Friday, September 19, 2003

Job 19: Job Responds to Bildad

Job cried of his utter loneliness after Bildad's second speech. 

This post is part of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning. At the end of each post you will find a link to the next.


After Bildad spoke, Job felt very much alone. This will become evident as we look at what he said. He started off by again claiming his innocence.

Then Job answered: “How long will you torment me and crush me with your words? These ten times you have been reproaching me; you are not ashamed to attack me! But even if it were true that I have erred, my error remains solely my concern! If indeed you would exalt yourselves above me and plead my disgrace against me, know then that God has wronged me and encircled me with his net." (Job 19:1-6, The Net Bible)

Job's words point out why it is a mistake for us to judge others. One of the reasons that we do so is to feel better about ourselves. His friends exalted themselves at his expense. On the other hand, Job clearly faltered when he said, "God has wronged me." It is one thing to say, "God has done this to me," which is correct, and another thing to say, "God has wronged me," which suggests a moral imperfection in Him. This error in Job's view of the world would lead him to increasingly argue his own goodness and the unfairness of his situation. It will become the basis for Elihu's anger against Job. It also has bearing on the translation of a famous verse, Job 19:25, that I cover below.

Look at the loneliness that Job felt at this point:

If I cry out, ‘Violence!’ I receive no answer; I cry for help, but there is no justice. 

He has blocked my way so I cannot pass, and has set darkness over my paths. He has stripped me of my honor and has taken the crown off my head. He tears me down on every side until I perish; he uproots my hope like one uproots a tree. His anger burns against me, and he considers me among his enemies. 

His troops advance together; they throw up a siege ramp against me, and they camp around my tent. He has put my relatives far from me; my acquaintances only turn away from me. My kinsmen have failed me; my friends have forgotten me. My guests and my servant girls consider me a stranger; I am a foreigner in their eyes. I summon my servant, but he does not respond, even though I implore him with my own mouth. My breath is repulsive to my wife; I am loathsome to my brothers. Even youngsters have scorned me; when I get up, they scoff at me. All my closest friends detest me; and those whom I love have turned against me. 

My bones stick to my skin and my flesh; I have escaped alive with only the skin of my teeth. Have pity on me, my friends, have pity on me, for the hand of God has struck me. Why do you pursue me like God does? Will you never be satiated with my flesh? (Job 19:7-22)

Here was Job's dark night of the soul: unfairly treated by God and friends. This attitude is important to understand what Job says next.

O that my words were written down, O that they were written on a scroll, that with an iron chisel and with lead they were engraved in a rock forever! 

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that as the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God, whom I will see for myself, and whom my own eyes will behold, and not another. My heart grows faint within me. (Job 19:23-27)

Job stated that he would like to see a permanent monument to his grief and suffering. It would first be written on a scroll for fast communication. But then, his complaint would become words chiseled into rock with lead poured into the letters to increase contrast and make them visible from some distance.

All this has bearing on on we understand his next statement, "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives..." The marginal notes of most translations give an alternate reading, "As for me, I know that my vindicator lives."  It is my opinion based on Job's state of mind that this alternate reading is correct. The typical reading carries post-cross theology interfering with the translation. The Hebrew carries the double meaning of vindicator/redeemer and there is no equivalent English word. Given the preceding remarks, is Job looking for redemption or vindication? I think that it is clear that he awaits vindication, especially in light of his closing words in response to Bildad: 

If you say, ‘How we will pursue him, since the root of the trouble is found in him!’ Fear the sword yourselves, for wrath brings the punishment by the sword, so that you may know that there is judgment. (Job 19:28-29)

We must understand, then, that his word were saying something along these lines, "It may not be till the end of time, but my vindicator will arise and set things straight." Look at how he ranted and raved about being wronged by God and his friends. He wants vindication that he was right and that they were wrong.

In much the same way, we need to not read more into the words, "in my flesh I will see God." The concept of physical resurrection was not developed at all in Job's day. The Hebrew can just as easily read "after my skin has been destroyed yet without my flesh I will see God." Most modern translations will, again, include this alternate reading in their notes. The literal Hebrew reads "from my flesh." It can carry the idea as "from" meaning "from within" or "from" meaning "away from." As you read Job's words and talk of the grave, note how he mostly sees that as the end. Here he at least begins to see that life goes on beyond the grave, but we should not put advanced theology into his mouth. 

So in these verses, we have what Job said at the time, "I will be vindicated in the end even after my flesh is gone." Then we have a meaning that is more contemporary, "Job has a Redeemer and will be resurrected." Both translations are valid and the believing Hebrew reader could read and have both in his mind. The translator must choose between highlighting the theological "hint" or capturing Job's mental state. I believe that the translators have made the correct choice, and the that teacher should connect the student with Job's meaning. I explain how these readings can co-exist in my paper "Hint, Allegories, and Mysteries, the New Testament Quotes the Old."

As mentioned above, Job concluded his speech this way:

If you say, ‘How we will pursue him, since the root of the trouble is found in him!’ Fear the sword yourselves, for wrath brings the punishment by the sword, so that you may know that there is judgment. (Job 19:28-29)

This followed naturally from Job's confidence in his coming vindication. It would include vindication as wrath poured on his friends.

At this point we have a full-fledged quarrel raging among 4 men who used to be close.

Monday: Zophar Speaks

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home