Saturday, April 22, 2017

Reading Through the Book of Job #3 (Chapters 15-25)

JobToday we move on to the second and third rounds of the wisdom dialog between Job and  his 3 friends in the Book of Job accompanied by the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 6: Job, by August H. Konkel. The discussion hits a dead end because neither Job, nor the three friends, really understand God or what He is doing, although all four are confident that they do. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Eliphaz begins the 2nd round of speeches with a stinging rebuke of Job for his blasphemy against traditional wisdom. He thought that Job was arrogant to think that he had information that the ancient wise men did not have. Sadly, though much of what Eliphaz said was true, it was misapplied to Job and thus was hurtful and wrong.

The problem with Eliphaz was his failure to understand the limitations of his knowledge. He thought this truth concerning the wicked could account for all the pain in the world. Job 15, 113

Truth is the most powerful of weapons, and in this case Eliphaz meant it to hurt. The pain of truth may be the means to healing, which is what Eliphaz intended. Truth, however, is like a sharp knife. Used correctly it is the surgeon’s scalpel; used incorrectly it is a mutilating instrument causing pain or death. The speech of Eliphaz was a surgery that could only injure the patient further. Eliphaz missed the mark. Job had not been in defiance of God by trusting in his own wealth. The opposite was true; his faith was in God alone, and he had used every possible means to express it. Job had to make clear to Eliphaz that though he was right, he was ever so wrong. Job 15, 114

Job responds that he does not know why God is attacking him, but it is not what Eliphaz is saying. In fact, Eliphaz is making it worse. Job has relied on God in the past and, even though he has no hope that God will help him now, he does think God will justify him in the end.

At this point, Job expressed his lament to God (16:6–17). Though the friends must hear it if they were to learn wisdom, Job had to address God, for God was the source of the problem, and he should provide the solution. One of the most important therapies for all sufferers is the freedom to unreservedly express their complaint to God. Job 16, 116

Job hoped that righteousness would prevail, but he did not have any hope for his present life. His time was short, his spirit broken, his life snuffed out—all that remained was the grave, and in the meantime he must endure the mockers and leave his life to God. Job 17, 120

In his second speech, Bildad refuses to consider that his black and white view of righteousness, sin and retribution may be inadequate. He provides a very eloquent view of the fate of the wicked, not even considering that this may not apply to Job.

Bildad outdid himself in providing a description fitting to Job. Here was a man whose vast properties had been stolen and consumed by fire and whose progeny was extinct. In a world of black and white, there was no need to state the obvious. Job was still alive; he knew his situation and he knew what he must do. Job 18, 124

Job cannot believe that Bildad is pursuing this with him. He again describes the physical and emotional pain he is going through and asks the three friends to show some mercy and warns them that they are in danger of God's judgment for persecuting the righteous. Job is confident that God will show up in the end as his redeemer and vindicate him.

His suffering was not a heroic sacrifice that would achieve some noble end; he did not choose it, and he was not seeking personal affirmation. He was not even seeking sympathy; no one else could understand his situation in any case. All Job was seeking was some of the normal human interaction that should be accorded one still present on this earth. Job 19, 128

Those who persecute the righteous are the enemies of God. Throughout the Psalter, the assurance of receiving mercy is given on the basis that those pursuing the righteous will face divine judgment (e.g., Ps 7:1–6). In Job, there is a double irony on this motif. God had become the enemy in pursuing innocent Job. In their attempt to defend God, the friends had attacked an innocent and righteous man. In so doing, they had made themselves enemies of God and would face his wrath. Job 19, 133

Zophar responds to Job's plea for mercy by adding the accusation that he is  one of the "arrogant rich" whose greed steals food from the mouth of the poor. He adds that the greed of the rich leads to its own punishment as God's wrath lets the full natural consequences of an indulgent, oppressive lifestyle work its way out. Most of what Zophar says is true here, but, again, it does not apply in Job's situation.

In modern Western society, the term “consumer” has a positive sound. Humans by nature must be consumers; consumption is the basis of a good economy and a life that is satisfying for all. There is, however, a very sinister side to consumption. The problem is insatiable desire; those who have the power to pursue physical satisfactions rob others of basic human necessities. This is wickedness, and Zophar depicts it as the chief characteristic of evil persons who bring the judgment of God upon themselves. Job 20, 137

Job counters that any observer would see that the wicked are not always punished and, in fact, the wicked rich live splendid, secure lives which end with a luxurious funeral. the argument that their children are punished is not valid because that does not affect the wicked person who is dead and gone. Job's real problem is with God, who allows the wicked to prosper while the righteous, like Job, receive calamity.

Job would have nothing to do with the rationalizations of the wicked. The wicked are wrong in their thinking, though apparently it does them no harm. Ironically, Job’s integrity was not doing him any good. Thus, Job had a problem with God (21:4), for there was a contradiction and the consequences of it were appalling. Job 21, 140–141

Eliphaz argues that, since Job is suffering, he must be a terrible sinner, and lists several sins of which the reader knows Job is innocent. He is sure that though judgment is delayed, the evil always get what they deserve in this life. This is why Job suffers. Thus, all Job needs to do is repent.

Eliphaz argued, there is a reason for suffering; and it must be self-evident to all that one does not suffer because of excessive righteousness. These words were meant to taunt Job. One axiom of traditional wisdom is that righteousness results in blessing; Job could benefit himself. Though the wicked might be temporarily wealthy, it was unthinkable that the righteous could be temporarily poor. The reasoning of Eliphaz cannot countenance anything of what had transpired in the heavenly places. His certainty blinded him entirely to his error. Job 22, 146

Job responds with two poems about the hiddenness and silence of God. First, Job wants an opportunity to justify himself before God, but God is not responding and cannot be found. Job knows that God will verify his integrity and character before the world but where is He and why is He not showing up to vindicate him? The second poem laments God's silence in the face of evil and the grating oppression that the poor and needy receive in this world. Where is God to make this right?

Job expressed his confidence that his present trials would be for the good because of the integrity of his life. He would be the wise man who receives benefit with God, as Eliphaz had urged, but the benefit will not come in the way Eliphaz had imagined. The benefit would come through his trials, not through some feigned repentance. Job knew the life he had lived, and he was confident that whatever way God was dealing with him, in the end he would emerge as pure gold...the character of Job was his real gold, which is precious to God. Job has not lived his life in pretense, with only the external appearance of righteousness. Job has made his treasure the words God had spoken. Job knew he was upright, and that has its reward. Job 23, 153

Not only is God so hidden that Job cannot bring his case before him, God seems to be oblivious to all the other evil that goes on in the world. Job reasoned that his case was not unique. The world is full of miserable and weak people, suffering at the hands of the wicked who carry on unpunished. Job knew that the times of judgment are not hidden from God. Since this is so, why is it that those who know God never live to see a day of reckoning? Job 24, 156.

The dialog is now at an impasse. The friends refuse to believe that Job is righteous and Job refuses to believe that their traditional wisdom applies to his situation. Bildad finishes the speeches of the friends by reiterating the point that God's rule over creation is always positive for the righteous and negative for the wicked. The fact that everyone dies does not change this.

Bildad had made his point. If even the immortal moon and stars in the purity of the heavens are sometimes disrupted, how much more will it happen to mortal humans? Everyone born of woman will become food for the maggot; they can hardly expect their life to proceed without suffering. This must not become an indictment against divine justice. Job 25, 162

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