My Artscroll Megillat Esther has a commentary on the words

וּשְׁמ֣וֹ מָרְדֳּכַ֗י (Esther 2:5)

And his name was Mordecai

that whenever a righteous person is introduced, scripture says the word שְׁמוֹ before his name, but when the person is wicked it says שְׁמוֹ after his name. (Artscroll gives Midrash Rabbah as a source for this.)

Here are a few examples that Artscroll gives of righteous people with שְׁמוֹ before his name:

In Ruth 2:1

וּשְׁמ֖וֹ בֹּֽעַז

And his name was Boaz

In I Samuel 1:1

וּשְׁמ֡וֹ אֶ֠לְקָנָה

And his name was Elkanah

Here are some of the examples that Artscroll gives of wicked people having שְׁמוֹ after their names:

In I Samuel 17:4

גָּלְיָ֥ת שְׁמ֖וֹ

Goliath was his name

In I Samuel 25:25

נָבָ֣ל שְׁמ֔וֹ

Nabal was his name

This made me ask myself “What about Job?”

In Job 1:1

אִיּ֣וֹב שְׁמ֑וֹ

Job was his name

The Pasuk further states

הָאִ֣ישׁ הַה֗וּא תָּ֧ם וְיָשָׁ֛ר וִירֵ֥א אֱלֹהִ֖ים וְסָ֥ר מֵרָֽע

That man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.

This brings me to my question. Why is Job introduced with the word שְׁמוֹ after his name when he was clearly a righteous man? Even the Pasuk which has שְׁמוֹ after his name specifically says that he was righteous.

  • 2
    If Iyov was blameless and upright, then why do we need a whole book about him? Apparently there's more to his story than meets the eye, which might be what איוב שמו is hinting at.
    – user13937
    Mar 10, 2020 at 21:52

2 Answers 2


R. Isaac Ben Judah Halevi asks this about a different case, and uses the case of Job as a proof in his answer.

Pa'aneach Raza Parshat Vayeira

וי"ל דלא אמרו כי אם בסתמא לא במקום שהענין מוכיח שהרי כתיב איוב שמו שהוא קודם לשמו כברשעים וכתיב תם וישר וגו' אלא במקום שמעשיו ועניניו מפורשים אין קפידא

And we could say that they only said this [that the word order reflects righteousness status] when it is without qualification, not in a place where the topic proves [otherwise], for it is written "Job was his name" which has him before his name like by wicked people. Yet it is written there "pure and upright etc." Rather, in a place where his actions and his happenings are explicit we don't care [about the order].

His answer is apparently that the word order doesn't signify anything if we already know the person's status from the context.

The question is also alluded to by R. Abraham Ibn Ezra.

Commentary to Job 1:1

ואל תתמה על מלת איוב שמו כי איננו רשע כלל והנה כתוב ה' איש מלחמה ה' שמו והפך הדבר ויהי איש אחד מהר אפרים ושמו מיכיהו אולי בעל הדרש על הרוב הנמצא דבר

And don't wonder about the word[s] "Job was his name", that he was not wicked at all, for behold it is written "God is a man of war, God is his name". The opposite as well: "And there was a man from Mount Ephraim and his name was Micaihu". Perhaps the expositor spoke about the majority of cases.

Ibn Ezra apparently grants the question and simply states that there are some exceptions. Interestingly, in the Midrash Rabbah the whole statement is challenged based on several exceptions yet the Midrash does not propose that the statement only refers to the majority of cases.

However, in an alternate version of the Midrash, the statement explicitly includes the qualifier that it is only talking about the majority of cases, and gives Job as the example.

Pesikta Zutrata Esther Chapter 2

רובם של צדיקים שמם קודם להזכרתם כענין שנאמר ושמו מנוח ושמו אלקנה ושמו ישי ושמו בועז אבל רוב הרשעים שמם באחרונה כענין שנאמר נבל שמו גלית שמו שבע בן בכרי שמו אבל יש צדיקים שכתוב בהם כזה העניין איוב שמו והוא צדיק

The majority of righteous people have their name before they are mentioned, like as it is said "and his name was Manoah", "and his name was Elkanah", "and his name was Jesse", "and his name was Boaz". But the majority of wicked people have their name afterwards, like as it is said "Nabal was his name", "Goliath was his name", "Sheva Ben Bikhri was his name". But there are righteous people where it is written for them in this manner: "Job was his name" and he was righteous.


I would suggest that when the name comes first it indicates that they have not developed their person, and their "name" is what it always was, as given at birth. When the name is after ושמו that means they have developed and made a "name" for themselves, and they are not that same person who got that name at birth.

Now, my understanding of the story of Iyov is that we was a tzaddik in the sense of being very straight and strictly following the moral teachings, but without having developed an inner sense of his purpose in the world and connection to God. This is what we call a צדיק גמור, but it is external conformance to an ideal without internal development. It is also עבודה מיראה, and through his suffering Iyov transitions to עבודה מאהבה with a complete change in how he relates to God.

The turning point in Iyov's attitude is in Iyov 13:15

הֵ֣ן יִ֭קְטְלֵנִי לא [ל֣וֹ] אֲיַחֵ֑ל אַךְ־דְּ֝רָכַ֗י אֶל־פָּנָ֥יו אוֹכִֽיחַ׃

He may well slay me; I may have no hope; Yet I will argue my case before Him.

As written, it means that if God were to slay him he would no longer hope, but as read it means that even were God to slay him he would continue to trust in God. Someone who serves out of fear cannot continue serving if all hope is lost, because their motivation in serving God is for protection for evil. When he serves from love, from an understanding of God's purpose in the world, he will maintain his dedication to God even in the face of death, because he would understand that his death is part of God's design. Here Iyov transitions from saying 'at the point of death I abandon God' to saying 'in the face of death I hold by my faith in God'. (There is also a קרי/כתיב Janus parallelism here, with the כתיב fitting with the preceding passuk, and the קרי goes with the following passuk.)

At the begining of the sefer Iyov is acting as a tzaddik, but he has not developed the personality, outlook, and attitudes of being a tzaddik, so it makes sense that his "name" is still what it was as a child, so the passuk uses the form of איוב שמו.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .