Fortress Press

God Trauma and Wisdom Therapy: A Commentary on Job

God Trauma and Wisdom Therapy

A Commentary on Job

Norman C. Habel (Author)


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This volume analyzes how a narrator from the ancient Wisdom School portrays the deep trauma experiences of Job in his brutal relations with his God and his friends. These experiences range from the trauma of meaningless existence to the trauma of human oppression. Job experiences God as a celestial spy, an angry adversary, and Job's potential murderer. As an innocent victim, Job seeks to take God to court but is frustrated by the inaccessibility of his God. Job experiences his friends as suffocating fools devoid of wisdom and as heartless comforters who assume Job is guilty of crimes and needs to make a covenant with God and repent. This analysis is informed by a contemporary trauma hermeneutic.

After a long tirade of cries by Job against God and his friends, the Wisdom narrator intervenes with a brilliant Wisdom manifesto in which he raises the pivotal question "Where can wisdom be found?" The answer is not "in the mind of God" but "in nature." God himself does the research and finds wisdom in the forces of nature, a discovery that anticipates the healing experience of Job.

Job, however, takes a final oath in anticipation of litigation. A young arbiter responds, claiming that the breath of God has given him the wisdom to answer Job. In the climax of the narrative a voice, tantamount to a Wisdom therapist, addresses Job from a whirlwind. The voice does not declare Job innocent or guilty. Instead, Job is taken on a tour of the cosmos, a tour that enables his healing. Job is challenged to discern how Wisdom has been the primordial force that has designed, integrated, and sustained all the realms of the cosmos. Wisdom is a force innate in everything from the clouds to the eagle, a cosmic Presence Job is challenged to discern.

When Job discerns that Presence, he is healed, retracts his case against God, and gets rid of his dust and ashes. Job is transformed from having a victim consciousness to having a cosmic wisdom consciousness.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506499291
  • eBook ISBN 9781506499307
  • Dimensions 5.75 x 8.75
  • Pages 171
  • Publication Date March 5, 2024


Norman Habel is a long-running authority on the book of Job with all its difficulties. Now he reads the book again, making good use of his vast learning. He rereads Job through the lens of trauma so that the book in his hands draws very close to our current society in crisis. His attention to trauma is no passing fad; it is, rather, letting our current context be connected to this most awesome of all biblical books. The end result, for many readers, will be a most helpful impetus toward a new practical theology that aims at therapeutic transformation.

Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

With acute sensitivity to the devastating effects of trauma, Habel proves yet again to be an insightful guide to and through the book of Job. Habel brings decades of skill as an interpreter of Job into conversation with studies on the psychic, social, and theological consequences of traumatic experiences. For all who have suffered trauma or know others who have, Habel artfully presents the book of Job as a profound therapeutic and spiritual resource for responding to, working through, and ultimately healing from the consequences of catastrophic trauma.

Davis Hankins, Appalachian State University