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A Discourse On The Portrayal Of Suffering In the Book of Job And The Prosperity Gospel In Zimbabwe

A Discourse On The Portrayal Of Suffering In the Book of Job And The Prosperity Gospel

The book of Job is the master-work of Hebrew Poetry. The natural product of the Hebrew spirit and theology and the Hebrew conception of nature. The Book of Job is also a prime example of Hebrew wisdom literature that labors with the concept of theodicy, (Clines: 1989:38). It is classified under the books of wisdom. In this paper I will seek to discuss the portrayal of suffering in the book of Job and the prosperity gospel in Zimbabwe.

This book, like many others in the Old Testament, got its name from the central character in it rather than from its writer. While it is possible that Job may have written it, there is no concrete evidence that he did. "Job" means "hated" or "much persecuted." Perhaps "Job" was a nickname his friends gave him during his suffering. Job is the title of the book in the Hebrew, Greek (Septuagint), Latin (Vulgate), and English Bibles.

However according Anderson (1974:61) we do not know who wrote the book of Job or when did he lived. Nor do we know where. If several persons were involved, we still know nothing about them. We cannot discover any institutional setting for the composition of such a work, whether the royal court, a shrine whose officers could read and had books or later the synagogue.

The origins of Job are shrouded in mystery. The author of the book is anonymous. Nor does the book indicate precisely when or where the events it describes took place Job’s home in the land of Uz was probably between Edom and northern Arabia, and his friends came from the vicinity of Edom. Details about when these events took place are even more nebulous (Arnold Eds: 2008: 298). Thus the origins of Job are shrouded in mystery, and an ongoing research to demystify the book of Job.

Though it is difficult to scholarly debate the origins and author of the book of Job Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown however, believed that Job is probably the oldest book in the world (2000:362). Having links in the Patriarchal Era. Arnold and Beyer(200:298) agree as they asserts that, Job offers sacrifices without the benefit of a priest and again , his wealth is measured in terms of flocks and servants, and his long life-span (140 years) harkens back to Genesis. As a result of these observations, many have assumed a pre-Mosaic origin for the book. That is the historical Job if any would have lived during the Patriarchal Age, and assuming that the life and story of Job was traditionally kept since it depicted wisdom and was then written in the time and person which is still a mystery to many.

Furthermore, the writer measured Job's wealth in terms of his livestock. This is how Moses evaluated the wealth of Abraham and Jacob (1:3; 42:12; cf. Gen. 12:16; 13:2; 30:43; 32:5). Names of people and places in the book were also common in the patriarchal age for example Sheba, Tema, Eliphaz Uz, and Job. The Mari documents, and the Egyptian Execration texts, all of which refer to life in the Near East at this time, also refer to these names.

The idea that Job has an Edomite background is as old as the LXX, which equates Job with Jobab, king of Edom (Gn. 36:33). Andersen: 2015. 58.) This evidence places the timing of the book of Job to have an early date probably during the Patriarchal age. However, some scholars are in incongruity with this reference which connects Job with Jobab as they declare it insinis error, nec, historicussolum, sed et Grammaticus which can be translated to be the error of it immediately, and do not, solely to its historicals , but a grammarian. Hence, the argument for a later date. (Andersen)

Critics of an early writing further point out that in the process of social evolution, composition of a work such as this book was more typical at a date much later than the patriarchal period.Yet again there is no evidence that someone wrote it later. The simpler explanation is that someone wrote it early.Since there is no proof that someone wrote it later, many conservative scholars have continued to prefer the traditional early date of composition theory.

"Most recent writers [are not conservative and] are agreed that in its original form the book was of post-exilic origin, and the secondary parts of later composition (Delitzsch: 1886:5)

The book does not identify its writer. Furthermore, the ancient Hebrews could not agree on who wrote it. Consequently many different scholars have made guesses as to who the writer was. Internal evidence has led many careful students of the book to conclude that it was the work of one person.

From the patriarchal period, Job himself is the favored candidate, though some scholars have nominated Elihu (Church, L.F. ed: 1977: 514). Jewish tradition favored Moses as the writer. In the SyriacPeshitta, Job follows Deuteronomy, reflecting belief that Moses wrote Job. Moses recorded other events during the patriarchal period in Genesis, he was familiar with desert life, and he had the ability to write such a book as this one.

Solomon has supporters mainly because he composed other poetic biblical literature (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon). Moreover there are some similarities between Job and Proverbs, such as the relationship between fearing God and being wise. There are also similarities to Isaiah and Lamentations (Hartley: 1988: 11-12)

The book of Job is not the history of a person. It is the record of an idea. It presents a phase of scepticism such as is invariably engendered by an imperfect, too devout, and unreasoned faith. Job in Hebrew means simply "the attacked." Whether such a person as Job lived or not, we have no means of determining, but that a tradition, or tale, of a righteous man who met with great misfortune, had lived, we are perhaps compelled to assume. (James A. Craig: 1899:488).

The book of Job theme seeks to address the problem of suffering of the innocent. According to Delitzsch (1866:47) “Why do afflictions upon afflictions befall the righteous man? This is the question, the answering of which is made the theme of the book of Job."

As we discuss the portrayal of suffering in Job and the prosperity gospel in Zimbabwe it is imperative to understand briefly what prosperity gospel is, Prosperity according to the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary is the state of being successful, especially in the accumulation of wealth. 

Prosperity Gospel, which often times is called prosperity theology, the health and wealth gospel or the gospel of success is a Christian religious doctrine that states that, financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one’s material wealth (Asamoah:2013:198). Its origins lay in the late nineteenth century, the Prosperity Gospel took root in the Pentecostal revival of the post-World War II years and reached maturity by the late 1970s. (Bowler: 2010).

It is believed according to Asamoah (2003:199)that the roots of prosperity theology or gospel is found in the teachings of Kenneth Hagan of Rhema Bible Institute in Tulsa, Oklahoma United States Of America.

The prologue, which consists of the book's first two chapters, is believed to have been based on an older folktale in which a wager is made between Yahweh and Satan. Satan contends that no one serves Yahweh except for selfish reasons, but Yahweh disagrees and presents Job, a righteous man who "fears God and shuns evil," as an example to counter Satan's claim.

 In order to prove to Satan that Job's loyalty is not based on material reward, Yahweh permits Satan to take from Job all of the material benefits Job has received and to afflict him with the most severe and excruciating pain.

According Anderson (1974:85) he asserts that After Job had offended peace offerings with God a messenger came with a bad news.” Nothing could have stunned him the more than the arrival of such news just as he had made fresh peace offering (Job 1:13-19) which is the first Disaster and Job sees only the hand of the lord in these events. The book of Job advocates that suffering can find its origins in God and refutes the Jewish Traditional Theology ofretribution or recompense which states that sin and suffering are one, there cannot be suffering without guilt and sin.

According to Alden (1994:42) false doctrine of retribution or recompense holds that the righteous never suffer and the unrighteous always do. Thus the righteous man should not suffer what the wicked suffers. 

This theology which Job seeks to refute is this same theology that the prosperity gospel supporters propagates. According to James (1899:488) he further explains that suffering is always the result of sin. The Gospel of prosperity rejects that a believer who is righteous cannot suffer just like the way Job suffered. 

According to them it is a curse or a demonic suppression or influence that causes such calamities. Is it true to asserts that the righteous never suffer?

The message of Job deals not with “cause and effect” but with coming to the realization that “nothing happens to us that is not ultimately controlled by the knowledge, love, wisdom, and power of our God of all comfort (Adlen).

Job response to these dark and painful sufferings are an example for a believer who is also in times of suffering as faced with Job. It is interesting how Job responds to the first cycle of suffering, Job teared his rob and shaved then in pain and agony he worshiped Yahweh and did not hold Him guilty. 
The Gospel of Prosperity in Zimbabwe
The gospel of prosperity in Zimbabwe would advocate for the restoration of the property that Job lost, wealth and health. As reported by the report of Voice of Zimbabwe Michael Kariata on 15th November 2015 he said “ Some of the Zimbabweans have come out in the open on how they managed to acquire wealth while others have testified on how their long suffering finally came to an end after visiting one of these prophets”

Job entails that individuals must accept suffering and praise God even whilst in the suffering mode and the gospel of prosperity in Zimbabwe pursues to bring hope to the people who are in the suffering mode since God is a God of restoration. Furthermore Job’s devotion to God is a devotion that is built by love and intimacy with Yahweh.

God whilst the Prosperity Gospel preaches that we worship so that we can obtain from the lord and be blessed. It is a common knowledge that the sermons of prosperity always allude to the fact that if anyone be on Christ he now serves God and God will in turn provide and satisfy all that concern him or her. 

The question that Satan asked God must is relevant, he asked, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” he implied Job served God for “something,” that is, some reward (Alden: 1994:42) Therefore the book of Job teaches that individuals should serve God not for a reward and in suffering and pain, lose and mental oppression remain in the place of worship and connect to Yahweh as in the times of good because it is God who gives and it is Him who takes again.

The second cycle of suffering of Job shows Job being affected physically, possibilities being elephantiasis, leprosy, or a leukemia of the skin which was characterized by: a. Boils (2:7) b. Itching (2:8) c. Drastic change of appearance (2:12) d. Worms and running sores (7:5) e. Corroding bones and gnawing pain (30:17) f. Blackened skin and fever (30:30). According to the narratives of Job, his response was, "Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?"Job ask his wife? (2:10)

For prosperity gospel believers, God blesses the faithful with good health as a provision of the atonement. All prosperity gospel believers see a connection between good health and spiritual blessedness. Health is the result of positive thinking or “claiming” the health that Jesus’ atonement has already paid for. Poor health is either attributed to satanic attack that has not yet been overcome, or a weakness of faith.  
Heath living should be a part and parcel of the livelihood of every believer. It is ironic however to note that the wicked can live health and blessed yet the righteous fail to obtain fullness of atonement. The Gospel propagators would be quick to highlight that the same believer lacks faith. How about in the case of Job? Was Job without faith or the gospel is individualistic in nature?

The book of Job is truly a book that seeks to reveal and express the idea and wisdom that can be used by individuals to keep focus and still remain in Him. Just as Job endured suffering and not curse God even in the times of suffering. Prosperity gospel however, does not refute the idea that we should endure suffering but rather it advocates for the redemption of the poor and to demonstrate the truth of Jesus’s death and its benefits. Furthermore Job refutes the traditional view Jewish tradition the theology of retribution, and the idea that the prosperity movement has that of serving and worshipping God for a reward.


Alden 1993. Job,New American Commentary .Nashville: Broadman& Holman.

Andersen, F.I., 2015. Job (Vol. 14). InterVarsity Press

Asamoah, M. S, (2013). Penteco/Charismatic Worldview of Prosperity Theology.

African Educational Research Journal, Vol. 1(3), pp. 198-208.

Bowler, C. 2010. Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel.

Dissertation submitted for Doctor of Philosophy in the Graduate Program in Religion, Duke University.

Church, L.F. ed., 1977. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. Marshall Morgan & Scott.

Delitzsch, F., 1866. Biblical commentary on the Book of Job (Vol. 2). T. & T. Clark.

Hartley, J.E., 1988. The book of Job. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.

Jamieson, R., Fausset, A.R. and Brown, D., 2000. Commentary on the Whole Bible. Online at.