Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religion & Culture / Religious Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Lawrence Toombs

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This study shows that the Book of Job can be understood as the record of a rib between Job and Yahweh, which involves ultimately the issue of the relationship of man and God. A definition of the term rib is first established by reviewing its occurrences in the other books of the Old Testament. Although it includes a wide range of contention, the term signifies essentially a legal complaint initiated by an aggrieved party, convinced of the rectitude of his position, against the party whom he holds responsible for the grievance. Ribs occur in both non-secular and secular contexts, the distinction being whether or not Yahweh is involved as a direct participant. In non-secular ribs, He may be the instituter, or an advocate, or the object of the faultfinding. An exegetical study follows of the nine periscopes in the Book of Job containing the term rib. This supports the conception of the rib as a legal complaint, and reveals a wealth of juridical vocabulary. Next, an examination of the speeches of Job and Yahweh brings the whole book into the category of rib. Feeling himself the victim of unceasing harassment by Yahweh, and hopeless of finding any means of arbitration, Job turns to the language and processes of the law court and institutes a rib. He does not accept the advice of the three friends who argue the traditional doctrine that his suffering is retribution for his sins. He is confident that a judicial hearing will establish his innocence and solve the problems of his unmerited tribulations and the seeming injustice of Yahweh. This, then, is an example of the Old Testament non-secular rib in which Yahweh is the object of faultfinding. In conclusion, the forensic terminology pertaining to the rib between Job and Yahweh is tabulated, and the significance of the outcome of this lawsuit is examined. God’s appearance out of the whirlwind is not the legal encounter which Job has anticipated. On the contrary, it drives home to Job the total inappropriateness of his demand that God face him as an adversary-at-law. His rib has been based on the faulty premise that man can limit God, can question God’s ways. But these are beyond human comprehension, above the rules of human justice and retribution. The divine truth revealed to Job is not a reasonable answer to the questions raised in his rib; it is an answer on the religious or experiential level, and, though it, he is reconciled to the transcendent God. Job’s rib has not been futile.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season