In The Book of Hours, Rilke discusses relationships between God, Satan and Job. The main question raised in the Biblical story about Job’s tribulations was about a divine providence and God’s love. Though Job was pious, good, and righteous man, he suffered from tribulations afflicted by Satan. Therefore, he did not understand the cause of his ordeals and desperately cried to God asking for explanations. The story of Job’s sufferings reveals the second-person relationships between God and its obedient loving creatures and proves that Satan will not have an ultimate power over the pious ones whatever happens.
Rilke explains Job’s ordeals and his spiritual condition that resulted from them. At the first wave of sufferings, he lost his servants and animals in one day. The causes of the disaster were cataclysms and cruel enemies. All his children died and he became a wretched man with a broken heart. Not only he suffered because of the unexpected turns of fortune, but also his soul was burning and could not find peace because of the death of relatives. His troubles were worsened by a suddenly changed attitude of the society, from friendship to disdain, for all the unhappy acts that he underwent. Even friends and wife, who distanced from him in that sorrowful time of his life, betrayed him. Thus, the second-wave suffering struck him right into the psyche, filling Job with sorrow, rage and horror.
The author believes that though Job did not get answers regarding the reasons for all the ordeals at first, the instance of sufferings is helpful for those who look for ways to undergo them. The reaction of Job to the divine justice acts was in blaming God for them. He expressed his doubts in the goodness of God, accusing the latter of the unjust punishment and refusing to recognize his own sins or to ask for mercy and forgiveness. But, afterwards he repented heartily and took the accusations back.
Rilke criticizes wrong understanding of the sufferings provided in the comments to the Anchor Bible. They explain that righteous people may suffer by reasons that people never can understand, or at least, the book does not provide such explanations. In the interpretation of the Anchor Bible, God did not address the issue of charges for the unjustness and the lack of power, but preferred to prove only that he had the power. However, he did both. The author contends that in the description of the relations between him and animals, he should be considered not just as their creator, but as a caring father as well. Therefore, he, as the loving father, allows his children suffer, which is just for their own good. Therefore, if an innocent person suffers, her soul is purified and gets closer to God.
Furthermore, when God responded to Job with angry words, he acted as a loving parent, asserts Rilke, that was indignant with the child blaming him in the lack of love. Thus, the intercourse was not about the sole goodness, but about the goodness of God that revealed his love to his creatures in general and to Job in particular. Consequently, the reason was obtained and Job repented for his disobedience.
Finally, Rilke asserts that in the explanation to the dialogue between God and Satan regarding Job, God cared about Satan’s internal condition asking him where the latter came from. Satan was restless, unlike the sons of God that did not care for him, therefore God revealed his condition of internal anxiety by questioning him. Satan answered that was “roving on the earth”, but not on the heaven where he dwelled initially. According to Rilke, God’s question about Satan’s consideration of Job as a righteous man fearing God meant to show Satan his inferior condition, his disobedience. However, the main benefactor from the tribulations was Job who became more righteous and loving God.
In the book about Job, we can see the relations between God and his creatures at their extreme. The story shows how complicated for one’s understanding may be the divine providence, especially when a righteous man suffers. Rilke criticizes the Anchor Bible’s interpretation of Job’s sufferings story for its inconsistency with the overall meaning of the Bible. She asserts that not only Satan was given a lesson of love and piety, but also Job himself, angry and wretched first, got the answer about reason of the tribulations and repented heartily later. Therefore, the ordeals did not cause consequences that Satan expected, but resulted in magnification of Job’s love to God and piety.