Israel Museum

“And the lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). Thus reads the Hebrew lettering above this panel from the Rothschild Miscellany, an illuminated manuscript composed in northern Italy in about 1470. Job, originally prosperous, loses his children and possessions when God allows him to be tested by the Satan. After suffering through his ordeal, Job regains his children and estate, with God giving him twice the number of sheep, oxen, donkeys and cattle that he had in the beginning.

In a common reading of the Book of Job, the protagonist is understood as an infinitely patient and pious man who endures persecution uncomplainingly, demonstrates his faith in God and is rewarded for his devotion. Author Clines notes, however, that such a characterization is consistent only with the book’s prologue and epilogue; in the dialogues making up the bulk of the book (chapters 3–42:6), Job continually complains about his fate and the injustice of God. Only at the beginning and ending of the book, Clines points out, is Job portrayed as a man who is wealthy because of his perfect devotion to God.

For Clines, there can be no such causal connection between goodness and wealth—for that would require us to believe that all wealthy people are virtuous. Clines thus suggests that the Book of Job is really about something else altogether—the need of a dominant class of powerful, affluent men to legitimize their own status and wealth.