Monday, March 9, 2009

Job 2

For chapter 1 and other Job related posts, click here.

Job did not ascribe arbitrariness - or foolishness - or (TS has) reproach - to God. TS notes that the word may be related to spittle. Job did not spit on God. I suggested that the first question from this book follows from Genesis 1:4 - is God good? The light that is good is in Christ - and is carried to us through the Jewish tradition. It has 'good' written all over it. (TS even points out Isaiah 50:6 as related - bravo! This links Job to Christ as the servant of God more solidly than I had imagined. For whatever we think of the God who wounds and who heals, who kills and who makes alive, we have in the servant songs the strongest pointer that Christians should not make light of that tradition.)

But what has happened to God between chapter 1 and 2 of Job? God no longer questions the Satan, the accuser, exactly the same way. The words are not the same when God asks a second time - Where are you coming from? The words of gathering are not the same either. TS considers the repetition for the accuser of 'to present himself before the Lord' as a scribal error. Why? Why not a story-teller's way of saying that something has changed in both the accuser and in the perception of the character of God. And of course - something has changed in the listeners. We have been set up to hear what will happen.

How will we get this subtle difference into English? The KJV has noted the difference - bravo again. (But I do not give them credit when they fail to preserve structural recurrence and instead use a creative synonym without a cause.)

I have never 'understood' the dialogues in Job - so I am going to push myself to get the second chapter done so I can get on with the more difficult bits. Then I will return to the story to see if agreement with TS is possible - he thinks the story (chapters 1 and 2 and 42) was constructed after the dialogues were translated into Hebrew from Aramaic because the original story frame had been lost in the return from exile. (Mitchell - whose little book with his own translation I cannot find but used to own - was also very troubled with the story. Jung's Answer is perhaps another book I will reread to see what I can make of it after I finish.)

(Mind you - I don't really expect to 'understand' anything in the sense of taking power over it - but I am willing to stand under it and hope that it does not fall upon me and crush me.)

And there was the day when the children of God בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים
came and presented themselves before יְהוָה
and among them the accuser also came
to present himself before יְהוָה
And יְהוָה said to the accuser
Now where are you coming from?
And the accuser answered יְהוָה saying
roving on the earth and walking about it
and יְהוָה said to the accuser
have you set out in your heart concerning my servant Job?
For there is none like him in the earth
a man complete and upright
fearing God and turning away from evil
and still for him he prevails in his completeness
though you incited me against him to swallow him for nothing
And the accuser answered יְהוָה saying
Skin for skin
for all there is to a man he will give for his life

TS has several pages explaining how skin for skin cannot be right. But prepositions are subtle, the most subtle of all the forms of language which יְהוָה God allowed to the children of dust. It is not a matter of exchange - but of protection. In other words, the brilliantly concise phrase which the KJV translators coined is quite apt. I think TS and I agree - but skin after skin or skin before skin will not cut it, because 'for' has a richer ambiguity than 'before' and 'after'. Still if before and after could be time related rather than space related, the image would apply - at least for the accuser with whom I expect we children can identify - no? Do we not accuse one another?

And you ask - do you want ambiguity in translation? Not necessarily, but I don't want a false clarity either - the reader has work to do in the Spirit.

Nevertheless stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh
will he not in your face bless you?(1)
and יְהוָה said to the accuser
behold him in your hand
But his life you preserve

So the accuser came forth from the presence of יְהוָה
and struck Job with evil inflammations
from the sole of his foot to the top of his head
and he took for himself a potsherd to scrape himself
and himself sat among the ashes

Then his wife said to him
Do you still prevail in your completeness?
bless God and die
But he said to her
You speak as one of the foolish women might speak
Indeed, even the good shall we take from God and not take the evil
In all this Job did not sin with his lips

When Job's three friends heard of all the evil
all that had come upon him
they came, each from his own place
Eliphaz the Temanite
and Bildad the Shuhite
and Zophar the Naamathite
for they had gathered together to come to lament with him and to comfort him
and when they lifted up their eyes from afar
and did not recognize him
they lifted up their voice and wept
and they tore each one his robe
and they threw dust on their heads towards the heavens
and they sat with him on the earth seven days and seven nights
and none spoke a word to him
for they saw that it was very great pain

At this point in the story, the friends have identified with Job in silence and action. I think it is their best moment. But I need to do a lot more work before coming to this conclusion. We don't hear from the accuser again.

Note: TS has 'dumbfounded' for 'towards the heavens', and suggests 'shake their heads with him' for' lament' - all with good reason.

Further note: there may be some traction in the exploration of jealousy among the בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים the 'sons' of God, an enigmatic phrase reminding us of Genesis 6:2.

(1) Update - Edwin Good, In Turns of Tempest, A Reading of Job, leaves the statement here and its equivalent in chapter 1 as "If he does not bless you to you face ..." an incomplete sentence - a curse formula without a result clause.

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