Job (biblical figure)

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As portrayed by Bonnat

Job (/ˈb/; Hebrew: אִיּוֹב, Modern Iyyov Tiberian ʾIyyôḇ) is the central character of the Book of Job in the Bible. The story is also related in the Quran. Job (Arabic: أيّوب, Ayyūb‎) is considered a prophet in Islam and in rabbinical literature Iyov (אִיּוֹב). is called one of the prophets of the Gentiles.[1]

In the Book of Job he is presented as a family man who lived a good and prosperous life, but was eventually beset with horrendous disasters that took away all he has, including his offspring, his health, and his property. Job struggled to understand his situation and began a search for the answers to his difficulties. In the end, the LORD restored his former prosperity and health.

Book of Job[edit]

The Book of Job begins with an introduction to Job's character—he is described as a blessed man who lived righteously. The LORD's praise of Job prompted Satan to challenge Job's integrity, suggesting that Job served God simply because God protected him. God removed Job's protection, allowing Satan to take his wealth, his children, and his physical health (but not his life) in order to test Job's character. Despite his difficult circumstances, he did not curse God, but rather cursed the day of his birth. And although he protested his plight and pleaded for an explanation, he stopped short of accusing God of injustice.

Most of the book consists of conversations between Job and his three friends concerning Job's condition and its possible reasons, after which the LORD responded to Job and his friends, speaking out of the whirlwind,

Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. —Job 38:2-3

After the LORD's reply, Job was overwhelmed and said, "Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth." (Job 40:4)

Many interpretations read this as Job's realizing how little he knew when he says to the Lord, "My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you."[2] Other scholars and readers, however, find this explanation unsatisfactory, since the problem of Job (the innocent man suffering at the hand of Satan) is not addressed. Job's response to God shows none of the anger, passion, or piety he demonstrated in the rest of the story, even when God does not give Job the direct answer he has demanded for much of the book.[3] Then Job was restored to an even better condition than his former wealthy state. (Job 42:10-17) Job was also blessed to have seven sons, and three daughters named Jemimah (which means "dove"), Keziah ("cinnamon"), and Keren-happuch ("horn of eye-makeup"). His daughters were said to be the most beautiful women in the land.[4] "After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations." (Job 42:16)

The characters in the Book of Job consist of Job, his wife, his three friends, a man named Elihu, God, Satan and the sons of God. Neither the patriarchs nor any other biblical characters make an appearance.

Job speaking to his wife, as depicted by Georges de La Tour 
Job with his three daughters by William Blake 
The examination of Job, Satan pours on the plagues of Job, by William Blake 

In other religious texts[edit]

In addition to the Book of Job, Job appears in several books:

Job in Judaism[edit]

Scroll of Book of Job, in Hebrew

A clear majority of Rabbinical Torah scholars saw Job as having in fact existed as a powerful and historically factual figure. Some Rabbinic scholars maintain that Job was in fact one of three advisors that Pharaoh consulted, prior to taking action against the increasingly multiplying "Children of Israel" mentioned in the Book of Exodus during the time of Moses' birth. The episode is mentioned in the Talmud (Tractate Sotah): Balaam gives evil advice urging Pharaoh to kill the Hebrew male new-born babies; Jethro opposes Pharaoh and tells him not to harm the Hebrews at all, and Job keeps silent and does not reveal his mind even though he was personally opposed to Pharaoh's destructive plans. It is for his silence that God subsequently punishes him with his bitter afflictions.[8] However, the book of Job itself contains no indication of this, and to the prophet Ezekiel, Yahweh refers to Job as a righteous man of the same calibre as Noah and Daniel.[9]

There is a minority view among Rabbinical scholars, for instance that of Rabbi Simeon ben Laqish, that says Job never existed (Midrash Genesis Rabbah LXVII). In this view, Job was a literary creation by a prophet who used this form of writing to convey a divine message. On the other hand, the Talmud (in Tractate Baba Batra 15a–16b) goes to great lengths trying to ascertain when Job actually lived, citing many opinions and interpretations by the leading sages. Job is further mentioned in the Talmud as follows:[10]

  • Job's resignation to his fate (in Tractate Pesachim 2b).
  • When Job was prosperous, anyone who associated with him even to buy from him or sell to him, was blessed (in Tractate Pesachim 112a).
  • Job's reward for being generous (in Tractate Megillah 28a).
  • King David, Job and Ezekiel described the Torah's length without putting a number to it (in Tractate Eruvin 21a).

Christian views[edit]

Christianity accepts the genesis of Job as canon in the Old Testament and thus contains the same information regarding Job as discussed above in the Hebrew Bible. In addition, Job is mentioned in the New Testament: the Epistle of James (James 5:11) cites Job as an example of patience in suffering. The New Testament also quotes and references the Book of Job throughout.

Job's declaration, "I know that my redeemer liveth", (Job 19:25) is considered by some Christians to be a proto-Christian statement of belief, and is the basis of several Christian hymns, as well as the opening scene of Part III of Handel's Messiah.

He is commemorated as a patriarch by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in their Calendar of Saints on May 9, and in the Calendar of saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on August 30.

Islamic views and Quranic account[edit]

In the Qur'an, Job (Arabic: أيّوب, Ayyūb‎) is considered a prophet in Islam.[11] Job's story in Islam is very similar to the Hebrew Bible story but, in Islam, the emphasis is paid to Job remaining steadfast to God and there is no mention of lengthy discussions with friends. However, later Muslim literature states that Job had brothers, who argued with the man about the cause of his affliction.[12] Some Muslim commentators also spoke of Job as being the ancestor of the Romans.[12] Muslim literature also comments on Job's time and place of prophecy, saying that he came after Joseph in the prophetic series and that he preached to his own people rather than being sent to a specified community. Tradition further recounts that Job will be the leader of the group of "those who patiently endured" in Heaven.[13]

The Qur'an mentions Job's narrative in a concise manner. Historical literature, however, fleshes out Job's story and describes him as being a late descendant of the patriarch Noah.[14] Similar to the Hebrew Bible narrative, Islamic tradition mentions that Satan heard the angels of God speak of Job as being the most faithful man of his generation.[15] Job, being a chosen prophet of God, would remain committed in daily prayer and would frequently call to God, thanking God for blessing him with abundant wealth and a large family. But Satan planned to turn the God-fearing Job away from God and wanted Job to fall into disbelief and corruption.[15] Therefore, God allowed Satan to afflict Job with distress and intense illness and suffering,[15] as God knew that Job would never turn away from his Lord.

The Qur'an describes Job as a righteous servant of Allah (God), who was afflicted by suffering for a lengthy period of time. However, it clearly states that Job never lost faith in God and forever called to God in prayer, asking Him to remove his affliction:

And Job, when he cried unto his Lord, (saying): Lo! Adversity afflicteth me, and Thou art Most Merciful of all who show mercy.

—Qur'an, sura 21 (The Prophets), ayah 83[16]

The narrative goes on to state that after many years of suffering, God ordered Job to "Strike with thy foot!".[17] At once, Job struck the ground with his foot and God caused a cool spring of water to gush forth from the Earth, from which Job could replenish himself. The Qur'an says that it was then that God removed his pain and suffering and He returned Job's family to him, blessed him with many generations of children and granted him great wealth. In addition to the brief descriptions of Job's narrative, the Qur'an further mentions Job twice in the lists of those whom God had given special guidance, wisdom and inspiration (IV: 163) and as one of the men who received authority, the Book and the gift of prophethood (VI:84).

Local traditions regarding Job[edit]

An outer view of the Druze shrine of Prophet Job in Lebanon
The tomb of Job, outside Salalah, Oman

There are at least two locations that claim to be the place of Job's ordeal, and at least three that claim to have his tomb.

In Palestinian folk tradition, Job's place of trial is Al-Jura, a village outside the town of Al Majdal—also called Ashkelon. It was there God rewarded him with a fountain of youth that removed whatever illnesses he had, and gave him back his youth. The town of Al-Joura was a place of annual festivities (4 days in all) when people of many faiths gathered and bathed in a natural spring.[citation needed]

To the northwest of the depopulated Palestinian village of Dayr Ayyub is an area which, according to village belief, contained the tomb of the prophet Ayyub, the Biblical Job.[18]

The town of al-Shaykh Saad in the Hauran region in Syria has been associated with St. Job since at least the 4th-century CE. Karnein was mentioned in Eusebius' Onomasticon as a town of Bashan that was said to be the location of the house of St. Job. Egeria the pilgrim relates that a church was built over the place in March or February 384 CE, and that the place was known as the "town of Job", or "civitas Job." According to Egeria's account the body of St. Job was laid in a stone coffin below the altar.[19] According to tradition, Hammam Ayyub is a fountain in the town where Job washed himself when he had leprosy, and is reputed to have healing powers.[20] Another holy artifact in the town is the "Rock of Job," known in local folklore as the place where he sat when he was afflicted with the disease.[21]

The city of Urfa (formerly Edessa) in southeastern Turkey also claims to be the location at which Job underwent his ordeal. Urfa has a well said to be the one formed when he struck the ground with his foot as described in the Qur'an. There is a tomb of Job located outside of the city of Urfa.

The Tomb of Job is also said to be situated in Jabal Qara outside the city of Salalah in southern Oman.

Additionally, the Druze community also maintains a tomb for the Prophet Job in the El-Chouf mountain district in Lebanon.

The Eyüp Sultan Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, holds the tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, not the Biblical Job (Ayyub in Arabic, Eyüp in Turkish), though some locals tend to conflate the two.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "JOB - In Rabbinical Literature". The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  2. ^ Job 42:5
  3. ^ Coogan, Michael B. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, Oxford University Press, 2009.
  4. ^ Coogan, Michael B. Job's Wife and Daughters, Page 388. (Oxford University Press, 2009)
  5. ^ Ezekiel 14:14-18
  6. ^ James 5:11
  7. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 121:10
  8. ^ "Rabbi Yehudah Prero "The Passover Hagadah Maggid – Relating the Chain of Events Part 2"". Retrieved 2012-04-06. 
  9. ^ Ezekiel 14:14
  10. ^ "Iyyov – Job WEBSHAS Index to the Talmud". Retrieved 2012-04-06. 
  11. ^ Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary, note 2739: "Job (Ayub) was a prosperous man, with faith in Allah, living somewhere in the north-east corner of Arabia. He suffers from a number of calamities: his cattle are destroyed, his servants slain by the sword, and his family crushed under his roof. But he holds fast to his faith in Allah. As a further calamity he is covered with loathsome sores from head to foot. He loses his peace of mind, and he curses the day he was born. His false friends come and attribute his afflictions to sin. These "Job's comforters" are no comforters at all, and he further loses his balance of mind, but Allah recalls to him all His mercies, and he resumes his humility and gives up self-justification. He is restored to prosperity, with twice as much as he had before; his brethren and friends come back to him; he had a new family of seven sons and three fair daughters. He lived to a good old age, and saw four generations of descendants. All this is recorded in the Book of Job in the Old Testament. Of all the Hebrew writings, the Hebrew of this Book comes nearest to Arabic."
  12. ^ a b Brandon M. Wheeler, Historical Dictionary of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, Job, pg. 171
  13. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam, A. Jefferey, Ayyub
  14. ^ Qur'an 6:84
  15. ^ a b c Ibn Kathir, Stories of the Prophets, The Story of the Prophet Job
  16. ^ Quran 21:83
  17. ^ Quran 38:41
  18. ^ W. Khalidi, 1992, "All that remains", p. 376
  19. ^ Pringle, 1998, p. 239.
  20. ^ Schumacher; Oliphant; le Strange, 1886, p. 194.
  21. ^ Schumacher; Oliphant; le Strange, 1886, p.191.


Islamic view[edit]

References in the Qur'an[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]