Archive for the ‘OT Poetry’ Category

The adversary appears…Job 1

September 13, 2007

It is not a small controversy surrounding the authorship and dating of Job. Many believe that it arrived in the Hebrew canon following the Babylonian captivity, penned by the rabbis of the exile as an object lesson for why the people were punished. This hypothesis is founded on the appearance of Satan (= “the adversary”), a name for the prince of evil not given in purportedly earlier works, but a figure (it is beleved) gleaned from the dualistic Zoroasterianism prevalent in that region. However, discovery of text from Job in the Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls) materials in paleo-Hebrew, like the Pentateuch from the same source, implies that the Jews of the closed-canon community gave it an early dating. The authorship remains a mystery (not a new phenomenon for OT Scripture), being attributed to Moses, Job, and Elihu alternately (source: Wil Pounds,

 (v.1-3) “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east.” His wealth is not unlike that of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Jacob). The reference to “all the men of the east” could attribute Job to the Akkadian region from which Abraham’s family originates. Indeed, “the land of Uz” may refer to the domain of the descendants of a son of Aram the Shemite (Genesis 10:23; Jeremiah 25:20; Lamentations 4:21). If this is true, then Moses could have received this story as part of the oral history he used to compose the Pentateuch (some suggest he may also have used cuneiform tablets without loss of inspiration). Alternately, Job or Elihu could have composed it in proto-Hebrew (i.e. a common language of the Semite clans) and it was later discovered by the exiles in Babylon. The author presents this not to challenge or defend any one interpretation, other than that of an inerrant text.

 (v.4, 5) “His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.” The righteousness of Job, stated in verse 1, is demonstrated by his desire to keep even his children ritually pure. This will become an issue in later chapters when the righteousness of Job is questioned.

 (v.6, 7) “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, ‘From where do you come?’ Then Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.'” Satan appears! A unique aspect of this story is the appearance of Satan at all, given the implications of Isaiah 14:12-15. Though cast out from heaven, he still has access to God. Unlike us, who would be destroyed by the glory of the Lord because of our sin, Lucifer/Satan seems to be of stronger stuff! Perhaps, as will become apparent in the next verses, God allows Satan’s entrance as part of His display of Job’s righteousness.

 (v.8 ) “The LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.'” My first reaction to this is “Thanks a lot, God!” (please forgive my impudence when speaking to the Most Holy God) Seriously, it is God, not Satan, who suggests this test of character. Indeed God, omnipotent, knows the outcome and the type of man Job is, but nonetheless I would not want to endure the hardships and despair to come! The answer of Diogenes is given, although I am not sure if the cynic of old would appreciate the reverence for Yahweh shown by Job.

 (v.9-11) “Then Satan answered the LORD, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.'” The first test of poverty is given. Satan’s perspective is that we believe in God and worship Him because of His blessings to us. What an indictment of people throughout history, especially many “Christians” in America. Our Americanization of passages like “ask and you will receive” and the Prayer of Jabez only confirms what the Evil One accuses of us!

(v.12-19) “Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.’ So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD. Now on the day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, ‘The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them,  and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’ While he was still speaking, another also came and said, ‘The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’ While he was still speaking, another also came and said, ‘The Chaldeans formed three bands and made a raid on the camels and took them and slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’ While he was still speaking, another also came and said, ‘Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you.'” Wow, Satan works quickly! All that Job has disappears in destruction within moments. I cannot fathom hearing one report after another of how all that you have and all whom you love are gone. The appearance of Sabeans (Sheba – Genesis 10:7) and Chaldeans (Genesis 11:28,31) would support the Mesopotamian locale previously proposed. The mixture of natural and human causes for the destruction, as well as their coincidence at various locations, signal the characters (and the reader) to view this as not just bad luck, but a higher power acting against Job.

(v.20-) “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said,
          ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
          And naked I shall return there
          The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
          Blessed be the name of the LORD.’

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.” Job enters into a period of deep mourning. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, picks up this perspective on the reliance on God in Eccl 5:15. Job reveals the first aspect of his character, humble surrender: “I own nothing since all is God’s blessing, let Him do as he wishes.” (see also I Samuel 2:7)

Please return next week for Job 2…and may God bless and enlighten your understanding, along with mine…