The Book of Job vs. Mount Hope

“Job” image borrowed from The Bible Project

The Book of Job has always made me feel uncomfortable. As the reader, I am immediately confronted with a troubling question. Why would God allow his favorite person to undergo such horrific suffering? It makes me suspicious of God’s character, and I was trained NOT to question God’s character. But here’s the irony that is kicking me in the gut. The same tension I want to ignore in the Book of Job (Why do bad things happen to good people?) is the one I intentionally embraced in writing Mount Hope. What the heck? Folks have been tripping over that question since Cain killed Abel; who am I to tackle that weighty theological debate? Rather than ignore the awkwardness further, I decided to dive heart first.

Disclaimers: The nature of scripture is that it’s the kind of literature that doesn’t give up all its secrets on the first read. Instead, it meets you where you are at. The most intellectual scholar or child-like mind can search its depths and be satisfied. My unique take on scripture may not match your understanding or even my own in the future. Additionally, Mount Hope holds no such authority or power. It is a work of fiction. But comparing the two is a thought-provoking hermeneutical ride if you are willing to take it with me.

Here we go!

The Book of Job and the novel Mount Hope are similar in these ways:

  1. They point to Jesus
  2. They combine allegory and historical figures as a wisdom thought experiment
  3. They contain a crisis of faith that makes the characters feel stuck
  4. When humanity gets it wrong, God intervenes and explains for Himself

  1. They point to Jesus

Jesus said in Luke that the entirety of the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) was about Him. That means Job is not meant to be a stand-alone text. If you read the Bible with Messiah-eyes, you will find a repeating story pattern, and it goes like this: God’s favored, blameless, chosen one endures unjust suffering. The chosen one surrenders, and because of their obedience and intercession, God vindicates and restores the righteous servant and releases forgiveness and blessing to creation again.

Where can we see examples of this repeating story pattern? Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, Ruth, David, Solomon, Daniel, Job, etc. These and more are all archetypes of the same story pattern leading eventually to Jesus. Naturally, these Old Testament “chosen ones” were flawed and often fell into messes soon after restoration. The Hebrew scriptures repeatedly ask, who then will intercede for us? These repeating stories teach, lead, and train us to see Jesus as the answer. Jesus is the one who finishes it.

  • Similarly, in Mount Hope, every chapter leads the reader to see Jesus. It may not be evident initially, but just as Jesus directed His disciples to look back to the Hebrew scriptures to find Him, Mount Hope encourages the same, ultimately giving Jesus the final word.

  1. They combine allegory and historical figures as a wisdom thought experiment

Is the Book of Job allegory, or is it historical? The answer: Yes. Job is mentioned in Ezekiel as one of the most righteous people, along with Noah and Daniel. The book of James cites Job as an example of being patient in suffering. Those two references indicate that Job’s righteousness was widely known and real.

However, this book does not provide the typical historical markers that the other Biblical authors offer. The Book of Job intentionally lacks those references to encourage readers to focus on the more significant themes. For example, it is set in a mysterious land far from Israel called “Uz.” Additionally, the author is anonymous, all the characters are non-Israelites, and the story is not set in any particular period of ancient history. It has an apparent literary design with a prologue, epilogue, conversational narrative, and dense Hebrew poetry. These writing choices ask the reader to take a journey through storytelling.

So, considering these simple historical and allegory suggestions, the Book of Job is likely a wisdom thought experiment about an actual culturally known figure in their time. In other words, the anonymous author created a story that took all the core intercessor themes and vocabulary from the rest of the Hebrew scriptures and used an actual historical figure in Israel’s history as the main character.

  • Likewise, in Mount Hope, I use storytelling and fictional events as my own thought experiment. (What if Jesus Himself came down to earth and stated clearly and simply what He thinks about identity and sexuality?) Then I combined it with real Topeka entities (Mount Hope Cemetery, Topeka Police Department, Westboro Baptist Church, Stormont Vail Hospital, etc.) to challenge the reader to more significant themes of inclusion and healing.

  1. They both contain a crisis of faith that makes the main character feel stuck

Job lost everything in his life: family, wealth, and health. He cannot fathom how all this misfortune happened to him when he knew he was a good and righteous man. Friends repeatedly told him it was because of hidden sin. They advised him that God punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous, so he must have done something terrible. Job pushes back on these theories and insists he is innocent. “Miserable comforters, you are!” With all the rebukes assaulting his ears, he loses heart and hope. He lashes out at God, accusing Him of being a bully and unjust. He is stuck in a crisis of faith. He believes God is good and just, but Job sees God’s actions as otherwise.

  • Comparatively, in Mount Hope, the story mirrors the same crisis of faith. Ollie experiences a catastrophic event, and she cries out to God, “Is this who you really are?” Some LGBTQ+ folks want a relationship with God, but the church rejects them, so are they beloved or forsaken?

  1. When humanity gets it wrong, God intervenes and explains for Himself.

In the book of Job, his “friends” attempt to explain and justify Job’s hardship and heartbreak. They blamed Job— even though none of them could see the error, he must have been sinful, and now he is paying the price. Without the ability to rationalize the blame or the punishment, Job loses hope and crashes. This is when God shows up.

God gives Job a kind of virtual tour of the universe, from the expanse of the cosmos to the mysteries of the unseen deep and the complexities of animal and plant ecosystems. He brags about the Behemoth and Leviathan (dinosaur-like creatures) that are both glorious and dangerous. His point to Job is this…Your small life limits your viewpoint. Creation is more complex, mysterious, and inspiring than you will ever know. It is beautiful AND dangerous. You were right to ask Me directly. I am trustworthy and good, and so are you. Your friends are wrong about us both, do not listen to them.

  • Lastly, in Mount Hope, Jesus shows up and reassures the main characters that while humanity lives in a glorious AND dangerous world, He is trustworthy and good, and so are they. They were right to ask Him directly. The characters are assured that the church is wrong about them… and Him, do not listen to them.

I’m no theologian, but after a determined yet relatively shallow examination of the Book of Job and Mount Hope through a hermeneutics lens (literal, moral, allegorical, and spiritual), I have a new appreciation for the Hebrew text and a better understanding of my inclination to lean into the awkward. While the reader is glad that Job is restored at the story’s end, it is an unsatisfying truth that this Hebrew text does not directly answer the question we are begging for: Why do bad things happen to good people? Instead, it simply asks us to understand our limited viewpoint and trust that God is good.

Okay. I can do that.

(A special thanks to The Bible Project for their work on this topic.)



  1. Shannon Allen on June 20, 2023 at 6:55 pm

    Such a thoughtful take on a challenging book of scripture. You never cease to inspire me!

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