High upon the isolated hills near Uz, a righteous priest named Job placed his tenth blood-let ram on the smoldering altar. Watching the flesh ignite against the white-hot bed of wood and fat, he prayed for his youngest daughter’s soul and repeated her name until the swirling black smoke turned to a webby haze of gray.
He had spent the solitary hours before sunrise atoning for the sins of his ten children, who had frolicked and feasted the night before and had almost inevitably cursed God in at least one careless breath before finally sinking into a drunken stupor.
Job’s blameless reputation and matchless wealth was the stuff of legends, at a time when great evil spread as quickly as a brush fire, as humankind spread eastward across the arid expanse of Mesopotamia.
The man had a wife and ten grown children, seven sons and three daughters. His fields were peppered with seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, a thousand beasts of burden, and as many servants as a census could count.
Job’s sons lived in the city at the mountain base. Their lives consisted of squandering their father’s coin and throwing lavish festivals at one another’s houses. Inviting their sisters and every neighbor within shouting distance, Job’s sons would drink and dine, often until their merriment roused the sun the next morning.
Job tended to keep to himself, deep inside his head for most of the day, keeping earnest vigil with his God. When his sons’ feast days had run their course, he would rise early and toil up the hill, leading by rope another train of sacrificial animals.
The smell of burnt flesh coming off the altar wafted high into the secret courts of heaven, and God took pleasure in it. A host of Watchers returned from their earthly posts and presented themselves before God’s throne, and the serpentine dragon, the Satan, was among them.
“Where did you come from?” God asked the outsider, smelling the stench of sulfur.
“I have come from walking the earth,” Satan hissed, “seeing whom I might satisfy with my services.”
God smirked. “Have you tried my faithful servant Job? In righteousness, there is no equal. Out of reverence for me, he shuns all evil and does only what is good.”
“Surely you see why he shows such loyalty,” Satan replied. “You shield him on every side and bless every seed he sows. Separate the man from his possessions, and watch him curse you to your face.”
“Very well. Everything Job owns is released to your influence,” God said. “Only, you may not harm the man himself.”
With that, the dragon took his leave and went to work on God’s blameless servant.
Inspiration: Job 1