Job 1:12 - EXEGESIS:
The book of Job is a particularly well-crafted book that raises difficult questions for consideration, such as:
• "Does Job fear God for nothing?" (1:9). In other words, does Job maintain his faithfulness to God only because he expects God to reward him for doing so? Is the faith of devout people self-serving?
• If God is both good and all-powerful, why does he permit suffering?
• What is the relationship between sin and suffering?
• Why do good people suffer? Why do bad people prosper?
• Are good people vindicated in the end? In this life, or only in the life to come?
• From whence cometh evil? If God is created all things, did he create evil?
Note that I said that this book raises these questions. That is different from saying that it answers them. It encourages us to wrestle with these questions, but does not give neatly packaged answers. This is part of its continuing appeal. It does not dispense platitudes that bear no resemblance to the reality of our lives. Instead, it tells a story that informs and haunts us. It haunts us by honestly portraying life and inviting us to examine life in all its messiness.
This book is also haunting because it leaves us struggling with the questions that it raises. Is the faith of devout people self-serving? Of course! People serve God, in part, because they expect better lives through their relationship with God. But that is only part of the answer. People also serve God because they love God and feel drawn to God's holiness and righteousness.
Why does God permit suffering? The easy answer is that suffering is our punishment for sin. This book, however, does not allow such a simple answer, because Job suffers in spite of being "blameless and upright"-a man who "feared God, and turned away from evil" (1:1). Even God uses that language to describe Job (1:8).
The book begins with a prose section (1:1 - 2:13) and ends with a prose section (42:7-17), but the rest is poetry. The prose sections draw us into the story and conclude the story, but the poetry carries most of the load. Poetry is more inclined to help us see things in a new way than to provide tightly reasoned conclusions. Thus the medium of the book perfectly matches its purpose, which is to invite us to wrestle with the kinds of questions mentioned above.
Given the open-endedness of the book, it seems appropriate that we do not know who wrote it or when. Job calls us to wrestle with mysteries, and is itself somewhat a mystery. Scholars have suggested dates that range from the time of the patriarchs to the time following the exile (Hartley, 17; see also Andersen, 15). Therefore it could be one of the earliest books of the Old Testament-or one of the relatively late books.
The book of Job is all the more fascinating because it sees life quite differently from the Deuteronomic view of history that pervades so much of Hebrew Scripture. In particular, the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, and 1-2 Kings interpret "events in terms of adherence or disobedience to the Mosaic law" (Myers, 280). They tell us that Israel prospered when it obeyed God and suffered when it did not. They promise prosperity to the faithful (Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 7-8; Psalm 34:15-22).
That cause-and-effect view carries over into other parts of the Old Testament-and even into the New Testament (Galatians 6:7; 1 Peter 3:10)-but the overall message of the New Testament is different. As Francis Bacon said, "Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New." That comment is only partially true, because the New Testament emphasizes service and sacrifice in this world, but does promise eternal rewards in the next world.
Advocates of the Prosperity Gospel continue to promote the Deuteronomic viewpoint, claiming a close linkage between faithful discipleship and material prosperity. The evangelist, Oral Roberts, was quoted as saying, "I live in one of the finest homes. I drive one of the finest, safest cars, and if a newer, safer one were to pull up in front of my door, I'd go out and say, 'I want it,'...God designed life for believers to be an abundant life....God designed you to live in the overflow." His wife, Evelyn, said, "To maximize his ministry, (Jesus) would need television. For television programs he would need to tell time. Would Jesus wear a Rolex? Why not?" Adherents of Prosperity Theology emphasize here-and-now material blessings to faithful disciples. Their promises attract many adherents, but (in my view) fail to take seriously Christ's call to take up a cross and follow him.
But on the other hand, there is a rightness to the Deuteronomic viewpoint that we must also acknowledge. "God's moral administration of the world requires that the rightness of right should lead to well-being, and the wrongness of wrong should lead to disaster" (Andersen, 67). Absolutely! But Andersen adds, "But the connection (between rightness and well-being) is often not obvious, and life is much more complex than this simple formula."
Andersen thus moves us from the realm of the Deuteronomist to the realm of Job, which refuses to reduce faith to a simple formula. The book of Job addresses the questions raised by a world where the righteous don't always prosper and the unrighteous sometimes do prosper. It is a messy world-one that is hard to understand and harder to appreciate-but it is the world in which we live. It is that real but messy world that the book of Job invites us to examine.
JOB 1:1. THERE WAS A MAN WHOSE NAME WAS JOB
1There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job. That man was blameless (Hebrew: tam) and upright (Hebrew: yasar), and one who feared God, and turned away from evil.
"There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job" (v. 1a). While we cannot identify the land of Uz with certainty, there are two likely candidates. Both are in the east (v. 3). One is Edom, located to the southeast of the Dead Sea (Lamentations 4:21). The other is Aram, located northeast of Israel (Genesis 10:23; 22:21). However, the exact location is less important to our understanding of this book than the fact that Uz lies outside Israel.
Some scholars, noting that Job is not a traditional Israelite name, conclude that Job was probably a Gentile (Ballentine, 44). However, that, too, is uncertain. Ezekiel groups Job with Noah and Daniel, two great heroes of the faith, labeling the three of them as righteous (Ezekiel 14:14, 20). That suggests that Job was probably an Israelite living outside Israel.
"That man was blameless (tam) and upright" (yasar) (v. 1b). This is the first of two pairs of descriptors that portray Job as a man of good character and devout faith. Blameless (tam) has to do with Job's rock-solid integrity-he can be depended on to do what is right. Upright (yasar) has to do with his faithful obedience to God's law. The juxtaposition of these two adjectives tell us of a man who, when faced with a decision, will try to do the right thing.
"and one who feared God, and turned away from evil" (v. 1c). This is the second pair of descriptors that describe a righteous and honorable man. The fact that Job fears God means that he stands in awe of God-that he understands his proper place in relationship to God. "The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10; see also Proverbs 1:7; Job 28:28).
The fact that Job turns away from evil means that he not only decides to do right but also avoids doing what is wrong. Both are conscious, deliberate choices. He will not allow himself to be tempted. When he comes into contact with evil, he quickly moves away.
But Job is a blameless man-not a sinless man. He offers burnt offerings, an act that serves as atonement for his sins and the sins of his family (v. 5).
JOB 1:2-22. HAVE YOU CONSIDERED MY SERVANT JOB
While these verses are not included in the lectionary reading, the preacher needs to be aware of them.
The book starts by establishing Job's sterling character (1:1, 5) and prosperity (1:2-4). Then it presents us with a convocation of heavenly beings (Hebrew: bene ha elohim-"sons of God"), including "the satan" (Hebrew: has∙satan-the satan) (1:6).
God asks the satan where he has been and the satan replies, "From going back and forth in the earth, and from walking up and down in it" (1:7). The satan doesn't say why he has been going to and fro, and raises no questions about what he found on his journey. However, God responds by saying,
"Have you considered my servant, Job? For there is none like him in the earth, a blameless and an upright man, one who fears God, and turns away from evil" (1:8).
The satan responds with a question that sets the stage for all that happens thereafter-"Does Job fear God for nothing?" (Hebrew: hin∙nam-the same word is translated "for no reason in 2:3). He implies that Job serves God because God has blessed him-and that Job will quickly abandon God if he perceives that God has abandoned him. Satan challenges God to "put forth your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will renounce you to your face" (1:11).
Rather than doing that, God gives the satan permission to do it (1:12). This results in the death of Job's children and the loss of his many possessions (1:13-19). But instead of cursing God, Job says,
"Naked I came out of my mother's womb,
and naked shall I return there.
Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away.
Blessed be the name of Yahweh" (1:21).
The narrator concludes, "In all this, Job did not sin, nor charge God with wrongdoing" (1:22).