In the first of my series of “Mysteries of Judaism,” I pointed out that all of the biblical holidays, such as Passover, and rabbinical Jewish holidays, as Chanukah and Purim, were changed over the years. Some, as Passover on Nissan 14, even disappeared even though mandated in the Torah. Some, like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, although many think these are the most holy of biblical Jewish holidays, are not mentioned in the Torah, both replace Bible holidays. In later “Mysteries of Judaism,” I pointed out with many examples that even Jewish laws and customs, even the Decalogue, which is not called Ten Commandments in scripture, received new different interpretations. Dr. Micah Goodman tells us in his excellent lecture on the Book of Job, found on U-tube, that the explanation of why bad things happen to good people changed, at least twice.
The biblical explanation
The Torah tells readers frequently that if they obey the divine laws and practices as expressed in the Torah all will go well with them.
The view of the prophets
While sometimes telling the people to observe the divine commands, the prophets changed the stress on God’s laws to proper behavior to all people, as in the following examples.
Hosea 6:6. I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Micah 6:8. He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
Jeremiah 22:3. This is what the Lord says: Administer justice and righteousness. Rescue the victim of robbery from the hand of his oppressor. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow. Do not shed innocent blood in this place.
Zechariah 7:9. This is what the Lord of Hosts says: Administer true justice. Show loving devotion and compassion to one another.
In the Book of Job, Job is trying to discover why he is suffering. It is not because of his failure to obey the divine commands as indicated in the Books of Moses, nor because he mistreated fellow humans. The Book of Job testifies that Job did neither of these things. These were not the cause of his suffering. Indeed, Job is the only person in the Hebrew Bible who is perfectly good.
At the end of the book, a new third concept is introduced. Humans are incapable of understanding the laws of nature and are therefore incapable of knowing why good people suffer.
None of the series of biblical views regarding suffering on earth mention the current popular idea that while people may suffer on earth, they will face a reward, or if deserved a punishment, in heaven after death.
Thank you. The essay prompted me to view the lecture. In his book on Maimonides, Micah Goodman wrote that Job’s suffering ceased when he realized it was neither good nor bad but his reaction made the difference. The world works according to the laws of nature.
Rambam links satan to the yetzer hara. I recall you said the yetzer hara is not a being (Job’s satan is a parable). Some say the Shekhina or Prime Mover who moves the celestial spheres (Guide 1:5) is a separate being, though this is not consistent with strict monotheism.