The wisdom of Proverbs describes how godly character generally leads to success. Ecclesiastes tempers this, warning that rewards are not guaranteed, since a kind of “crookedness” has come into our world. The book of Job goes further, exploring how righteous people sometimes suffer. The book of Job uses a common literary device from the wisdom traditions of the ancient world: an extended conversation based on poetic speeches.
Job is introduced as a good man. But “the adversary” (satan in Hebrew) points out an apparent problem in God’s moral oversight of the universe. If goodness is always rewarded, how can we know if it’s born from love of God or desire for gain? So God allows the adversary to bring suffering into Job’s life.
Job doesn’t curse God as the adversary predicted but ends up debating with three friends: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Their overly rigid view of the moral universe convinces them that Job’s own wrongdoing has caused his suffering. A young man Elihu joins the conversation later, while Job continues to insist that he has done nothing wrong and deserves a hearing before God.
Finally, God reveals the power and wisdom shown in his oversight of creation. Job then humbly admits his own limited understanding. When God rebukes Job’s three friends, we see they are guilty of a far worse assumption than Job. In the end God blesses Job with twice as much as he had before. The book warns us to avoid reducing God’s moral rule to easy formulas.