Friday, April 4, 2008

Job 1.1: Introductions


I began this study, actually as a spin-off from a discussion a friend and I were having about evolution, and whether or not dinosaurs fit into scripture. I immediately attested to the Behemoth and Leviathan of Job, but then the conversation turned to the book's main subject matter. Job has always been one of my favorite books, the only Biblical text that supersedes it readily in my mind is Revelation because in my mind it is a book of hope. People sometimes ask me why when the book is full of the outpouring of God's wrath and the deaths of huge percentages of the human race, my answer is because of the ending. All other books end with the promise of something more to come, ie Genesis promises a Messiah to save us from our sins. The latter books of Torah promise a future hope for Israel. The prophets speak intermittently of end times and a conclusion of things, but it is mixed, diluted even for lack of a better word, with the present persecution of the Jewish people. But Revelation is the last revelation of Yeshua HaMashiach. It's the end of the story and we see without any doubt or subtlety, the hope of all creation. Redemption and an end of all the devil's works.

But Job, is my second favorite. Because it presents Elyon, as someone who does not conform to our vision of how He should act. I remarked to a friend that all the gods of the world's religions act essentially human. Each idol promising a particular trait of the true exaggerated to the exclusion of His wholeness. The Allah of Islam is merciful and just, but these traits are completely arbitrary as he has no means to atone for wrongs done thus his mercy and justice are essentially cheating the numbers, he has no promise of salvation. Buddha offers wisdom and peace, but at the expense of your humanity; instead of answering desire with designed fulfillment, desire is shunned to the point that the highest endeavor is merely contemplation of things as a machine might do. Even the shallow perceptions of mainstream Christianity work to limit God down to someone who is all merciful, but requires nothing of us—which sounds good for a moment until you realize that it's the same as a parent who offers their child no discipline and no boundaries. Where those are lacking, love is lacking.

The point being that people have a tendency to elevate certain facets and traits of God either by making idols that are not at all God or by ignoring less desirable qualities of God—one might even argue that to neglect a trait of God knowingly is to deny His identity, therefore it is not Him whom you worship, but in fact an idol called by His name. But Job, flies in the face of this tendency. As I think we'll see as God leads us through this poetic account, this book portrays God as wild. I mean this in the sense of C.S. Lewis when he analogized God in the character of Aslan saying "Is he safe? Of course, he isn't safe…but he's good."

For all its answers and portrayals the book is still very problematic. Here you have God seemingly dumping evil on a good man simply for the point of a bet with the Devil? And if that is the case how did the bet go? God seems to win round one and two, but if you read on it looks like Job does curse God, so does that mean God lost the bet? If He knows all, why would He make a bet that He would lose? In fact why did He make a bet at all?

These are just a few of the problems that occur to someone familiar with the account. These were a few of the issues that I wished to resolve for myself, and also partly because I find myself in a season of pain. Not my own, I would be a fool to deny that God has richly blessed my substance, and though I am a habitual complainer, I have little to complain about and nothing to complain about to people. Not my pain, but I know people who are dying or know people who are dying. People suffering from broken homes, broken hearts, and this is what Job is really about from where I'm sitting. What do you do with pain? What is the point of it? I think as a result of their perceptions of God being small and limited by the traits they magnify at the expense of others, many in the body of Messiah come up with trite answers of their own like. "God didn't do this, he only allowed it." "Maybe God is trying to teach you something by letting you experience this." "God allowed you to go through this so that you can comfort others who are going through this." Not that those are bad answers, I think they can each be true, or perhaps even all be true, but I think they are pulled out of a can that comes from a poor idea of the identity of God and that they are therefore ultimately unsatisfying.

This book is among the oldest, if not the oldest biblical book in terms of the age of manuscripts found. In fact it is so old, that copies found from the Essean community of Qumran, have been found written in Paleo-Hebrew script . This is the script used before the Babylonian exhile which is the familiar form used today. This is the same script used for the older copies of the Torah. While the authorship is debatable, the Talmud at least attributes it to Moshe (Moses), and all agree that is of considerable age. Some also debate whether it is to be understood as allegory or historical.

For my opinion, I believe this was recorded either by Moshe or before Moshe. My reasons being that here the place he lives is known as Uz. The Uz from which the land got its name Uz was the son of Aram, an ancestor of Abraham who lived after the flood. The exact boundaries of Uz are not well known, but it was the location of the people of Edom which was located in what is modern day Jordan (capital was modern Bozrah). I say this points to its age, because after the rise of Edom, Uz as a land is rarely spoken of. Next, Job is considered to be great in years by the youngest of his visiting friends, if we assume generously that he was merely 40 years old, then he would have died at 180 (Job 42:16), however God said in Genesis 6:3 that man's years would be limited to 120. So while God can and does make exceptions to some general rules for his own purposes—such as that man is only supposed to die once, or how even in modern times we have had people who lasted longer than 120 years—, Noah broke the standard, so did Shem, Salah, Eber, Reu, etc…but these were all very close to the time frame of the flood. Once you get further from God's decree of 120 which is around the same time as the flood, you find lifespans drop off rapidly. And the last of the old line to break the record is Jacob the son of Issac at 147. Afterwards, there are only few and far between that do so. So either Job was one of the exceptional or he was blessed, but not hugely outside of the norm for someone around the time of Abraham. Also, it would make sense because there is no mention of the temple, the Torah, or the covenant in the book.

And as for whether it is allegory or no, I say that it is 100% historical as evidenced by the rest of scripture:

Eze 14:13 Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it:
14 Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.

Eze 14:20 Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.

Here you have a real situation, real sin, and the promise of God's very real judgement. And he then notes three heroes of righteousness of the scripture, this grouping would make no sense at all if Job were not only a literal person, but also someone whose righteousness was literal. And if it was not that same righteousness presented in the book of Job, than what would be the point of using his name? It would be the same as me saying "The three most important people in Christianity/Judaism are Abraham, Yeshua, and Mickey Mouse." There is no sense in it. It would be meaningless then for YHVH to swear by His own name in the context of an event happening that couldn't happen since Job wasn't really the Job that these people knew.

Jam 5:10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

I say that the account of Job is true and literal because God and his servants treat him as true and literal.

No comments: