Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Presenting Job

How to present Job in one hour and leave room for reflection!

Here's what may become a handout.[update I added the text of Job 1 and 2 - must start at the beginning]

The overall structure of Job.

Job is clearly divisible in two: the frame story and the framed poem.

The framed poem is divisible in three: a series of conversations, a poem on wisdom, and three monologues.

The series of conversations is divisible in three cycles after Job’s opening speech. The first two cycles are complete with each speaker carefully introduced by the narrator. The third cycle degenerates such that one cannot tell who is speaking.

The wisdom poem is not ‘attributed’ to Job and feels like the Narrator’s comment.

The three monologues are introduced: 1 by Job – three chapters, 2 Elihu – six chapters, and 3 Yhwh – four+ chapters with one or two sentences by Job.

The characters in Job

Leaving aside the animals - all of whom are potential characters in Job, and leaving aside the obvious 16 noted humans and all the other lads who tended the farm - it's a large cast! and leaving aside the 5 or 6 designations of the Most High - El, Eloah, Elohim, יְהוָה, El Shaddai, and possibly one instance of the Holy One; leaving aside the cosmos and the children of God who are present and who shout for joy, (and the enemies whom I forgot: Sabeans, fire, Chaldeans, and a great wind) what other characters are implied in the story?

There are several remaining characters or possibly only roles: God's witnesses, Job's trouble itself as witness against him, Job's witness in heaven, (in parallel with Job's testimony).

10:17 you renew your witnesses before me and increase your indignation against me; changes and a host are upon me

16:8 You have seized me - it becomes witness; rising in me is my lie - answering in my face

16:19 even now behold in heaven is my witness and my testimony is in the heights

My conclusion on this witness in heaven is that it is Job's 'case' - not a separate character. Similarly God's witness is Job's trouble - by Job's own admission.
Then there is the redeemer. Redeem occurs only twice in the poem.

3:5 let darkness and obscurity redeem it; let a cloud dwell on it; let blackness of day terrify it

19:25 And I - I knew [qal perfect] my redeemer is living and at the last on dust he will rise

There is dispute over what this means to say the least. It is not a proof text in the NT. That would make it seem for me that it is a recognition that God lives and that God must ultimately play this role and that Job knew this before his trouble from the Deuternomic covenant.

Also there are the mysterious intercessors in Job's final monologue. I do not see this unknown word as implying an obvious or specialized indictable offense. Some things are only overcome through prayer - as Jesus notes (pace the perseveration of some of the hopeless state of others).

31:11 or this plan – [the thought is interrupted] and this is iniquity for intercessors

31:28 indeed this is iniquity for an intercessor, for I would deny the One above
(You will recall that Jesus says some spirits can only be cast out by prayer)
Note that ultimately Job mediates (intercedes) for the three friends. He plays the role that he alludes to in these two verses – and that at God’s command.

The referee

But it is in the theme of reasoning (the word groups around a word meaning  - to prove, decide, judge, rebuke, reprove, correct, be right and so on) that runs through the poem and is seen in the following verses - that there arises the special role or character of referee. The friends fail, Elihu is indeterminate, God invites Job to be his own referee and he accepts with his hand over his mouth, and Ticciati puts God in this role also. I have sometimes used two words in English to connect the reproof-reason axis since all of the words are translating words from the same root. Here we see the word in many forms noun, verb, singular, plural, with or without prepositions and other connectors. (Italics show the subject of the verb if I could see it).

The following list includes all the verses in which this word in various grammatical forms appears. Notice how the conversation involving the 'reproof' word is only on the lips of Job and Eliphaz in the dialogues, but is picked up by Elihu and Yhwh in the monologues.

Behold happy is the mortal whom God reproves
the mentoring of the Sufficient do not refuse
how grievous are words of uprightness
so what does your reproof  prove?

And to reprove speeches - do you count
as wind the words of one who is desperate?
there is not between us a referee
that might fix his hand on the two of us
"nevertheless for me, to the Sufficient I would speak"
but I desire to reason with the One

[you] Hear please my reasons
and to the contentions of my lips attend

Reason? he will reason reproof with you
if you concealed lift up faces

Lo - he will kill me
I do not wait
Surely my ways before his faces I will reasoning prove
To 'reason' with a word without profit
and from speeches where he will not benefit
that a warrior might reason with God
and a child of a human with his friend
If truly against me you gloat
and reason my reproach reproof against me
will he from your fear reprove you
will he come with you to judgment?
I would order before his face my judgment
and fill my mouth with reasons

there the upright could reason with him
and I would be delivered in perpetuity from my judge
you I understood
and behold there is for Job no referee -
one answering to his words among you

and he is reproved in being marred on his couch
and the contention of his bones is perennial
will he who contends with the Sufficient be the mentor?
God's referee - let him answer


What are your initial reactions to the Book of Job?
How do the characters fit into your response to Job's situation?
Which character do you identify with?
How would Jesus identify with or relate to the different characters? Job? the referee? Leviathan? One of the three friends? The mediator? Elihu?

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