For the past week or so I have been reading deeply into Job. For the benefit of those who don’t know, I have been reading the Christian Bible itself, in various translations, and commentaries .. over 300 pages worth .. on the subject of the Book of Job. Oh, I know, in the scheme of things, its not a lot of pages, but it was enough to confirm that when I had read this book before, I hadn’t actually read the words incorrectly, nor I had jumped to any conclusions about either Job, nor God’s, behaviour.
To lay down the usual guidelines, for those new to my site, I am not a fundamentalist Christian, but having spent years arguing with them about their concept of the Bible being the literal truth, without errors, additions or contradictions, I gave into the voice in my heart that said I had to start asking questions. And I still am. I have questions .. and in this case, I have comments as well.
Job is one of the reasons why people turn away from God. I have NO idea how this book got into the Bible, although, I suppose, it could be for the very good explanations of what God ‘is’. On one hand he’s supposed to be wonderful, protective, loving .. and on the other we see Satan and He have a dispassionate discussion on what a good man Job is, and how much he deserves to be punished for it? Umm… Yes, God gave Satan permission to punish Job in any way it wanted, except to kill the man. If God is the God of Love, you would have thought he’d have applied that same protection to Job’s ten children, and an unnumbered group of ‘servants’, all who were murdered in the name of ‘testing’ Job’s faith. What the heck did it have to do with all those innocent people? And why, from one brief appearance, is Job’s wife seen as appalling, when she would have been devastated as well, by the loss of her children, if nothing else .. or should we believe that she had about as much ‘love’ for them, as God did?
I went into the Book looking for the reason that God treated Job the way he did. I read diligently and carefully, right to the last page, looking for one word of explanation, or one ‘it was a test’, or ‘it was a mistake’ or even ‘sorry’, from God to Job .. and what did I see instead .. God’s pomposity – blustering comments like ‘will you condemn me that you may be justified’ (as Job was perfectly entitled to do), said in a way that showed God thought Job had no right?
How about ‘have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his’? Hang on a minute, who is actually speaking there? This is not God, to talk about himself in such a disassociated way. Interesting. And then there’s what he actually said .. what the heck does having an arm, or a big voice, have to do with anything that happened to Job? I don’t remember reading anything about Job trying to outshout God? And what the heck has God’s ability to ‘draw out Leviathan with a fishhook’ have to do with God’s mistake in giving Job and his family over to Satan. Satan (the word meaning adversary) was God’s enemy, so why did God feel any need to hand over one of his ‘blameless and upright’ followers into its hands? And while we are on the subject of questions, who was Job anyway? He was not an Israelite, coming, as it states, from the Land of Uz. So what is a non-Israelite story doing in the Jewish Bible, and then the Christian one?
And this straight off the top of my head, before I even look at the pages of notes I took during the reading … Let’s go over to the notes.
It appears that Job was written in three parts over two or three hundred years between the 7th and 4th centuries, although the story itself comes from a much later time (NOAB 2010 p726). It is divided into Chapters 1-2 & 42:7-17, 3:1-31:37 and 38:1-42:6). Elihu (Chapter 32-37) is said to be a much later addition, as a commentary from someone who didn’t like what Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite (also not Israelites) had to say. (Hmm.. no additions – but then we don’t know when it happened.) My commentary explained that there was a striking similarity of ‘form and content’ between Job and the text known as the Babylonian Theodicy (C1000BCE). Perhaps that’s where the Jewish folk got the story from to start with, and then adapted it, without thinking it through very well?
Thoughts like this sprang to my mind – Job’s kids were killed by a loving and trusting God because Job trusted God too much. He ‘knew’ that God might turn on him (2:10), but he continued to be a devout and pious follower, and took time to make sacrifices for his children, for their protection ‘just in case’ they might break one of God’s commandments. Definitely the sort of person God should ‘test’, just in case all that piousness and good nature was a huge facade?
And then there were his kids. Job obviously ‘owned’ them but not his wife, since everything Job owned was either stolen or murdered. I am sure his wife was very relieved that God spared her. I wonder if she really hated God, or if she was being tested too, not just by losing her children, but by the obvious ‘insanity’ of her husband, as he sat in the ‘ashes’ of his life and continued to Love God. She was one very strong lady not to have cracked sooner.
The acts of Satan in God’s name:
Murder seven sons and three daughters – creations of God.
Murder an unnumbered group of servants of Job as well as a huge number of various sorts of stock – all creations of God.
Incite various tribes that were not Israelites to do the deeds
Interfere in the natural weather patterns to cause the damage
Then strike Job with loathsome sores after requesting permission from God a second time.
Why didn’t Satan get punished for the first misdeeds when in chapter 2 God decided to blame It for inciting Him to ‘ruin Job without reason’? No, God went on to let him do it again, with the sores. I have to wonder why God decided to allow this ‘test’ in the first place? I guess he didn’t appreciate getting caught? Job had identified Him as the assailant without knowing it to be true in 6:4, but it wasn’t divine anger that had caused Job such harm. No, instead it seems to be simply God’s indifference to the physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of one of his true believers. That was bad enough to start with, but .. why allow Satan to continue to torment Job after Job remained steadfast in his faith? What sort of monster is God, and why did he hate Job so much? I can’t find an answer to that question. It seems God didn’t hate Job at all. He was just ‘testing’. And if he will ‘test’ one truly faithful person in this way, the rest of us had better be very, very careful .. but .. back to the book.
By not cursing God (Job 2:9), for inflicting this unjustified punishment upon him, Job showed he had true integrity. His wife thought he should curse God and just die. Why does that make her a villain? I think it makes her human. She didn’t understand what Job had done to deserve such punishment, and she thought he should follow societal norms and react – but we know he had not done anything .. so who is the villain .. no, not Satan. Satan acted for God. Satan could have refused to, but why should he, he is humanity’s enemy too. God should never have allowed this ‘test’ to happen in the first place. In my opinion God proved itself unworthy of Job’s love and trust in doing do. Job stands in his integrity, for me, no matter how angry he gets later. It was justified.
And then we have the irony of calling to God for help in 5:8-21.
There is obviously going to be a part 2 to this blog .. so more soon,
Love & Peace