, after Job's friends have visited him to comfort him, Job breaks his silence with the first complaint. Job survived the first two trials and continues to believe in God. After experiencing physical suffering in his third trial, he can no longer bear that suffering. For this, Job's lamentation begins with a curse wish, on which he curses the day of his birth. Claus Westermann describes this lament in his work as a cry of pain caused by the suffering he has suffered.7 Renate Brandscheidt portrays the complaint of Job as the complaint of a person whom faith has abandoned and less as a complaint by a desperate person.8 In chapter three, verses 3-9, Job longs for the curse of the day of his birth. He connects this death wish with the meaning of a painful existence before God and the redemption of his suffering.9 In the further course of the third chapter he laments his existence and describes the manner of his suffering (3: 24-26).

Job's first counter-speech in response to his friend Elifas begins with the severity of his suffering in 6.2-3. At this point he tries to make it clear how great and overwhelming his suffering is by speaking metaphorically of a scale, that measures his suffering. In order to further clarify his suffering, a few verses later in 6: 11-12 he describes the unbearability of his severe suffering due to his powerlessness. For the first time, chapter seven specifically deals with his suffering. This is not so much the feeling that is triggered in him, but rather the physical reaction to the punishment given by Satan. Verse five in particular speaks of his injuries, which have not yet been explained in detail. It is precisely because of his festering skin, covered with maggots and scabs, that Job's hopelessness gradually emerges.10 This specific manifestation of illness also appears in 30.17 and 30.30 and is therefore a very rarely used element, although the core of the Book of Job is suffering.

In Job's second speech, which follows Bildad's speech, Job first complains about God as an unjust authority (9.4-24). It is within these verses that Job asserts his innocence for the first time. He then thematizes the transience of his person (9.25-31). In chapter 10, the complaint of Job turns into an accusation against God. His helplessness and despair are especially evident at the beginning, as Job cannot understand God's plan. He literally sees God as guilty of his existence (10: 18-19). Job can no longer bear the suffering and longs for the independence of God in order to be able to live his last days in peace. The complaint of Job diminishes in the course of his speech and comes to an end in chapter 17. He has no more strength to complain, he is exhausted by God's injustice. Only at the end in 30: 24-31 does Job combine the motifs of the previous ego complaints.11

As mentioned briefly, Job's I-complaint became more and more an accusation of God. In his second speech (9-10), Job depicts the imbalance between man and God, because man can never be right with God. Because of his size and power, God is always above man (9.5-13). Thus, according to Westermann, man is called upon to implore God.12 The actual indictment now appears in 9: 17-23 with associated elements of the first-person complaint. Job accuses God of his bitterness and pain. God is also accused of using his power and putting it before righteousness. Contrary to this, Job again asserts his innocence (9: 21-22) and the result is that God is unjust and terrible, because for God it does not matter whether someone is actually guilty or not, a punishment occurs in both cases. Surprisingly, on his indictment, Job praises God as Creator. As a result, however, his charges intensified. In 10: 16-17 he depicts God as the enemy of people who turns against them. At the end of Chapter 10, the prosecution turns back to the starting point, namely the question of existence. In contrast to the existential question posed so far, in this chapter the question is now used against God and as a kind of reproach.13 Job now calls God to a legal dispute in order to be heard and to have the opportunity to demonstrate his right to him (13: 17-19; 23-27). He seems very self-confident and determined, but his anger grows bigger and bigger. However, God does not give him an answer, he has now become his enemy because of injustice and absence.


1 Lactantius, Lucius Caecilius Firmianus: Des Luc. Cael. Firm. Lactantius writings, translated from Latin, Kempten - Kösel 1919, p. 21f.

2 Kreiner, Armin: God in sorrow. On the validity of the theodicy arguments, Freiburg (among others) 1997, p.15.

3 From Stosch, Klaus: Theodicy, Paderborn 2013, 7.

4 Kreiner, Armin: God in sorrow, P.16.

5 Jansen, B .: Leibniz, in: Buchberger, Dr. Michael (Ed.): Lexicon for theology and the church, Vol. 6, Freiburg 1934, Col. 461.

6 Hilgenreiner, K .: Suffer, in: Buchberger, Dr. Michael (Ed.): Lexicon for theology and the church, Vol. 6, Freiburg 1934, Col. 468-469.

7 Westermann, Claus: The structure of the book of Job, Vol. 6, 2nd exp. Ed., Stuttgart 1977, p.53.

8 Brandscheidt, Renate et al .: Job. God - man - suffering, Würzburg 2015, p.16.

9 Brandscheidt, Renate: Job, P.17, 26f.

10 Catholic Bible work (ed.): Standardized translation of the Holy Scriptures, fully revised and revised edition, Stuttgart 2016, Book of Job 7.5.

11 Westermann, Claus: The structure of the book of Job, P.72.

12 Westermann, Claus: The structure of the book of Job, P.74.

13 Ibid. P.75.

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