One afternoon, Job was deep in meditation when a servant rushed into his tent. He was short of breath, and his clothes clung to his heaving chest, heavy with sweat.

“My lord,” he rasped, clinging to the goatskin flap of the doorway with one hand, and holding a piece of splintered ox yoke in the other. “While the oxen plowed and the donkeys fed on straw, a small band of Sabean horsemen swept in and slaughtered every servant in the field except for me.”

Job didn’t have time to respond to the man, as another servant came in behind him. He smelled of acrid smoke and looked as if he hadn’t bathed in his life.

“God’s fire rained down on every side, my lord. Your shepherds and flocks are consumed! I alone made it out of the pasture alive.”

The first servant spoke again. “The Sabeans, they carried off your livestock.”

While he was still speaking, a third servant, a child, half-dead, entered the tent. His face had the pallor of ashes, and his clothes were caked with blood.

“My God!” Job offered a hand to steady the young boy, then leading him to a dim corner of the tent to lie down. “What news, dear boy?”

The boy’s eyes gazed into darkness, and his throat rattled with short, labored breaths. “The Chaldeans,” he sputtered, coughing up phlegm and blood. “Your servants… your camels…”

Job called for a skin bag, and with it, slowly poured water into the child’s mouth.

“Rest now,” Job said like a father to a dying son. As he turned to address the others, another man appeared under the threshold.

“We were all eating and drinking together with your sons and daughters, when a violent wind came against the house and struck it down, crushing everyone in attendance but me.”

With that, Job exited his tent and tore his robe. The messengers followed after him in silence, perhaps dumbstruck by the magnitude of chaos dealt against the holy man in a single ill-fated stroke.

“Get me a knife,” Job cried, his knees hitting the hard ground.

A servant returned and held out a short blade. The anguished man took it by its bone handle, and the servant backed away.

Job took the knife and began scraping it across his scalp. Thick clumps of hair fell around him, and when he finished shaving his head, he lie flat on the ground and prayed.

“I came into the world with nothing, and I shall return to the dust with nothing,” he chanted. “God gave to me, and God took away from me. God’s name is praised.”

The men went away as Job repeated the words over and over.

After he finished praying aloud, Job sat still, his spine erect like a winter-stripped tree, and he silently repeated the name of God until the sun descended behind the lonely mountains of Uz.

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