Handout #32: Job, Ketuvim, book setup, themes, key verses, rhetoric, poetry, sarcasm, Uz, boundaries August 2014
The Book of Job-jōbe (Hebrew: אִיוֹב) is one of the Writings (Ketuvim) of the Hebrew Bible, and the first poetical book in the Christian Old Testament. Addressing the theme of God’s justice in the face of human suffering – or more simply, “Why do the righteous suffer?” – it is a rich theological work, setting out a variety of perspectives. It has been widely and often extravagantly praised for its literary qualities.
Job was a rich farmer living in the land of Uz, northeast of Palestine. Some Bible scholars debate whether he was an actual person or legend, but Job is mentioned as an historical figure by Ezekiel (Ezek 14:14, 20) and in James 5:11.
The Book of Job consists of a prose prologue and epilogue narrative framing poetic dialogues and monologues. The author’s name is never given or suggested. The characters: God, Satan, Job, Job’s wife, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, Zophar the Naamathite, and Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite.
How the book is set up:
Prologue : two scenes, the first on earth, the second in heaven (Ch. 1-2); Job’s opening monologue : (Ch. 3) and three cycles of dialogues between Job and his three friends:
First cycle: Eliphaz (Ch. 4-5) and Job’s response (Ch. 6-7), Bildad (8) and Job (9-10), Zophar (11) and Job (12-14)
Second cycle: Eliphaz (15) and Job (16-17), Bildad (18) and Job (19), Zophar (20) and Job (21)
Third cycle: Eliphaz (22) and Job (23-24), Bildad (25) and Job (26-27);
• A Poem to Wisdom (chapter 28),
• Job’s closing monologue (Ch. 29-31),
• Elihu’s speeches (Ch. 32-37); Two speeches by God (Ch. 38:1-40:5 and 40:6-42:6), with Job’s responses;. Epilogue – Job’s restoration (Ch. 42:7-17).
The key question in the book of Job asks: “Can a favored, righteous person hold on to their faith in God when things go wrong?” In a conversation with Satan, God argues that such a person can indeed persevere, and points out his servant Job as an example. God then allows Satan to visit terrible trials upon Job to test him. While suffering is the chief theme of the book, a reason for suffering is not given. Instead, we are told that God is the highest law in the universe and that often his reasons are known only to him.
In a short period of time, marauders and lightning claim all Job’s livestock, then a desert wind blows down a house, killing all of Job’s sons and daughters. When Job keeps his faith in God, Satan afflicts him with painful sores all over his body. Job’s wife urges him to “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) We also learn that an invisible war is raging between the forces of good and evil. Satan sometimes inflicts suffering on human beings in that battle.
Three friends show up, supposedly to comfort Job, but their visit turns into a long theological debate over what caused Job’s suffering. They claim Job is being punished for sin, but Job maintains his innocence. Like us, Job asks, “Why me?”
A fourth visitor, named Elihu, suggests that God may be trying to purify Job through suffering. While Elihu’s counsel is more comforting than that of the other men, it is still only speculation.
Finally, God appears to Job in a storm and gives a stunning account of his majestic works and power. Job, humbled and overwhelmed, acknowledges God’s right as Creator to do whatever he pleases. God is good. His motives are pure, although we may not always understand them. God is in control and we are not. We have no right to give God orders.
God rebukes Job’s three friends and orders them to make a sacrifice. Job prays for God’s forgiveness of them and God accepts his prayer. At the end of the book, God gives Job twice as much wealth as he had before, along with seven sons and three daughters. After that, Job lived 140 more years.
Job 1:9: Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for naught? (If loyalty to God is contingent on His prospering us, our faith will be shallow). Job 2:3
And the Lord said unto Satan, “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth; a perfect and an upright, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? And still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movest me against him, to destroy him without cause.” (Lord reasons with Adversary but admits he agreed to testing him)
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…” (Faith brings hope and allows us to believe in our Salvation)
Job 28:28: The fear of the Lord , that is wisdom;, and to depart from evil is understanding. (All meaningful success in God’s eyes begins with a healthy awe of Him.) Job 40:8
“Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” (Job is asked to examine his deepest feelings about the supremacy of God)
The Book of Job narrates the afflictions that befell a righteous man and discusses the moral problem such sufferings present. Job’s “three friends” discuss with him the meaning of his sufferings; they give their interpretation, that they are a sign of God’s anger and a punishment for sin; but this Job will not admit. Their suggestions wring from him “words without knowledge” (38:2), which he afterwards retracts (42:3); yet Job is declared by God to have spoken the thing that is right concerning the divine government (42:7) in saying that there is a mystery in the incidence of suffering that only a fresh revelation can solve.
Job 32–37 contains the speeches of Elihu, who is shocked at what he regards as impiety on the part of Job, and condemns him, though on different grounds from the “three friends.” His main thesis is that God will “not pervert judgment.” Job makes no reply to him. His own craving for light is satisfied by the vision of God, at length vouchsafed in answer to his appeals. “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee” (42:5). (LDS Bible Dictionary)
The book of Job does not entirely answer the question as to why Job (or any human) might suffer pain and the loss of his goods. It does make it clear that affliction is not necessarily evidence that one has sinned. The book suggests that affliction, if not for punishment, may be for experience, discipline, and instruction (see also D&C 122).
Job’s assurance of the bodily resurrection and his testimony of the Redeemer (19:25–27; see also 2 Ne. 9:4) are one of the high points of the book, equaled only by the revelation of the Lord to him in Job 38–41. The human mind is such that it is essential for Job to have a correct knowledge of God and know that his own course of life was acceptable to God, or he would not have been able to endure the trials that came upon him. His unfailing faith is characterized by such exclamations as, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (13:15). Job is mentioned also inEzek. 14:14; James 5:11; D&C 121:10.
Book of Job is also an investigation of the problem of divine justice. This problem, known in theology as theodicy, can be rephrased as a question: “Why do the righteous suffer?” The conventional answer in ancient Israel was that God rewards virtue and punishes sin (the principle known as “retributive justice” This assumes a world in which human choices and actions are morally significant, but experience demonstrates that suffering cannot be sensibly understood as a consequence of bad choices and actions, and unmerited suffering requires theological candor.
One of the chief virtues of the poetry in Job is its rhetoric. The book’s rhetorical language seeks to produce an effect in the listener rather than communicate a literal idea. God’s onslaught of rhetorical questions to Job, asking if Job can perform the same things he can do, overwhelms both Job and the reader with the sense of God’s extensive power as well as his pride.
Sarcasm is also a frequent rhetorical tool for Job and his friends in their conversation. After Bildad lectures Job about human wisdom, Job sneers, “How you have helped one / who has no power! / How you have assisted the arm / that has no strength!” (26:2). Job is saying that he already knows what Bildad has just explained about wisdom. The self-deprecating tone and sarcastic response are rare elements in ancient verse. Such irony not only heightens the playfulness of the text but suggests the characters are actively responding to each other, thus connecting their seemingly disparate speeches together.
The story of Job also involves food consumption and boundaries. For example, an ideal family is one that eats and feasts together. The extreme ups and downs are experienced by Job’s family. We read he was the “greatest of all the men of the East” (1:3) because of his substance. Part of this evidence is that his sons and daughters would join together for regular meals. When Job loses his children, wealth, social status and physical health, he complains of starvation. Worms are feasting on his decaying flesh (Job 24:20). His wife is repulsed, his brothers loathe him. In the ancient world, to have no food or family or shared mealtime, is to live as a cursed man.
In addressing these kinds of questions, President Spencer W. Kimball said: “Answer if you can. I cannot, for though I know God has a major role in our lives, I do not know how much he causes to happen and how much he merely permits. Whatever the answer to this question, there is another I feel sure about.
“Could the Lord have prevented these tragedies? The answer is, Yes. The Lord is omnipotent, with all power to control our lives, save us pain, prevent all accidents, drive all planes and cars, feed us, protect us, save us from labor, effort, sickness, even from death, if he will. But he will not” (Faith Precedes the Miracle , 96).
According to Ezekiel, Job was one of the three most righteous mortals who ever lived, the others being Noah and Daniel. Job survived a catastrophic destructin of his family, his health, and his wealth. Oral traditions about Job may have been handed down for centuries, but were most likely not written in Hebrew prior to 1000-922 b.c.
Jewish historian Josephus thought Uz was in Aramean or Syrian territories north of Palestine, but it may lay on the border between Edom and Arabia. Eliphaz=Edom. Elihu=from Aramean family
Job not presented as Israelite but exhibited devotion to God and wisdom that Jews admire. He was a figure representing perennial issues faced by people everywhere.
Job exhibited more endurance than patience. James’ advice to wait patiently for the Lord: “Ye have heard of the patience of Job” (Jas 5:11). But a friend chides Job for counseling others to remain calm in times of trouble, but “now it has come upon thee, and thou faintest”… (Job 4:5). Job provides less an example of patience than of tenacity by which he “holdeth fast his integrity” (Job 2:3) under catastrophic personal experiences. So he offers us a model of endurance in faith to overcome the terrors of undeserved suffering.
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