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In the book of Job, as best as I can see, God ruined Job's life over a bet (Job 1:9-12, 2:4-6). People and livestock who weren't even involved died (Job 1:13-19). Moreover, God literally made this deal with the devil.

It seems that Job's life (and the lives of his children and livestock) is just a game or one big cosmic joke to God and Satan. We can explain Satan's behavior by saying he's evil. But God is supposed to be all-good and all-loving.

How do Christians reconcile God's behavior in the book of Job with a God of love?

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I don't have an answer for you as I struggle with many of the same things you do. You might find my answer to a different question to be of some use. –  Jon Ericson Jul 26 '12 at 16:09
Also, see here for further explanation on the apparent discrepancies between a "God of love" and the "God of the Old Testament". –  Jas 3.1 Jul 26 '12 at 16:27
@JonEricson If I understand your answer correctly, you're saying that God contradicts himself? So he just says he's love, but really it's a contradiction? –  Eva Jul 26 '12 at 16:45
@Jas3.1 That answer is too silly. It's basically saying that God is love, but not by any human definition. The human definition is what matters to humans. Either he's love by our standards or he's not love. –  Eva Jul 26 '12 at 16:47
Good plan. For others, please see this room. –  Jon Ericson Jul 26 '12 at 17:00

7 Answers 7

up vote 3 down vote accepted

How do I, as a Christian, reconcile the story of Job with a God of love? What part of this story demonstrates any hatred by God towards Job? Satan presents himself in front of God, requests that God remove his protection from Job. God grants his request. There is no bet, and no hatred on the part of God. Who killed the livestock and the children? Satan. Who is responsible for his suffering? Satan.

All things in the Bible are written for our instruction. This story of Job is an example of how to praise God even when there seems to be no reason to do so. It also demonstrates that there are things that happen that we may not understand, Job got some things wrong and comes to some faulty conclusions as all this is happening to him but he keeps his faith in God.

Job also understands that everything we have, including our children are a gift and that these things belong to God, as demonstrated in this verse:

Job 1:20-22

20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” 22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

Job is wrong though, the Lord did not take these things away, Satan did. If I give my child a gift, I don't take it away. Someone else may, and I may allow someone else to take it, but that does not demonstrate hate, or evil on my part. What the person took away I can restore. It is the same with God. We see that after Satan is done, failing to get Job to curse God, that God then doubles what Job had to begin with. And even blesses him with more children.

Job 42:12

The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.

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This is more satisfying. Good answer. –  Eva Jul 28 '12 at 3:19

First a disclaimer –

Your question is another form of the renowned problem of evil. How can God be loving and kind in light of all the suffering that exists in the world?

It is easy to try to give over simplifying answers especially when I myself haven’t gone through the problems many other people have to face. I do not think I can fully answer your question, all I can offer is some speculative arguments.

End of disclaimer.

The problem of evil is not an easy one and as such one could not expect its answer to be simple (And not expect it to come from a simpleton like me). The problem has been dealt innumerable times by many Philosophers and Apologists.

Leibniz and Lewis come to mind. (I would recommend The Problem of Pain) Nor is the problem essentially a new one. Even the prophets of God had the same confusion –

Habakkuk 1:2 How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? 3 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?

I think the crux of your question is the premise that humans are innocent until they do something very terrible like murder.

Innocent people and livestock died.

And it is this premise that I'll focus on –

  1. We all think ourselves to be quite innocent. There are a few faults here and there but there’s a good reason for those.

    Proverbs 16:2 All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD.

    All our goodness is accidental or circumstantial. I have never stolen anything in my life. Though I'd like to believe it's all because of my good nature it might be because I've never really needed to. While we humans can only look on the external actions of a person and make our judgement on that basis, God is not fooled by appearances.

    By the way of an analogy the user of a software system can only tell if a program malfunctions by analyzing the output. On the other hand a programmer can read the code and make an estimated guess if the code will actually work. Badly written code executing in an ideal environment may work. While a code of mathematical precision may break under extensive regression test. In these cases a programmer is (and as God is in our case) - not fooled.

    It is in this context that He says -

    Matthew 23:26 I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.

    And -

    Matthew 23:6 " ... first clean the inside of the cup"

  2. Our sense of goodness is in out of touch with reality. Have you ever watched a documentary on Khmer rouge or the war crimes in World War II?

    Innocence is the last characteristic one could attribute to the human race. - Monika Michael

    And -

    1 John 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

    Also -

    The more I know of men, the more I respect dogs. (Author Monika can't remember)

    And also -

    Jeremiah 17:9 The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?

  3. God does not owe His salvation or His favor to anyone. Nor does He need to explain Himself to anyone.

    Psalm 50:12 ... all the world is mine and everything in it.

    Matthew 20:15 I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.

Now directly onto your question. We don't know exactly what happened, we aren't given much information. There are two possibilities (in my mind) -

  1. Perhaps Job's sons were wicked, not God fearing like their father. (Example, David and Solomon, Eli the high priest and his wicked sons) And God decided to use the situation and kill two birds with one stone. Bring judgement on his sons and set a personal matter straight with Satan.

    In the end all things even those not in approval to His immediate commands will accomplish only His purpose.

  2. Perhaps Job's sons were not wicked. They died in a dramatic fashion and so we ask the question - what was their sin? Again we're judging based on appearances. If someone dies quickly we think it's because of sin. If someone dies by age we thinks its all right.

    The fact is that we all have sinned and are going to die one day or another. The timing of our death has nothing to do with it. The righteous may live few days and the wicked may flourish (I'm in my full old testament rhythm today) but in the end each man will get what he deserves.

    The Apostle Peter was not rescued from the prison because he was sinless but so that he might preach the gospel. When he had finished his job he did have to die. Similarly maybe Job's sons were innocent as you say. But they did have to give up their souls to God one day. He took it early. Whether he takes it right now or 60 years later is His prerogative.

    In the end all I can say is -

    Romans 9:20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?

    Perhaps Jobs sons were holy and righteous (like me) and they died, well then -

    Philippians 1:23 I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;

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+1. Ochen Horoshor! –  Affable Geek Jul 26 '12 at 11:00
Thank you for your involved answer. However, my question is not focused on the death of Job's children. Tis focused on God's action in making a bet with Satan that resulted in the death of Job's children (among other things). In relation to the bet, Job's children were completely innocent. They did nothing to incur a bet that would end their lives. But again, their untimely deaths are not the focus. –  Eva Jul 26 '12 at 11:03
@AffableGeek Spasibo bolshoe.. :) :) chto udivitelno. Вы говорите порусски??? :) –  Monika Michael Jul 26 '12 at 11:08
@AffableGeek Shto? Tbi gobopish po-pyccki? –  Narnian Jul 26 '12 at 12:06
Why is Google Translate failing me here? –  Eric Jul 26 '12 at 14:19

There seems to be an underlying assumption in questions like these, specifically that if God is really loving, then He is obligated to prevent any harm from ever coming to anyone. In fact, He should create a world where everything is perfect--which is actually what He did, but even in that world mankind rejected God.

It is also instructive to note that bad things can often have good results. In fact, as Romans 8:28, God works out even bad things for our good. When we experience death and loss in this life, is it not a potent reminder that we were not made for this world, but for another? When we see evil, is it not a great teacher that all people desperately need the power of God to transform our hearts? Do not all the trials and frustrations of this life teach us that there is more to life than physical life?

This is the problem with the question--we view things from a worldly perspective, wanting to see all the blessings of God confined to a few years on this planet, and if we don't, then God must not be loving. The Bible teaches about an eternity where all the infinite riches of God's blessing can be experienced. Job will no doubt, as does a woman giving birth, forget the pain for the joy to come.

The story is told of a missionary who spent his life in a distant country bringing the gospel of God to a remote tribe. In his later years, he returned home on a boat, which, once it came into port, was greeted with much fanfare--none of which was for him. There was no one to welcome him home or thank him for his sacrifice, even though many had come to welcome home others who were aboard.

The man prayed and asked God, "I have given my life and strength for your kingdom. Why is there no one to welcome me home." Then the man felt the Lord saying to him, "You're not home yet."


So, was God playing a cruel joke on Job? No. Did He allow evil to happen? Yes. In fact, all evil that ever happens could certainly be prevented by God. And if God's ultimate goal was the physical well-being of all mankind, then He would certainly do so.

God's ultimate goal is much greater than that--it is the spiritual well-being of all mankind. God desires for all mankind everywhere to see the vanity of all this world has to offer and to turn to Him that He may bless us richly, not merely in physical ways and not merely in this life.

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Perhaps I did not phrase myself well. I do not think God was playing a joke on Job. I think God was joking with Job's life. There's a difference between God allowing evil to happen, and God actively participating in the evil. I think that making a bet with Satan is not necessarily evil, but is definitely not good. My question is about how to interpret the bet with Satan. –  Eva Jul 26 '12 at 13:43

I'm not going to give an involved answer, just a more simple one. I'm also only going to address the "bet" part, not the goodness or supposed evil of what happened to Job.

God does not bet. He exists simultaneously in every place, at every time that has ever, or will ever, exist. He doesn't know the future, he is in the future, right now, and a million years ago. Time is a construct of humanity and our physical system, God is not bound by it. So then, how can you bet against God? He doesn't just know the future, he is in the future. Satan, as he did with the fall, saw himself stronger than God, capable of manipulating those that God had called or that followed Him. God used the "bet" to show Satan his utter weakness compared to Himself. The bet could not be evil, because God cannot bet, it is as simple as that. At least for that part of Job.

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Unsatisfying, but I was expecting something unsatisfying. –  Eva Jul 26 '12 at 14:55
C.S. Lewis, in one of his books, used an interesting, though admittedly imperfect analogy to comment on how God sees time. The analogy was that we see time like the characters in a book: from the perspective of an individual character, at any one point in time in a chronologically written story -- from any one page, that is -- we can see the present and the past only. God, however, is the author, can flip to any page he likes, and -- in any event -- knows the story all the way through. –  Philip Schaff Jul 27 '12 at 3:42
@Eva if you are resigned to unsatisfying answers, why did you even post the question? –  Jeff Jul 21 '13 at 3:17
@JoelFischer when exactly did humanity create time? –  Jeff Jul 21 '13 at 3:18
@Jeff I was hoping I would get a satisfying answer, but also expecting most of them to be pessimistic. –  Eva Aug 13 '13 at 3:08

Concerning the "misfortune" that happened to Job and his family: We live for God, and not for ourselves, as Christ lived for us. I know that if I'm living for God, and I am in good faith, that anything that happens to me that I perceive as negative has some greater good for God's will and/or His kingdom, because God is good.

If I were Job, and I knew that by me displaying my faith and devotion to God amidst this horrific situation would be a testimony to the world over for centuries/millenniums to come, I would find much satisfaction and joy in that. Even if I were his children, who really got no recognition (everyone knows Job and this incredible story), I would still find much satisfaction and joy in God's divine purpose for the incident (plus God called me home early!), even more so because nothing should be for our own glory, but all is for God's.

IMO, God was not making a "bet". As I mentioned, God used the situation for a much greater purpose.. not to simply show up Satan.

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Still unsatisfying, but at least it answers my question. –  Eva Jul 28 '12 at 3:20

I would say that this whole story of Job has a very straightforward message:

God by doing this (bet) in case of Job, wanted to proclaim his glory to Satan. God knew that here is a man who will stand besides Him and live up to His expectations, no matter how much He would torment him. This would allow Him to show his glory- the glory that he sought from his creation “Adam and his descendants” through obedience at the time of his creation. In spite of Job having free will to do things that would have made the Satan the winner of this bet, he continued to be loyal to his Creator. Before we placate God to be not “all-good” and not “all-loving” we can also try and apply this attribute to Job for not caring and not “all-good” and not “all-loving” about his children and livestock. Otherwise, he should have done something that which is against God so that God would lose, Satan will win, and everything would be as it is for Job.

God is demonstrating to Satan the character of Job, a Hard core devotee of Himself. More than this God demonstrates his pride to Satan, in an ideal man who is so much loyal to him in spite of all the sufferings and that too when Job had the free will to undo everything that God won through these bets with Satan.

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It seems like you're explaining the reason for the bet. Which I didn't understand either, but my question is about how we can reconcile the bet with God's supposedly all-good, all-loving character. Explaining by saying that Job isn't all-good or all-loving doesn't work either. Humans aren't defined to be all-good and all-loving, whereas God is. –  Eva Jul 27 '12 at 18:42

When we evaluate God's actions with our limited brain and limited moral light, all death and loss in Book of Job may seems to be wrong and against our concept of ever loving God. Yes only when we evaluate God's actions within our conceptual framework... Just think who are we to evaluate God's actions? Who are we to evaluate the level of love of God. Didn't He allow His only Son our Lord Jesus Christ to suffer so huge humiliation, persecution, pain, agony and death. Isn't that real Love?

In other words our pride is the culprit when we try to evaluate God's actions. Pride is a base sin which produce further more sins like self justification and hypocrisy. This pride is the only sin Job had before he is visited by God. Job seems to self justify his actions and condemn God for His inequity. The moment Job heard God, he was transformed and says he was wrong. This pleases God and He justifies Job and gives back all his lost possessions.

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Who are we? People. We are the creators of the word "love" and the authors of its definition. A definition of love must allow the possibility that God is not loving, otherwise the word is meaningless. That's not pride; it's linguistics. –  Eva Aug 26 '13 at 22:46
Welcome to the site. As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites? Also, while I certainly agree with what you're saying, I'd also recommend reading What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Aug 27 '13 at 0:10
Sorry @Eva, I was talking about God and His Love and my level of understanding of it. Never about language and linguistics. Love for me is not just a word in language but also a feeling, responsibility and actions emanating from or resulting into that feeling or fulfillment of that responsibility. –  Biju Varghese Aug 28 '13 at 8:58

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