The Book of Job: Serious or Satire?

I’ll let you know up front that this is a longer than normal post, but there was no good way to break it up. Hopefully, you’ll find the time it takes to read it well spent.

I’m a big fan of Seth Andrews and his podcast The Thinking Atheist. A week or two ago, I was listening to an episode, and Seth’s guest was Chris Matheson, who was one of the writer’s for Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (one of my favorite films, as some of you may remember).

Anyway, Matheson has recently written a book called The Story of God: A Biblical Comedy about Love (and Hate), and that was the subject of their interview. Seth asked him if he had a favorite book in the Bible, and Matheson replied that it was Job. When asked why, he said that he views Job as a wonderful satire. That really piqued my curiosity. Could it be that the writer of Job truly intended his book to be a satire, like Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal?

The idea stuck with me for several days, and I realized that I needed to revisit the Book of Job and find out for myself. Is it serious or satire?

A Breakdown of the Book of Job

Job is an interesting book. No one knows who wrote it, what the author’s nationality was, nor when it was written. There’s been speculation over the years that the book was originally written in another language and translated into Hebrew, because it contains many words and word-forms that aren’t found anywhere else in the Old Testament. However, no other text of the book has ever been found. And many scholars today have come back to the idea that the author was an Israelite who simply chose to use some foreign-looking word-forms to compliment the setting of the book, which is outside the kingdoms of Israel and Judah (wiki).

The book’s intent is to focus on theodicy, or why bad things happen to good people. In the prologue, we’re introduced to Job, who is described as being “blameless and upright,” and God has blessed him with great wealth. But Satan comes before God and says that Job’s obedience is only a result of all the good that God has blessed him with. If calamity were to befall him, he would turn his back on God. God decides to take Satan up on this bet and allows Satan to bring ruin upon Job, just so long as Job himself isn’t physically harmed.

So that’s how the book begins. Before we go further, I’d like to note something that stood out to me right away. Regardless of whether or not the author of Job was writing a satire, I’m convinced he did not believe he was writing actual history. This is a fable — actually, this is a play.

First of all, Job is presented as a little too perfect. In the first 5 verses of the book, we’re told that he is blameless, upright, fears God, and turns away from evil. He has 7 sons and 3 daughters (a total of 10 children). When it comes to his possessions, they also come out to nice round numbers: 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels (which is the same breakdown as his children, but multiplied by 1,000), 500 female donkeys, and 500 yoke of oxen. He also has many servants and is “the greatest of all the peoples of the east.” It’s hard to know how much is included in “the east,” but this is obviously an amazing superlative. Verses 4 and 5 talk about how wonderful Job’s adult children are, and we’re also told that Job regularly offers sacrifices for all of them simply as a precaution.

The guy seems perfect, but that’s not necessarily a reason for thinking he wasn’t real. After all, it’s his exceptional character that causes him to be singled out by God and Satan anyway. But consider this: the story actually works better if it’s fictional. A real person is imperfect. If Job were real, then his friends would be more justified when they accuse him of doing something wrong (as we’ll see shortly). But if this is a fictional tale, then it’s easier for us to accept that Job is truly blameless. If the author wants to talk about why bad things happen to good people, then he needs someone who is unquestionably good; he needs a paragon. Also, consider the setting in God’s realm (1:6-12):

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 have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said…

And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Most modern Christians believe that God is everywhere at once and always aware of everything. Why, then, would there need to be a particular day on which “the sons of God” present themselves before him (chapter 2 shows us that this was a regular occurrence)? And why would he need to ask them what they’ve been doing? If Satan is a spiritual being, why does he need to go down onto the earth and walk upon it? How could multiple bad things happen across the globe at the same time, if he has to operate in such an anthropomorphic way? And how could Satan go out from the presence of the Lord if God is everywhere? This whole setup is modeled on the way an earthly court would operate. How could this scenario be literally true?

When Satan is set loose upon Job, an incredible number of things happen to him all at once. A messenger arrives and tells Job that a band of Sabean raiders has taken all his oxen and donkeys and killed the servants that were with them. While he’s speaking, another messenger arrives and says that fire from the sky fell and burned up all the sheep and the servants that were with them. While he’s speaking, a messenger says that 3 groups of Chaldean raiders took all the camels and killed the servants that were with them. And while he’s speaking, a final messenger arrives and says that a great wind has blown down the house of one of his children — all of his children were inside, and they’re all dead.

To me, this reads more like a setup in a play or fable than actual history, even if the events were somehow spurred by Satan (did he possess the various groups of raiders? Did it infringe upon their free will? How long in advance did he have to set things in motion to make them all happen simultaneously?). There’s one more thing that makes me think this wasn’t supposed to be taken as literal history, and I’ll mention it when I come to it in just a moment.

After Job is stripped of everything, he still didn’t curse God (1:20-22):

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

When Satan next appears before God, God brags that Job was still faithful, despite what Satan had done to him. To this, Satan replies that Job remained faithful, because he still had his health. A man would give all he has to save his life — so take away Job’s good health, and he’ll turn against God. So God gives Satan permission to torment Job, so long as Satan doesn’t take his life. Satan causes painful sores to spring up all over Job’s body, putting him in immense agony. Job’s wife suggests that he curse God and die, but Job refuses (2:10):

“You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Job has 3 friends that hear of his misfortune, so they come visit to offer him comfort. According to Job 2:13, they sit on the ground with Job for 7 days and 7 nights without speaking. I just find that incredibly hard to believe. This is the other aspect of the story that makes me think Job is an allegory and not meant to be actual history. And there are even Christians who take that view as well, though I wasn’t able to find any decent articles arguing for that. However, I did find a number of articles from Christians who talk about those “liberal” scholars and Christians who view Job as allegorical, but insist that it must be actual history. Mostly, they insist upon this because it seems that some later writers of the Bible thought Job was real (Ezek 14:14, 20; James 5:11), and these Christians worry about what that would mean for the inspiration of those texts. If you’re interested, you can read those arguments here and here.

Anyway, now that the stage has been set, we come to the discourse. Most of this book is a series of speeches made by the different characters. Job kicks things off, but then each of his three friends take turns speaking to him, and he replies to each. It follows that format for two and a half cycles, after which, Job gives a long speech. Then, we’re introduced to a fifth cast member — a man named Elihu, who is younger than Job and his friends. Elihu promises to offer wisdom that will cut to the heart of the matter, but much of what he says is no different than what Job’s friends have said. Once he’s finished, we finally hear from God, whom the reader assumes will finally put these questions to rest. Here’s a brief summary of the conversation:

Job: (chapter 3)
Curse the day of my birth! Why couldn’t I have been stillborn?

Eliphaz: (chapters 4 & 5)
You’ve always been an encourager, but now bad things happen to you and you fold. Well, bad things happen to people who do bad things. No man is blameless before God. God is awesome, so don’t despise his discipline.

[Incidentally, in 5:1, Eliphaz asks “to which of the holy ones will you turn?” Is this, as well as chapter 1’s reference to “the sons of god,” a hint at polytheism? Also, the last 10 or so verses of chapter 5 have Eliphaz make a number of statements about God and how he takes care of people. What’s funny is that he supports all of his statements by saying, “Behold, this we have searched out; it is true.” (v. 27). Oh, okay then. 😉 ]

Job: (chapters 6 & 7)
Things are bad — I’m pretty justified in my complaints. You guys are pretty bad friends. Life sucks — why is this happening?!

Bildad: (chapter 8)
Does God pervert justice? Don’t deny your faults — these things happen for a reason. If your children offended God, then he has dealt with them. Just repent so things can be well for you — actually, even better for you than they were before.

Job: (chapters 9 & 10)
God is supreme — no one can stand against him. I’m innocent, but even so, if God is against me, what does it matter? And if it’s not him doing this, who is? Why was I born, if this is my end?

Zophar: (chapter 11)
You don’t know anything, and you deserve worse than what you’ve gotten. Repent.

Job: (chapters 12-14)
No doubt, you are the people and wisdom will die with you. Seriously, genius, you’re not telling me anything I don’t already know. I’m a laughing stock. Successful people despise the downtrodden. God is supreme, and creation is proof of his existence. I wish I could lay my case before him. And who are you to speak for God? You guys are terrible friends. I would speak to God, and I trust him to judge justly and see my innocence. Life is short and full of sorrow. And when it’s over, you have no idea what happens after you’re gone.

[While reading chapter 13, I was struck that much of Job’s agony comes from believing that there’s a God up there who could do something about it. If he didn’t believe in God, he’d still be miserable, but at least he wouldn’t have all these questions about fairness.]

Eliphaz: (chapter 15)
You don’t fear God the way you should. Only the wicked strive against God and don’t consider him.

Job: (chapters 16-17)
You guys suck. If I were in your place, I could offer you words of encouragement, or I could tear you down. God is against me. Who will stand with me? To whom do I turn for help and hope?

Bildad: (chapter 18)
Why aren’t you listening to us? Bad things happen to bad people.

Job: (chapter 19)
How long will you speak against me? God is against me — why are you against me too? My redeemer lives!*

[* This part was strange to me. It starts in 19:23, and it seems to come out of nowhere. Job has just been saying that God is against him, so why does he suddenly say “my redeemer lives”? Is he just saying that he still trusts God will save him, despite the way things look? Is this just to represent the kind of double-speak that we all engage in when we’re troubled, worried, in pain, etc? Playing devil’s advocate with himself, in other words?]

Zophar: (chapter 20)
God is against the wicked. The wicked have a terrible end.

Job: (chapter 21)
No, Zophar, the wicked often seem to live happy, prosperous lives, and even their children after them. You say God dishes it out on their descendants. Why? Why not let the wicked see it for themselves? Why should they care what happens to their houses after they’re gone? The wicked aren’t punished. You guys are full of it.

[This is where things start to get interesting, and they continue in Job’s next speech as well. He’s finally starting to rebel against the idea that bad things only happen to bad people. He already knows that he’s not a bad person, yet he’s being plagued by unthinkable horrors. And he’s also aware that the wicked often live amazing lives.]

Eliphaz: (chapter 22)
You are wicked. Repent.

Job: (chapters 23 & 24)
I would lay my case before God, but where is he? People do all kinds of evil things, but God doesn’t charge them with anything. Why not?

[These chapters lay out the problem of evil. To me, it’s one of the crucial sections of the book. Why is there evil in the world, and why does God do nothing about it? If you have time, check out 23:8-9, and all of chapter 24]

Bildad: (chapter 25)
Man is lowly — how can man ever be right before God?

Job (chapters 26-31) — this is Job’s final defense
God is amazing and powerful. I will keep my integrity. The wicked won’t prosper. Man searches all over and performs wonderful feats to gain gold, silver, iron, etc. But where is wisdom found? Wisdom is found in the fear of the Lord. Oh, how I long for the good old days! I have fallen so low. I have tried to live righteously — if I’ve lived unjustly, let me be punished.

[Once again, we have a section where Job seems to backpedal a little. 27:13-23 has him agreeing with his friends that wickedness doesn’t pay off. Like I said, maybe this is just an illustration of indecision — he doesn’t know quite what he thinks at this point. Chapter 28 is the discourse on wisdom. It’s hard to tell from the way it’s written if this is still part of Job’s speech, or if it’s being spoken by the narrator. Scholars are divided on that. Finally, I found 29:4-5 interesting, because he speaks about “friendship with God” and “when God was with me.” How would he know? Earlier, he asked “where is God?” It’s obvious from that earlier passage, as well as when God finally speaks to him, that Job has never had a real relationship with God before. These verses in chapter 29 seem to simply be what many people do — he’s ascribing the good things of life to God automatically, without requiring any evidence for the supernatural.]

Elihu: (chapters 32-37)
I’ve kept silent because of my youth — I assumed that you older men would be wiser than I, yet you’ve been unable to answer Job. So listen to me, and I will teach you wisdom. God is amazing — much higher than any man. Far be it from him to do anything wicked. God punishes the unrighteous, and the righteous live well.

God: (chapters 38-41)
I’m awesome — who are you to question me?

And that’s pretty much it — that’s God’s defense. He spends 4 chapters comparing himself to man and (surprise) finds man lacking.

Job speaks one last time and repents to God for ever wanting to present his case before him (chapter 42). In other words, “I’m a worm, and I’m sorry for questioning anything.”

We then find out that God is angry at Job’s three friends, because “you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” Remember, Job’s three friends’ main arguments were “God is amazing, and God punishes the wicked — since you’re obviously being punished, you should repent.” God himself reiterated the point that he is indeed amazing. So apparently, the part that Job’s friends got wrong was that he only punishes the wicked. In fact, God can punish anyone he wants, period. This reminds me of John Zande’s book, The Owner of All Infernal Names, where he argues that the evidence we have supports the idea of an omnimalevolent creator far better than an omnibenevolent one.

At the end of the Book of Job, we’re given an epilogue where we find out that God blesses Job with twice as much as he had before. He’s once again given 10 children (7 boys; 3 girls), which undoubtedly more than made up for the first 10, especially since we’re told “in all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters” (42:15). And he now has 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. And Job lived 140 more years, seeing his descendants to the fourth generation.

Thoughts

I’ve long been bothered by the moral implications of the Book of Job. First of all, the idea that God would allow Satan to coax him into a game of chance over someone who is loyal to him is pretty obscene. Even worse, Job’s children and servants become collateral damage and are eradicated on a whim. Why are all those lives less important than Job’s? I’m pretty confident that Job wouldn’t have seen it that way. If he could have given his own life to save theirs, no doubt he would have. Then, to end the book with the sick notion that “all’s well that ends well” because Job has been given replacement children is offensive.

But there’s also the theme of Job. As we said at the outset, the writer is tackling the question of “why do bad things happen to good people?” In the case of Job, we’re given the answer immediately — it’s because God and Satan are performing an experiment with him. But what about everyone else? Why do bad things happen to good people, if there’s a good God in control of everything. And to that question, we don’t get an answer, other than “they just do.” Or worse, “because you’re God’s property and he can do what he wants with you.”

I don’t think it ever would have struck me to view the Book of Job as a satire, but now that I’ve read it with that idea in mind, I find the notion pretty persuasive. It’s hard to imagine that the writer of Job took on this lengthy work simply to leave the question unanswered at the end, especially when he phrased the problem so well in passages like chapters 23 and 24. The satire isn’t especially overt. And if it had been, it might not have become part of the Jewish canon. But I can see the possibility that the writer was being subversive and pointing out the dilemma of theodicy below a facade of “Yay God!” enthusiasm. If that’s what’s really going on here, then I have a new respect for the book. In fact, its moral failings make far more sense from this perspective, since they heighten the absurdity of the whole situation.

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100 thoughts on “The Book of Job: Serious or Satire?”

  1. Great analysis. Job is one of my favorites as well because it is pretty much the exact opposite of what Christians seem to think it is–it shows God as an evil dick who enjoys screwing with people for entertainment. Bill Robbins from The Barroom Atheist compares it to Mortimer and Randolph in Trading Places. That’s a perfect comparison.

    I’ve read a lot of sources who suggest that Elihu’s sections were later additions. Everywhere else, Job’s three friends are mentioned, and if you remove chapters 32-37, there is not even the slightest suggestion that a fourth exists. Plus, chapter 31 would seem to transition a little better into chapter 38.

    Also, where you note that Job seems to backpedal in 27:13-23, this seems to be the product of editing errors as well. It seems to be Bildad’s perspective, so perhaps it somehow got shuffled from chapter 25.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Ah, those are great points. Thanks, Jon! I just looked back over chapter 27, and I think you’re right. It would make much more sense to view that as one of Job’s friends (maybe Zophar, since it would have been his turn and would have completed 3 full cycles of speeches). I didn’t even think of that…

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  3. Btw, you also make a great point about Elihu. It’s definitely puzzling that he’s never mentioned, either before he gives his speech or after. No one else seems to know he’s there at all. Job never even replies to him.

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  4. Thanks for a good discussion.

    It has always seemed to me that Job was a morality play. I agree with you that it is a play, and not history.

    I had not heard of the satire suggestion. But I’m inclined to doubt that. I suspect that satire didn’t really exist before there were printing presses.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for weighing in, Neil.

    Actually, out of curiosity, I decided to check out the Wiki article on satire. Currently, it’s thought that the oldest examples are from Aristophanes, who lived from 446-386 BCE! That’s much earlier than I would have thought.

    I do think you’re probably right about Job not being satire. It’s interesting that it could potentially be read that way, though.

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  6. I thoroughly enjoyed the write as well as the discussion so far. It has me wanting to read Job again myself.

    The idea of it being a satire is so interesting. You make a good case for it.

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  7. Hi Nate,

    I think it is pretty obvious that Job isn’t history and doesn’t pretend to be. CS Lewis pointed out years ago that it has no historical allusions – e.g. in the year king xxxx ascended to the throne, etc.

    It appears very little of early Jewish literature had a single author, but stories and poems were accumulated over time, probably orally at first and then only later written down. So Job quite possibly had several or many authors, and later additions as you suggest would be quite possible, perhaps even likely.

    And yes, if it was literal, God wouldn’t be a very christian God! Imagine him sitting down with Satan like two English gentlemen in their club discussing all manner of things including Job, all over a whiskey and tonic! I don’t see any christian really believing that when they think about it.

    Rather it is a piece of Jewish “wisdom literature”, like Ecclesiastes (much more interesting in my view), a poem which presents different sides of the same question and leaves people to think about it themselves – more like a parable than a satire or history. I never thought it gave me much of an answer either, but it does present common views.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Thanks, unkleE, I was hoping you’d comment. I figured you wouldn’t view it as history, but I wasn’t sure exactly what else you might think of it. I appreciate your thoughts!

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  9. “The New American Bible” refers to the Book of Job as a dramatic poem. It further refers to Job as “an oriental chieftain,” clearly delineating him as being of Jewish descent, in fact, describing “Uz as being, “somewhere in Arabia.” Note the Sabeans (1:15) are also from Southern Arabia. It mentions that the names of Job’s friends suggest an Edomite origin, specifically the Temanites – “Tema” (6:19) is also located in Arabia, specifically the Northwest.

    Of 28:1-28, TNAB admits that, “…scholars are not agreed regarding the authorship of this poem….”

    Elihu” means, “my god is he,” and (32:2) comes from “Buz,” which the TNAB maintains (Jerimiah, 25:23) was near Tema and Dedan.

    Throughout the book, footnotes indicate many, many passages that it maintains were unclear, mistranslated, out of place, repetitions, or available not from the Hebrew, but only in the Vulgate, as well as a few upon which scholars are unable to agree.

    Even worse, Job’s children and servants become collateral damage and are eradicated on a whim. Why are all those lives less important than Job’s?

    Because they’re property, Nate!

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Thanks Nate. It makes a lot of sense to see it as a satire. I do wonder what UnkleE and C.S. Lewis thought of this for the interpretation of Ezekiel and James. Likewise many argue that Noah and Adam must have been real because Jesus implied they were.

    The Elihu section has been seen by many commentators as a late addition given it could be removed and have no impact on the message. Also Job does not reply to him and when God turns up he talks about the three not four friends.

    I always found it interesting that forgiveness for the three friends was conditional on the prayer of Job, not their own repentance.

    It has been suggested by some scholars that the references by God to Rahab and the Leviathan are actually ancient creation myths that pre-date Geneses 1.

    Like you I do puzzle how all the focus is on Job and the suffering of batch one of children is ignored. I think what it really speaks to is that the Hebrew belief was that eternal life was through descendants on earth, not going to Heaven.

    As Jon Darby suggested above, if Job is true, it hardly paints a good picture of God.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Those are great points, Peter — thanks! And arch, your comment had a lot of great stuff too!

    In this post, I was sort of taking it for granted that the book wasn’t actually inspired, which is unusual for me. But while reading it, I did notice that the description of Leviathan sounds so much like a dragon, even down to the breathing of fire, that it stood out as another indication that the writer wasn’t divinely inspired. Although, like you and Jon and some others have already mentioned, its treatment of God illustrates that quite well.

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  12. Nate, Paul Davidson has an interesting post Here that delves into to some of the creation stories in the Bible that pre-date Genesis 1. Including Job, which has links to Psalms 74 and 89.

    His specific comment on Job is:

    The conquest of Leviathan/Rahab in the creation combat shows up in other books as well, including Job and Isaiah (which we shall examine a little later on).

    By his power he stilled the Sea;
    by his understanding he struck down Rahab.
    By his wind the heavens were made fair;
    his hand pierced the fleeing serpent. (Job 26:12-13)

    Job 38 is rich with allusions to Yahweh’s creation of the cosmos, including the foundation of the earth (v. 4), the doors that hold back the cosmic ocean (vv. 8–11), the recesses of the deep sea (v. 16), and the storehouses of snow and hail (v. 22).

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  13. the Leviathan are actually ancient creation myths that pre-date Geneses 1.

    “The New American Bible” relates that the Leviathan mentioned in Job was not a great sea creature, but rather a giant crocodile – hey, I’m just the messenger —

    And almost everything predates Gen 1, which wasn’t written until the 500’s BCE by Aaronid priests in captivity in Babylon, and intended to replace the original Gen 1, which is now Gen 2, because the Redactor, in 400 BCE, didn’t know which one to purge, and so included them both.

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  14. Great piece Nate. I’ve often been intrigued by the story of Job too. Your thoughts toward the end are spot on. It’s also always bothered me how often collateral characters are dismissed (killed) with little or no care, as in the case of Job’s kids. It’s a theme oft repeated in the Bible.

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  15. There’s a remarkably similar Babylonian story that some scholars suggest may have been a source or inspiration for Job.
    Beyond that, I know of very few serious scholars (devout or secular) who take it to be “historical” or even “theological” — Scheindlin’s translation and commentary, focusing on the literary/poetic aspects, makes a compelling case for understanding it as a fundamentally human text — caught between impotence and awe before the power and majestic beauty of the world. Job’s lamentation is answered, in this case, not by Yahweh’s “speech” but by the author who writes the lines of that speech which, read as a human writing, depicts a world that, despite individual suffering, is worth living in nonetheless.
    Not necessarily a common interpretation but a thought-provoking one (that is grounded directly in the text itself).
    If nothing else though, “Job” deserves an A+ as a cultural contribution if only for inspiring so many questions and perspectives…

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  16. Logan, in regard to collateral damage it is hard to go past the Census David took in 2 Samuel 24.

    Look at the sequence:
    1. God is angry at Israel for undisclosed reasons
    2. God moves David to take a census
    3. The prophet Gad comes to David saying that because of your sin in taking the Census, you have three choices for punishment:
    a) seven years of famine;
    b) three years of fleeing before your enemies;
    c) three days of plague.
    4. David chooses plague
    5. God sends an Angel with the plague
    6. 70,000 people are killed but God in his mercy relents as the Angel approaches Jerusalem, so the capital is spared.
    7. Because of God’s mercy David builds an altar to God where the Angel stopped.

    I won’t make any comment about this story except to say, can we really take a story like this seriously?

    Interestingly when the later writer of Chronicles rewrote the story he realized points 1 and 2 did not reflect particularly well on God so changed it to the Devil inciting David.

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  17. If this is a morality play, Job is not at the center of it. Consider the moral implications of a god that would allow such a series of events to pass when he knew ahead of time how the events would play out and knew, with no doubt whatsoever whether, Job was or was not his faithful servant. (Also, that Satan had no power to cloud or hide that knowledge from Him.)

    Job is just the equivalent of a magician’s flourish, designed to distract you where the real action is. The moral lesson of this story is that Yahweh is a malicious character who enjoys playing out scenes already predestined in which good people suffer bad happenings. Any normal god would be bored to tears, knowing everything that was going to happen and why. Satan is not a separate entity, he is just another part of Yahweh’s mind that represents part of Yahweh’s personality. Since there is only one god, but one who is all powerful, why should he not have imaginary playmates?

    Then imagine Yahweh’s mirth when he convinces all of the world’s Jews, Muslims, and Christians that the Book of Job is holy scripture. His laughter must have been and still be immense.

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  18. Nate,

    Great post on a topic that seems bottomless: the story of Job and the interpretations thereof have so many variations and consequences.

    Young-earth-creationists use the book as scientific text. Fundamentalists read it as literal and factual history. Other strains of Christianity are less hard-lined in their interpretation, but most have no idea what to do with the book except use Job as “a biblical example of how a Christian should respond to suffering.”

    I’m on board with the satire interpretation. So far, for me, it’s the only thing that makes sense. I’ve been studying the book for awhile now (because I’m attempting my first novel: a modern-day Job story, told from Mrs. Job’s point of view) and so many things about the biblical tale are horrifying:

    1. The way Job’s wife is depicted: she’s seen as an antagonist when all we ever hear of her is one sentence spoken during extreme grief.

    2. Job’s children and servants are completely expendable. Which contradicts that whole “least of these” Jesus mentions in the NT.

    I think people generally interpret Job as a historical event and a proper response to suffering because they must. One of the main reasons people have faith is to give their suffering meaning. If this book is satire, then there are other reasons for human suffering, and that creates a helluva lot of serious problems for people who need to believe “God is good all the time.”

    Mary Doria Russell’s critically acclaimed sci-fieries that starts with _The Sparrow_ is a fantastic take on this issue from a wildly different setting. (Synopsis: His eye may be on the sparrow, but the sparrow still falls.) Highly recommended.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Job’s children and servants are completely expendable. Which contradicts that whole ‘least of these’ Jesus mentions in the NT.

    That’s an outlook I had never previously considered – thank you for that, Rodalena! (Beautiful name, btw, it just rolls off the tongue – Rodalena –)

    One of the main reasons people have faith is to give their suffering meaning.

    “How can we have order in a state without religion? For, when one man is dying of hunger near another who is ill of overeating, he cannot resign himself to this difference unless there is an authority which declares ‘God wills it thus.’ Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.”
    — Napoleon Bonaparte —

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Rodalena,

    Thanks for the comment! I agree with arch that I never thought about the “least of these” angle — that’s a great connection.

    I’ll check out The Sparrow — I’ve seen you mention it before. And good luck with your own book! That sounds like a great perspective to write from! I can’t wait to read it. 🙂

    Like

  21. Thanks guys. The way women are depicted in the bible has always extremely bothered me; it’s one of the things that was a catalyst to my own crisis of faith several years ago.

    The moniker is a nickname my former fil gave me…I always liked it.:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Father-in-law? I’ll bet you were born in the last century, Nate!
    (As were most of us, but it sure sounds OLD when you say it that way, doesn’t it?)

    Like

  23. G. B. Caird makes a passing reference to this passage from Job when referring to the story of the Shepherds seeing the heavenly host in Luke’s Gospel.

    The heavenly host is an expression which in the Old Testament sometimes denotes stars, sometimes angelic courtiers around the throne of the heavenly King. Frequently the two meanings converge, for the Jews, like all other ancient peoples, believed that the stars were spiritual beings. According to the Book of Job, when God laid the cornerstone of the earth,
    “… the morning stars sang together
    And all the sons of God shouted for joy…(Job 38:7)

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Hi Nate, I can understand how Job could be read as a satire, but I find it hard to think that this was the author’s intention. What is the author criticizing if it’s a satire?

    If anything, it seems the author is criticizing a specific idea about God expressed by the 3 friends. The 3 friends insist Job is suffering because of his personal sin, but the reader knows Job is righteous, and God vindicates Job and condemns his friends. So, the idea being criticized is that righteous people are spared from loss and suffering.

    Brief note on theology. God promised blessings and curses for Israel based on their obedience to the law at the end of Deuteronomy, so applying this logic to individuals such as Job would mean Job should never be cursed on account of his righteousness. The author goes against this idea and states that God may test individuals. Elsewhere, in Judaism God may bless or curse individuals for their actions (i.e., David and Bathsheba’s first child dies on account of their sin). The point is, for any given circumstance there are multiple theological explanations, so we should not focus too much on one at the expense of others. God may punish people for their sins on earth, but sometimes bad things happen to good people.

    And what is the theodicy? We’re never explicitly told a justification. After being questioned by the Almighty, Job ends up saying “Sure I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” which is an anti-theodicy! God’s justification for allowing the righteous to suffer at times is unknowable to humans.

    I’m not persuaded the author is satirizing Jewish theology in any way. Rather the author is criticizing an overly-simplistic Jewish theology.

    Like

  25. Yeah, you’re right. YHWH’s a monster who likes causing his minions great suffering, visiting death on their loved ones, and screw them if they dare to ask why – STFU says he.

    But here we are 2500(ish) years later, still trying to figure out what the book means. Maybe he’s not a monster, he’s just a terrible communicator.

    Or…anybody got a razor?

    Like

  26. The more I think on it, the more I like the satire spin:

    “oh. god is sooo, good. he’s sooo great. He just killed all my livestock and made me feel just awful by giving me a bad case of the boils, but I dont notice so much because he also murdered my children for a bet. I love god so much though, because he knows about nature and he’s giving more kids that are prettier than the old ones. Arent we lucky to have such a wonderful god…”

    and you know, once I type it out like that, it doesn’t look so bad,m does it?

    Like

  27. @william
    I understand that’s the kind of Hitchenesque eisegesis that you are drawn to.

    I haven’t seen any convincing argument that Job is a satire. We need to start with reasons, not assertions. There are reasons Job is a serious criticism of the idea that loss and suffering is always do to personal sin. First, the majority of the book is Job discussing with his friends whether or not he’s offended God by sinning. Second, the idea that loss and suffering is punishment for personal sins is prevalent in Jewish thought meaning there is a reason for the author to address this. Third, the author never explicitly justifies God and sidesteps the problem of evil.

    The notion that it’s a subversive satire does not hold much clout. Why have the majority of the conversation about sin? Why the happy ending? It seems plainly a criticism of over-simplified theology of sin and punishment, nothing more. Anything else twists the intended meaning.

    Like

  28. oh well certainly. And I can also understand that you are drawn to that sort of apologetic eisegesis.

    But I do think you’re probably right. I do doubt that Job was intended to be a satire, even though I do think it works that way, without much assertion, based on how unreasonable it for a good, benevolent god to treat his beloved creation so poorly.

    That being said, I have always like the point that is at the surface of this story, that bad luck isn’t an indication one’s righteousness or lack thereof.

    So, satire or not, that is a good and valid lesson. We shouldn’t kick people while they’re down.

    But c’mon, this story has God inflicting the worse kind of experiences and losses on a man just to win a bet with satan. This still inst exactly a flattering portrait of God.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Why the happy ending?” – I really don’t think you’re viewing that from the perspective of the first family and the herdsmen, are you –?

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Hi Brandon,

    I think you’re likely right that the author wasn’t really writing a satire, but I still think it’s possible that he may have been. You’re also right that the main point of the book is to dispel the notion that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people. At the same time, the message that bad things also happen to good people is not very uplifting.

    Chapters 21 and 23-24 still stand out to me as some of the major points of the book: the wicked aren’t punished and God is hidden. Those two points very neatly wrap up the problem of evil, and that problem is never answered. That’s what I see as the evidence for this possibly being a satire. I mean, why else bring up the problem of evil and leave it unanswered? Even when God shows up at the end of the book, he doesn’t answer the problem either — he just criticizes lowly humans for asking the question. And if this book had truly been inspired, then why wouldn’t God have answered the PoE once and for all?

    As to the conversation that you and Arch are having, yes, I think you should be concerned with the perspective of the children and servants that were killed for the sake of this bet. If the story is true, then those are real individuals, who should be just as important as Job. Remember the claims of the New Testament: “God is not a respecter of persons,” and “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

    Liked by 1 person

  31. That goes back to the old saw, Nate, “He made us, he can do anything he wants with us,” which is a copout for the head of the Morals Department.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Yeah, and there are certainly some theists who honestly view that as a reasonable answer. But I think a deity who operated that way wouldn’t match the “loving and merciful” description.

    Like

  33. Nate,

    In all honesty, I do not think the PoE has a comprehensive, satisfactory solution available to the human intellect. Failing to answer the PoE in the book of Job or scripture as whole is not a deficiency in my view. It’s simply admitting the limitations of humans. It’s analogous to the scientific mystery. I would rather scientists say “We don’t know what happened before the Big Bang” “We don’t know what Dark Energy is” than tickling our ears with a pat answer. Similarly, scripture affirms a theological mystery through Job and doesn’t give a pat answer.

    From a literary perspective, I am not concerned about the author’s lack of addressing other’s perspectives. From a theological perspective, of course I am concerned about Job’s children and others who were killed! I reject that it was a bet like a casino game. It was more like a test similar to that of Abraham on the mountain and Jesus in the wilderness. And, I don’t think these deaths were just collateral damage in the testing of Job.

    Something I’ve been pondering lately is relevant here. God is not human, therefore God’s rights do not map onto human rights. That doesn’t mean God can do anything and it’s magically good. Scripture says God cannot lie, for instance. One thing God can do that we cannot (with few exceptions) is take life.

    All of these characters were given the gift of life, God eventually took all of their lives including Job. Do you think God is should be obligated to give everyone an equally successful, happy earthly life? Why so?

    -B

    Like

  34. All of these characters were given the gift of life, God eventually took all of their lives including Job.” – What did I say –?

    It’s simply admitting the limitations of humans.” – But it’s written by humans.

    Like

  35. I wrote the book Nate started off talking about, “the story of God,” Can I prove job is satire? Obviously not, how can we know that? It sure reads like satire though. yes, of course the three friends are acid-drenched portraits of sanctimony. In the end, God himself busts them. But it ain’t just them. The wife- unnamed of course, why would she even deserve a name?- is funny for two reasons: 1) job is apparently worse off with her alive than dead, a henny young man joke; 2) she is tart, “why don’t you curse God?” Then there’s the hilariously annoying elihu, who either was sent by God and fails so badly God has to jump in immediately afterwards, or was not sent by God and more or less takes over the bible with lame empty blather for a few chapters. (Lesson in communicating with people; don’t tell them repeatedly how wise you are.) then there’s Satan, who with less than 100 words, with one question really- “are you sure??”- causes God to have a total meltdown. He’s a classic comedic type, the trickster- bugs bunny to gods Elmer Fudd. And then- man oh man- there’s God. Job reveals him as the bully, braggart, lightweight (does he actually do anything to restore jobs life in the end? No he doesn’t. He’s the wizard of oz handing out fake medals; siblings and wife do everything) and, funniest of all by far, the mental case we’ve glimpsed through the whole bible but never like this. When he starts to yell down from heaven it is comedy gold- unicorns, pet sea monsters, talking lightning!! You can hear the spittle flying, it’s gorgeous character comedy, slyly eviscerating.
    who knows who wrote job. My belief is that it was Solomon- look at the resemblances to Ecclesiastes as well as the quality. Job is beautifully written. This writer knew what they were doing. I personally think Solomon was trying to reform things by pointing out how absurd this character would be if he were real. Of course he failed. Another good joke.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Hey Brandon,

    In all honesty, I do not think the PoE has a comprehensive, satisfactory solution available to the human intellect. Failing to answer the PoE in the book of Job or scripture as whole is not a deficiency in my view. It’s simply admitting the limitations of humans.

    But if the Book of Job is really inspired, then couldn’t God have given us at least something that points to the answer of the PoE? Even if we couldn’t understand every aspect of it?

    From a literary perspective, I am not concerned about the author’s lack of addressing other’s perspectives. From a theological perspective, of course I am concerned about Job’s children and others who were killed! I reject that it was a bet like a casino game. It was more like a test similar to that of Abraham on the mountain and Jesus in the wilderness. And, I don’t think these deaths were just collateral damage in the testing of Job.

    Could you explain how those deaths are not collateral damage?

    Do you think God is should be obligated to give everyone an equally successful, happy earthly life? Why so?

    Good question. Unfortunately, I’m on my way out the door, so I’ll have to answer this more fully later. I’m not sure how I feel about happiness, but I can say that I don’t think God should have the right to take life however and whenever he wants. If we’re his creation and he’s a moral being, then he has certain responsibilities toward us.

    Like

  37. Chirs Matheson, I will do my best to contain all the Bill & Ted references I want so badly throw in here… I don’t know the etiquette here, and I don’t want to come off as… a dork? So, i’ll just say that I am a fan.

    Satire is something I had never even imagined until Nate pointed out that you pointed it out, but even if it were never intended to be satire, discussing the book as such is still a profound point because it fits so well, with obvious implications.

    All of this suffering, all of these tragedies – and as i father, i cannot imagine the horror and grief at losing all of your children at once – but then to suggest it’s all okay because God knows best and He’s given you newer, better children is so ridiculous and offensive that the only way it can make sense is if it’s a satire or if you’re a sociopath.

    Like

  38. “Do you think God is should be obligated to give everyone an equally successful, happy earthly life? Why so?” – Brandon

    I don’t think so. It would be nice, but I don’t consider that something that must be provided. But I would say that it doesn’t make sense for a god described as loving and merciful to rob people of those things.

    And I dont think god’s bet with satan was like something out of casino. In casino, you dont know what will happen. A certain percentage for good and another for bad. But with God and Satan, everyone knew what would happen with Job. He’d lose all his stuff, he’d lose all his children and eventually his own health. This isnt a flattering story for God.

    Like

  39. Question, Nate – or anyone – has anyone seen or heard from Pauli? Carmen has written him 3 emails and gotten no response. We’re worried.

    Like

  40. I’m curious, William – instead of giving Job a new family, why didn’t he resurrect the old one, after all, wasn’t that his stock in trade? What better way to demonstrate that he can do it at the end-time?

    Like

  41. But with God and Satan, everyone knew what would happen with Job.” – Particularly if god is omniscient.

    Like

  42. Arch, you should know better than to question God. Maybe if you were more righteous you could better understand how a newer and prettier litter of children is better than the old, uglier ones.

    I will pray for you and hope that God will open your heart.

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  43. “But with God and Satan, everyone knew what would happen with Job.” – Particularly if god is omniscient.” – Arch

    oh Arch, what better way for a perfect deity to demonstrate his love and power to than to approve of the execution of all of his servant’s children at the request of Satan, and in an effort to test Job? Why, I can only hope that I am so worthy to be tested in such a way.

    If you know of a better way, please enlighten us. I mean, God must be great – the men who wrote the bible said so.

    Like

  44. Job response included: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

    I find this to be a pretty amazing response. I don’t know how I would respond in Jobs situation at all, but his response does remind me personally that I had no say in the country or family I would be born into. It was all provided without me having done anything. Yet something as important as family – we have no say in the people who are born into families. Yet these people are often so much a part of our lives. But we all ultimately arrived here naked. Vulnerable and the people who look after us arrived here the same way. In this way I see that from the get go that God gave us the capacity to even have these interactions. And however parents decide to raise their children, we are all essentially sharing the same existances in that we arrived here naked. And was given life that we had no ability to earn.

    Like

  45. “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.” – Isn’t that incest?

    Like

  46. Arch, I think you already know what the text means. I find it to be pretty straightforward.

    “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. “

    Like

  47. I understand it to mean that we are born into this world dependent and naked. And that we all leave this world naked, in that no matter how nicely we have dressed ourselves over our lives, we cannot hold onto what we have accumulated. We are born naked and we leave naked.

    Like

  48. Allan Sherman (“Hello Mudder, Hello Fodder”), in his book, “The Rape of the A.P.E.,” wrote, “God must have a sense of humor, he keeps sending us into the world naked, and we keep shipping ourselves back to him in full dress suits.”

    Like

  49. “we keep shipping ourselves back to him in full dress suits.”

    Hey Arch, that there made me smile 🙂

    Hope your going well

    Like

  50. Hey William and Dave,

    I found out something interesting about the Christian website, Theology Web, today. One of its three owners is a Florida pastor named JP Holding. Several well-known atheists (John Loftus, “Nonstampcollector”) have had run-ins with him and describe him as real obnoxious jerk who loves to do character hack-jobs on atheists and other skeptics.

    Something else, Nick Peters is his side-kick and has allegedly assisted in Holding in making several denigrating videos about individual atheists.

    So Theology Web is probably not the best place to have a “fair and balanced” discussion on the topic of religion. It seems to be the “Fox News” of the online forums.

    Like

  51. yeah, I can see that. One thing that sets off alarm bells for me is when you discuss the bible with people and they’ll say that the non-believer doesn’t believe yet because they haven’t read or don’t have a good understanding in the original Greek or Hebrew, or that they haven’t read enough scholars.

    I just find these arguments to be smoke and mirrors.

    1. Haven’t read enough scholars – this is a silly argument disguised as educated. No one would have all the scholarly works by all the scholars, so no matter how much a non-believer has studied, they can just say, “well, you haven’t read this one or that one…”

    But it also ignores the fact that any religion could claim the same. “Oh, you don’t believe in the Koran? well, then you clearly haven’t read enough of the Koran scholars…”

    And then of course also it tries to steer attention away from the bible, which has holes, that they try to cover up with scholars.

    2. Poor understanding of Hebrew & Greek – They’ll say this so that they can say that the English translation (which was translated by real Hebrew & Greek Scholars) only gives the illusion of a problem, and by asserting that since we’re not ancient language scholars, we’re too ignorant to make a judgement on the bible – which is dumb because they’re no scholars of every language for every religion’s root language (like Arabic) so when making such an argument, they’re unwittingly undermining their critiques of the other religions.

    But these arguments aren’t made careful thinkers who honestly want to gain more understanding, they’re the frantic arguments of those with an agenda.

    It doesn’t surprise me that such people would deviate from the topic in order to attack the character of their opponents. It’s one of the reasons I bailed from that site. They’re nearly insane with everything they do and say in order to protect their religious view.

    Like

  52. Excellent points! With your permission, I’d like to post your comment on my blog. Is that ok?

    FYI: I and a liberal Christian on TW talked Nick Peters into becoming a member of Bart Ehrman’s blog. I’ve already made my popcorn. I will find it very good entertainment (and educational) to see Nick debate Ehrman. Ehrman made a recent post about one of Nick’s criticisms of him (that I shared with Ehrman). It ruffled Ehrman’s feathers and created a really interesting discussion. Ehrman believes that the Apostle Paul saw Jesus as an angel, sent by God to earth, whom God exalted upon his resurrection to *equal* status with him. I will post a link below.

    If you guys are not members of Ehrman’s blog, you should be. Not only are his post interesting but he will responded to your questions.

    Like

  53. Regarding the history of ‘The Book of Job,’ this, from Wikipedia:

    The language of Job stands out for its conservative spelling and for its exceptionally large number of words and forms not found elsewhere in the Bible. The 12th century Jewish scholar Ibn Ezra concluded that the book must have been written in some other language and translated into Hebrew, and many later scholars down to the 20th century looked for an Aramaic, Arabic or Edomite original. A close analysis suggests that the foreign words and foreign-looking forms are literary affectations designed to lend authenticity to the book’s distant setting.

    [emphasis, mine]
    C. L. Seow [biblical scholar, semitist, epigrapher, and historian of Near Eastern religion, currently as Vanderbilt, Buffington, Cupples Chair in Divinity and Distinguished Professor of Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt University] elaborates:

    “…the conservative orthography may be for literary effect, namely, to lend credibility to the fiction of the foreignness of the book’s setting. Furthermore, an early dating of the book is also not required by its orthography, since the text may be not so much archaic…as it is archaistic — to give the impression of a text from long ago.”

    Seow, C.L. (2013). Job 1-21: Interpretation and Commentary p. 21-24.

    The question I have is what might have been the reason for the obviously great deal of effort put into the deception of making the account seem older than it was and to have been of a foreign origin. Experts place it as actually having been written in the 600’s BCE, around the time of the Babylonian Captivity, when the nation of Israel was undergoing its greatest hardship to date, the destruction of the first temple. This coincides with the same time period during which the ‘Priestly Source’ employed Orwellian means to rewrite and discard entire sections of the J/E Source’s version of the early ‘history’ of the Jews that would ultimately become part of the Torah.

    The message is clear, if the Jews would simply endure their hardship – suck it up, as it were – their god would eventually make everything hunky dory.

    Liked by 3 people

  54. Yeah, that’s a great point, Arch. If it’s not a satire, the main message seems to be something like:

    Yes, things suck right now. But God’s ways are mysterious. It’s not our place to question him — we should simply remain faithful, and all will be worked out in the end.

    It’s funny, but it’s the same mindset that religious people have always had and still have today. When people pray and don’t get what they want, even when it’s something really important, they don’t start to wonder if anyone’s on the receiving end. They just use the same old reasoning time and time again. The Moabite Stone still stands out to me, since it gives King Mesha’s outlook concerning his own god, Chemosh. Just like the Israelites, Mesha never wondered if his god might be false. If bad things happened to him, it’s just because Chemosh was angry with him — not because his god was false, bad, or weak. And this was from a guy who had plenty of other gods to choose from, including Yahweh.

    Liked by 1 person

  55. The destruction of the first temple, the fall of Jerusalem and the resulting captivity of Israel’s leaders was, prior to the Roman occupation, the worst tragedy ever to befall the Jews as a nation, and it left many shaking their heads, wondering why.

    The Priestly Source had their own explanation – the Jews had begun taking their god for granted, and so they recreated him, making him more kingly and less anthropomorphic.

    Another philosophy arose out of that catastrophe, one that generated the rise of the apocalypticists, who maintained that theirs was an evil age, controlled by cosmic forces opposed to their god, who were gaining in strength, that their god would eventually intervene in the course of history to overthrow those forces of evil and everyone who was aligned with them, and that their god would then raise the dead for judgement, bringing in a new age in which peace, truth, and justice would reign supreme.

    The Sanhedrin of the 1st century was comprised of Sadducees (the elite of Israel), who did not believe in an afterlife, and the more numerous Pharisees (from blue-collar classes), who did – then there were the Essenes, an apocalyptic group who believed in secluding themselves as a group, preserving their purity, and waiting it out. But it is interesting that Yeshua, when he began his ministry, declined to attach himself to any of those three, but rather sought out a known apocalyptic doomsayer, John, the Baptist, a strong indication that Yeshua was an apocalyticist himself, as his words – if it can be determined which are his own and which his anonymous biographers’ – confirm.

    It’s so easy, if one neglects to research, to presume that all Jews of the time believed in basically the same things, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

    Liked by 4 people

  56. I wanted to watch, but I decided I couldn’t agree with all of the spyware the terms and conditions said it wanted to install on my computer – sorry —

    Liked by 1 person

  57. the guys from southpark always do a great job of skewering all religions. particularly Mormons.
    they wrote the hit broadway play “the Book of Mormon”

    southpark is my favorite cartoon series of all time.

    Like

  58. “The Book of Mormon” was great! My wife and I got to see it earlier this year and loved it. Believe it or not, there were actual Mormons outside the theater offering up the Book of Mormon to anyone who wanted one after the play. “You’ve seen the play, now read the book!” They had even taken some ads out in the program. I appreciated that they were trying to be in on the joke, but I think it would be hard for anyone to take them seriously after seeing them get so lambasted.

    Like

  59. I recall watching the Southpark Job episode when I still called myself a Christian. I thought at the time it was a reasonable presentation except for the end where it failed to mention God restoring the fortunes of Job. That exclusion did cause me to question what had been excluded in the critiques of other faiths.

    Like

  60. …except for the end where it failed to mention God restoring the fortunes of Job.

    Interestingly, those fortunes included human beings. The Bible seems to imply that those are just as easily replaceable as the cattle and the rest of the property. Where was the art of resurrection when it was needed?

    Like

  61. Not enough effort has been made to show the satire in Job: incredible exaggeration, dramatic irony, parody of God, anthropomorphism, etc. But the big question is why can this be considered irony. The answer seems simple. Job is a disguised comment on the covenant. The pious reader will never see the satire. He has been inoculated against critical thinking in matters of religion. Job covered in sores sitting on the dung heap is really the Hebrew people sitting on the dung heap of history, brought to nothing by hostile neighbours. Jeremiah was sure they were being punished for idolatrous worship or wicked conduct. Jeremiah was wrong. Job’s friends use Jeremiah’s covenant reasoning. God in The Book of Job clearly states that they were wrong: “…you (the friends) have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (42:7) and ” …and they comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him;” (42: 11) The reader knows the friends are wrong (dramatic irony). The Book of Job demonstrates that God as described in the covenant does not exist. The Book of Job is hidden, disguised comment on the covenant. Even the wide dates for its writing allow it to be such a comment. God must be laughing that the book is considered wisdom literature and comment on why good people suffer. Only the pious mindset of the reader protected the author from the charge of blasphemy. I have filled out the supporting details of the above interpretation in a short article.

    Like

  62. The Priestly (P) Source, responsible for writing Gen 1 and much of the Torah, clearly had Jerimiah’s conclusions in mind, as they determined that the anthropomorphic god of Gen 2 (then, Gen 1) wasn’t sufficiently regal, didn’t pay to the creator of the universe, the respect that he was due, depicting him instead as taking walks on the earth, ‘in the cool of the day,’ chatting with his pet people, and personally sewing them garments on his Celestial Singer. They created a more kingly god, who sat regally on his throne, allowing his minions servants to perform his will on earth. The Priestly Source originally intended that their version of the creation, anticipating Orwell, replace that of the Yahwist (J) Source entirely, but the redactor, in 400 BCE, whose job it was to piece together the various pieces of Israel’s ‘history,’ much like a patchwork quilt, knowing nothing of the Priestly Source’s intentions 150 years earlier, included both versions, creating a number of contradictions.

    Like

  63. Oh Alabama, seems Neil Young might have got it right!

    Oh Alabama
    The devil fools
    with the best laid plan.
    Swing low Alabama
    You got spare change
    You got to feel strange
    And now the moment
    is all that it meant.

    Alabama, you got
    the weight on your shoulders
    That’s breaking your back.
    Your Cadillac
    has got a wheel in the ditch
    And a wheel on the track

    Oh Alabama
    Banjos playing
    through the broken glass
    Windows down in Alabama.
    See the old folks
    tied in white ropes
    Hear the banjo.
    Don’t it take you down home?

    Alabama, you got
    the weight on your shoulders
    That’s breaking your back.
    Your Cadillac
    has got a wheel in the ditch
    And a wheel on the track

    Oh Alabama.
    Can I see you
    and shake your hand.
    Make friends down in Alabama.
    I’m from a new land
    I come to you
    and see all this ruin
    What are you doing Alabama?
    You got the rest of the union
    to help you along
    What’s going wrong?

    Like

  64. @Fred — great observations! Thanks for sharing. It’s a point of view I haven’t thought about before… definitely a lot to consider.

    @Arch — great points about the J and P sources. I haven’t spent as much time with the Documentary Hypothesis as I should.

    And to you and Peter on Alabama… it’s just another example of some of the problems in this state. There are a lot of things I love about living here, but there are also disappointments. I’m hoping they can be corrected with time.

    Like

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