Friday, January 7, 2011

Bible In a Year - Job 10 to 13 (#6)

Discussion: Why the Narrator Steps Back
[Job 10.] The more that I read Job the more that I find to appreciate in the book. The thing doesn't have a narrator or record the sayings of God -except for the first couple chapters and the last four, to give context- so we have to take a lesson from the book as a whole rather than find some kind of authority in the statements made in every chapter. Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu make some true and majestic statements about God and His action in the world, and so does Job, but we only get to agree with those statements based on what we already know about God. In the meantime, we get to see Job and his friends go back and forth -like a group of New York Rabbis- about the nature of God's providence. And we're shown the recorded frustration of this great man of God: "I loathe my own life... I will speak in the bitterness of my soul... Have You eyes of flesh? Or do you see as a man sees?... You know that I am not guilty, yet there is no deliverance from Your hand... Why then have You brought me out of the womb? Would that I had died and no eye had seen me!" (Job 10.1-18)

The Octagon: Better Insults Than Shakespeare
[Job 11.] Next up to bat is Zophar, and while he doesn't go so far as to say that Job's children deserved to die, he sure gives Job a dressing-down in Job 11.4-5: "You have said 'My teaching is pure, and I am innocent in Your eyes.' But would that God would speak, and open His lips against you, and show you the secrets of His wisdom!" Zophar tells Job to repent of whatever sin he committed, so that God would bless him and take away his pain. He also hands out a pretty magnificent insult, using "when pigs fly" terminology (Job 11.12): "An idiot will become intelligent when the foal of a wild donkey is born a man." I've got to admit, I'm reading these back-and-forth jabs like a spectator at an MMA match, wincing and peering over intently at the action, all while sort of imitating the action as I go. I'm not saying that Zophar is in the right here, but -on the rare occasion when an insult is called for in a debate- I'll be remembering some of these. I also like Zophar's picture of the Almighty: "Can you discover the depths of God?... They are high as the heavens... Deeper than Sheol... who can restrain Him?"

Translation: Job As Pre-Teen Drama In the CEV
[Job 12.] Job steps in to defend himself against Attacker #3, and does so with wit and sarcasm: "Truly you are the people, and with you wisdom will die!" (On a translation note: I was comparing the NASB -which I use here- and the CEV paraphrase, and I can't help but notice that Job comes off as a self-pitying junior high student in the CEV; "You think you are so great, with all the answers... now friends make fun of me." Not saying that paraphrases are all bad, but there is a reason why I don't have one as my main translation.) Job also says that it is easy for someone who is well-off to dismiss the those less fortunate and to say that they deserve what they get (Job 12.5). Maybe we should pull out this verse next time a Christian pulls out an "all poor people are lazy" line. As with Zophar, I love Job's vision of God in all His power. I can't do justice by quoting bits and pieces, but here is a link to the text: Job 12.13-25.

Bad Maxims: Sometimes, Cheaters Win and Winners Cheat
[Job 13.] When you grew up did your parents, teachers, and coaches ever tell you that "cheaters never win, and winners never cheat?" Well that isn't true. Not in this life, at least. Job points out in chapter 12 that "the tents of the destroyers prosper, and those who provoke God are secure," which lines up pretty well with what we know of the influence and affluence of everyone from tyrants like North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to the exploitative and self-indulgent founder of Playboy, Hugh Hefner. Here Job challenges his attackers and sort of questions God's goodness, based on his observation that the righteous fail and the wicked prosper: "Hear my argument and listen to the contentions of my lips. Will you speak what is unjust for God, and speak what is deceitful for Him? Will you show partiality for Him? Will you contend for God?" This is probably one of the lines that gets Job into trouble at the end of the book, but his argument is valid: sometimes good men really do get the short end of the stick, and God does seem to bless deeply wicked and evil people.

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