Job 1:20–21—Does this verse teach reincarnation?
Problem: The Bible speaks against the belief in reincarnation (Heb. 9:27). But here Job speaks of a person returning again after he dies.
Solution: Job is not speaking about the “return” of the soul to another body to live again, but of the return of the body to the grave. God told Adam he would “return to the ground” for “dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). And the Hebrew word for “womb” (beten) is used figuratively in Job’s poetic expression of the “earth.” The ideas of “earth” and “womb” are used in Psalm 139, saying, Godformed us in our “mother’s womb” in “the lowest parts of the earth” (vv. 13, 15). Like the ancient Hebrew book of wisdom (Ecclesiasticus 40:1), Job believed that men labor “from the day they come forth from their mother’s womb, till the day they return to the Mother of all [i.e., the womb of the earth].” Likewise, Job used the poetic expression “return there [i.e., to my mother’s womb]” to refer to the earth from which we all come and to which we all return (cf. Ecc. 12:7).
Furthermore, even if one insisted on a literal understanding of this figure of speech, it would not prove reincarnation. It would only show that the person returns to his mothers womb after he dies, which is absurd!
Finally, Job did not believe in reincarnation into another mortal body; he believed in resurrection in an immortal body. He declared: “I know that my redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25–26). He realized that this corruptible flesh would put on incorruptible flesh (cf. 1 Cor. 15:42–44). But reincarnation, by contrast, does not believe we will be raised once in an immortal physical body; it is the belief that the soul will be reincarnated many times into mortal bodies that will die again. So there is no basis for claiming Job believed in reincarnation.
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.