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The Prosperity of the Wicked

A Theological Challenge in the Book of Job and in Ancient Near Eastern Literature


Does Job convincingly argue against a fixed system of just retribution by proclaiming the prosperity of the wicked—an assertion that distinctly runs contrary to traditional biblical and ancient Near Eastern wisdom? This study addresses this question, giving careful consideration to the rhetoric, imagery, and literary devices used to treat the issue of the fate of the wicked in Job’s first two rounds of dialogue, where the topic is predominantly disputed. The analysis will glean from related biblical and non-biblical texts in order to expose how Job deals with this fascinating subject and reveal the grandeur of the composition.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-4632-4424-8
  • *
Publication Status: Forthcoming
Publication Date: Nov 30,2022
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 100
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-4632-4424-8
$114.95
Your price: $80.46

The book of Job has long been considered the biblical text that is most relevant to the question of theodicy. Therefore, much of its interpretational history has focused on considering theological explanations for the problem of innocent suffering. This emphasis on the “righteous sufferer” motif, though reasonable, has caused scholars to overlook what considerable sections of the first two rounds of dialogue communicate about the characters’ perceptions concerning the fate of the wicked.

To Job’s friends, justice comes in the form of the wicked consistently suffering divinely appointed consequences for their sins, which is an outcome they eventually apply to Job as the conversation intensifies. According to Job, human experience blatantly contradicts his friends’ claims about uniformity in retribution. Job’s overt allegations about the inconsistency of God’s justice, coupled with the assertion that the wicked prosper with no divine restraint, are revolutionary when compared to other sections of the Bible. As one branches out from the Bible to other ancient Near Eastern compositions (i.e., from Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Egypt), it is readily noticeable that several of the “righteous sufferer” compositions similarly exhibit the prevalence of the doctrine of just retribution, utilizing comparable language and imagery to communicate corresponding ideas to those in Job.

Does Job convincingly argue against a fixed system of just retribution by proclaiming the prosperity of the wicked—an assertion that distinctly runs contrary to traditional biblical and ancient Near Eastern wisdom? This study addresses this question, giving careful consideration to the rhetoric, imagery, and literary devices used to treat the issue of the fate of the wicked in Job’s first two rounds of dialogue, where the topic is predominantly disputed. The analysis will glean from related biblical and non-biblical texts to illustrate that Job specifically counters five recurring arguments of his friends’ speeches that are based upon traditional wisdom.

The book of Job has long been considered the biblical text that is most relevant to the question of theodicy. Therefore, much of its interpretational history has focused on considering theological explanations for the problem of innocent suffering. This emphasis on the “righteous sufferer” motif, though reasonable, has caused scholars to overlook what considerable sections of the first two rounds of dialogue communicate about the characters’ perceptions concerning the fate of the wicked.

To Job’s friends, justice comes in the form of the wicked consistently suffering divinely appointed consequences for their sins, which is an outcome they eventually apply to Job as the conversation intensifies. According to Job, human experience blatantly contradicts his friends’ claims about uniformity in retribution. Job’s overt allegations about the inconsistency of God’s justice, coupled with the assertion that the wicked prosper with no divine restraint, are revolutionary when compared to other sections of the Bible. As one branches out from the Bible to other ancient Near Eastern compositions (i.e., from Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Egypt), it is readily noticeable that several of the “righteous sufferer” compositions similarly exhibit the prevalence of the doctrine of just retribution, utilizing comparable language and imagery to communicate corresponding ideas to those in Job.

Does Job convincingly argue against a fixed system of just retribution by proclaiming the prosperity of the wicked—an assertion that distinctly runs contrary to traditional biblical and ancient Near Eastern wisdom? This study addresses this question, giving careful consideration to the rhetoric, imagery, and literary devices used to treat the issue of the fate of the wicked in Job’s first two rounds of dialogue, where the topic is predominantly disputed. The analysis will glean from related biblical and non-biblical texts to illustrate that Job specifically counters five recurring arguments of his friends’ speeches that are based upon traditional wisdom.

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ContributorBiography

Dominick Hernández

Dominick S. Hernández (PhD, Bar-Ilan University) is associate professor of Old Testament at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, in La Mirada, California where he teaches an assortment of classes in Biblical Studies and ancient Near Eastern languages and literature. Visit his website at: www.domshernandez.com.