Saturday, March 21, 2009

Job 42:7

I had a discussion with a friend earlier tonight about whether or not God causes pain, punishment, and generally bad things to happen or whether or not he lets things happen. It was basically about one of the Christian Science beliefs which states: "No. Christian Science does not involve pleading with God to heal the sick and then accepting His will, good or bad. Nothing in Christian Science theology says it’s God’s will that anyone suffer, be sick, or die. Christian Science shows God to be entirely good, and therefore His will for each individual is only health and life."

This caused me to look back at Job and what my professor had once taught us in my religion class while at TCU. Particularly the verse Job 42:7.

Here's my professors reasoning. During that time, pain and punishment was built on the principle of "retributive theology" that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked, period. But Job seems to be the opposite.

First of all, beginning in Job 1:1 God refers to Job as perfect and upright, blameless and righteous. That there is no one like him in all the earth. That he avoids evil and that he has seven sons, three daughters and he is the "greatest of all the men in the east" so he's wealthy.

Then satan enters heaven..."satan's", my professor believes, role is to find the righteous and bring their name to God so that God could test them. Not so sure about this particular reasoning, although it does say in Job 2:1 that the "angels came to present themselves before the LORD and Satan also came with them". So my professor's reasoning is that this is not Lucifer but, an angel that belonged there. That's where my professor was coming from. But, I digress.

So, by this time, Job has already suffered once. And, God says to satan have you considered Job...he tells Satan! Weird...and then God says "And he still maintains his integrity though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason" 2:3. So why did God, who declared that Job was righteous and upright and blameless, do this? Still something that makes me ponder. Actually, the first time that I questioned the character of God.

Then comes Job's three friends: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. All three say things such as repent, face your sins, confess, God is just, you're a sinner, humans are worms and maggots, humans are impure and unrighteous, the innocent never suffer. And Job says that he's blameless, that he's innocent, that he wants God to be his mediator, his vindicator and redeemer for these wrongs. Job then says that God is the hunter and he is the target 10:2-10,16 and that God has a bullseye on Job and uses him for target practice 16:11-13. Pretty harsh statements.

Following me?

Then in the epilogue, God speaks and poses many questions. And then God says to Eliphaz "I am angry with you and your two friends because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has" 42:7. Really? So every strong statement that Job used before was correct?? God really was the lion and Job really was his prey? What?

Yet, Job repents and says "Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes". I do find it interesting that the word "repent" here in this verse that means to be sorry, to console, to avenge is only found in the old testament. It changes meaning in the new testament to "repent" meaning to think differently and to turn away.

So, my professor says that God becomes Job's redeemer. He restores everything Job lost, doubles it.

WHAAAAAAT? It's all VERY confusing to me. So, God lets these bad things happen to Job for no reason? And in fact at one point he points Job out to "Satan"? But then avenges Job in the end and says that he is still right and spoke right about God? Is the whole point that retributive theology is not always true? That God is above cause and effect and all reason? Or what is the point?

I read up on some other commentaries just to take a look. Here are the links: and this one I like In particular, I like that this second author explains why Job repented. That he was correct in his argument against his friends and their false theories, but that he took it to the extreme.

So, all in all I'm confused -- haha, to say the least. And if you read through this mish mash, you're probably confused by what I'm trying to say! Sorry, it's almost 2:30 in the morning and I'm tired.

What are your thoughts? Offer other interpretations that I'm just not seeing?


Kristi said...

You have hit on the most confusing story in the bible to me. I have never understood this. I made a comment about God being accomodating to my mom last week, and she told me "He let all of Job's family get killed. Every one of them. I don't see the compassion and love in that!" And i had no retort. I've read that story and was mortified by what I read. I would love to hear more commentary on it. i'd love to understand it, because I too read that God suggested Job to Satan. That goes against the character of God that we hear about.

Naida Lee said...

maybe God was saying, "i can do whatever the hell i want!" HAHHAA... okay, probably not. maybe he was wanting to piss satan off b/c he knew Job would stay faithful? i have no idea... i guess that's one of those things we'll have to go ask him ourself when we die. hahaha.

Jeff said...

I could throw out some ideas about Job being a poetry book (It is included in the so called "wisdom literature" like the Psalms and Proverbs).

There are also some who say that Job is a poetic disclosure in human terms (a finite understanding) of the cosmic, spiritual battle that takes place every day, and not a literal transcription of what happened. Only the broadest themes can be taken from its story (like the book of the Revelation).

But all those will probably sound hollow in your current state. However, I will recommend two books: Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey and Making Sense Out of Suffering by Peter Kreeft.

Here are the links:

I have struggled with the very things you are talking about. I still do. But these two books, more than anything else, have helped me. I have considered doing a study of the Kreeft book...

Check them out and let me know what you think.

FHL_Always said...

Here's more commentary that I found...alas on but it's cited.

"God's speech also emphasizes his sovereignty in creating and maintaining the world. The thrust is not merely that God has experiences that Job does not, but also that God is King over the world and is not necessarily subject to questions from his creatures, including men. The point of these speeches, and ultimately the entire book of Job, is to defend the absolute freedom of God over his creation. God is not in need of the approval of his creation. He is free. Furthermore, Job's lack of knowledge and the ability to see the world as God does prevents him from fully understanding God's reasons for allowing Job's suffering."

"In the epilogue, God condemns Job's friends for their ignorance and lack of understanding while admonishing Job for his righteous words, commands them to prepare burnt offerings and reassures them that Job will pray for their forgiveness."

" There is some question as to whether this is "Satan" as the proper name for "Satan" is not used, but rather, a better translation is "The Satan". So, the question is whether this is some other demonic accuser or "Satan", the proper named Lucifer who was in charge of the rebellion.

The dialogue that ensues, characterize Satan as that member of the divine council who watches over human activity, but with the purpose of searching out men's sins and appearing as their accuser. He is, as it were, a celestial "prosecutor", who sees only iniquity; for he persists in his evil opinion of Job even after the man of Uz has passed successfully through his first trial by surrendering to the will of God, whereupon Satan demands another test through physical suffering (Job 2:3–5). Satan challenges God by saying that Job's belief is only built upon what material goods he is given, and that his faith will disappear as soon as they are taken from him. God accepts the challenge."

"While "the adversary" is equated with the Angel of Death, he is generally considered to be the adversary of humanity rather than God, and he is often shown obeying the will of God." That I found EXTREMELY interesting! Kinda follows along with my former professor's reasoning.

"The Talmud (Tractate Bava Basra 15a-b) maintains that the Book of Job was written by Moses, although the Sages dispute whether it was based on historical reality or intended as a parable. " That's what you were kinda saying Jeff. It is didactic poetry surrounded by prose at the beginning and end.

I liked Philip Yancey's site! Didn't have enough time to check out Kreeft's site yet.

Kristi said...

Jeff's been threatening to teach on suffering for 3 years. . . .

Naida Lee said...

funny... my friend just sent me a book titled, "When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferigns Matter to the Almighty". haha.

luke said...

While we're suggesting books, I'll suggest some by C.S. Lewis:

In The Problem of Pain, he tackles the Job question head-on, and brings all of his theological intellect to bear on it.

Then, A Grief Observed is more like a refined journal he wrote just after his wife died - but it's dripping with his theology.

As for me, I'm with Jeff for the most part - I think it's important to understand the context of Job as a poetic parable trying to address its culture's retributive theology. As with Revelation, sometimes we concentrate on the individual trees at the expense of seeing the forest, when it's important to examine both.

And I find one of Lewis's other analogies (found in Chapter 3 of Mere Christianity) the most comforting in explaining human suffering in light of a good God's authority ...

"... anyone who has been in authority knows how a thing can be in accordance with your will in one way and not in another. It may be quite sensible for a mother to say to the children, "I'm not going to go and make you tidy the schoolroom every night. You've got to learn to keep it tidy on your own." Then she goes up one night and finds the Teddy bear and the ink and the French Grammar all lying in the grate. That is against her will. She would prefer the children to be tidy. But on the other hand, it is her will which has left the children free to be untidy. The same thing arises in any regiment, or trade union, or school. You make a thing voluntary and then half the people do not do it. That is not what you willed, but your will has made it possible.

It is probably the same in the universe. God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata - of creatures that worked like machines - would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.

Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently He thought it worth the risk."

Saint said...

Job is always a fun one to ponder on and have a brief WTF moment. In regards to the Satan part, I have no qualms with it being "the" Satan. He seems to take the same role as is mentioned in other stories, that of tempting humans to turn away and seek themselves (ala Garden of Eden). The bit of logic the wikipedia article seems to miss is that to go all out against humanity, to say what a crap creation it is, is to question God's Plan. And to sit there and show how fallacious it is, leads easily to saying, "I could have done better." And anyways, the combative theology of Milton is extrabiblical. It would seem to me that Satan would have a much easier time thwarting God by tempting men to turn away, rather than invading Heaven and seeking to fight against an Omnipotent Being.