James Kugel: Jewish Interpreters of Job

James L. Kugel, How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now (New York: Free Press, 2007), 642.

For some ancient interpreters, it is worth noting, the book of Job was a problem – for precisely the same reason that biblical figures like Esau or Balaam were a problem: “Is he good or bad?” There was one biblical suggestion that Job was altogether good: the prophet Ezekiel had mentioned a certain “Job,” presumably the same one as in our book, who, along with Noah and Dan[i]el, was distinguished by his righteousness (Eek. 14:14, 20). But in the book of Job itself, Job says some potentially blasphemous things, and he ends up being reproved by God – certainly not a good sign. Once the Bible had become a great book of lessons, the question “What am I to learn from this?” had to have a straightforward answer: the sort of nuanced, highly sophisticated, both-sides-against-the-middle stance of Job’s author did not provide one. Jewish interpreters were thus deeply divided, and the controversy surrounding him continued throughout the Middle Ages.

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