Why is God so cruel to Job in the bible?

Poor Job really gets a raw deal, doesn’t he? And it seems that God is the instigator of all this cruelty. Upon closer examination, however, we find that Satan – the one who accuses those whom God favors – is in fact responsible for Job’s suffering. In Job 1:6-12, we find that God is conducting a dialogue in his heavenly court with his angels and that Satan is present. This seems strange until we understand that in a king’s court, the role of the accuser was known as the satan. This story creates a scene of God in his “court” surrounded by his angels, one of whom is the satan (not to be equated with later notions of the devil) who accuses Job of being faithful to God only because things are going well. He wagers that if things went badly for Job, he wouldn’t be so pious. God basically grants Satan permission to make his case. The cruel things that God allows to happen to Job are part of Satan’s attempt to prove that Job is not as righteous as God thinks. If this answer is not totally satisfying, please know that the Book of Job has not satisfied anyone over the past few thousand years! It is a book that seeks more to describe the human reaction to suffering than it does to explain the role of suffering. In the end, we don’t come away with an explanation of why suffering happens but are challenged to bow our head in the face of mystery and to remain faithful to God who has our best interests at heart. The book challenges us to enter into prayerful conversation about the role of suffering in this world and our relationship with God, knowing that we will not solve it but that we will come to experience God’s presence in the midst of it. The Book of Job shows us that the Bible is not so much a source for answers as it is a resource that helps us to live with life’s dilemmas.

Joe Paprocki, D.Min., is National Consultant for Faith Formation at
Loyola Press in Chicago. He has over 30 years of experience in pastoral
ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Joe is the author of numerous
books on pastoral ministry and catechesis, including The Bible
Blueprint, Living the Mass, and the best-selling The Catechist’s Toolbox
and A Well-Built Faith (all from Loyola Press).