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BOOK OF JOB

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Analysis of Book of Job from both a religious and historical viewpoint. Emphasis on ethical issues relevant to the time period.
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   1 The Book of Job is not simply a story, but a fable, rich with meaning and lessons to be learned. It is a poem with seminal meaning, whether one interprets it literally or figuratively. It is rich in meaning, didactic poetry in nature which some call the “m ost profound and literary work of the entire Old Testament” (McKenzie, 1965, p.440). Essentially, the story relates the trials of Job, a devout man of God, at the hands of Satan, and his theological discussions with various archetypal characters on the srcins and nature of his suffering, and finally a response from God. The poem attempts to address a basic problem for humanity  –   the problem of good versus evil  –   how one should reconcile the existence of evil/suffering in a world of goodness created by God (Janzen, 1985). Indeed, this type of question has been tackled by numerous cultures, showing that it is central to the way humans interpret the divine. Certainly, Philoctetes and his exile have numerous parallels to Job, 1  and other cultures ascribe the generic affinities of the Job tale by showing a character of virtue that evokes certain aspects of the questioning all humans view as central  –   what is evil and why does the Divine allow evil to occur? (Newsom, 2009, pp.40-41). 2  Often depicted as a righteous, forgiving, and loving character, God is portrayed as a malevolent, indifferent, and an unwarranted individual in The Book of Job. The book, itself, shows another side to God, in which many readers have not seen when reading other scriptures or text from the bible. God gambles with Satan throughout the text and Job is the one to pay the  price of such a wager. When faced with such hardships, Job cries out to God because he seeks answers and understanding on why such things have happened to him. God proves to be 1   Homer’s  Iliad; Plays by Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides. http://www.temple.edu/classics/philoctetes.html  2  See the rather lengthy discussion in Newsom regarding the universality of the Job Story, why it is popular among writers, why there are similarities in prose, rhythm, and tone/timbre.   2 overbearing and self-absorbed when he finally answers. God's willingness to make a wager with Satan, his inability to comfort Job, and his explanation to Job when he finally answers, shows a side of God that initially appears malevolent, indifferent, and an unwarranted character in this text. Additionally, we must remember that the Satan in the story is not the Satan that emerges in the Middle Ages. This Satan is still part of the celestial court, and makes the wager simply out of doubt, not necessarily an evil, predetermined, malevolence (Ginzberg, 2004, p.148). Briefly, Job was a righteous man who lived in Uz with his seven sons and three daughters. He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yokes of oxen, five hundred donkeys and many slaves. 3  Each year, he held a banquet where Job would have each of his children purified, for fear that they might have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. On the day that the angels came to attest before God, God pointed out to the accusing angel (Satan) how righteous and respectful Job was to Him. Satan claimed that Job's actions and character srcinated with evil and self-serving motives: Job is so righteous and respectful  because he has no reason to act otherwise, but if God were to give him hardship, he would curse the name of the Lord. Satan challenges God to test Job, and God accepts. Here, we see Satan  prodding the Lord, who is supposed to be almighty and knowledgeable about everything, into testing one of his faithful servants for no reason other than to prove his loyalty (Mitchell, 1994). 4   3  Put into modern terms, Job was a multi-millionaire; what would he do with so many beasts of burden; and is it not interesting to note that Job, a man of goodness, kept slaves? See a fascinating historical view of this, a reprint of a  book written in the 19 th  century: Barnes, Albert. (1849).  Notes, Critical, Illustrative, and Practical on the Book of  Job . Abe Books, cited in: http://books.google.com/books?id=CZ0sAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA115&dq=book+of+job+and+slavery&ei=hhqFSo- jH4POlQT23YT_CQ#v=onepage&q=&f=false  4  This tends to explain why God sometimes strikes down the righteous for no apparent reason, but it also makes us question whether or not God truly has our best interest at heart. God seems to have the character of a small child here, wanting to uphold his name, to show Satan that he can too prove that Job is faithful.   3 God, being omnipotent, cannot be tricked; so anything he removes from Job is simply to allow the moral question of good and evil  –     but how is God “good” by making someone suffer? Does God need to prove a point to Satan  –    how does that engender Satan’s supposed influence and power? And, did Job actually “do” anything to cause suffering?  On Earth, Job was stricken with misfortune. All his children died of one tragedy or another, his animals were either stolen or struck by lightning. Job did not curse God, he rationalized the act, what God gives, and He can also take away. God bragged to Satan about how faithful and righteous Job remained. Again, Satan pushed God on, claiming that Job was still faithful and righteous because he had not been affected directly by God's test. He persuades God to test Job once more. This time, Job's health is destroyed in a most horrifying form. - Job is covered in boils from head to toe so badly, that he uses a piece of broken pottery to scratch off the dead flesh. At this point, Job's faith in the Lord is tested by his wife, who wondered why he is still so faithful to God. As we all know, the hardest part of faith is to believe when others around you do not, and can convince you that they are right while you are wrong. Still, Job rebuked his wife and refused to sin. Job had three friends: Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Namathite. These three friends heard of what happened to Job and came to offer their sympathy and grief. After about a week of prayers, Job finally broke down and cursed the day he was born. He wondered why life should be given to a person who desires only death, who has ceased to find any value in life, who has lost all hope of escape from continuous terror and torment. His friends answer him in a series of three rounds, the first being the most significant of the three (Ibid). Eliphaz answered him first, saying that Job helped others with encouraging words but now that the tables are turned, he impatiently gave up. The righteous living that he had in the   4  past should sustain him through his trials now. No man is ever capable of a totally righteous relationship with God; it is a cycle of sin and forgiveness. Job's resentment of discipline is very unwise, for God will not change your circumstances and a stubborn refusal to learn from them will result in death. The source of the problem is not man's circumstances, but his heart. Eliphaz says that Job should look to God for deliverance. God does astonishing things, He helps those who are hurt and oppressed but destroys the corrupt. He tells Job to accept God's discipline, he will learn from it and then God will bless him in many ways. Job argued that his complaint is  justifiable, and if Eliphaz would comprehend his anguish, then he would understand that what God had done to him was wrong. Job does not accept Eliphaz's view that he must have sinned and feels that his speech was inappropriate for the circumstances. Job wishes God would give him death, so he could die with the consolation that he had remained faithful to God all the way to the end. What other hope does he have? Why should he wait quietly for something to happen, when all his belongings and loved ones had been destroyed? Job also feels that Eliphaz has failed in his obligations toward him as a friend, because he doubts Job in his time of need. Job asks Eliphaz to point out his errors, to look at his sincerity and not to accuse him without giving good cause (Sutherland, 2006). Job asks why God treats him like an enemy, why He will not even let sleep ease his pain. Job asks why God is focusing so much attention on him. Even if he did sin, it would not have hurt Him. So why not, in that case, show mercy and forgive him? Once he dies, it would be too late to do so. Bildad's answers him by saying that God does not distort what is right. Job's children died because of sin. If Job repents, God will not give him death but blessings beyond imagination. Repents of what? Job believes he is without sin. Job agrees that God does not  pervert justice but does not understand how he can demonstrate his righteousness to Him. Job
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