Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Job 42: Epilog

This essay is #51 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.

Epilog

The first two chapters of Job are written in prose style. From chapter 3 through the first verses of chapter 42, the style is poetic. The final verses revert to prose. The change underscores and emphasizes that the resolution of the issues is with Job's repentance in spite of not receiving any direct explanation for his sufferings, but rather he moved to greater trust and worship. At that moment the tension surrounding Job's life are over.

But there are secondary strands that also need resolution. What about Job's friends? What happened to Job? Did he get well? And so the final prose section serves to finish the story.

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar

The Lord has harsh words for Job's friends:

After the Lord had spoken these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My anger is stirred up against you and your two friends, because you have not spoken about me what is right, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job will intercede for you, and I will respect him, so that I do not deal with you according to your folly, because you have not spoken about me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7-8)

There are some surprises here. First, the Lord tells Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar that He is angry with them. There is no evidence in the book of Job that the Lord was ever angry with Job. We are then told that the reason that He is angry is that they had not spoken "what is right" about God, as Job had. What does this mean? Was Job accurate in everything that he said? Was he right after all when he tried to declare God guilty so that he could be right? Obviously not! So what does the Lord mean here? To answer this, it might be good to ask what was not right about what Eliphaz and the others had to say. This is a little easier. None of them could break away from their traditions and opinions to recognize the facts before them and struggle with the issues. They perceived life to be governed by simple rules of reward and retribution. In so doing they greatly aggravated Job's pain. Job on the other hand faced the facts head on: the innocent sometime suffer and the wicked sometime prosper--so what does this say about the nature of God? Although Job may have been wrong on the paths he traveled to resolve these questions, he at least asked them and wanted true answers.

What this means for us is that it is ok for us to struggle with the such issues. It is ok for the world to be complex and hard to understand. It is ok for us to be angry with God as we struggle for deeper faith and relationship.  What is not ok is for us to imagine that we have all of life figured out and then go beat people up with our truth. What is not ok is to withhold kindness and compassion when a friend is hurting even if it is his fault.

So it was right for Job to struggle and wrong for the friends to judge. Consequently, the Lord was angry with the friends.

But now Job had to choose to forgive his friends. He became the intercessor for them. This saved Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar from suffering the logical consequences of their folly, which is that their own words would return to them:

Eliphaz: I myself have seen the fool taking root, but suddenly I cursed his place of residence. (Job 5:3)

Bildad: If your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin. (Job 8:4)

Zophar: But O that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you, (Job 11:5)

Or as Paul wrote, "Therefore you are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge someone else. For on whatever grounds you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things. (Romans 2:1)"

Restoration

Job accepted the offering of his three friends.

So they went, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, and did just as the Lord had told them; and the Lord had respect for Job. (Job 42:9)

Then the Lord again blessed Job:

So the Lord restored what Job had lost after he prayed for his friends, and the Lord doubled all that had belonged to Job. So they came to him, all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house. They comforted him and consoled him for all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. (Job 42:10-11)

Let us note again that Satan was just the instrument through which the Lord brought on Job's troubles. But they achieved purposes in Job's life that could not have been achieved any other way. 

We are told that the Lord restored to Job double what he had lost. Here is the accounting:

So the Lord blessed the second part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand female donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. (Job 42:12-13)

Compare this to chapter 1:

  • 7000 sheep times 2 is 14000
  • 3000 camels times 2 is 6000
  • 500 yoke of oxen times 2 is 1000
  • 500 female donkeys times 2 is 1000
  • 10 children times 2 is 10 children (????)

What is the meaning of this last line? Job started with 7 sons and 3 daughters. He lost them and now he has 7 sons and 3 daughters. Why were these not doubled also? The answer is, they were. Here is the oldest Biblical hint of eternal life. Job's original sons and daughters are still alive, but they are with the Lord. so Job indeed has also doubled his children

The final lines of Job are also interesting:

The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land could women be found who were as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance alongside their brothers. (Job 42:14-15)

What are we to make of this? Just that Job, in the end, valued people more than possessions. In particular, he valued his daughters. Against tradition, he included them in his will. 

And so,

After this Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, old and full of days. (Job 42:16-17)

Thursday: Some final thoughts

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