Wanted: the end of the story

It’s my opinion that we’re missing the final chapter of The Book of Job.

Writers refer to a “frame story” as the story that fits around the actual tale you’re telling. For example, in The Princess Bride, the actual story is about Westley and Buttercup, but the frame story is a sick boy being told a story by his grandfather.

The frame story leads into the real story, and once the real story is finished, you emerge back into the frame story (where there’s some kind of commentary or change as a result of the real story) and then you end, the reader having a sense of how fiction can change the world.

Sounds good, right? Well, here’s my current thought: I think we’re missing the closing part of the frame story in the Book of Job.

We open Job with the Sons of God entering before the Most High, and among them is the adversary. Remember that in Judaism, the adversary is simply a job title. The angel who happens to be the adversary is merely in the unenviable job of having to go around the world testing people. Like an undercover narcotics cop, he doesn’t want them to fail. But it’s his job, and he does it.

On this occasion, God points the adversary toward Job, and the adversary says, “Job has no reason to be unfaithful to you,” and God says, “Well, test him.” {rough paraphrase.} The adversary hits Job with all sorts of trials.

And then we enter the real story: Job’s struggle to stay faithful, his wife and three friends who advise him to curse God, one friend who questions God, and then God himself showing up to say, “Dude, you KNOW I’m God!” and Job saying, “You Rock!” {rough paraphrase.} Then God gives back the things the adversary took, and the Book of Job ends.

But what about the frame story? The book needs to *conclude* not with Job getting back his sheep and his property and his kids but with the adversary showing back up in front of God and saying, “Woah! I didn’t think he could sustain that level of faith!”

Remember, the adversary condemns humanity in some pretty harsh terms. “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (And angels don’t sin, so he’s not lying: he fully believes what he’s saying. Think about that — that’s what we look like to a pure being who isn’t rationalizing our behavior.)

What needs to happen in order for the story to finish is for him to come back before God a third time and admit there is some faith in humanity.

I don’t know why it’s not finished. I’d like to wish we lost a chapter over the past 2400 years, but more likely, God left it unfinished for a reason. Maybe because most of us feel the same way about humanity in general. It’s easy to get disenchanted with the human spirit.

And maybe that’s why there’s no end to the frame story. We need to finish the frame ourselves, and when we get discouraged by the people around us, and discouraged by ourselves, we are the ones who write our own 43rd chapter of Job.

Come back tomorrow and we’ll talk a little more about the Book of Job.


  1. knit_tgz

    An angel cannot sin? The ones that rebelled against God, then, didn’t sin?

    1. philangelus

      Of course they did. But in Judaism, and especially at the time it was written, the understanding was/is that all angels were righteous servants of the Almighty. The adversary was just a job title.

      It wasn’t until later that you get the notion of rebellious fallen angels.

  2. Pingback: God versus Job, take two « Seven angels, four kids, one family

  3. tiphaine

    Oh I always thought the adversary was Satan! I didn’t know that Judaism back then had a different take on adversary and angels…
    Very interesting…
    Could you post more about angels, like history, how other culture and religion may understand them, how to talk about angels to non-catholic people without looking like someone who talks to fairies….
    after all you’re a specialist 😉

    1. philangelus

      Angelology grew when Judah got deported to Babylon. Up until then, angels are indistinguishable from their mission. They’re Sons of God and they’re Messengers, and they seem to be used as placeholders for God at times. It’s around this point in history that angels begin to develop roles, functions, and personal names. The Christian understanding, of a group of angels in rebellion against God, headed by Satan as a liar and a murderer from the beginning, wasn’t something shown at this point in time (and I might add that it might have confused Israelite theology early on if it had been there. Isaiah is VERY clear that God says, “I am the God of good and evil.” That all of these things are God’s and we don’t need to have another deity hanging around (or a deity-like-object) to account for evil in the world.

      There are angels in most other cultures, so most people do understand or have something they can relate it to. I’ve gotten strange looks from atheists, though, one of whom finally said that it was kind of disturbing to read about me “talking to someone who wasn’t there.” 🙂 Sorry! I got more careful after that.

  4. K.H. Ginzel

    philangelus – August 5, 2009

    Please quote where Isaiah says

    “I am the God of good and evil.”


    1. philangelus

      Sure thing:
      “I am the Lord and there is none else,
      I form light and create darkness,
      I make good and create evil–
      I the Lord do all these things.”
      Isaiah 45:7

      “It is I who created the smith to fan the charcoal fire and produce the tools for his work; so it is I who create the instruments of havoc.” (Isaiah 54:16)