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The Book of Job, part of the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament, is one of the oldest known narrative poems. The main story is thought to have been written between 3000 and 4000 years ago, and is attributed by various traditions to Moses, Isaiah, or Job himself.

The poem explores conflicting answers to a timeless question: why does misfortune occur? Job, a righteous and prosperous man, loses everything in a series of disasters. His conventionally religious friends suggest that this must be due to his sins. Job refuses to blame either himself or God, but, in the book's most ambiguous and evocative passage, he does demand an explanation from God and is basically told that the mysteries of creation are beyond his understanding.

The beginning and end of the book provide a rather different explanation: God (or rather, a devil or angel acting with God's permission; the name "Satan", first seen in this book, means adversary or accuser) is simply testing Job to see if his righteousness will endure; when Job refuses to lose faith, his good fortune is restored. This frame story is sometimes said to have been written separately. Taken as a whole, the book's portrayal of faith is an anguished paradox in which both self-doubt and self-assertion may be necessary but not sufficient.

Commentaries on Job are too numerous to list here.

The following passages referenced in Riddley Walker are from the New International Version.

On salt and savor:

6:1 Then Job replied:
2 "If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales!
3 It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas--no wonder my words have been impetuous.
4 The arrows of the Almighty are in me, my spirit drinks in their poison; God's terrors are marshaled against me.
5 Does a wild donkey bray when it has grass, or an ox bellow when it has fodder?
6 Is tasteless food eaten without salt, or is there flavor in the white of an egg?

On hope of a tree:

14:1 "Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.
2 He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure.
3 Do you fix your eye on such a one? Will you bring him before you for judgment?
4 Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one!
5 Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.
6 So look away from him and let him alone, till he has put in his time like a hired man.
7 "At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.
8 Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil,
9 yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.
10 But man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more.
11 As water disappears from the sea or a riverbed becomes parched and dry,
12 so man lies down and does not rise; till the heavens are no more, men will not awake or be roused from their sleep.

On knowledge and stone:

28:9 Man's hand assaults the flinty rock and lays bare the roots of the mountains.
10 He tunnels through the rock; his eyes see all its treasures.
11 He searches the sources of the rivers and brings hidden things to light.
12 "But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?
13 Man does not comprehend its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living.
14 The deep says, 'It is not in me'; the sea says, 'It is not with me.'