Most readers don't get past the first chapter of the Book of Job. It appeals to our sense of the dramatic and the binary: God makes a wager with Satan to tempt poor Job. Most commentators believe it is a story about the importance of fortitude. But the book is really an exploration of the Problem of Evil. We are told at the onset that Job is good man. As the story progresses, he is beset with ever more challenging circumstances. Job's three friends - Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar - offer the theology of the day: If bad things happen to Job, it must be a punishment from God for some bad conduct. Decades or even centuries after the principle book is written, the redactor even adds the character of Elihu. Even Elihu argues that bad things only happen to bad people. God eventually loses patience. He curses the three friends for being so wrong about His nature. He does not answer the Problem of Evil directly, but God described Himself in the most profound and powerful terms:
Then Yahweh answered Job out of the whirlwind,
“Who is this who darkens counsel
by words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man,
for I will question you, then you answer me!
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Declare, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measures, if you know?
Or who stretched the line on it?
What were its foundations fastened on?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together,
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
“Or who shut up the sea with doors,
when it broke out of the womb,
when I made clouds its garment,
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
marked out for it my bound,
set bars and doors,
and said, ‘You may come here, but no further.
Your proud waves shall be stopped here’?
“Have you commanded the morning in your days,
and caused the dawn to know its place,
that it might take hold of the ends of the earth,
and shake the wicked out of it?
It is changed as clay under the seal,
and presented as a garment.
From the wicked, their light is withheld.
The high arm is broken.
“Have you entered into the springs of the sea?
Or have you walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been revealed to you?
Or have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?
Have you comprehended the earth in its width?
Declare, if you know it all.
“What is the way to the dwelling of light?
As for darkness, where is its place,
that you should take it to its bound,
that you should discern the paths to its house?
Surely you know, for you were born then,
and the number of your days is great!
Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I have reserved against the time of trouble,
against the day of battle and war?
By what way is the lightning distributed,
or the east wind scattered on the earth?
Who has cut a channel for the flood water,
or the path for the thunderstorm,
to cause it to rain on a land where there is no man,
on the wilderness, in which there is no man,
to satisfy the waste and desolate ground,
to cause the tender grass to grow?
Does the rain have a father?
Or who fathers the drops of dew?
Whose womb did the ice come out of?
Who has given birth to the gray frost of the sky?
The waters become hard like stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen.
“Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades,
or loosen the cords of Orion?
Can you lead the constellations out in their season?
Or can you guide the Bear with her cubs?
Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you establish its dominion over the earth?
“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
that abundance of waters may cover you?
Can you send out lightnings, that they may go?
Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
Who has put wisdom in the inward parts?
Or who has given understanding to the mind?
Who can count the clouds by wisdom?
Or who can pour out the containers of the sky,
when the dust runs into a mass,
and the clods of earth stick together?
“Can you hunt the prey for the lioness,
or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
when they crouch in their dens,
and lie in wait in the thicket?
Who provides for the raven his prey,
when his young ones cry to God,
and wander for lack of food?
Job, Chapter 38