Why do bad things happen to good people?

In the first of my series of “Mysteries of Judaism,” I pointed out that all of the biblical holidays, such as Passover, and rabbinical Jewish holidays, as Chanukah and Purim, were changed over the years. Some, as Passover on Nissan 14, even disappeared even though mandated in the Torah. Some, like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, although many think these are the most holy of biblical Jewish holidays, are not mentioned in the Torah, both replace Bible holidays. In later “Mysteries of Judaism,” I pointed out with many examples that even Jewish laws and customs, even the Decalogue, which is not called Ten Commandments in scripture, received new different interpretations. Dr. Micah Goodman tells us in his excellent lecture on the Book of Job, found on U-tube, that the explanation of why bad things happen to good people changed, at least twice.

The biblical explanation

The Torah tells readers frequently that if they obey the divine laws and practices as expressed in the Torah all will go well with them.

The view of the prophets

While sometimes telling the people to observe the divine commands, the prophets changed the stress on God’s laws to proper behavior to all people, as in the following examples.

Hosea 6:6. I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Micah 6:8. He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

Jeremiah 22:3. This is what the Lord says: Administer justice and righteousness. Rescue the victim of robbery from the hand of his oppressor. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow. Do not shed innocent blood in this place.

Zechariah 7:9. This is what the Lord of Hosts says: Administer true justice. Show loving devotion and compassion to one another. 

Job

In the Book of Job, Job is trying to discover why he is suffering. It is not because of his failure to obey the divine commands as indicated in the Books of Moses, nor because he mistreated fellow humans. The Book of Job testifies that Job did neither of these things. These were not the cause of his suffering. Indeed, Job is the only person in the Hebrew Bible who is perfectly good.

At the end of the book, a new third concept is introduced. Humans are incapable of understanding the laws of nature and are therefore incapable of knowing why good people suffer.

Conclusion

None of the series of biblical views regarding suffering on earth mention the current popular idea that while people may suffer on earth, they will face a reward, or if deserved a punishment, in heaven after death.

About the Author
Dr. Israel Drazin served for 31 years in the US military and attained the rank of brigadier general. He is an attorney and a rabbi, with master’s degrees in both psychology and Hebrew literature and a PhD in Judaic studies. As a lawyer, he developed the legal strategy that saved the military chaplaincy when its constitutionality was attacked in court, and he received the Legion of Merit for his service. Dr. Drazin is the author of more than 50 books on the Bible, philosophy, and other subjects.
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