Book of Job (Hiob / Book of Job (Iyov / Guide for the Perplexed / Rambam

The RAMBAM on “the existence of Job (Iyov)”

The Book of Job (Hebrew: SEFER IYOV) deals with the question whether righteous upright people still cling to G-d as soon as life is getting pretty bad for them. When a righteous person who hasn’t really sinned in a severe way is stricken with the loss of children, wealth or any kind of misfortune.
In Moreh Nevuchim (Guide for the Perplexed) 3:22, the Rambam (Maimonides, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, 1135-1204) writes that there are Sages who clearly state that Job (Iyov) never existed and the entire Book of Job is nothing but a poetic fiction teaching us something. And then there are those Sages who state that Job did exist but cannot determine where and when Job lived. Some say that he lived in the days of Moshe, others see him in the days of King David or that Job was among those who returned from the Babylonian exile. However, whether Job existed or not, the main topic remains the same:
Are righteous people who suffer without having done any sin, still willing to cling to G-d? And I am talking here about G-d and not any idol-worship god or false sons of god or other family members. 🙂
The Rambam states that, no matter whether Job was real or not, the introduction to the book is certainly a fiction. Meaning, G-d talking to the angels and satan. Furthermore, the Rambam points out that the terms “wise, clever or intelligent” were never ascribed to Job. He was only called “upright in his actions”. A clever person would surely know that there is a G-d and the person would reflect his own behaviour. Whether he has done anything bad and that G-d may be punishing him.
Any human being enjoys his family, property, success in life, and so on. The question is how we react as soon as something is turning out to be very wrong and seemingly unfair. Are we too upset and frustrated to reflect our own mistakes? Are we so full of anger that we tell G-d to leave us alone and never come back?
Happy and prosperous times are always great but what happens when it comes to loss and suffering? Do we stick to G-d and accept our misfortune or are we starting to deny Him by saying that there is not Creator of the Universe and that G-d doesn’t even exist?
This is what the Book of Job is about and for me it is not relevant whether Job existed or not. My major concern is that the book is going to teach me something. Teachings all of us can use in life.

2 thoughts on “The RAMBAM on “the existence of Job (Iyov)”

  1. B”H

    A comment sent to me by e-mail:

    I’m sorry, but my computer blocks me from commenting directly on the website itself. If you could maybe forward my comment, please:

    According to the Vilna Gaon Iyov certainly did exist. The opinion in the Gemara that he “never existed” is interpreted by the Gr”a to mean that his story of suffering never was, and it was written by Moshe Rabbeinu through ruach hakodesh to explain in detail what would have happened had he suffered such.

    The Gemara (if I remember this correctly it is somewhere in “Megilla”) teaches us that this seifer was written by none other than Moshe Rabbeinu himself! It contains over 1000 p’sukim, and numerous m’shalim that go well above and beyond human perception.

    According to the Vilna Gaon, Iyov was born at the time that Yaakov went down to Egypt. He was 70 years old when Yoseif died, whereupon Pharoah asked him advice on how to “contain the Israelite threat”. He knew that it was pointless to argue with Pharoah regarding this; but, considering his high level of piety, he should have shown more resistance to Pharoah’s ingracious atitude (although the threat of persecution was not imminent then, and had to be held off until Yoseif’s brothers passed on as well). It was shortly afterwards that the Satan pressed charges against Iyov – that he led a superb life, and therefore became insensitive to others’ suffering. Iyov’s suffering continued for 1 year; and, after admitting that his “complaints against Hashem” were improper, he expressed that his consolation over making such remarks was that he was only dust and ashes. Afterwards, Hashem restored his fortune two-fold – including his years. He was now 71 years old, and he lived an additional 140 years, seeing his great, great grandsons. At 211 years of age Iyov died “old and satisfied with age”, and it was now 1 year after the exodus, corresponding to the time of the incident of the spies. Moshe had particularly told them to check if there was a “tree” (AITZ in Hebrew) in the land. According to the Gemara this was a reference to Iyov – the tzaddik from the land of “UTZ”. Since Iyov had died just then, Yehoshua and Caleiv had tried to reassure the nation that there was no longer any source of merit that would stand by the 7 nations of Canaan, and therefore they had no reason to be afraid.

  2. B”H

    Thanks for your comment.

    There are quite a few opinions on the existence of Iyov and I will look it up in the Gemara and write about it in a further article.

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