• Job’s Wife

    Well, it happened again. OK, it actually happens nearly every time someone decides to write about the book of Job. Inevitably they take a swipe at Job’s wife for telling Job to “curse God and die”. She’s unfaithful. She’s unhelpful. She’s a tool of the devil, tempting Job to blaspheme. Bad, bad Job’s wife.

    Actually, not bad, bad Job’s wife. Bad, bad us. Seriously. All those dead children? She had carried, birthed and fed them with her body. Job’s lost wealth? That was her wealth as well. Job’s position in the community was her position as well.

    How in the world do we look at a woman who has lost all of her children, her household, her security and standing and condemn her for telling her sick, oozing husband that it would probably be best if he just cursed God and died? What kind of monsters are we?

    I know she’s just a character in a very old story. But still. Can we all agree not to take potshots at Job’s wife anymore?

    BTW, a couple of years ago, I took another look at the book of Job and came to some surprising conclusions about it. If you have any interest in the subject, you can find the series here. Don’t worry, I skipped over the boring parts. ;)

  • daughters

    The Book of Job: The Happy Ending

    This past week I’ve been looking at the last chapters of the Book of Job.  As I said before, these passages have always bothered me because they don’t make sense.  Why would a loving and compassionate God show up and affirm that Job did not bring his suffering on himself and then tell him to sit down and get in line because he’s just a little peon?  And why would Job respond with satisfaction at God’s answer?  So, I went back and re-read these chapters this past summer and realized how much I had been missing.

    The earlier installments are here:

    Book of Job Chapter 38: Guessing

    Book of Job Chapter 39: Our animal friends

    Book of Job Chapters 40-41: Defense!

    So today, we reach the end of the Book of Job.  Chapter 42:

    Then Job replied to the LORD:

    2 “I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
    3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.

    4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.’
    5 My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
    6 Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

    This is usually read as Job saying, “yes God, you are right.  I am a peon and have no cause to complain no matter how much I am suffering.”  But if we look back at what God has actually said, a slightly different picture begins to emerge.

    I believe that God’s message was basically this: “Job, you are right that you do not deserve this and I am here to do for you what you cannot do for yourself: bring down the wicked and foolish who see your destruction as reasons to be proud and contemptuous.  But I did not make you defenseless.  Look at who I made you to be; when you do not understand you imagine things that are sometimes beautiful and true.  You have taken the wild animals I created and found those suitable to your own purposes and made them serve you.  But do not behave like a domesticated animal.  Look at the behemoth who I made along with you – it fights.  You know how – you have imagined for yourself creatures more fierce and untameable than any that walks the earth.  Fight!”

    And Job understood enough of what God was saying to see that sitting in the dirt listening to his friend’s theories and defending himself wasn’t the answer to his problems.  He was in a spiritual fight and he now understood that he needed to fight back.

    Next:

    After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad theShuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.

    This is not only a matter of God reprimanding Job’s friends.  He is actually asking Job to do for his friends what he used to do for his own children.  (See Chapter 1)   God is actually entrusting Job with his friend’s spiritual well being just the way was in the habit of caring for his children’s spiritual well being. In a way, God is both affirming what Job has always done for those in his care and expanding it.

    Next:

    After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver[a]and a gold ring.

    12 The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

    16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.

    There are a couple of things that I want to point out here.  First, God’s primary restoration is spiritual.  When God gave Job twice what he had before, it wasn’t just a physical thing.  Secondly, we can see from Job’s behavior that he continues to go above and beyond in following God spiritually.  In her lovely book Getting Involved With God: Rediscovering the Old Testament, Hebrew scholar Ellen Davis points out several significant things about the ending passage of the Book of Job.  First of all, the names of his daughters and not his sons are listed.  This is never the way it works in scriptures.  Not only are the names listed, but the names are outrageous.  Jemimah is a reference to a beautiful queen of arab folklore.  Keziah is the name of a spice tree used for perfume.  Keren-Happuch is a type of make-up.  It’s like naming your daughters Cinderella, Passion and L’Oreal.  And they were beautiful.  And Job gave them an inheritance along with their brothers which was just as extravagant a gesture as the outrageous names.  Why this particular reaction? I would guess because its a particularly potent way of fighting back the enemy.  Job is a devout man who knows God.  His is a deliberate rejection of a commonly accepted lie of the enemy: that women are less than, worth less and not to be valued as highly as men.  And I love that Job could of no better way to fight back against the enemy with so much force that he will never forget the battle than to honor his girl children.  No wonder God blessed him so greatly!

  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Book Of Job – Defense!

    This is my third installment of a series of posts taking another look at the end of the Book of Job.  (The other two are here and here.)  Today I’m going to look at Chapters 40 and 41 together.

    The LORD said to Job:

    2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
    Let him who accuses God answer him!”

    3 Then Job answered the LORD:

    4 “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
    I put my hand over my mouth.
    5 I spoke once, but I have no answer—
    twice, but I will say no more.”

    6 Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm:

    7 “Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.

    8 “Would you discredit my justice?
    Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
    9 Do you have an arm like God’s,
    and can your voice thunder like his?
    10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
    and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
    11 Unleash the fury of your wrath,
    look at all who are proud and bring them low,
    12 look at all who are proud and humble them,
    crush the wicked where they stand.
    13 Bury them all in the dust together;
    shroud their faces in the grave.
    14 Then I myself will admit to you
    that your own right hand can save you.

    This another one of those passages which we normally read “and God tells Job off”.  But let’s look more closely.  First God asks Job if he would correct God and Job declines. Job doesn’t take back anything he said earlier.  He doesn’t apologize for what he has said.  He just declines and listens.

    Then God tells Job what He (God) is doing and why He (God) is coming down to speak to Job.  Throughout the Book of Job before God appears, Job has been insisting that it was not his own sin that brought this misery upon himself.  He doesn’t claim to be perfect, but he has depended on God’s mercy and forgiveness.  Job was faithful and trusts that there is an explanation for what has happened that doesn’t involve God holding some sin against him.  But Job cannot convince anyone else to see that.  Part of Job’s complaint is that those who do not know or love God are now looking down upon him (Job).  In Job’s downfall the proud find more reason to be proud and the wicked feel even more justified in taking the path of wickedness.  Where once Job’s life and faith had been a reproof to those who were proud and wicked, now that he was in such a miserable, weak and pitiful state, his life and faith looked to the proud and the wicked as evidence that God is not to be trusted.

    God’s questions point to Job’s inability to counter this state of affairs.  Job cannot bring the proud low or destroy the wicked.  He cannot clothe himself in glory.  He cannot defend himself or God.  If he could, then God would not need to come down and do it for him.  You see, God did not appear to defend himself – God does not need to defend himself.  He came down to defend his servant Job.  To do for Job what Job could not do for himself.  And in this defense, God also offers a way forward for Job and others who find themselves on the very edge of destruction:

    “Look at Behemoth,
    which I made along with you
    and which feeds on grass like an ox.
    16 What strength it has in its loins,
    what power in the muscles of its belly!
    17 Its tail sways like a cedar;
    the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.
    18 Its bones are tubes of bronze,
    its limbs like rods of iron.
    19 It ranks first among the works of God,
    yet its Maker can approach it with his sword.
    20 The hills bring it their produce,
    and all the wild animals play nearby.
    21 Under the lotus plants it lies,
    hidden among the reeds in the marsh.
    22 The lotuses conceal it in their shadow;
    the poplars by the stream surround it.
    23 A raging river does not alarm it;
    it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth.
    24 Can anyone capture it by the eyes,
    or trap it and pierce its nose?

    Job 41

    1 [a]“Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
    or tie down its tongue with a rope?
    2 Can you put a cord through its nose
    or pierce its jaw with a hook?
    3 Will it keep begging you for mercy?
    Will it speak to you with gentle words?
    4 Will it make an agreement with you
    for you to take it as your slave for life?
    5 Can you make a pet of it like a bird
    or put it on a leash for the young women in your house?
    6 Will traders barter for it?
    Will they divide it up among the merchants?
    7 Can you fill its hide with harpoons
    or its head with fishing spears?
    8 If you lay a hand on it,
    you will remember the struggle and never do it again!
    9 Any hope of subduing it is false;
    the mere sight of it is overpowering.
    10 No one is fierce enough to rouse it.
    Who then is able to stand against me?
    11 Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
    Everything under heaven belongs to me.

    12 “I will not fail to speak of Leviathan’s limbs,
    its strength and its graceful form.
    13 Who can strip off its outer coat?
    Who can penetrate its double coat of armor[b]?
    14 Who dares open the doors of its mouth,
    ringed about with fearsome teeth?
    15 Its back has[c] rows of shields
    tightly sealed together;
    16 each is so close to the next
    that no air can pass between.
    17 They are joined fast to one another;
    they cling together and cannot be parted.
    18 Its snorting throws out flashes of light;
    its eyes are like the rays of dawn.
    19 Flames stream from its mouth;
    sparks of fire shoot out.
    20 Smoke pours from its nostrils
    as from a boiling pot over burning reeds.
    21 Its breath sets coals ablaze,
    and flames dart from its mouth.
    22 Strength resides in its neck;
    dismay goes before it.
    23 The folds of its flesh are tightly joined;
    they are firm and immovable.
    24 Its chest is hard as rock,
    hard as a lower millstone.
    25 When it rises up, the mighty are terrified;
    they retreat before its thrashing.
    26 The sword that reaches it has no effect,
    nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin.
    27 Iron it treats like straw
    and bronze like rotten wood.
    28 Arrows do not make it flee;
    slingstones are like chaff to it.
    29 A club seems to it but a piece of straw;
    it laughs at the rattling of the lance.
    30 Its undersides are jagged potsherds,
    leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing sledge.
    31 It makes the depths churn like a boiling caldron
    and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.
    32 It leaves a glistening wake behind it;
    one would think the deep had white hair.
    33 Nothing on earth is its equal—
    a creature without fear.
    34 It looks down on all that are haughty;
    it is king over all that are proud.”

    OK, there’s a lot here and I’m not going to go deep into detail.  But I’m going to point out a few things and then I would suggest going back and re-reading this section with these things in mind.

    First, God speaks of the Behemoth.  God says that he made it the same way that he made us.  So, it seems reasonable to think that it’s a real animal.  Based on the description, many people think that it refers to the hippo.  I don’t see anything in the description that contradicts this, so I’m going to assume that it’s a reference to a hippo as well.  A hippo, unlike the other animals that God speaks of in chapter 38 is one that we humans have never come remotely close to domesticating.  As a matter of fact, to this day a hippo is the most dangerous animal in Africa.  It is so dangerous to those who it perceives as a threat that God himself says that he would use a sword to approach the animal.

    After pointing to an animal of His own making, God points to the Leviathan.  Unlike the Behemoth, no one has come up with a credible real-life creature that fits the description of the Leleviathan.  I believe that this is because the Leviathan is not a real creature.  It is one of the mythical creatures that we humans have imagined ourselves.

    As God points out, this creature – a product of our own minds – knows how to respond to attack.  God contrasts the way that his own creation – the Behemoth – and our creation – the Leviathan – respond to threats, attacks and attempts to enslave them to the way we respond to these same things.  When faced with threats, attacks and attempts at capture, we beg and bargain and are even willing to offers ourselves as slaves and pets.  This is the way of the domesticated animal.  But God is saying – look at your own creation, the Leviathan.  We have it in us to envision an animal just as – if not more – difficult to attack, capture and enslave than anything God has created in the physical world.  Everything in creation belongs to God, not just because it belongs to Him, but because it reflects something in himself that he was able to bring forward into a physical reality.  We can’t create a Leviathan in the physical world, but it is a creation that comes out of something in ourselves as well.  God is telling Job and us that we do know what to do to face down an attacker (The Accuser) who would like to capture and enslave us.

    Job knows that he isn’t suffering because of his own sin – both because of his faithfulness and because he knows that God is just as faithful with his mercy and forgiveness.  He knows he is right but he can’t convince anyone else of this reality.  He is sitting on the ground, suffering and being ridiculed.  So God appears to defend Job where he cannot defend himself and also to tell Job how to defend himself.  Fight.  When the enemy attacks, we can’t act like a domesticated animal and become a slave, a beast of burden or a pet.  We were not made to be domesticated by God’s enemy.  When we are attacked, we should fight back in such a way that the Accuser “will remember the struggle and never do it again”.

  • wild donkey

    Book of Job – Looking at our animal friends

    A couple of days ago, I started writing about the ending chapters of the Book of Job.  As I said then, the end of Job has always bothered me.  It doesn’t make sense that this man would lose everything have God show up and go, “who do you think you are?” and then Job would be satisfied and comforted.  It doesn’t make sense for God or for Job to behave in such a way, so I’ve always figured I was missing something.  This summer I re-read the Book of Job and some things I had never noticed before started to stand out, and that’s what I’m going to be sharing here.

    Today we look at Chapter 39.  I’m going to break it into sections to point out a few details.

    “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
    Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
    2 Do you count the months till they bear?
    Do you know the time they give birth?
    3 They crouch down and bring forth their young;
    their labor pains are ended.
    4 Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
    they leave and do not return.

    This strikes me as odd because people in the ancient world were often quite aware of the cycles of life taking place around them.  So it seems quite likely that there would be people in Job’s time who knew when the mountain goat mated and then when it gave birth.  Perhaps because Job’s people were agrarian, they had lost touch with some of this knowledge.  But today, anyone with the money can watch mountain goats mate and give birth on the Discovery channel.  It’s not quite the great mystery most of us assume when first reading this.  I think that perhaps this passage isn’t about some secret knowledge God has, but is pointing to the differences between parenting as a mountain goat vs parenting as a human.  When a woman gives birth, her physical labor pains end, but the labor of raising children to maturity and beyond is only started.  Our children do not leave and not return in most cases.  IOW, although our cycles of life are shared by other parts of creation, they are not the same.  God could also be pointing to the very wild cousins of the goats that were kept by humans.

    5 “Who let the wild donkey go free?
    Who untied its ropes?
    6 I gave it the wasteland as its home,
    the salt flats as its habitat.
    7 It laughs at the commotion in the town;
    it does not hear a driver’s shout.
    8 It ranges the hills for its pasture
    and searches for any green thing.

    Of course, no one set the wild donkey free.  It was created free.  We domesticated donkeys, and their wild cousins live as they always have.  But wild donkeys have their homes, away from where others would want to dwell and they’re happy there.  He pays no attention to us and doesn’t envy the domesticated donkey his life.

    9 “Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
    Will it stay by your manger at night?
    10 Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness?
    Will it till the valleys behind you?
    11 Will you rely on it for its great strength?
    Will you leave your heavy work to it?
    12 Can you trust it to haul in your grain
    and bring it to your threshing floor?

    Again, God brings up an animal that humans domesticated and points to its still wild cousins.  While we have oxen who do our bidding, their wild cousins will not.  When someone needs heavy work done, he acquires an oxen from the stock of domesticated animals, but would not go out into the wild to acquire an ox.  When we put our hands on God’s creation, we change it.  But those parts of God’s creation that we don’t touch remain as they were created – beyond our control.

    13 “The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
    though they cannot compare
    with the wings and feathers of the stork.
    14 She lays her eggs on the ground
    and lets them warm in the sand,
    15 unmindful that a foot may crush them,
    that some wild animal may trample them.
    16 She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
    she cares not that her labor was in vain,
    17 for God did not endow her with wisdom
    or give her a share of good sense.
    18 Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
    she laughs at horse and rider.

    I think that part of what God may be pointing to here is that sometimes we are envious of the freedom and wild beauty of a wild animal such as an ostrich.  We may even be awed by a creature that seems more amazing to our eyes than ourselves.  But God points out, this is also a creature that doesn’t care for her young.  She has not been given wisdom or good sense such as we have and for all of the ostrich’s power and speed, she cannot share God’s concerns for her offspring that binds us humans together and is intrinsic to what makes us image bearers.  Also, I’m not sure about ancient times, but I do know that ostriches are farmed – domesticated – in places today.  But again, messing with a wild ostrich is both difficult and dangerous.

    19 “Do you give the horse its strength
    or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?
    20 Do you make it leap like a locust,
    striking terror with its proud snorting?
    21 It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,
    and charges into the fray.
    22 It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
    it does not shy away from the sword.
    23 The quiver rattles against its side,
    along with the flashing spear and lance.
    24 In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground;
    it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
    25 At the blast of the trumpet it snorts, ‘Aha!’
    It catches the scent of battle from afar,
    the shout of commanders and the battle cry.

    The horse is another animal we domesticated.  Interestingly, God points to the horse’s role in battle when speaking of horses.  What is described here is behavior that isn’t prevalent in wild horses.  It took human domestication and training to bring this aspect of the animal’s nature to the forefront.

    26 “Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom
    and spread its wings toward the south?
    27 Does the eagle soar at your command
    and build its nest on high?
    28 It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night;
    a rocky crag is its stronghold.
    29 From there it looks for food;
    its eyes detect it from afar.
    30 Its young ones feast on blood,
    and where the slain are, there it is.”

    There are two things I see taking place here.  First, hawking is a very ancient practice.  Some hawks really did (and sometimes still do) take flight by our instructions and head south (or where ever they have been directed).  But again, their wild cousins are well beyond our control.  Probably in part because they do build their nests in such inaccessible places.  And yet, even the wildest and freest of creatures – the eagle – does not fail to be affected by our activities.  Unlike the raven and their young from the end of the last chapter who go about on the ground crying out to God because there is nothing to eat, the eagles on the cliff and their young are fed whenever and where ever we go to war.  Or even when we just leave our own meat unattended!

    So, there are a few general observations to be made.  God doesn’t point to strange and unfamiliar animals here.  Even the mountain goat of the first section has a domesticated corollary.  God gave us dominion over the animals and their domestication is part of what we have done with that.  Perhaps God is saying that work done by his hands is wild, dangerous and free while work done by our hands captures the aspects of an animal’s nature that serves our needs.  It is almost like God created and we harvested what we needed.  God creates the wild and we create the domesticated.  I also notice that the last two animals are spoken of in relation to humans going to war.  Perhaps this is a subtle comparison between God who doesn’t always provide for the hungry lions or ravens and us who kill each other directly.  And again, like in the last chapter, there does seem to be a level of respect given from God to what men have done.  By the time of Job the secrets to animal domestication were probably lost to time – perhaps they were even given to Adam and Eve when they were given dominion over the animals.  There seems to be a sense of awe that should come not just from God’s wild creation, but also from what man has been able to do with it.  We are more powerful than we realize.

  • K1.1Zeus

    Book of Job: It’s a guessing game

    A couple of years ago I started blogging about the Book of Job, thinking I would blog through the whole thing.  Thankfully, God called me off that task because I now think that I was headed in the wrong direction.  However, I have always been puzzled by God’s words to Job and Job’s response to them.  They just never made sense to me.  Job didn’t claim to be perfect, just faithful and his whole life has been taken from him and a kind and compassionate God shows up and says, “who do you think you are, you little peon?” and Job is satisfied.  Whaaaa?

    However, this summer, I re-read the Book of Job and saw some things there that I hadn’t previously seen.  So, I’m going to go through the last couple of chapters of Job and share what I see.  Today I’m going to look at Job 38:

    The LORD Speaks

    1Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

    2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?
    3 Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.

    4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
    5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
    6 On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
    7 while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?

    8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
    when it burst forth from the womb,
    9 when I made the clouds its garment
    and wrapped it in thick darkness,
    10 when I fixed limits for it
    and set its doors and bars in place,
    11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
    here is where your proud waves halt’?

    12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
    or shown the dawn its place,
    13 that it might take the earth by the edges
    and shake the wicked out of it?
    14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
    its features stand out like those of a garment.
    15 The wicked are denied their light,
    and their upraised arm is broken.

    16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
    17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
    Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
    18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know all this.

    19 “What is the way to the abode of light?
    And where does darkness reside?
    20 Can you take them to their places?
    Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
    21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
    You have lived so many years!

    22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
    or seen the storehouses of the hail,
    23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
    for days of war and battle?
    24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
    or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
    25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
    and a path for the thunderstorm,
    26 to water a land where no one lives,
    an uninhabited desert,
    27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
    and make it sprout with grass?
    28 Does the rain have a father?
    Who fathers the drops of dew?
    29 From whose womb comes the ice?
    Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
    30 when the waters become hard as stone,
    when the surface of the deep is frozen?

    31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
    Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
    32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
    or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
    33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
    Can you set up God’sdominion over the earth?

    34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds
    and cover yourself with a flood of water?
    35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
    Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
    36 Who gives the ibis wisdom
    or gives the rooster understanding?
    37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
    Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
    38 when the dust becomes hard
    and the clods of earth stick together?

    39 “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
    and satisfy the hunger of the lions
    40 when they crouch in their dens
    or lie in wait in a thicket?
    41 Who provides food for the raven
    when its young cry out to God
    and wander about for lack of food?

    The first thing that stood out to me about this chapter was how much of it is based on human’s imaginative explanations for how the world works.  I won’t go through them all, but there is the waters of the earth coming from the womb, lightening being shot off by hand, constellations, water jars in heaven, storehouses where snow and hail are kept, places where the sun and the darkness reside, etc.  All of these things are our own imaginative explanations for phenomena that humanity didn’t have real explanations for.

    So part of what I hear God saying here is: “all of your best explanations are just guesses.”  Which I think we all need to remember.  More often than not, we don’t really know what’s going on.  We’re just creating explanations for ourselves that hopefully honor God and reflect some portion of what is really going on. But we’re just guessing.

    It is interesting to me that most of the mythology referred to comes from other ancient near-eastern religions and not the Hebrew religion.  Perhaps God is laying claim to all of the work that other religions attribute to a multitude of Gods.  I also think that it shows a level of respect from God towards humanity.  He knows perfectly well that the things he is talking about aren’t actually how the world works, but we humans had created some very beautiful, poetic descriptions which God seems quite willing to accept from us.  It kind of reminds me in the book of Acts when Paul quotes pagan poetry to explain the reality of God.

    The other element I see here is God pointing to unpleasant realities that we humans don’t want to deal with.  He ends by asking who feeds starving animals and their young.  The pat answer is God does.  Except when he doesn’t.  Because sometimes there is no prey for the lioness and the lion goes hungry.  And sometimes even the raven does not have food for their children.  This is the world that we live in.  We humans with our big brains and imaginations who think up wonderous ideas about how the world is run live in the same world with the animals who sometimes starve to death.  And we can only guess how God is working out His purposes in it.

    Tomorrow: what the animals have to teach us.

  • Funny Thing About Job

    As many readers here know, I’m doing a study of the Book of Job. (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter3)  I’ve had several comments saying, “I love the Book of Job too.”  Here’s the funny thing though: I don’t really like the Book of Job.  Never have.  The repetative poetry used in the book makes it rather tedious for me to read.  Plus, the idea that God would just play games with a man like that is odious to me.  And responding to his protestations with a long “who do you think you are?” speech isn’t the most endearing portrait of God around.  So, while I have read the book a couple of times, it has always been near the bottom of my list of favorite books in the bible.  I actually got more from Leviticus or even Numbers than the Book of Job.

    However, I happened to come across a couple of things recently which made me take a second look.  Which I really needed to do anyways.  My experience with studying scripture is that those things which make the least sense or seem the most wrong are often markers for where our understanding gives out.  If we approach them in prayer, the Spirit will reveal things we just didn’t know were there.  That’s what has prompted my study of Job, actually.  Who knows?  Maybe when I’m done I’ll actually be able to say, “I love the Book of Job too!”  Stranger things have happened. ;)

  • Book of Job Chapter 3: Ever Wanted to Die?

    Chapter 1 here

    Chapter 2 here

    At the start of Chapter 3 of The Book of Job, we find Job, having sat in silence with his 3 friends for 7 days, ready to talk. (Text of Chapter 3 here.) What comes out of his mouth is one of the more heartbreaking of the laments found in scriptures. Job does not curse God or Satan or even his misfortune. Rather, it is his very existence which is the subject of his lament.

    One of the notable things about Chapter 3 is that it is where the Book of Job ceases to be a narrative story and becomes an extended series of poems. We are of course reading a translation which can make it hard for us to appreciate the poetry involved. In addition, Hebrew poetry uses something called parallelism where an idea is stated and then restated. This can happen between lines, within lines, between stanzas or withing stanzas. For example, verse 17: “There the wicked cease from troubling, there the weary are at rest” is an example of parallelism within a line. We can see it in the repetition of the sentence structure and the repetition of the first word of each phrase. There is also a pairing relationship between the wicked and the weary and ceasing from trouble and being at rest (ceasing to be troubled).

    People with more patience and attention to detail than I have/can spend oodles of time teasing out these structures and themes. For the rest of us, however, the result is often that the text becomes repetative and we can get so caught up in the flow that we lose track of what is going on. Like I said, I am not a good detail person, so having to wade through a bunch of lines which repeat themselves with variations over and over again is not my cup of tea. I have found it helpful to look at these sections as what they are: poems. I try to break the poem into thematic sections which are usually composed of the same or similar number of lines. For this chapter, it looks like this: Continue reading

  • Book of Job Chapter 2: Lowering the Boom

    Well, I figured I would pick up my slow-mo study of the Book of Job again tonight. (Here’s my take on Chapter 1.) Tonight we’ll look at Chapter 2. (Text of Chapter 2 here.)

    Chapter 2 starts with a repeat of the scene from Chapter 1 with a gathering before God at which Satan appears. Once again, God points out Job’s integrity – this time in the face of enormous suffering.

    One of the challenges of the Book of Job is God’s complicity in Job’s suffering. As I said in my comments on Chapter 1, God not only allows Satan to visit tragedy on Job, but He actually offers Job up as a target for this treatment. This doesn’t sit well at all with our understanding of God as a protective force for His people. This difficult state of affairs continues in Chapter 2. Here we find an oddly worded sentence which points both to the fact that God is manipulating Satan and that He is willing to take responsibility for causing Job’s suffering. Verse 3 says, “you incited me against him to ruin him without cause”. The Netbible translates “incite me” as “stirred me up”. This is a rather odd thing to say as it was God who actually provoked Satan’s desire to ruin (lit “swallow up”) Job. But, like a manager who allows an employee to think their new assignment was their own idea, God allows Satan to think that he rather than God is in control of this situation. The other odd thing about the sentence is the imprecise pronouns which obscure who is bringing about ruin. God does not say, “you incited me against him so that you could ruin him without cause.” Rather, by simply saying “to ruin him”, God leaves open the possibility that it is not Satan, but God who has brought Job to ruin. In which case, Satan is merely the tool by which God has done this work. Satan, of course misses this distinction (as do most of us, come to think of it).

    Now, I do know that I am treading in some ugly territory here. Continue reading

  • Chapter 1: Job gets screwed

    I am studying the book of Job for a bit, so I figured I would share what I am seeing as I go through it here. Please know that this is not going to be a comprehensive study of Job, and that my ideas are just my ideas. I do have some odd ideas about things but they work for me. Perhaps there will be something of use which you can take away as well.

    We start with what I think is one of the most confounding parts of this book. In Chapter 1 we have Job who is an upstanding man, successful, and God fearing. And God hands him over to Satan for no discernible reason. I believe that we have so sanitized our reading of scriptures that we frequently pass over the most awful, problematic things with nary a glance. It’s like acknowledging how bad and just WRONG some parts of the stories in scriptures are poses a threat to our faith. However, if part of our faith includes a trust in a good and loving God, than part of our faith must include taking what is plainly wrong to God for an explanation. And I’m so sorry, but on its face, God handing Job over to Satan to be crushed and ruined for no reason other than to prove his faithfulness is just wrong. WRONG.

    So, we dig a bit deeper and take it to God and a slightly different picture emerges. Continue reading