God (Yahweh) – In this text, Yahweh rules from His court in heaven. The angles approach Him and report on their activities. God is styled as considering what His court attendants bring to His attention. God is propositioned by Satan to see if Job is inherently righteous or if his righteousness is bought by God’s blessings. God entertains this. God acts as an unseen witness during Job’s discussions, ultimately confronting Job to reverse Job’s suit against God.
Satan – Satan acts as a member of God’s court. In this chapter, Satan is tasked with roaming the earth and exposing wickedness. Satan’s job is to punish the wicked. As part of his official duties, Satan questions the loyalties of Job. Perhaps Job only worships God because God blesses Job. God gives permission to Satan to find out the truth.
Job – Job is the most righteous man alive. Job has done nothing deserving of harm, yet God afflicts him. Job’s position is that he is innocent and will die clinging to his integrity. Job laments that there is no justice in this world. Job blames God for not enforcing a system of retributive justice; something that Job wrongly believes is God’s duty. God corrects Job by saying that if Job is not in a position to suggest how the world should operate; if Job wants morality enforced, then Job can do it himself. Otherwise, Job has no standing to question what God should and should not do.
Job’s wife – Job’s wife succumbs to Satan’s afflictions. She serves as the example of someone failing the test. Her advice is for Job to curse God and die. Job ignores this advice.
Eliphaz – Eliphaz is one of Job’s three friends. Eliphaz takes the stance that Job is not truly wicked, but suffering a temporary set-back due to some non-systematic or non-characteristic sin. Eliphaz maintains that Job will die in old age, and not as part of the wicked. Eliphaz operates under the impression that the sin is punished and the wicked are killed.
Bildad – Bildad takes the stance that Job may or may not be wicked. Job’s children were wicked, as evidenced in their deaths. Job has sinned, but may not have committed a sin worthy of death. Bildad says to commit Job’s case to God.
Zophar – Zophar takes the stance that Job is truly wicked, the punishment is evidence and is revealing some hidden sin of Job’s. Zophar maintains that Job is getting his just due, and will be killed as one of the wicked. Zophar operates under the impression that the sin is punished and the wicked are killed.
Elihu – Elihu serves as the last character in the story. Elihu is an interloper. He is not named except in the texts in which he speaks. As such, scholars often claim that his speeches were a later addition to the text. His speech is not explicitly condemned or endorsed or addressed, and he vanishes as quickly as he is introduced. His speeches serve as a bridge to God’s speech, acting as a profane foil to God. Many of his themes approximate those of his friends. Elihu, like the others, believes in divine punishment of the wicked. But Elihu adds that Job’s punishment could be a divine warning from God in anticipation of future sins. Like the others, Elihu is wrong.
The book of Job describes a group of angels reporting to God. One such angel, who is tasked with roaming the world and seeking out hidden wickedness, presents a conundrum to God. Perhaps the righteous are only righteous because God prospers them. God then allows the most righteous man on Earth (Job) to be tested to understand his motives. The angel destroys all that Job loves, but Job holds fast to his integrity.
The angel approaches God again, arguing that a direct threat to Job’s life is what it will take to expose Job. Annoyed at Satan for previously unnecessary suffering, God then allows this final test. Job, although bitter at God and surrounded by false witnesses, endures in his integrity. Job calls for God to judge him, as his friends surround him in judgment.
God appears, silencing Job. Job is not God. In fact, Job does not understand the world as God does. Job is in no position to proffer a new system of justice for the world. As such, Job is operating under misguided presumptions and does not even have a case to present to God. Justice is not God’s job. Justice is not a property of this world or any world. Job is not entitled to recompense. The universe is filled with random chaos. God can intervene or watch or act in whatever way He wishes.
God rewards Job and punishes Job’s accusers. God, then, restores Job to good fortune. The story ends.