This doctrine of a rigid correspondence between merit and reward, and between sin and punishment, however, is not propounded by every one of the biblical writers. At some time in the history of Israel, the belief in a perfectly retributive providence began to be shaken. It is difficult to say what were the causes of this. All that one can see is that, in course of time, men began to be perplexed by an apparent inconsistency in the administration of God’s justice. For while the righteous suffered the most grievous hardships, the wicked enjoyed great prosperity. These problems could not be lightly set aside. Some attempt had to be made to answer the questions which disturbed the righteous who suffered. So it was suggested that these afflictions were sent as a test of character. This approach to the problem is clearly developed in the book of Job, which was an attempt to answer the dilemma of those who believed that suffering is a sign of divine displeasure and presupposed sin on the part of the sufferer.

A. Melinek, “The Doctrine of Reward and Punishment in Biblical and Early Rabbinic Writings,” in Essays Presented to Chief Rabbi Israel Brodie on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday, ed. H.J. Zimmels, J. Rabbinowitz, & I. Finestein (London: The Soncino Press Limited, 1967), 278.

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