The Book of Job: A Commentary 0664222188

In this volume, Norman Habel takes on the humbling task of writing a commentary on such a classic work as the book of Jo

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The Book of Job: A Commentary

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ISBN 0-664-22218-8

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General Editors PETER ACKROYD, university of London JAMES BARR, Oxford University . BERNHARD W. ANDERSON, Princeton Theological Seminary JAMES L. MAYS, Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia

Advisory Editor JOHN BRIGHT, Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia


1H1EE001K Of JJOJE A Commentary

The Westminster Press Philadelphia

Copyright © 1985 Norman C. Habel

Published by The Westminster Press® Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Habel, Norman C. The Book of Job. (The Old Testament library) Bibliography: p. 1. Bible. O. T. Job-Commentaries. I. Bible. 0. T. Job. English. 1985. II. Title. III. Series. BS1415.3.H29 1985 223'.107 84-21580 ISBN 0-664-22218-8

Dedicated to Ms. Jan Orrell






Selected Bibliography




1. Scope and Format


2. The Narrative Plot


3. Integrity, Setting, and Date


4. Literary Features and Their Significance Form and Focus Structure and Parallelism Repetition, Allusion, and Irony The Legal Metaphor Imagery and Analogy

42 42 46

5. Message and Meaning


Appendix: The Narrative Plot: An Outline


49 54 57

Commentary Chs. 1-2

The Affliction of Job



Job's Cries Against His Origin



The Counsel of Eliphaz the Friend



Job's Expose of False Friends



Job's Complaint Against God the Watcher



Bildad's Ancient Parable of the Two Plants



Job on the Futility of Litigation





Zophar on God's Inscrutable Wisdom


12:1-13:5 Job on Knowledge and Wisdom



Job's Pretrial Declaration



Job's Unorthodox Hope



Eliphaz on Knowledge and Retribution



Job's Complaint Against Friend and Foe



Bildad on the World of the Wicked



Job's Hope of a Redeemer



Zophar on the Fate of the Wicked



Job's Disputation on the Wicked



Eliphaz' Indictments of Job



Job's Quest to Face God



On Delayed Retribution


25:1-6; 26:5-14 [Bildad] on God's Cosmic Design


26:1-4; 27:1-12 Job's Oath of Integrity



[Zophar] on the Destiny of the Wicked



Poem on the Quest for Wisdom



Job's Speech of Remembrance



Job's Final Complaint



Job's Oath of Purity



The Person and Apology of Elihu



Elihu's Case Against Job



Elihu's Defense of El's Justice



Elihu's Defense of El's Detachment



Elihu's Second Defense of El's Justice


38:1-40:5 Yahweh's Defense of His Cosmic Design


40:6-41:26 [41;34 Eng.] Yahweh's Control of Behemoth and Leviathan



The Restoration of Job



The task of writing a commentary on a classic work like Job is a daunting and humbling experience. No exegete can gain complete mastery of a text which is so complex and unclear at many points. No critic can do complete justice to the enormous volume of exegetical comment and textual emendation associated with the book of Job in a commentary of this length. Nor can all of the numerous contemporary and ancient techniques of interpreting a biblical text be explored fully in connection with each unit of analysis. Every critic makes a selection of method, materials to be covered, and scholars to be cited. In this commentary we have chosen to take into account a number of factors which complement the work of past exegetes and provide a focus for interpreting the book as a whole. First, we have weighed the research of recent scholars to ascertain the most significant findings for a literary and theological study of the text. Especially important, for example, are the studies on the function and language of the legal metaphor in the book of Job (Scholnick, Dick, Roberts). Yet the text of the commentary is written in such a way as to be eminently usable by students, teachers, and laypersons interested in Job, as well as by biblical scholars and literary critics. Second, a major focus of this commentary is on the literary features exhibited in the book of Job. Our literary analysis, however, is not divorced from the wider exegetical task. In a highly literary work like Job, the artistic and the theological are closely interwoven. Our interpretation takes into consideration how literary structures, imagery, motifs, and techniques are employed to convey and color the message of the text. The meaning of the book of Job is found in the interplay of literary design and theological idea. Third, this commentary treats the book of Job as a literary totality. We do not exclude the possibility of various stages of oral and written development for the book of Job (Urbrock, Fohrer, Maag). In spite of extensive research, however, these stages of development remain hypothetical. The text we possess can be interpreted as a literary whole integrating prose and poetic materials into a rich paradoxical totality. Thus our interpretation is regularly concerned with the interrelationship of diverse sections, speeches, and themes throughout the book of Job. Admittedly, the text has suffered



some dislocations in chs. 24-27, but th_e materials can be interpreted as part of the author's total creative work. In completing this commentary, which has been in preparation for many years, I wish to express my deep gratitude to the biblical critics who have preceded me, but especially to my mentor, Dr. Alfred yon Rohr Sauer, and my colleagues at Christ Seminary-Seminex in St. Louis and the South Australian College of Advanced Education. I also appreciate the critical comments of John Kleinig of Luther Seminary in Adelaide. A special word of thanks goes to Gabrielle Reece, not only because she typed this manuscript in spite of great difficulties, but also because she has been one of the most perceptive critics with whom I have worked. Thanks also to my wife, Janice Orrell, who struggled with cancer during much of the time when I was writing this commentary and gave me a deeper understanding of Job's suffering in the process. Finally, I wish to thank my mother, who provided me with model of patient faith amid years of pain, a model that helped me appreciate the traditional image of the patient Job.





Acta Orientalia American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literature Analecta Biblica *J. B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 1955,' 1969' *A. E. Cowley, Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C Authorized Version Biblical Archaeologist Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research *Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament Biblica Bulletin of the John Rylands Library Biblical Theology Bulletin *W. G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom Literature Beihefte zur ZA W Catholic Biblical Quarterly *G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends Currents in Theology and Mission English (where numbering differs from the Hebrew) Evangelical Quarterly Evangelische Theologie *M. Greenberg, J. C. Greenfield, and N. H. Sama, The Book of Job *Gesenius-Kautzsch, Hebrew Grammar Good News Bible Handbook zum A/ten Testament Handkommentar zum A/ten Testament Harvard Theological Review Hebrew Union College Annual *M. Dahood, "Hebrew-Ugaritic Lexicography" International· Critical Commentary *G. A. Buttrick (ed.), Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible *Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Supplementary Volume Israel Exploration Journal Interpretation Jerusalem Bible Journal of Biblical Literature Journal of Jewish Studies





Abbreviations Journal of Near Eastern Studies Jewish Quarterly Review Journal of the Society of Oriental Research Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplementary Series Journal of Semitic Studips Journal of Theological Studies *Koehler-Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libras King James Version The Septuagint Masoretic Text New American Bible The New English Bible *M. Dahood, "Northwest Semitic Philology and Job" Orientalia Old Testament Oudtestamentische Studien Palestine Exploration Quarterly Proceedings of the Irish Biblical Association Revue Biblique Review and Expositor Restoration Quarterly Revised Standard Version Revised Version Society of Biblical Literature Supplements to Vetus Testamentum *G. J. Botterweck and H. Ringgren (eds.), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament Ugarit-Forschungen *M. Dahood, Ugaritic-Hebrew Philology Vetus Testamentum Zeitschrift fiir die Altestament/iche Wissenschaft Zeitschrift fiir Theo/ogie und Kirche For full details of entries marked


see Bibliography


1. Commentaries and Major Works (Usually cited by author only or abbreviation) Andersen, F. I., Job, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, London I Downers Grove, Ill.: Tyndale Press I Inter-Varsity Press, 1976 Blommerde, A. C. M., Northwest Semitic Grammar and Job, Rome: Pontificai Biblical Institute, 1969 Botterweck, G. J., and H. Ringgren (eds.), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977Brown, F.; S. R. Driver; and C. A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, Oxford University Press, 1907 Budde, K. F. R., Das Buch Hiob, Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1913 Buttenwieser, M., The Book of Job, University of Chicago Press, 1922 Buttrick, G. A. (ed.), Interpreter's Dictionary ofthe Bible, 4 vols., Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962; Supplementary Volume, ed. by K. Crim, 1976 Ceresko, A. R., Job 29-31 in the Light ofNorthwest Semitic, Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1980 Cheyne, T. K., Job and Solomon, London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1887 Cowley, A. E. (ed.), Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C, Oxford University Press, 1923 Delitzsch, F., Biblical Commentary on the Book of Job, tr. by F. Bolton, 2 vols., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1949 Dhorme, E., A Commentary on the Book of Job, London: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1967 Driver, G. R., Canaanite Myths and Legends, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1956 Driver, S. R., and G. B. Gray, The Book ofJob, International Critical Commentary, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1921 Duhm, B., Das Buch Hiob, Tiibingen: J.C. B. Mohr, 1897 Ehrlich, A. B., Randglossen zur hebriiischen Bibel VL· Psalmen, Spriiche, und Hiob, Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1918 (repr. Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag) Fohrer, G., Das Buch Hiob, Kommentar zum Alten Testament 16, Giitersloh: Giitersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, 1963 Gesenius, W., Hebrew Grammar, ed. by E. Kautzsch, rev. by A. E. Cowley, Oxford University Press, 1910 Gordis, R., The Book of Job: Commentary, New Translation, and Special Notes, New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1978


Selected Bibliography

Grabbe, L. L., Comparative Philology and the Text of Job, SBL Dissertation· Series 34, Scholars Press, 1977 Greenberg, M.; J. C. Greenfield; and N. H. Sarna, The Book ofJob, a New Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1980 Guillaume, A., Studies in the Book of Job, with a New Translation, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1968 Habel, N., The Book of Job, Cambridge University Press, 1975 Holbert, J.C., The Function and Significance of the ''Klage" in the Book of ''Job," with Special Reference to the Incidence ofFormal and Verbal Irony, Ph.D. Dissertation, Southern Methodist University, 1975 HOischer, G., Das Buch Hiob, Handbuch zum Alten Testament 17, Tiibingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1937 Horst, F., Hiob, Biblischer Kommentar Altes Testament 16/I (chs. 1-19), Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1960 Irwin, W. A., "Job," in Peake's Commentary on the Bible, ed. by M. Black and H. H. Rowley, London: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1962, 391-408 Keel, 9., Jahwes Entgegnung an /job, Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1978 Kittel, R. (ed.), Biblia Hebraica, Stuttgart: Wiirttembergische Bibelanstalt, 1962 Kissane, E. J., The Book of Job, Dublin: Browne & Nolan, 1939 Koehler, L., and W. Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1958 Kubina, V., Die Gottesreden im Buche Hiob, Herder, 1979 Lambert, W. G., Babylonian Wisdom Literature, Oxford University Press, 1960 Leveque, J., Job et son Dieu, 2 vols., Paris: J. Gabalda, 1970 Michel, L. W., The Ugaritic Texts and the Mythological Expressions in the Book of Job, Including a New Translation of and Philological Notes on the Book, Ph.D. Dissertation, Uni:versity of Wisconsin, 1970 Peake, A. S., Job, The Century Bible, London: T. C. & E. C. Jack, 1904 Pope, M., Job, The Anchor Bible, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 3d ed., 1973 Pritchard, J. B., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 2d ed., corrected and enlarged, Princeton University Press, 1955; 3d ed. with supplement, 1969 Richter, H., Studien zu Hiob, Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1959 Rowley, H. H., "Job," The Century Bible, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1970 Rowold, H. L., The Theology of Creation in the Yahweh Speeches of the Book ofJob as a Solution to the Problem Posed by the Book, Ph.D. Dissertation, Concordia Seminary in Exile, 1977 Scholnick, S. H., Lawsuit Drama in the Book of Job, Ph.D. Dissertation, Brandeis University, 1975 Snaith, N., The Book of Job: Its Origin and Purpose, London: SCM Press, 1968 Stevenson, W. B., Critical Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Poem of Job, Aberdeen University Press, 1951 Tur-Sinai, N. H., The Book of Job, Jerusalem: Kiryath Sepher, 1957 Weiser, A., Das Buch Hiob, Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1951

Selected Bibliography


Weiss, M., The Story of Job's Beginning, Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1983 Westermann, C., The Structure of the Book of Job, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981 Wilde, A. de, Das Buch Hiob, Oudtestamentische Studien 22, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1981 2. Books and Articles Aharoni, R., "An Examination of the Literary Genre of the Book of of Job," Tarbiz 49, 1979, 1-13 Alt, A., "Zur Vorgeschichte des Buches Hiob," ZA W 55, 1937, 265-268 Alter, R., The Art ofBiblical Narrative, London: Allen & Unwin, 1981; New York: Basic Books, 1983 Anderson, B. W., Creation Versus Chaos, New York: Association Press, 1967 Baker, J. A., "The Book of Job: Unity and Meaning," JSOT Supp 11, 1978, 17-26 Barr, J., "The Book of Job and Its Modern Interpreters," BJRL 54, 1971-72, 28-46 Boecker, H. J., Redeformen des Rechtsleben im A/ten Testament, Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1963 Brenner, A., "God's Answer to Job," VT 31, 1981, 129-137 Canney, M.A., ''.The Hebrew meti~. "AJSL 40, 1923-24, 135-137 Clines, D., "Verbal Modality and the Interpretation of Job 4.20-21," VT 30, 1980, 354-357 - - , "Job 5.1-8: A New Exegesis," Bib 62, 1981, 185-194 Couroyer, B., "Qui est Behemoth?" RB 82, 1975, 418-443 Cox, D., "Structure and Function of the Final Challenge: Job 29-31," PIBA 5, 1981, 55-71 Crenshaw, J. L., "The Influence of the Wise Upon Amos," ZAW 79, 1967, 42-51 - - , "Popular Questioning of the Justice of God in Ancient Israel," ZA W 82, 1970, 380-393 ---,"Impossible Questions, Sayings and Tasks," in Gnomic Wisdom, Semeia 17, 1980, 19-34 ---,Old Testament Wisdom: An Introduction, Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1981 Cross, F., Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973 Curtis, J. B., "On Job's Witness in Heaven," JBL 102, 1983, 549-562 Dahood, M., "Some Northwest-Semitic Words in Job," Bib 38, 1957, 306-320 - - , "Northwest Semitic Philology and Job," in The Bible in Current Catholic Thought, ed. by J. McKenzie, New York: Herder & Herder, 1962, 55-74 - - , "Hebrew-Ugaritic Lexicography I-XII," Bib 44-55, 1963-1974 - - - , Ugaritic-Hebrew Philology, Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1965 - - , Psalms, 3 vols., The Anchor Bible, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1966, 1968, and 1970 - - , "Ebia, Ugarit, and the Bible," in The Archives of Ebia, ed. by G. Pettinato, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1981, 271-321 Dick, M. B., "The Legal Metaphor in Job 31," CBQ 41, 1979, 37-50 Driver, G. R., "Problems in the Hebrew Text of Job," SVT 3, 1960, 72-93


Selected Bibliography

Fishbane, M., "Jer. 4 and Job 3: A Recovered Use of the Creation Pattern,'' VT 21, 1971, 151-167 Fohrer, G., Studien zum Buche Hiob, Giltersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, 1963 - - , "The Righteous Man in Job 31,'' in Essays in Old Testament Ethics, ed. by J. L. Crenshaw and J. T. Willis, New York: KTAV Publishing House, 1974, 3-22 Freedman, D. N., "The Elihu Speeches in the Book of Job," HTR 61, 1968, 51-59 - - , "The Structure of Job 3," Bib 49, 1968, 503-508 Frye, J.B., The Legal Language of the Book of Job, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of London, 1973 Fulco, W. J., The Canaanite God Resep, New Haven, Conn.: American Oriental Society, 1976 Fullerton, K., "Double Entendre in the First Speech of Eliphaz," JBL 49, 1930, 320-341 - - , "Job: Chapters 9 and 10," AJSLL 55, 1938, 225-269 Gammie, J. G., "Behemoth and Leviathan: On the Didactic and Theological Significance of Job 40:15-41:26," in Israelite Wisdom, ed. by J. G. Gammie et al., Scholars Press, 217-231 Gammie, J. G., et al. (eds.), Israelite Wisdom, Scholars Press, 1978 Gard, D. H., The Exegetical Method ofthe Greek Translator ofthe Book ofJob, SBL Monograph Series 8, 1952 Gemser, B., "The rib- or Controversy-Pattern in Hebrew Mentality," SVT 3, 1960, 120-137 Gese, H., Lehre und Wirklichkeit in der a/ten Weisheit, Tilbingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1958 - - , "Die Frage nach dem Lebenssinn: Hiob und die Folgen," ZTK 19, 1982, 161-179 Glatzer, N. N. (ed.), The Dimensions of Job: A Study and Selected Readings, New York: Schocken Books, 1969 Good, E. M., Irony in the Old Testament, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1965 - - , "Job and the Literary Task: A Response [to David Robertson)," Soundings 56, 1973, 470-484 Gordis, R., The Book ofGod and Man: A Study ofJob, University of Chicago Press, 1965 - - , "Virtual Quotations in Job, Sumer and Qumran," VT 31, 1981, 410-427 Gordon, C., "Leviathan: Symbol of Evil," in Biblical Motifs, ed. by A. Altmann, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966, 1-10 Gray, J., "The Book of Job in the Context of Near Eastern Literature," ZA W 82, 1970, 251-269 Habel, N., "He Who Stretches Out the Heavens," CBQ 34, 1972, 417-430 - - , "The Symbolism of Wisdom in Proverbs 1-8," Int 26, 1972, 131-157 - - , "Appeal to Ancient Tradition as a Literary Form,'' ZA W 88, 1976, 253271 - - , "Only the Jackal Is My Friend: On Friends and Redeemers in Job," Int 31, 1977, 227-236 - - , "'Naked I Came .. .': Humanness in the Book of Job," in Die Botschaft und die Boten. Festschriftfiir Hans Walter Woljfzum 70. Geburtstag,, ed. by Jorg

Selected Bibliography


Jeremias and Lothar Perlitt, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1981, 373-392 - - , "Of Things Beyond Me: Wisdom in the Book of Job," CTM 10, 1983, 142-154 - - , "The Narrative Art of Job: Applying the Principles of Robert Alter," JSOT 27, 1983, 101-111 - - , "The Role of Elihu in the Design of the Book of Job," in In the Shelter of Elyon: Essays on Palestinian Life and Literature in Honor of G. W. Ahlstrom, (JSOTSupp 31), ed. by W. Boyd Barrick and John S. Spencer, Sheffield, England: JSOT Press, 1984 Hesse, F., Hiob, Ziircher Bibelkommentare, Zurich: Theologischer Verlag, 1978 Hillers, D., "Delocutive Verbs in Biblical Hebrew," JBL 86, 1967, 320-324 Hoffman, Y., "The Use of Equivocal Words in the First Speech of Eliphaz (Job 4-5)," VT 30, 1980, 114-118 - - , "The Relation Between the Prologue and the Speech Cycles in Job: A Reconsideration," VT 31, 1981, 160-170 Holbert, J.C.," 'The Skies Will Uncover His Iniquity': Satire in the Second Speech of Zophar (Job xx)," VT 31, 1981, 171-179 Huffmon, H.B., "The Covenant Lawsuit in the Prophets," JBL 78, 1959, 285-295 Hurvitz, A., "The Date of the Prose Tale of Job Linguistically Reconsidered," HTR 67, 1974, 17-34 Irwin, W. A., "Job's Redeemer," JBL 81, 1962, 217-229 Johnson, A., "masal. " SVT 3, 1960, 162-169 Johnson, A. R., "The Primary Meaning of G'L," SVT 1, 1953, 67-77 Kallen, H., The Book of Job as a Greek Tragedy, New York: Moffat, Yard & Co., 1918 Kleinig, J. W., The Getting of Wisdom, M.Ph. Dissertation, Cambridge University, 1981 Kluger, R. S., Satan in the Old Testament, Northwestern University Press, 1967 Kramer, S. N., " 'Man and His God.' A Sumerian Variation on the 'Job' Motif,'' SVT 3, 1960, 170-182 Kugel, J. L., The Idea ofHebrew Poetry: Parallelism and Its History, Yale University Press, 1981 Laurin, R., "The Theological Structures of Job," ZA W 84, 1972, 86-92 Leveque, J., "Anamnese et disculpation: la conscience du juste en Job 29-31," in La sagesse de l'Ancien Testament, ed. by M. Gilbert, Louvain: Leuven University Press, 1980, 231-248 Limburg, J., "The Root ryb and the Prophetic Lawsuit Speeches," JBL 88, 1969, 291-304 Maag, V., Hiob: Wandlung und Verarbeitung des Problems in Novelle, Dialogdichtung und Spiitfassungen, Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1982 McKane, W., Proverbs, The Old Testament Library, London: SCM Press; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1970 McKenzie, R. A. F., "The Purpose of the Yahweh Speeches in the Book of Job," Bib 40, 1959, 435-445 - - , "The Transformation of Job,'' BTR 9, 1979, 51-57


Selected Bibliography

Meek, T. J., "Job 19.25ff.,'' VT 6, 1956, 99-103 Moore, R. D,, "The Integrity of Job,'' CBQ 45, 1983, 17-31 Mowinckel, S., "Hiobs go'el und Zeuge im Himmel," BZA W 41, 1925, 207-222 Millier, H., "Altes und Neues zum Buch Hiob,'' EvT 37, 1977, 284--304 - - , Das Hiobproblem, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1978 Nougayrol, J., "Une version ancienne du 'juste souffrant,'" RB 59, 1952, 237-250 - - , "(Juste) souffrant (R.S. 25.460),'' Ugaritica V, 1968, 265-283 Orlinsky, H., "Studies in the Septuagint of Job," HUCA 28 (1957), 53-74; 29 (1958), 229-271; 30 (1959), 153-157; 32 (1961), 239-268; 33 (1962), 119-151; 35 (1964), 57-78; 36 (1965), 37-47 Patrick, D., "The Translation of Job 42.6,'' VT 26, 1976, 369-371 Pettinato, G., The Archives of Ebia, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1981 Polzin, R., Biblical Structuralism, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977 Pope, M., El in the Ugaritic Texts, SVT 2, 1955 Reddy, M. P., "The Book of Job-A Reconstruction,'' ZAW 90, 1978, 49-94 Reider, J., "Etymological Studies in Biblical Hebrew," VT 4, 1954, 276-295 Richter, G., Textstudien zum Buche Hiob, Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1927 Richter, H., "Die Naturweisheit des Alten Testaments im Buche Hiob," ZA W 10, 1958, 1-20 Roberts, J. J., "Job's Summons to Yahweh: The Exploitation ofa Legal Metaphor," RQ 16, 1973, 159-165 - - , "Job and the Israelite Tradition,'' ZA W 89, 1977, 107-114 Robertson, D., The Old Testament and the Literary Critic, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977 Ross, J., "Job 33:14--30: The Phenomenology of Lament,'' JBL 94, 1975, 38-46 Rowley, H. H., "The Book of Job and Its Meaning," BJRL 41, 1958, 167-207 Ruprecht, E., "Das Nilpferd im Hiobbuch,'' VT 21, 1971, 209-231 Sarna, N. M., "Epic Substratum in the Prose of Job," JBL 76, 1957, 13-25 - - , "The Mythological Background of Job 18,'' JBL 82, 1963, 315-318 Schmidt, H. H., Wesen und Geschichte der Weisheit, BZAW 101, 1966 - - , Gerechtigkeit a/s Weltordnung, Tiibingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1968 Skehan, P., Studies in Israelite Poetry and Wisdom, CBQ Monograph Series I, 1971 Stevenson, W. B., The Poem of Job, Oxford University Press, 1947 Terrien, S., "The Book of Job: Introduction and Exegesis,'' The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 3, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1954 - - , "The Yahweh Speeches and Job's Response,'' RevExp 58, 1971, 497-509 Tromp, N., Primitive Conceptions of Death and the Nether World in the Old Testament, Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1969 Tsevat, M., "The Canaanite God Siilah,'' VT 4, 1954, 41-49 - - , "The Meaning of the Book of Job," HUCA 37, 1966, 73-106 Urbrock, W., "Formula and Theme in the Song-Cycle of Job,'' SBL Proceedings, 1972, Vol. 2, 459-487 - - , "Mortal and Miserable Man,'' SBL Seminar Papers, 1974, Vol. I, 1-33 - - , "Job as Drama: Tragedy or Comedy?" CTM 8, 1981, 35-40 Vawter, B., "Prov. 8:22: Wisdom and Creation,'' JBL 99, 1980, 205-216

Selected Bibliography


Von Rad, G., "Job 38 and Ancient Egyptian Wisdom," in The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays, Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1966, 281-291 - - , Wisdom in Israel, London: SCM Press, 1972 Waterman, L., "Note on Job 19~23-27: Job's Triumph of Faith," JBL 69, 1950, 379-381 Westermann, C., Isaiah 40-66, The Old Testament Library, London: SCM Press; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969 Whedbee, W., "The Comedy of Job," Semeia 7, 1970, 1-39 Wilson, J. V. Kinnier, "A Return to the Problem of Behemoth and Leviathan," VT 25, 1975, 1-14 Wiirthwein, E., "Egyptian Wisdom and the Old Testament," Studies in Israelite Wisdom, ed. by J. L. Crenshaw, New York: KTAV Publishing House, 1976, 113-133 Zerafa, P. P., The Wisdom of God in the Book of Job, Herder, 1978 Ziegler, J., "Der textkritische Wert der Septuaginta des Buches Hiob," Miscellanea Bib/ica II, 1934, 277-296 Zink, J. K., "Impatient Job: An Interpretation of Job 19:25-27," JBL 84, 1965, 147-152


1. Scope and Format

The book of Job has long been hailed by biblical scholars as a literary masterpiece. Yet very few have taken the literary dimensions of the text into account in their exegetical analysis. In the Introduction to this commentary, therefore, we provide a preliminary exploration of the literary characteristics of the book of Job and their significance for interpreting the major theological concerns of the creative artist who wrote it. Links with the ancient Near Eastern thought world and the wisdom tradition of Israel are made at the appropriate points in the body of the commentary. The format for the analysis of each major literary unit includes a translation followed by sections with the headings Textual Notes, Design, and Message in Context. Each section is intended to complement the others and thereby contribute to a composite interpretation of the book of Job as an integrated literary and theological work. The translation offered in this commentary is conservative, avoiding emendation or paraphrase wherever possible. In the wording of the translation we seek to capture nuances of Hebrew literary style within the limita• tions of the English language and to enable the vivid imagery of the original to emerge without resorting to the prosaic leveling typical of some translations. In 39:19, for example, the noun "thunder" is generally considered inappropriate when applied to a horse's neck and therefore emended or interpreted to mean "mane," "strength," or something similar. Yet the rendering "Do you adorn his neck with thunder?" is a superb poetic image and quite consistent with the theophanic language of the following verse. Wherever possible we have also tried to capture the force of verbal allusion and thematic development by rendering key terms with the same English equivalent. This is true whether the term or idiom is repeated within the same line or verse (e.g., "breach" in 16:14 and "defenses" in 13:12) or at opposite ends of the book of Job (e.g., "hedge" in 3:23 and 38:8). Repetition of the term "face" in ch. 13 is thematic and therefore crucial to an understanding of the import of the text. To render the Hebrew pan'im by the more general English word "presence" is to lose much of the force, vividness, and sense of the original. In some cases the translation of specific



words will be dependent on the governing metaphor or image within a section. This applies in the rendering of a simple image such as the "uprooting" of a tree (19: 10), or the more pervasive legal term mispaf as "litigation" in particular contexts (e.g., 19:7; 34:5). The several names for God found in the original have been reflected in the translation so as to give the reader a sense of the diversity of ancient titles associated with God and to highlight the contrast between the covenant name Yahweh found in the prose segments of the book and the more archaic names El, Eloah, and Shaddai employed by the speakers in the poetic dialogue. This translation is also a step toward the use of more inclusive language. Thus the relevant idiom of 7:17 is rendered "What are mortals?" rather than "What is man?"; and the title of God in 7:20 is translated "Watcher of Humans," not "Watcher of Men." In extended portrayals of the wicked, however, the friends are clearly implying that Job is perhaps such a "wicked man," and accordingly the translation retains the masculine singular original rather than a generic rendering. Textual Notes of a critical and philological nature have been kept to a minimum. Examples of proposed emendations by critics are cited at various points to support a particular rendering to illustrate the range of options for translating a difficult passage. The Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT) is given priority and provides the basis for both translation and commentary. We do not presume to reconstruct an earlier original based on the Greek Septuagint (LXX) or assumed glosses (cf. Fohrer). One of the major difficulties in interpreting the text of Job is the large number of words and idioms found in the book of Job which appear nowhere else in the Old Testament (hapax legomena). In some instances the Hebrew text makes no immediate sense and has probably suffered minor corruption due to repeated transmission. Thus there are numerous poetic lines where the intent of the original remains uncertain, though the wording of the translation may give a rather different impression. Where minor textual emendations seem to be demanded to make sense of the text, the immediate context and linguistic usage in the wider literary context are given priority. In a few instances the Septuagint preserves a plausible original reading. The old Greek text of the Septuagint, however, is itself problematic as a source, since it is about 360 lines shorter than the Hebrew text and reflects a variety of translation techniques, the relative value of which is disputed by scholars (cf. Gard, Orlinsky, Ziegler). At various points other versions such as the Vulgate, the Syriac Peshitta, and the Aramaic Targum provide useful suggestions. The significance of readings preserved in the Job Targum fragments found at Qumran (1 lQtgJob) is emphasized by Pope at appropriate points in his commentary. In some instances one of the many emendations based on later rabbinic



usage cited by Gordis in his commentary is selected as a plausible reading consistent with the context of the original. In a few cases, parallels from another Semitic language such as Akkadian, Syriac, Arabic, or Ugaritic offer a reasonable basis for determining the reading of a particular passage. The work of Dahood and other Ugaritic scholars has highlighted the importance of the Ras Shamra texts for determining both text and import of many passages of Job. The relative contribution of the Ebia discoveries to the study of Job has yet to be determined (cf. Pettinato, The Archives of Ebia). More recently, scholars such as Grabbe (Comparative Philology and the Text of Job) have demonstrated the need for caution in adopting readings based on Ugaritic terms and texts. Although, for example, we accept the proposal of M. Dahood (JBL 80, 1961, 270-271) that the noun mismar has the connotation of "muzzle" in 7:12, we would also maintain that, in view of the "watching" motif found in Job, this noun embraces a double entendre involving both "watch" and "muzzle." In general, Ugaritic parallels are used sparingly as the basis for textual emendations in this commentary. More fruitful for the interpretation of hidden nuances embedded in the Hebrew text are the images, symbols, and motifs grounded in ancient Canaanite tradition. One of the most frequent criteria for textual emendation is maintenance of balanced poetic parallelism. Since parallelism is recognized as a basic feature of ancient Hebrew poetry, lines which do not exhibit one of the common patterns of Hebrew parallelism are frequently emended to create a balanced line which the critic finds more acceptable. This propensity to improve the Hebrew text, however, can blind the critic to the flexibility and freedom of the Hebrew poet within the broad parameters of ancient poetic tradition. Thus gil, "gladness, rejoicing," in 3:22a is emended by scholars to read gal, "grave, grave-mound" (JB, Pope), so as to yield what is considered a more precise parallel to geber, "grave," in 3:22b. In the chiastic construction of 3:21-22, however, "grave" in v. 22b corresponds to "death" in v. 2la. The proposed emendation blurs this poetic construction and the implied wordplay between gil and gal. Wherever possible the Hebrew original is retained in its present form so that the various subtleties of poetic style and the nuances of meaning may be explored within the existing literary expression of the text. The Design section for each major unit of this commentary focuses on those literary features which contribute to an understanding of the nuances of meaning and thought conveyed by the artist's creative combination of theological ideas and literary technique. Our concern is not primarily with identifying the remnants of ancient literary forms embedded in the text, but with the unique way in which forms, poetic patterns, structures, and language are transformed and made subservient to the governing design or



focus of a particular unit. "Design" implies both the structured ordering of materials and an intention on the part of the author as a literary artist to create such an ordering. Our study of design includes a wide range of literary features which illuminate the central ideas and veiled subtleties of a text. These literary features include the surface structures or patterns in each unit, whether it be a large complex (such as 38:1-42:6) or a coherent segment within a longer speech (e.g., 19:6-12 or 21-29). Attention is given to framing techniques, envelope constructions (inclusio), chiasm, adaptation of traditional forms or formulae, wordplay, double entendre, and irony. Especially significant are the various ways in which repetition is employed to frame a unit, highlight a recurring motif (leitmotiv), focus on a pivotal image, or effect verbal irony. Consideration is also given to the particular way in which the author has one speaker subtly appropriating or alluding to key ideas or terms used by a preceding speaker. This kind of ironic allusion can be captured by the use of a single word (e.g., Job's use of the term "hedge" in 3:23) or by an extensive series of references to a group of earlier speeches (as in chs. 38-39). These allusions point to the author's technique of progressively integrating divergent themes and ideas as the plot and design of the book is unfolded. In this connection we also explore those images and metaphors which convey major themes, and the traditional symbols employed by the author to add color and depth to the theological ideas held in tension throughout the book. All these literary features are viewed as part of a unifying scheme in which the intricacies of poetic form, narrative plot, and theological motif are interwoven in a consummate artistic design of majestic proportions. The Message in Context section of the commentary is a verse-by-verse analysis of the Hebrew text as a word once addressed to an ancient audience. The exegete must be ever conscious of the gap between contemporary worldviews and those of the ancient audience of the author. Any interpretation of a particular passage must also be tempered by an acute awareness of the limitations in our knowledge of ancient thought patterns and the difficulties inherent in grasping the nuances of meaning found in a complex work of this nature. In seeking to interpret the text afresh we have investigated the work of the major scholars in the field but have kept references to their work to a minimum. We have sought to interpret each verse by determining its sense in the immediate context of the unit where it is embedded, in the context of speeches by the same character or related speeches by another character, in the literary context of the book of Job as a whole (including the so-called epilogue and prologue), in the wider context of biblical wisdom literature



and the Old Testament in general, and finally within the broad context of related materials from the world of the ancient Near East. The Message in Context section takes into account findings or proposals from the discussions under Textual Notes and under Design, so that textual, literary, and thematic considerations are brought together in the interpretation of a given passage. Above all, the message is interpreted as a message in context, both the context of the speaker in a given passage and the context of meanings created by the author in the design of the book. 2. The Narrative Plot A critical appreciation of the literary character of the book of Job calls for a close investigation of its narrative. Twenty years ago Georg Fohrer wrote, "It is almost universally accepted that this framework [chs. 1-2; 42:7-17] was originally an independent narrative, a legend whose point was didactic and paraenetic" (Introduction to the Old Testament, Abingdon Press, 1958, 325). The original form of this framework and its relation to the enclosed dialogue are subjects which continue to engage the ingenuity of biblical critics. It has generally been accepted that the book of Job consists of two basic parts-a prologue and an epilogue in prose form which together constitute a discrete story framework (chs. 1-2; 42:7-17), and an extended dialogue in poetic form which represents the author's contribution to Israelite thought (3:1-42:6). Scholars concerned with discovering an underlying unity in Job are bedeviled by this assumed disjuncture (cf. Hoffman, VT 31, 1981, 160-170). Structuralists transcend such linear divisions by discerning an underlying pattern of contradictions. For example, Polzin (Biblical Structuralism) discerns four movements (chs. 1-37; 38:1-42:6; 42:7-9; 42:10-17) which explore a basic contradiction between belief and experience. But must we move beyond the surface narrative to discern coherence in Job? Traditional frame tales such as those found in the Decameron, the Thousand and One Nights, the Bhagavad Gita, or The King and the Corpse (Vetalapaficavinsati) reveal a strong thematic and structural interrelationship between the frame and the subject of the frame. The frame interprets its subject. But is the interpreting frame narrative of Job to be confined to the so-called epilogue and prologue? Is there a continuous narrative plot which underlies the book of Job and gives coherence to the text as a whole? Such appears to be the case. It is the goal of our examination to expose the contours of that plot using basic literary techniques of plot analysis. Robert Alter's work epitomizes the call of recent critics to take seriously the techniques and artistry of narratives as literary creations. Alter highlights, among other things, "the highly subsidiary role of narration in



comparison to direct speech by the characters" in traditional biblical narrative (The Art of Biblical Narrative, 65). According to Alter, biblical story is oriented toward dialogue to such an extent that one can speak about a "bias in stylization" toward "narration-through-dialogue" (p. 69). Alter writes: A quick review of the main functions served by narration in the Bible will give us a better sense of the special rhythm with which Hebrew writers tell their tales: beginning with narration, they move into dialogue, drawing back momentarily or at length to narrate again, but always centering on sharply salient verbal intercourse of the characters, who act upon one another, discover themselves, affirm or expose their relation to God, through force of language. (P. 75)

Alter's principles of narrative construction are admirably demonstrated in the two opening episodes of Job (1:6-22; 2:1-10; Habel, JSOT 27, 1983, 101-111). Direct speech dominates both episodes and governs the interplay of characters. In addition, as Robert Gordis' translation demonstrates, the speeches in these opening episodes are essentially poetry. Thus the so-called prologue of Job is poetic dialogue framed by narration. If this is true for the opening episode of Job, can the same be said for the narrative of Job as a whole? In biblical narrative the dialogue not only reports or foreshadows actions in the plot but may itself also be an action which retards, complicates, or resolves an episode in the plot. This feature raises the further question of whether the book of Job consists of independent poetic speeches inserted into a traditional narrative context or whether the book is better understood as a narrative whose plot incorporates lengthy speeches which are integral to that plot. We suggest that the model for the book of Job is the traditional biblical narrative. This model has been modified with expansion of the dialogue into speeches which both retard and complicate the plot. Admittedly the dispute between the sufferer and the friend in the Babylonian Theodicy may have provided a suitable dialogue model for the narrator, but I would argue that the artist who created the book of Job has constructed the dialogue as a feature of the plot rather than as an independent theological disputation. Narrative analysis requires that detailed attention be given to the narration which frames the dialogue and the major episodes of the plot, even if that narration is quite brief. Any variation in prose formulation may provide a clue of the narrator's intention. An examination of the prose materials of Job reveals three substantial passages which introduce Job, the three friends, and Elihu, the major earthly characters in the plot (1:1-5; 2:11-13; 32: 1-5). Each of these passages identifies aspects of the role and character of the performer being announced by the author and provides necessary background information for the next stage of the plot development. These



three introductions are linked closely with formal indications of closure. Before the three friends are announced, the narrator passes a verdict on Job's prior speeches: "In spite of all this Job did not sin with his lips" (2: 10). This interpretive comment, like 1:22, closes the narrator's text but lies outside the actions of the episode as such. At the end of ch. 31 the author states that "the words of Job are at an end" (31:40c), and in the opening line of ch. 32 that "the three men have ceased answering Job." Thus the introduction of Elihu is explicitly linked with the closure of the preceding cycle of events. In the so-called epilogue, the restoration of Job (42:12-16) constitutes a closure which is deliberately designed to balance the introduction (1: 1-5). These prose markers provide clear evidence of the author's intention to construct the narrative as three movements (1:1-2:10; 2:1131:40; 32:1-42:17), each with its own appropriate introduction of key characters. What are the contours of the plot structure within the framework of these three movements? Our analysis will take into account the major events and speeches which advance the plot, the key conflicts and complications which develop within the plot, selected examples of plot anticipation, and stages of plot resolution. Movement L· God Afflicts the Hero-The Hidden Conflict Plot Development

The opening verses of the book (vs. 1-5) are a pretemporal exposition or prelude which provides background information for both the first movement and the total narrative. Job is introduced as a patriarchal figure from the heroic past. He is the epitome of piety, wisdom, and success. His goodness extends to periodic priestly acts of mediation on behalf of his family to ward off the fatal sin of "cursing God." The opening scene of the first episode (1:6-22) is set in the council of heaven (1 :6), thereby signaling a possible conflict between the domains of heaven and earth, a feature typical of biblical legend. Tension between the divine plan and the disorderly nature of historical events is characteristic of biblical narrative (Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, 33). The catalyst which initiates the plot in the opening scene is Yahweh's boast about his servant Job (1:7-8). This verbal action is the first in a series of such verbal actions which are central to the development of the plot. Yahweh's provocative words lead to a conflict with the Satan and their mutual agreement to test Job with afflictions. Job's unquestioning acceptance of these afflictions (1:20-21) suggests, initially, that the conflict between the Satan and Yahweh has been resolved, but as the dialogue of the second episode reveals, this resolution is only apparent.



In the second episode the narrator employs the technique of repeating an earlier scene with significant variations or additions. These variations force a reinterpretation of the earlier scene. When Yahweh repeats his boast in the second assembly of the heavenly council he also accuses the Satan of inciting him to afflict Job "for no good reason" or "for nothing" (2:1-3). Thus there was more going on in that opening dialogue between Yahwep and the Satan than the text of that dialogue revealed. Furthermore, Yahweh's accusation is simultaneously an admission of divine vulnerability. He exposes his own character as someone susceptible to the Satan's ploys. The Satan plays on this weakness of Yahweh by issuing a new test for his favorite mortal. Once more Yahweh is incited by the Satan, and Job is the victim of another cruel test (2:7). A second variation in scene repetition creates a secondary complication. Job's wife appears without warning to echo the Satan's challenge by proposing to Job that he "curse God and die" (2:9). The conflict in the heavenly realm has now been introduced in the earthly domain. Once again there is an apparent resolution of the conflict as Job rebukes his wife and accepts the evil Yahweh has imposed (2: 10). But as we saw in the previous episode, the narrator has already made us cautious about accepting glib resolutions of a conflict. Yet after each of the two opening episodes he deliberately repeats his verdict that Job has uttered no verbal sins. Thus, none of Job's verbal actions to this point are catalysts for new developments of the plot. Plot Anticipation

The preceding features of the plot in the first movement are generally clear and widely accepted. In the past, however, many critics viewed these two episodes as a discrete story concluding with the epilogue but standing apart from the so-called dialogue chapters which intervene. A close examination of the story in the opening movement, however, discloses significant features of the plot which foreshadow and prepare the audience for the events in the two movements which follow. The verbal action of Job breaking into curses (ch. 3) is foreshadowed by Job's wife (2:9) and the Satan (1:11; 2:5), even if the form of Job's curse deviates slightly from that predicted by the Satan. The suggestion of Job's wife is the latent catalyst for Job cursing the day of his birth. The Satan's prc;diction that Job would curse God "to his face" is transformed, in the development of the plot, to Job planning a legal suit to be presented "to his face" (13:15; 23:4). Job's activity as a priest mediating on behalf of his family anticipates his role as a mediator for his friends when they face the anger of Yahweh (42:7-10). These obvious plot connections raise the question of whether the narra-



tive plot of the opening movement is a necessary basis for the developments in the plot which follow. It can be argued, in the first place, that the story in the opening movement is incomplete. The paradigm of the righteous sufferer in ancient Near Eastern literature involves a description of undeserved atHiction, complaint, hearkening, and restoration (cf. Gese, Lehre und Wirklichkeit in der a/ten Weisheit, 64). To the Israelite audience, familiar with this paradigm and the lament psalms, the story of a man's uncomplaining submission to unjust atHiction and of his nonchalant restoration to a position of grandeur and wealth is neither realistic nor traditional. The episodes of the opening movement anticipate something more, even if not as harsh as Job's wife proposed. Some kind of confrontation in complaint, or some conflict between Job and his God, is both expected and foreshadowed. Second, several features of the character of God, as revealed in the first movement, suggest conflicts yet to be resolved. Yahweh's arbitrary agreement to atHict an innocent mortal to satisfy a wager with the Satan throws doubt on Yahweh's capacity to govern with justice. That is precisely the issue which Job raises and Yahweh's word from the whirlwind explores. Yahweh's susceptibility to challenge foreshadows the possibility that a mortal hero like Job could also provoke his God into action. Moreover, Yahweh's advent in the whirlwind at Job's provocation matches his atftiction of Job at the Satan's provocation. Most important of all, the basic conflict between hidden decisions in heaven and arbitrary events on earth remains unresolved. The omniscient audience knows the ostensible reason for Job's atHiction, but Job remains supremely ignorant. If the story ends with the first movement, that conflict is not even explored and its ironic complications are left as irrelevant mysteries (cf. Whedbee, Semeia 7, 1977, 1-39). These factors demonstrate that the so-called prologue is not an independent story (even if some such story once circulated orally), and not a simplistic pretext for the dialogue which follows, but the first movement of a complex plot which foreshadows and requires the subsequent movements for its appropriate development and resolution.

Movement II: The Hero Challenges God-The Conflict Explored Plot Development The prose preamble (2:11-13) which introduces the second movement identifies the role of the three friends who sit silently on the ground with Job and his heap of ashes. The silence in this earthly assembly is ominous and portends an oncoming storm. Seven days is an appropriate period for



a transformation to take place in the hero before his rage erupts (cf. II Sam. 12:15-23). The symbolic acts performed by the friends reveal their initial willingness to identify with Job in his illness and anguish. The verbal action of Job in "cursing the day of his birth" is integral to the development of the plot (ch. 3). That action reveals the transformation in Job's attitude and initiates a conflict with the friends. The curses Job pronounces, however, also have the potential to unleash forces of darkness and chaos and so produce an even greater conflict. His imprecations are designed to stir those who stir Leviathan (3:8). The audience, however, is left wondering whether Job will die as his wife predicted or whether some other fate will befall him. Job's opening curse is complemented by his closing "pronouncements" (m•sa/im, 27:1; 29:1). Job's closing speeches are differentiated by the narrator from the preceding dialogue speeches with the friends by the use of the expression "Job continued his masa/." Clearly, Job's masa/ is not a traditional proverb, but some type of weighty formal "pronouncement" in the same vein as his opening curse. When Balaam takes up his masa/, his verbal action is a powerful pronouncement that nullifies the curse requested by Balak. Instead Balaam imparts blessing to Israel (Num. 23:7, 18). Job's masal speeches have the character of oaths with implied sanctions against the party taking the oath. Job's first masal (27:1-12) serves as a closure for his dispute with the friends and as such balances the curse of ch. 3. In this speech Job takes an oath against perjury and a self-imprecation protesting his innocence (27:2-6). Job's second masal is a formal testimony before an assumed court. The hero's testimony relates his past achievements (ch. 29), laments his present condition (ch. 30), and culminates in an oath of purity (ch. 31). The climax to this oath of purity is a formal challenge summoning an arbiter to grant his case a hearing and summoning his accuser to present a formal writ before the court (31 :35-37). This challenge is the climax of the plot and the catalyst for the events of the next movement. Between Job's opening curse and his closing oaths two major conflicts are developed, the one between Job and his friends and the other between Job and his God. The dialogue speeches in this section (chs. 4-26) are an exaggerated expansion of dialogue speeches in traditional biblical narrative and seem to retard the plot interminably. This fact should not blind us to key developments in the plot expressed through the dialogue. The friends, who are introduced as comforters, are denounced by Job as untrue to their role (ch. 6). Job rejects his companions as disloyal friends and false comforters (cf. 16:2). He accuses them of siding with God and pursuing him like El the hunter (19:22). The friends, in tum, allude to the afflictions Job experienced in the opening scenes as evidence of his guilt (7:5; 8:4). The speeches of Eliphaz illustrate the transformation which takes place



in the posture of the friends. Eliphaz begins as a sympathetic wisdom counselor who invites Job to recall the past and humbly seek El's mercy (chs. 4-5). In his second speech he berates Job for presuming to claim a wisdom which is in conflict with the traditional wisdom of the fathers (ch. 15). And in his final speech he publicly accuses Job of committing a wide range of social sins (22:5-11). Eliphaz becomes the human accuser; his words are a public indictment. Job has been pronounced guilty by his peers and that pronouncement signals an inevitable reaction from Job. The central development in Movement II of the plot is the legal action which Job pursues. He is not content to raise a typical lament bewailing his miserable condition as a mortal. Instead, he accuses his God of being the enemy, the fierce El Gibbor who has made him the target of unwarranted attacks (16:9-14). But even more boldly, he develops a program to confront his divine adversary in court and there be vindicated. Triggered by a comment of Eliphaz that mortals cannot be "righteous before God" (4: 17), Job explores the possibilities of pursuing litigation with his fic!de and frightening God (chs. 9-10). Instead of cursing God "to his face" in absentia, as the Satan had predicted, Job is ready to present a legal suit "to his face" in person, regardless of the consequences (13:13-18). It matters not to Job whether he or God summons the other party to court so long as the legal proceedings are conducted free from intimidation (13:20-22). But Job also has the problem of locating God so that he can arraign him and pursue litigation "to his face" (23:2-4). After the conclusion of his dialogue speeches with the friends, Job seems to assume the court is in session. Before that court Job gives his public testimony (chs. 29-31), including an oath of purity (ch. 31 ). He closes with a formal challenge for an arbiter to hold a hearing and for his adversary at law to appear with the appropriate written document in hand (31:35-37). Thus Job moves beyond lament to a formal legal declaration of innocence designed to clear him of guilt. The onus is now on his accuser to take the next action. If no one challenges his oath, he is legally clear. This action of Job is a climactic moment in the development of the plot. With his oath of innocence he has defied the courts of heaven and earth. Plot Anticipation

At key points in the dialogue of this movement, pointed statements are made which foreshadow ev.ents in the third movement. Job complains that if he summoned God to court, God would appear as an overwhelming whirlwind without giving Job a chance to present his case (9:16-17). What Job fears eventually takes place. When Yahweh appears in his whirlwind, he bombards Job with a barrage of cosmic riddles and impossible questions which leave Job with nothing to say. Zophar follows Job's complaint with



a formal wish that God would actually speak to Job in person and disclose to him the hidden mysteries of the universe. Such a speech would silence Job's arrogant claims to wisdom (11:5-6). Little did Zophar imagine that his wish would be granted, though the narrator keeps preparing the audience for such an eventuality. Moreover, the conflict between Job and his friends is developed to the point where Job predicts that when God does appear in court he will cross-examine them and find them biased deceivers (13:7-12). The verdict Yahweh pronounces on the friends (42:7) is a fulfillment of this prediction, and the redemption of the friends by Job's "purity" (42:7-9) is foreshadowed by Eliphaz' ironic last words (22:30). Probably the most significant foreshadowing of this movement is Job's search for a mediator who can arbitrate his case with God and prevent him from employing intimidating tactics (9:32-35). This mediator is to "arbitrate" between a hero and his God as between a mortal and his friend (16:21). Job is convinced that two events will occur: this mediator will finally appear, and he, Job, will see God face to face (19:25-27). Job's expectation of beholding God in person is fulfilled when· he sees God with his own eyes (42:5). The appearance of the mediator, however, is an ironic anticlimax. The young Elihu arises to act as arbiter but presumes to rule in God's favor (32:10-12; 33:1-7). Thus most of the major events in the final movement are anticipated in the dialogue: the advent of the arbiter Elihu, the appearance of Yahweh in a whirlwind, his challenge of Job's wisdom, Job seeing God, and the verdict of Yahweh against Job's friends. Even the restoration of "blameless" Job with an end greater than his beginning is foreshadowed by Bildad (8:6-7).

Movement III: God Challenges the Hero-The Conflict Resolved The second movement ends with all the personal or legal complications unresolved. The preamble to the third movement introduces Elihu, whose presence is sometimes viewed by critics as an embarrassing anticlimax. Within the development of the narrative plot, however, his appearance is logical. He is the foreshadowed arbiter whom Job summoned to conduct his hearing (31:35). Since no arbiter had arisen (32:12), Elihu assumes that role and formally demands of Job: Answer me, if you can! Present your suit before my face. Take your stand. (33:5)

Job is summoned to present his suit before Elihu's face, not the face of God as he had planned. Furthermore, adds Elihu sarcastically, his "terror" will not intimidate Job as God's presence would have (33:7). Elihu's verdict is designed to terminate Job's pursuit of litigation. "It is not for a mortal,"



proclaims Elihu, "to set a time to come before El in litigation" (34:23). El does not appear in court at the whim of a mortal; he is. high above the heavens, unmoved by the wickedness or righteousness of particular human individuals (ch. 35). Elihu seems to represent the theology of those who believe that God no longer intervenes directly in human lives as in the heroic days of Noah and Abraham. In that context, Elihu's speech is a plausible response to Job's demand for an arbiter. The scene with Elihu, however, is only an apparent resolution of the plot. Contrary to Elihu's predictions, Job's divine adversary does show his face. The heroic era is not past. Mortals can challenge heaven and move God to action. The Elihu scene is thus a foil, a deliberate anticlimax, which retards the plot and leads the audience to expect a plot development which is the opposite of what actually happens. The twofold appearance of Yahweh in the whirlwind (38:1; 40:6) corresponds to his two appearances before the council of heaven (1:6; 2:1). His twofold incitement by the Satan is balanced by a dual challenge issued to Job. This God, with his susceptibility to challenges, cannot resist the challenge of Job. Perhaps Yahweh's appearance in the whirlwind would have been enough to satisfy Job, but his divine propensity for challenges leads him to summon Job: "Gird up your loins like a hero" (38:3; 40:7). Yahweh counters Job's demand for vindication and confronts Job with challenges that arise from Job's earlier accusations about the way God governs his world (e.g., 12:13"'-25). Thus Yahweh challenges .lob to demonstrate his capacity to interpret the mysteries of the cosmic design (38:2ff.) and to control the forces of wickedness or chaos in the world (40:7ff. ). Yahweh also assumes that his dispute with Job exists within a legal framework and addresses Job as "the one with a suit (rib) against Shaddai" (40:2). Here Yahweh is placing Job on the stand and demanding an answer. Yahweh's challenge from the whirlwind complicates the conflict between Job and his God. Now God, like Job, also demands that his integrity be recognized. A resolution of this two-edged conflict is expected in Job's final response (42:1-6). But the wording of his speech is ambiguous and its meaning hotly debated. Is Job's final speech an act of submission, defiance, or tongue-in-cheek acquiescence? It is my contention that this speech is intended to provide a subtle resolution of the dual conflict facing Job and God. Job, whether humbly or graciously or reluctantly, makes two moves which resolve the conflict and make closure possible. Job's final speech is composed of two sections (42:2-3 and 4-6), each of which includes a quotation that encapsulates Yahweh's challenges. The first quotation reads, "Who is this who obscures my design without knowledge?" (42:3; cf. 38:2). Job's answer to that question is an unequivocal admission that he is the one. Job admits that he made derogatory remarks and ignorant accusations about God's governance of the cosmos. The hero



concedes that in this domain God has superior wisdom and power. Job's concession vindicates Yahweh's integrity and acknowledges him as the controller of the cosmic order. The second quotation from Yahweh reads: Hear now anc\ I will speak, I will ask and you will inform me. (42:4)

This quotation does not call for a confession or a demonstration of wisdom, but for Job to heed God's summons and respond to his interrogation. Yahweh's summons (40:7) appears to be a reversal of Job's earlier demand that God appear in court and present his case (31:35). But Yahweh has now appeared and the situation has changed. God did show his face; he did answer Job's summons. Now Job has seen God. The foreshadowed face-toface encounter between Job and God has happened and Job remains intact. He has not been destroyed by Yahweh's anger. Job's oath of purity stands, and his claim to be innocent has not been repudiated. God's appearance, it seems, is sufficient vindication for Job; he does not press for a formal deed of exculpation. Accordingly, the hero withdraws his case and does not submit to further interrogation (42:6). Job's action marks his return to normal life; he changes his mind about pressing his suit and assuming the posture of a plaintiff among the dust and ashes. His conflict with God is over and Yahweh is acknowledged as Lord. Job's conflict with his friends remains unresolved. When Yahweh addresses Eliphaz, however, he reveals that a serious conflict has also developed between God and the friends (42:7). Yahweh is angry against them because of their libelous speeches; their lives are at risk. It is as though they, rather than Job, have cursed God and must die. Ironically, Job is the only mediator Yahweh will accept to intercede for the friends (42:8). Job's act of intercession implies his full restoration as a righteous mediator for his community. Yahweh's address to Eliphaz also incorporates an indirect acknowledgment of Job's innocence without the formality of a verdict. Job was therefore justified in reading Yahweh's advent as a vindication of his human integrity. The closure of the plot is clearly designed to echo the opening exposition and the first movement. Job's intercession for his friends corresponds to his earlier intercession for his family (1:5). The verdict of the narrator that Job spoke no wrong is endorsed by Yahweh's verdict that Job spoke the truth about him (1:22; 2:10; 42:7). The consolation and comfort offered by the three friends is balanced by the consolation and comfort extended by Job's relatives and acquaintances at a communal celebration (2:11; 42:11). The possessions of Job as a famous patriarch before his afflictions are doubled after his trial. Finally a grand inc/usio, reflecting the narrative language of



the patriarchal legends, is evident in the opening and closing verses of the book. Job, the hero, lives like Abraham, "blameless" and "fearing God" (1:1; Gen. 17:1; 22:12), and dies like Abraham, "an old man, sated with days" (42:17; Gen. 25:8). With Job's restoration, long life, and blessed death, the narrator creates an appropriate traditional closure. Conclusion

A literary analysis of the major narrative elements of the book of Job reveals a coherent plot developed in three major movements, each with formal introduction and closure. Within these three movements a series of significant conflicts are developed and resolved, anticipated and recapitulated. These conflicts are developed within the framework of the eternal tension between the will of heaven and the happenings of earth, the plan of God and the program of mortals. The chief character of the plot is tested, suffers great anguish, stands alone, defies heaven, and emerges a true hero. The fact that many events in the plot are verbal acts such as curses or oaths in no way nullifies them as forces integral to the conflict. With great artistic ingenuity the author has constructed this work by incorporating ancient legendary styles, rich poetic language, and diverse sapiential traditions. All elements of the work are given coherence through a forceful underlying plot which extends beyond the so-called prologue and epilogue. (See the Appendix following this Introduction for a detailed outline of the plot.)

3. Integrity, Setting, and Date Integrity

The preceding analysis of the narrative plot of the book of Job reveals an underlying structure which gives coherence to the work as a literary whole. Prologue, dialogue speeches, and epilogue are integrated into a total artistic work through this plot structure. This unity, however, extends beyond the narrative plot to include terminological, thematic, and literary features. The integrity of the work is evident in its overall construction, the setting of its characters, and the interrelationship of its several parts. Our narrative plot analysis demonstrates the way in which the so-called prologue and epilogue are related to the rest of the book. The motif of a righteous hero who suffered unjustly is found in ancient Sumer and Babylon. Job had his forerunners in ancient Near Eastern folklore, and a story of Job may have circulated orally before the author wrote the book that bears his name. But that story is inaccessible to us. Since the article by Sarna on the prose of Job (JBL 16, 1957, 13-25), many scholars have readily accepted the argument that poetic features of literary style, repetition,



symmetry in literary structure, and the presence of mythological elements reveal an epic substratum which derives from an ancient poetic version of the Job story. But the argument lacks cogency. The so-called epic features cited by Sarna are also characteristic of the poetic materials of the book of Job and argue strongly for one author who is familiar with epic forms and has incorporated these throughout a unified work. Signals of continuity between the so-called prologue and subsequent chapters are discernible in those major expressions of the prologue selected by the author to foreshadow significant ideas, terminology, themes, and theological motifs in the subsequent speeches. Details of these interrelationships are outlined at the end of the Design section for the prologue (chs. 1-2) in the commentary. The Elihu speeches are also best interpreted as an integral part of the structure of the book of Job in spite of contrary arguments advanced by many critics. In the light of the preceding analysis of the narrative plot of Job and my detailed study of the role of Elihu in the design of the book of Job (in In the Shelter of Elyon ), I would argue that the Elihu speeches are consistent with the style, the plot, and the thematic progression of the book. The opening verses of ch. 32 provide an appropriate prose introduction to the third movement of the plot. Elihu enters the scene as an arbiter, not as one of the friends. His appearance is a logical response to Job's call for an ar,biter to handle his case (31:35). There is no reason, therefore, to expect Elihu to be mentioned in the prologue. His speeches reflect his role, and his language is consistent with that role. Unlike the friends, he tends to quote Job directly and summons him by name, a practice consistent with court procedure elsewhere (cf. Micah 6:1-5; Jer. 26:9, 18). The rather verbose style of Elihu is not an argument for disparate authorship, but an indication that the poet has employed language and idioms consistent with Elihu's character as a brash youth who tends to make a fool of himself as a legal official. The so-called late Aramaisms of the Elihu speeches can be interpreted on the basis of earlier Semitic linguistic usage (cf. Snaith, Job). The objection of scholars to the theological content of Elihu's speeches tends to focus on their apparent lack of originality. They are said to offer no new or significant contribution to the problem of suffering raised by Job's condition. But this objection fades once we recognize that the "answer" of Elihu is not, first and foremost, thematic and theological but forensic and dramatic. As part of the narrative design, Elihu presents the case of the earthly arbiter, the answer of orthodoxy given in a trial situation. And as E. Kraeling rightly observes, Elihu's words would provide .an appropriate termination of the book if it were not for the intervention of Yahweh (The Book of the Ways of God, London: S.P.C.K., 1938, 138). Elihu's speeches are designed to provide an orthodox ending and a plausible resolution of the earthly dispute. That ending, however, is overridden by an answer from Yahweh that lies beyond the canons of orthodoxy and the strictures of an



earthly court. As elsewhere in the narrative plot of the book, the author has introduced an apparent resolution of the conflict which is exposed as such by subsequent events. Thus the Elihu speech is a deliberate foil and anticlimax which retards the plot and heightens the surprise appearance of Yahweh as a celestial participant. The import of Elihu's message is consistent with the narrative function of the scene. For Elihu emphasizes the transcendence of God and the impossibility of mortals summoning him to appear in court at an appointed time (34:23). This transcendent God has established ways of indicating his will through dreams or suffering, and his wondrous presence through meteorological masterpieces. Elihu argues on traditional theological grounds that God is beyond the immediate reach of mortals and that it is presumptuous to summon him to appear. Thus Elihu's role and message are a deliberate anticlimax which sets the stage for the surprise advent of Yahweh in the whirlwind. The third cycle of speeches in the dialogue between Job and his friends has apparently suffered some dislocation. Following the pattern of the first two cycles, we would have expected speeches of approximately equal length for each of the three friends as they alternate with Job in the preceding dialogue. The absence of a final speech formally assigned to Zophar suggests that some disruption has happened to the third cycle of speeches or that the dialogue of the friends is deliberately portrayed as ending in disarray. It is tempting to rearrange the remaining materials into a neatly balanced pattern similar to that found in the first two speeches. The allocation of these final speeches to particular participants, however, ought to be made on the basis of consistency in thought, language, and terminology with the earlier speeches of the same participants. Given the likelihood of dislocation, we have tentatively assigned the speeches in the third cycle as follows: ch. 21 Job 22 Eliphaz Job 23 24 (Zophar) 25:1-6; 26:5-14 (Bildad) 26:1-4; 27:1-12 Job 27:13-23 (Zophar) 28 Closure

In an earlier study I viewed ch. 24 as an anonymous discourse (Habel, Job, 126). Clearly, the point of the speech (especially in vs. 18-24) is diametrically opposed to what Job said about the fate of the wicked in his previous speech (ch. 21). In fact, ch. 24 seems to be a deliberate attempt to come to terms with Job's point that the wicked do prosper and oppress their victims freely at times, by arguing that within God's time scale they will necessarily get their comeuppance, even if there is some delay. As we



have argued in the Design section for ch. 24, the thematic and terminological evidence points to Zophar as the author of this speech. The text both continues the themes announced by Zophar in his previous speech (ch. 20) and answers the counterclaims of Job in ch. 21. It is also plausible that this speech has been disconnected from 27: 13-23, where the same key themes and terms are repeated. The significance of this speech (chs. 24; 27:13-23), which we here assigned to Zophar, is that as a closing gesture it reflects a partial concession to Job, but without compromising the basic law of reward and retribution as an operating principle. A similar concession is made by the friend in the Babylonian Theodicy where he agrees that "the gods have given perverse speech to the human race," a doctrine which helps to explain injustice in the lives of the oppressed (BWL, 89). We concur with the arguments of Pope and others that the truncated speech of Bildad (25:1-6) continues with 26:5-14. We have argued in the Design section for 25:1-6; 26:5-14 that the mood and perspective of26:5-14 seem to be at odds with Job's previous treatment of hymnic materials relating to God's creative power and governance. We have also demonstrated that when the two pieces (25:1-6 and 26:5-14) are reunited, a basic coherence of structure and theme becomes apparent. This speech, it seems, is designed to be Bildad's response to Job's search for God's abode in ch. 23. Moreover, ch. 25 begins with a hymnic opening formula (cf. 12:13) appropriate as an introduction to both pieces, but especially 26:5-14. Job closes his dialogue with the three friends with an oath of integrity (27:2-6) and a parting declaration that he has been teaching them the truth about Shaddai (27:11-12). In chs. 29-31 Job is no longer addressing the friends but making a public declaration of innocence before an assumed court and challenging his adversary at law to appear before that court. These chapters, therefore, represent a new scene in the narrative plot of the book. This raises the question of the locus of the brilliant wisdom poem (ch. 28) in the structure of the book. Is it an intrusive later addition, or does it have an appropriate function in the total structure of the book at this point? This is the issue addressed in the Design section of the commentary on ch. 28. This poem differs significantly from the speeches that precede and follow. It is not addressed to God or the friends but has the earmarks of a selfcontained and coherent poem on access to primordial wisdom. Yet the style and themes remain those of the poet in the other speeches of the book. The poem emphasizes that the eternal wisdom which lies behind the design of the cosmos is inaccessible to mortals in spite of their ingenuity and propensity for probing mysteries. In its present location, therefore, this poem serves as a formal closure to the preceding dialogue speeches and an authorial comment on the futility of the disputants in their search for an understanding of God's design and governance of the earth. The poem also



serves as a bridge between the dialogue scene of chs. 3-27 and the court pronouncements of Job in chs. 29-31. Ironically, the final verse (28:28) offers a traditional summation declaring that derived wisdom is gained through fear of the Lord and shunning evil. Thus at the narrative midpoint of the book, the theme of the opening verse (1: 1) is repeated. Yet in spite of Job's implied character as a God-fearing man, he does not exhibit a submissive fear and pious acceptance of God's ways but launches into a series of forensic pronouncements that challenge God. Clearly Job does not want to discover wisdom, but to find God and to confront him in person. Setting A full appreciation of the artistic unity and literary design of the book of Job is also dependent on an understanding of the heroic world in which the characters of the narrative are located. That world is a fictive domain, derived in part from ancient tradition, but re-created by the poet as a realm where heroic roles and speeches can be expressed with epic force. The characters of the story are located in a distant patriarchal world more than a thousand years before the time of the author, a world uncluttered by the later traditions of Israel. Thus, just as the work is framed by a narrative plot, the characters are framed by an ancient setting outside Israel. The only two references to the hero elsewhere in the Old Testament, both of which appear in Ezekiel (14:14, 20), mention several features that Job, Noah, and the legendary Canaanite king Danel have in common. These three figures are portrayed as non-Israelites of great antiquity, symbols of true righteousness and mediators of salvation for others in times of crisis (cf. M. Noth, VT l, 1951, 251-260). Noah, like Job, is a man of integrity; his blameless life is instrumental in rescuing all species on earth from total annihilation in the Flood (Gen. 6:9; 7:1). Noah becomes a second Adam, the father of humankind on a new earth. Job, it seems, is set in a similar world; he is a heroic figure in the mold of Noah and Adam. The world of Job and Noah is the world of legendary rulers like Danel, Gilgamesh, Keret, and Utnapishtim. Noah, like Utnapishtim, was a perfect man in his generation, the builder of an ark. Job is likewise blameless (tam); the greatest man among the sons of the East (b•ne qedem); and, if we recognize an early double entendre in the text, the greatest of the men of primordial antiquity (1:3; cf. Gen. 2:8). Both heroes experience overwhelming losses, yet after their ordeal both offer sacrifices to God and mediate blessing to others. The portrayal of Job as a hero of the patriarchal, or better, prepatriarchal world, is sustained throughout the speeches of Job. Wherever Job or his friends talk in the poetic speeches of the book they use pre-Mosaic names when speaking of or to God. In the prose prologue the narrator informs us,



the audience, that Yahweh is the actual deity behind the ancient plot. The characters of the plot, however, who belong to a time before Yahweh's name was revealed (Ex. 6:2-3) and to a place outside the covenant land promised to his people, use the archaic designations for God, such as El, Shaddai, and Eloah. Thus the characters are framed by the ancient heroic setting created by the poet. The narrative frame of the text is an integral part of the literary intention of the author to inform the audience of this reality and to keep · them conscious of the historical and theological gap between their world and that of the hero. Job is trapped in a distant world attempting to discover the purpose of life and the nature of God, a nature which the audience will understand in different terms because of the Exodus and Yahweh's covenant relationship with his people Israel. It is as though we were taken back to the beginning, when mortals were first struggling to know God. The hero is framed not only by the wager of Yahweh and the Satan in the heavenly council but by the heroic setting, which prevents him from knowing that he is actually being framed by the covenant God of Israel, and from knowing why he is being afflicted at all. In that fictive setting, the author allows us to experience vicariously the primal nature of God discerned by the hero. The narrative portrait of Yahweh, albeit presented in a somewhat negative light at times, suggests that the author is a critical Israelite. The author is also familiar with the traditions of the ancient Near Eastern world. The identity of the author, however, remains a complete enigma. The rabbinic suggestion that the author may have been Moses is a logical progression from the fact that the author has established the hero in a distant preMosaic world.

Date When did the author of Job construct this sophisticated literary unit? Scholars have proposed dates from the tenth century to the fourth century B.C. The text offers no explicit historical allusions which would suggest a particular period when the work was written (cf. Roberts, ZAW 89, 1977, 107-114). The very fact that the author locates the characters in a distant world and avoids direct allusions to the later historical and prophetic traditions of Israel makes the task of determining an appropriate date rather difficult. In fact no historical event is mentioned at any point in the entire work. The story deals with the struggle of an ancient hero with his God. The linguistic evidence of the text is ambiguous, though the investigations ofHurvitz (HTR 67, 1974, 17-34) suggest that the work is no earlier than the sixth century B.C. Some have argued that the alleged Aramaisms of the book are evidep.ce of a postexilic date (Rowley). But, as Snaith (Job, Appendix II) and others have pointed out, the identification of a word or root as



an Aramaism which necessarily belongs to the postexilic period is a precarious exercise. The absence of any prior reference to a particular word or root in earlier biblical texts is no proof that such a word did not exist, as the recent findings from Ugarit have demonstrated. Arguments from literary dependency are similarly problematic. Similarities in form and thought between Job 3:3-10 and Jer. 20:14-18 or between Job 3:3-10 and Gen. 1 are discussed in the Design section for ch. 3. A close examination of these passages reveals that those verses of Job 3 which show an affinity with Jer. 20:14-18 form an inclusio (vs. 3 and 10) which frames the relevant unit in Job (3:3-10), and that those verses which show an affinity with Gen. 1 are the framed section of this same unit (vs. 4-9). This careful literary combination of two significant traditions suggests a period when these traditions were available to the author in their present form, presumably after the days of Jeremiah. Close links between sections of Job and Second Isaiah have been cited to argue for locating the book of Job in a common period when similar ideas and forms were prevalent. As we have shown in the Design section for chs. 38-39, the challenge questions employed in the speeches of Yahweh are typical of the trial speeches of Second Isaiah. Gordis (The Book of God and Man, 216) argues that the poet of Job has taken the idea that suffering is not necessarily the consequence of sin, as developed by the prophet of the exile, and transferred it from the suffering of the nation to the lot of the individual. Yet earlier R. Pfeiffer had argued quite plausibly that the text of Job could be interpfeted as having priority over Second Isaiah (JBL 46, 1927, 202-206). Thus, while Job was no doubt familiar with literary and oral traditions of Israel, clear lines of dependency for establishing a particular date for the book are not demonstrable. Another approach is to identify a particular period when the issues or problems addressed in the book of Job were current in Israel. The difficulty here is that the polarities and theological conflicts of the book are so diverse and the resolutions considered so paradoxical, that the identification of a particular audience is almost impossible. Rowley, for example, argues that the book of Job is directed against a hardened distortion of the reward and retribution doctrine as it had been applied to the individual by Jeremiah and Ezekiel (Jer. 31 :29-30; Ezek. 18). But the basic tenets of this doctrine are so widespread in wisdom literature of Israel and the ancient Near East that no links with the prophets oflsrael need to be postulated. The general theme of a suffering individual may suggest connections with the suffering servant of Isa. 53. But no real parallel exists. Job suffers unjustly because of a wager between God and the Satan. There is no evidence that he represents Israel, a prophetic class within Israel, or a righteous remnant whose suffering might be interpreted as vicarious for Israel. The fact that Job intercedes for his friends at the end of the narrative is a surprising outcome, not a goal



of his suffering. Nor does Job suffer submissively, like a lamb led to the slaughter. Job is defiant and vitriolic in his opposition to God. Consistent with the orientation of traditional wisdom thinking, the author of Job has created an artistic work with universal dimensions rather than a text directed at a particular historical situation or theological issue alive in Israel at a specific time. Because the characters of the book are located in a distant heroic non-Israelite setting, a universal perspective is more readily established. Within that heroic era, however, the author introduces us to a monumental figure who has the capacity and courage that provoke God to emerge from his hidden transcendence and to confront a mortal personally in a whirlwind. Such a figure would have been an uncomfortable model of faith for any Israelites, before, during or after the exile of Israel. Thus, while the cumulative evidence may tend to suggest a postexilic era, the book's literary integrity, paradoxical themes, heroic setting, and uncomfortable challenge are pertinent for students of wisdom and life in any era and far more important than the precise date of this ancient literary work. 4. Literary Features and Their Significance

We have already discussed the significance of the narrative plot and ancient heroic setting for an appreciation of the literary dimensions of the book of Job as a totality. The literary techniques employed by the artistic designer of this book are diverse and complex. They extend to the adaptation of traditional literary forms, motif development, repetition, verbal irony, varying patterns of parallelism, and the creation of provocative literary designs. Our examination of these literary features will be neither exhaustive nor an end in itself. Our task will be to illustrate the major ways in which the author appropriates literary techniques to capture and heighten the theological conflicts developed within the book. Form and Focus It is a mark of creative genius that this author rarely appropriates literary forms or genres in their ideal traditional form. Rather, they are adapted, modified, and transformed to meet particular artistic and theological ends. Nowhere, for example, does the complete lament genre as exemplified in the Psalms appear in the speeches of Job (cf. Westermann, The Structure ofthe Book of Job). The one major feature of the lament genre which the poet employs and adapts is the complaint (Klage). The typical lament in the Psalms assumes a triangular relationship involving the sufferer, the enemy, and God. The sufferer complains to God about the enemy, whether that enemy be disease, death, physical danger, persecution, or personal foe. In



Job the situation is radically different. There is no third party about which Job may complain to God. God is himself the problem, the enemy, and the object of Job's complaint. Even in ch. 7, where Job commences each unit with an axiom about the miserable condition of mortals on earth, his complaint is ultimately directed against God as the taskmaster. Instead of being hailed as a deity to whom pleas of help could be addressed, God is dubbed with ironic titles such as "Seeing Eye" (7:8) and "Watcher of Humans" (7:20). God is the enemy and the spy. Job's cries are defiant accusations, not humble cries for deliverance. The author even parodies famous hymnic lines from Ps. 8 acclaiming the exalted nature of human beings. He does this by transforming them into another axiom about the · plight of mortals which he then cites as an additional ground for complaint (7: 17-18). Thus the poet adapts a rich variety of materials, including complaints, hymns, axioms, taunts, and sarcastic pleas, to focus on the intense alienation between Job's understanding of himself as a mortal and the character of God as an oppressive celestial spy. The complaints of Job against his God are distinctive modes of expression which deserve to be analyzed in their own right (cf. Fohrer, Studien zum Buche Hiob, 70). Hymnic materials in praise of God may lie behind passages such as 9:5-10 or 12:13-25, but in the hands of this poet they are reoriented to announce the violent ways of a Creator bent on disrupting his created order and producing chaos in society and nature. These materials no longer serve as a vehicle of praise but rather of blame. Even the hymnic passages cited by Eliphaz (5:9-16) or Elihu (36:26-33) are not employed as expressions of praise but as "proof texts" to substantiate arguments in the dispute with Job. An even more violent adaptation of hymnic materials is found in ch. 10. Here Job alleges that the tender techniques employed by the Creator in forming him as a precious human being (10:8-12) were not motivated by love but by an insidious hidden desire to spy on Job with the hope offinding flaws in his character (10:13-17). At appropriate points, oaths (27:2), curses (3:2), proverbs (5:2), parables (8:12ff.), traditional sayings (2:4), disputations (ch. 21), and other genres are incorporated into the speeches of the protagonists. In each case these literary forms are pieces of a larger fabric and their distinctive character must be discerned in the light of the governing structure of the literary unit as a whole. Appeal to ancient tradition as a literary form also seems to have been adapted for use in several speeches (8:8ff.; 20:4ff.; Habel, ZA W 88, 1976, 253-272). An ironic adaptation of this appeal to authority is reflected in Job's appeal to the animals (12:7-12). The adaptation of diverse genres to serve literary and theological ends, raises the vexing question of the genre of the book of Job as a whole. Terrien recognizes that these diverse genres have been appropriated by the poet but concludes that the ·book is a festal tragedy, a paracultic drama for the



celebration of the New Year festival. Terrien's interpretation recalls the influential work of Horace Kallen, whose reconstruction of Job (The Book of Job as a Greek Tragedy, 1918) consisted of four acts in direct imitation ofEuripidean theater. Some scholars have argued that, given the theological orientation of the Old Testament, no true tragedy is to be found in its pages (G. Steiner, The Death of Tragedy, London: Faber & Faber, 1961, 4-6). B. Kurzweil argues that only when "the Biblical text has ceased to serve as a document of faith and only when the intrinsic truth of the Biblical narrative has ceased to exist for the poet, can he turn it into a subject of tragedy" (in I. Cohen and B. Y. Michali, eds., Anthology of Hebrew Essays, Tel Aviv: Massada Publishing Co., 1966, I, 97-116, esp. 111). According to Aristotle's classic interpretation, tragedy involves a plot within which the hero moves from success to disaster (cf. Halperin, Semitics 7, 1980, 28-39). This relentless downhill progression is linked with the hero's hamartia (sin, error, faulty judgment), a weakness of which he may be ignorant. This weakness leads to a horrible deed (to deinon) perpetrated by the hero and the consequent reversal of his fortunes (peripeteia). Finally the hero comes to a recognition (anagnorisis) of his true character and experiences deep suffering (pathos). Elements of this structure could be identified in the narrative plot of Job. At the very heart of Job, however, the hero defies God to demonstrate that his character is without flaw and his life free from any terrible deed worthy of his deep suffering. If the poet of Job was familiar with tragedy as a paradigm, he has clearly transformed it to underscore the reality that the source of human pathos may lie totally outside the human being. Job's reversal of fortunes are due to a divine decree, not a character fault. The hero's retraction at the end of the story is not a confession of sin but an admission of ignorance. Finally, Job's fortunes are restored and he enjoys blessings greater than those he knew before his ordeal. It is precisely this U-shaped plot which supports the proposal of Whedbee that the book of Job is serious comedy rather than tragedy (Semeia 7, 1977, 1-39). According to Whedbee, the essentials of comedy are, first, "a perception of incongruity that moves in the realms of the ironic, the ludicrous and the ridiculous," and, second, "a basic plot line that leads ultimately to the happiness of the hero and his restoration to a serene and harmonious society." According to this paradigm, Job suffers unwarranted disasters, struggles to encounter God in a lawsuit, and finally comes to terms with God after he appears in person from a whirlwind. The hero's new relationship with God is capped with new blessings. Irony, incongruity, and paradox have been employed throughout the work in a deft manner that befits dark comedy rather than the comical. Yet, as Aharoni points out (Tarbiz 49, 1979, 1-13), irony, incongruity, and paradox are features which are not confined to comedy. They are also found in tragedy. Moreover, the comic hero has a different nature from that of his tragic counterpart. The former



is able to adjust, maneuver, and overcome his plight by cunning, luck, or intrigue. The latter is a man of integrity whose inflexibility and destiny leads to his inevitable downfall. Rather than compare the book of Job with classical Greek genres, it seems preferable to ascertain ancient Near Eastern prototypes which clarify the genre of Job as a whole. As we demonstrated earlier, the narrative plot of Job is consistent with the ancient Near Eastern paradigm of the righteous sufferer who (a) experiences undeserved suffering; (b) complains bitterly to his deity; and (c) is heard by his deity and restored to life (Gese, Lehre und Wirklichkeit, 64-65). Both the so-called Sumerian Job text (Kramer, SVT 3, 1960, 170-182) and the Babylonian Ludlul Bel Nemeqi (BWL, 33-62) have the same skeletal plot structure. The author of the book of Job, however, has adapted and expanded each component of this plot to highlight the existential complexities and theological paradoxes involved in exploring this plot. Embedded in the plot is a dispute about the plot and the characters of the plot. Job and the friends debate the cause and nature of Job's unwarranted suffering, the appropriate way to "complain" to God in such a crisis, and the means of gaining God's ear and achieving restoration. This dispute form can be classified as a Streitgespriich (controversy dialogue, or disputation). The original life setting for such disputes was probably the exploration of truth at gatherings of the wise. An obvious prototype for this kind of disputation is the dialogue between the sufferer and the friend in the Babylonian Theodicy (BWL, 71ff.). The speeches of the sufferer and the friend alternate as they argue about the source, purpose, and nature of the misery experienced by the sufferer. In the progression of the narrative plot of Job, however, the hero moves from disputing the issue of his innocent suffering to planning a vehicle for vindicating his innocence. Job changes from a disputant to a litigant. His final pronouncements, the speeches of Elihu, and the challenge of Yahweh all assume a forensic context. Consequently the dispute scene between Job and the friends, which is but one of six major scenes in the plot, takes on the character of pretrial proceedings. The legal dimensions of the plot have led scholars such as B. Gemser (SVT 3, 1960, 134-135) and J. Stamm (Jaarbericht . .. Ex Oriente Lux 9, 1944, 104) to classify the book of Job as a rib, or court trial. The creative literary work of Job, however, does not conform to any single traditional genre structure. Traditional forms are incorporated, adapted, and transcended through the integration of curses, disputation, lament, trial speeches, wisdom poems, and hymnic materials into an underlying narrative plot. Plot and dialogue interact in a complex structure. Their interaction highlights counterpoint and controversy, ambiguity and audacity in the account of a mortal struggling to discover the meaning of life in the face of tradition, experience, and faith. Perhaps, as



our earlier plot analysis suggests, the book of Job has its closest affinities in genre with the epic history of early Israel (cf. Andersen, Job, 36). Yet even classic legend form has been transformed to heighten the underlying conflict of the plOt through extended dialogue and major speeches. Structure and Parallelism

The various genres, traditions, and formulae appropriated by the artist of Job are incorporated into distinctive literary structures and designs. These patterns are outlined in the Design section of the commentary for each major literary unit. Whether the literary artist was always conscious of the structures created may be a matter of dispute. In some instances the design we have outlined might also be disputed, but in general the structures examined are abundantly clear and evidently constructed by the artist to bring particular themes or ideas into focus. A common balanced arrangement of larger literary units is the palistrophe (cf. chs. 29; 31). A key line or passage is often located at the pivot point of the typical A-B-C-D-C-B-A palistrophe pattern (cf. 16:9-14). In 19:21-29, for example, the reference to the redeemer (19:25-26a) stands at the pivot point of a thematic palistrophe. In Job 14 the structural arrangement highlights the centrality of the hope motifs at the pivot points (14:3-4 and 13-17) of an otherwise pessimistic passage. In some literary designs the materials reflect a progression of ideas developed sequentially (cf. ch. 28). A striking example of this technique is found in chs. 9-10, where Job begins with an announcement that litigation is futile, considers the odds against pursuing litigation, explores several alternatives, rehearses an imaginary suit against God, but finally closes with another cry of futility. A frequent structuring device of the author is the inc/usio or envelope construction, in which a key term, form of speech, image, or motif given at the beginning of a unit is repeated or complemented as a signal of closure at the end of that unit. Within the total framework of the book of Job, the correspondence between the opening verses (1:1-3) and the closing verses (42:12-17) has long been recognized. What has not been fully appreciated is that 28:28 clearly echoes 1: 1 and seems to constitute an inclusio which signals a closure at the midpoint of the scenes in the book as a whole. The use of the term bina, "discernment," which introduces the closing vignette (39:26-30) of Yahweh's speech from the whirlwind, recalls the same key term in the opening vignette (38:4--7) and thereby emphasizes its significance for interpreting the speech as a whole. The speech is clearly a challenge to Job's "discernment/wisdom," not to his guilt or integrity. For additional examples, see the discussion of 3:3 and 10, and 29:3 and 14, in the Design sections of the respective chapters. Each major literary unit reflects a structure designed to integrate the



governing themes and functions of the materials incorporated in that unit. The three balanced units of ch. 7 are each introduced by axioms about the human condition and concluded with taunts addressed to God. The very last expression of each taunt refers to emptiness and nonexistence (7:8b, 16b, 2ld). For examples of literary structures which illustrate alternative ways of integrating the themes and functions of particular units, see especially the discussions under Design for chs. 6; 12; 23; 24; 28. Our discernment of structural patterns is not motivated by a desire to discover symmetry for its own sake. The materials of the text must dictate the structure. A close examination of ch. 3, for example, reveals that the traditional arrangement of the text into three balanced "strophes" (3-10, 11-19, and 20-26; cf. Freedman, Bib 49, 1968, 503-508) may be a misleading mechanical division of the text. A detailed examination of the formal and thematic features of the text reveals only two major literary units. The first is a curse (vs. 3-10) grounded in a closing ki clause (v. 10), and the second is a complaint characterized by a series of "why" passages and grounded in a double ki clause in the closing verses (vs. 24-26). This example, among many others, illustrates the futility of dividing the poetic passages of Job into stanzas or strophes of relatively equal length based on a common theme or structure. One may point to the series of vignettes on discrete topics so brilliantly presented in Yahweh's first speech (38:4-39:30). Yahweh's second speech, however, breaks the preceding pattern quite deliberately; the treatments of Leviathan and Behemoth are much longer and more convoluted than the preceding vignettes. Accordingly, it seems preferable to avoid terms like "strophe" and "stanza" and employ the neutral term "literary unit," allowing the materials of the text to dictate the size of such units. Since the programmative work of Bishop Robert Lowth entitled De Sacra Poesi Hebraeorum (1753), parallelism has been recognized as a fundamental structuring device of Hebrew poetry. A common parallel structure consists of two lines, the members of the first line corresponding in some sense to the members of the second line. Kugel (The Idea of Hebrew Poetry) has demonstrated that the threefold classification of parallelism into synonymous, antithetical, and synthetic is inadequate and restrictive. The numerous patterns of correspondence which can be discerned between verse lines in the poetry of Job are beyond the scope of this limited introduction. It is significant, however, that the antithetical pattern common in Proverbs (e.g., 12:21; 17:22) is relatively rare in the book of Job. Ambiguous variation rather than direct antithesis of ideas seems to characterize the style of this poet. By playing with the broad patterns of correspondence in Hebrew poetry, the author of Job creates vehicles of ambiguity, interaction, and equivocation. There is rarely an instance where one line repeats exactly the thought



of the preceding line. The subtlety of the poet's art is also apparent even in those verses where both lines appear to correspond closely in thought and form. A good example is found in 1:2l: Naked I came from my mother's womb And naked I shall return there.

The first pair of members here consists of a repetition of the word "naked," which carries both its literal sense and the implied connotation of "having no posses~ions." The second pair, "came" and "shall return," are antithetic euphemisms for "birth" and "death" respectively, while the final term, "there," is an ambiguous designation for the grave/earth. This disarmingly simple term "there" pulls the listener up short and forces a reinterpretation of the earlier expression "mother's womb." At first hearing, this expression is taken literally by the listener, but in conjunction with the second line referring to death it must also carry the connotation of Mother Earth. It is precisely this ingenious process ofleading the listener/reader back to hear again what has preceded that demonstrates the brilliant way the poet adapts poetic structures to create ambiguity and double entendre. The same process happens, for example, in Job's complaint in ch. 7. It is only in the verses which follow 7:17 that the hidden negative connotation in Job's interpretation of Ps. 8 is disclosed. A related technique of the poet is the creation of implicit wordplays. Thus 3:8 reads: Let it be damned by those who curse day, By those ready to rouse Leviathan.

The traditional parallel for Leviathan is yam, "Sea," rather than yom, "day," a word which sounds very similar. The alert Israelite listener would have known this tradition and caught the hidden wordplay in the text. By implication, the cursing of "day" is of the same order as the cursing of "Sea." To emend the text and read "Sea" is to level out the original and lose the subtlety of the text. Most of the standard formal features of Hebrew poetry are represented in Job. Examples can be cited of traditional word pairs (such as day/night in 3:3, or womb/belly in 3:11); chiasm (5:14; 6:25-26; 20:2-3); double-duty modifiers (as in 3:23, where the idiom "Why does he give light?" is to be supplied from 3:20); assonance (16:12); onomatopoeia (41:10 [18E]), repetition (41:15-16 [23-24E]), wordplay (7:2, 6), and similar poetic devices. Another creative technique of the poet is to take a traditional poetic verse and play with the key terms of themes in the subsequent verses. The opening lines of Job's curse in ch. 3 refer to day and night as a standard word pair. In the verses which follow, "that day" and "that night" are signal words to introduce a series of imprecations which play on the polar images of



light/darkness and ordered time I chaos. The k'i clause which grounds the opening verse (v. 3) is only given at the conclusion of the unit (in v. 10). Verses 4-9 intervene as a lyrical elaboration of the opening traditional curse formula, based on the passing of day and night. Numerous examples of poetic structures and patterns could be explored. Many are discussed at the relevant points in the commentary. The patterns we have discerned demonstrate a freedom and creativity of approach that enables the poet to employ traditional forms and structures to create distinctive designs which emphasize a paradoxical interpretation of reality.

Repetition, Allusion, and Irony Purposeful repetition as a literary technique is typical of both biblical narrative and poetry. While this technique may have had its origins in oral storytelling and recitation, it has lost its oral roots and been appropriated as a literary vehicle for creating intentional associations and connections between units which may be immediately juxtaposed or separated by extended speeches. The simplest form of repetition involves the use of the same word or word root in a single line, verse, or literary unit. In 38:27, for example, the same verbal root appears in juxtaposed words to emphasize the arid nature of "the wasted wasteland." The repetition of the term "way" (derek) in the opening and closing lines of 38:24-25 highlights the mysterious cosmic structures established to control the movement of lightning and thunderstorm. A word may also be repeated as a key word at several points in a speech. While the theme of the wisdom poem (ch. 28) may be the quest for wisdom, the key word, maqom, "place," focuses on the primordially assigned "home" of all things in the cosmic order, including wisdom herself. The repetition of a term as such may not be as important as the variation in meaning which the same term assumes in another context. In the curse of Job, for example, the term "light" ('or) appears three times (3:9, 16, 20). In the context of the light/darkness polarity it may mean the light of day (v. 9). In the context of Job's existential struggle it means the "light" of life. Thus the sequence of "hoping for light" (v. 9), "seeing light" (v. 16), and "giving light" (v. 20) is tantamount to a portrayal of the process of "coming to life." In 24: 13-17, "light" and "day" are symbols for more than "life." They stand for righteousness and the good; conversely, "darkness" means death and evil. The repeated use of the verb "see" (r'y) in conjunction with a number of synonyms (e.g., smr, "watch," swr, "look at I gaze upon"), highlights the motif of God as the eye who spies on Job to detect his faults. In 7 :8 "the Seeing Eye" is an ironic designation for God's eye. He is "the Watcher of Humans" (7:20; cf. 10:14; 13:27; 14:16). It is with biting sarcasm that Job



asks God, the eternal eye, whether he has "eyes offlesh" like mortals (10:4). Job's agony is exacerbated by the realization that God, the eye, is forever watching Job, but that he cannot "see" his hidden and elusive foe to confront him with the truth (23:9). At several points Elihu rubs salt into the wounds by reiterating the truth that the "eyes" of God watch the ways of mortals (34:21; 36:7), and that if Job would simply "look at" the heavens and "see" the skies with eyes of faith, he would experience the transcendent presence of God. Ironically, Job concludes with the victorious claim, "But now my eyes see you" (42:5; cf. 19:27). The creative interplay between the various terms associated with seeing illustrates how the author develops a governing theological motif from a diversity of contending perspectives. In addition to the patterns of repetition illustrated above, mention should be made of recurring expressions which are sometimes designated formulae. These formulae are interpreted by Urbrock, among others, as evidence of oral antecedents in the book of Job (SBL Proceedings 2, 1972, 459-487) and assume a prior stage of oral performance. Whatever the processes by which these formulae were appropriated by the author and incorporated into the text, they are now an integral part of that text as a literary work of art and they function as vehicles of repetition in that context. The repetition of idioms or scenes is often a signal to watch for subtle variations which focus the distinctive meaning of the passage. In 38:19a and 24a, for example, the verses commence with the common formula "Where is the way ... ?" Yet the same term "light" which is introduced by this formula in both lines has two discrete meanings in context. The first refers to the phenomenon of "light" as opposed to darkness and the second refers to "lightning." In his opening speech Eliphaz cites the hymnic formula "Who does great inscrutable deeds, wonders beyond reckoning" (5:9). Eliphaz, it seems, has extracted this expression from its cultic context and employed it as a proof text to justify his argument about the nature of God. When Job employs the same expression (in 9: 10), his interpretation of the formula is sarcastic. God's wondrous deeds are in fact disruptive acts (9:5-9). His inscrutability makes him inaccessible to a suffering mortal like Job (9:11-13). Elihu picks up the same expression and transforms it again to suit his own purposes: the great and wondrous acts of God are revealed from the sky through meteorological marvels (37:5). Job makes a final allusion to these inscrutable "wonders" in his closing speech (42:3b), where he acknowledges a hidden design of the cosmos which is beyond his mortal comprehension. Thus the diverse use of the same expression reflects the dynamic interplay of the speakers and a continuity of language that enables their conflicting interests to surface clearly. The related technique of scene repetition with interpretive variation is discussed in the Design section of the commentary on tpe opening prologue (chs. 1-2). Contrary to the opinion of some scholars, the book of Job is not a



disparate collection of narration and speech materials with relatively little internal cohesion or connection. We have argued above that the underlying narrative plot of Job provides an integrating framework for the book as a whole. To this argument can be added evidence from the author's technique of verbal allusion and motif repetition. The artist's way of integrating materials does not reflect a pedantic, point-for-point correspondence between argument and rebuttal, or between challenge and response. The approach is tangential; verbal associations are made by indirect allusion; and literary connections are often playful. Style corresponds to theology; ambiguity is both a mark not only of the literary design but also of the paradox apparent in the design of the cosmos. Wordplays, puns, double entendre, and verbal irony are part of the author's stock-in-trade. The verbal irony of the language corresponds to the dramatic irony of the plot. In our preceding discussion of the foreshadowing technique of the author, we highlighted a number of terms, themes, and plot developments found in the prologue which reappear in the subsequent speeches. -One of the most significant of these is the motif of the "face" of God, which is developed in chs. 13 and 23. Close literary connections between 1:21 and ch. 3 illustrate the purposeful integration of the prologue and ch. 3. Both the substantive issues and terminology of the prologue are incorporated in subsequent speeches to underscore both thematic continuity and ironic discontinuity between the speeches and their framing narrative. The theophanic address of Yahweh from the whirlwind is also closely related to the speeches which precede. Yahweh does not fall into the trap of quoting Job's arguments and refuting them seriatim, in the style of a modem debate. Instead he employs the technique of posing a range of impossible challenges which together constitute a unified defense. Job's questions are not answered directly. Rather, Yahweh's defense embraces a series of subtle allusions, innuendos, and ironic references to previous claims and accusations of Job. In every vignette of Yahweh's speech, these tangential connections can be discerned (see under Design for chs. 38-39). In some cases the interplay between two passages may be quite extensive, as Elihu's appropriation of Job's terminology in 13:17-28 clearly illustrates (see under Design for ch. 33). In most cases, however, the allusion is subtle and indirect; a word or image suffices to conjure up the essentials of a preceding speech (see especially under Design for chs. 11; 15; 18; 21; 24). The full force of the literary play and interplay of the various constituent units of the book can only be appreciated when we take into account its ironic dimensions. At least two modes of irony seem to operate in this work as a whole-the dramatic and the verbal. Irony reflects the author's consciousness of the disparity between pretense and reality, between the ideal and the actual, between the role of the alazon, the fool or pretender, and the eiron, the person of integrity who exposes the alazon. Irony plays with



incongruities, the gap between the knowledge of the audience and that of the performers, the incongruity between word and action, or the mismatch between what is fitting and what happens. We understand dramatic irony to be concerned with the events of the plot from the omniscient vantage point of the audience. Verbal irony deals with the way various speakers attempt to play the role of eiron and expose a preceding speaker by using terms, images, or expressions with nuances of meaning which trip that speaker on his or her own words. The expose, however, may backfire and reveal the would-be eiron to be an alazon instead (cf. Good, Irony in the Old Testament; Robertson, Soundings 56, 446-469). One of the most striking examples, integrating both ironic modes, is the use of "hedge" in 3:23. The audience knows that the Satan has employed this term to describe the blessings with which God has surrounded Job (1:10). Job, however, uses the word without knowing the connotation it carried in the wager which led to his affiictions at God's hand. For Job the hedge refers to those very disasters and evils which pr6vent him from discerning the purpose of life. Thus the same term is employed to refer to opposite perceptions of reality, both of which are attributed to God. Job and the friends repeatedly use verbal irony and sarcasm as a technique for exposing the false perceptions of their opponents. An extended example of this technique is found in ch. 11, where Zophar incorporates a variety of terms from Job's earlier speeches and locates them in a totally different context than Job's original (see under Design for ch. 11). Job complains that he experiences extreme "misery" whenever he "lies down" (7:4), even though he is free from "deceit" (6:29, 30) and knows the "mind" of God (10:13). Zophar glibly replies that Job can be assured of a life without "misery" and can be free from anguish when he "lies down" if he but turns his "mind" to God and dismisses "deceit" from his tent. Zophar's response is not a rational rebuttal of Job's preceding arguments, but a conditional assurance embracing a variety of veiled allusions which attempt to expose Job's true situation with verbal irony and sarcasm. In other passages the ironic language is more cruel and cutting. From Job's complaint in ch. 7, for example, Eliphaz selects the emotive terms "emptiness" (v. 3), "no return" from Sheol (v. 10), "torment" (v. 11), and "terrify" (v. 14) and incorporates them in his portrayal of the anguish experienced by the wicked (15:20ff.). Eliphaz' portrait thereby allows Job's own words to indict him and by allusion prove the point Eliphaz made earlier that "your own mouth condemns you" (15:6). (See also under Design for chs. 20 and 22 for the same technique in later speeches.) The verbal irony of the book assumes an even richer dimension when located within the wider framework of the narrative plot and heroic setting discussed above. The decision of the celestial council to affiict Job takes place in camera. Job and his friends are ignorant of the "test" being admin-



istered. Yet the audience knows both what Job does not know and the fact that Job does not know. Job was framed. In the course of the speeches which follow Job's affliction, the incongruity of the announced reason for Job's trials and the several alleged reasons offered by Job and his friends for this trial continues to intensify. Allusions back to the death of Job's family (8:4), the fall of his house, and the ugll.ness of his diseases (7:5) keep alive this disparity between the ostensible narrative portrait of Job's situation and the experiential interpretations by Job and his friends. The friends are also framed. They are depicted as protagonists of an orthodox stance which the audience knows, from the outset, to be patently false in this particular case. The fate of the friends belies their honest claims and exhortations. They sincerely call on Job to repent and remove "deceit" from his mouth. In the end it is they whose words are found false, for they did not speak the truth about God as Job did (42:7). And Job, the alleged wicked man, is the only intercessor Yahweh will accept to rescue them (42:8-10). This ironic ending comes as a shock, since Job, during his hours of bitter anguish, had portrayed God's dark and alien side. Now, it seems, this characterization is declared true by God himself. Job is revealed as the true eiron by exposing the dark side of God as the beast, the hunter, and the spy. If Job is the epitome of the eiron, Elihu is the exemplar of the alazon, the fool. He pursues the orthodoxy of the friends to the absurd and attempts to play the role of arbiter in God's place. He attempts to deflate Job but in the process exposes himself as a fool (see Habel, in In the Shelter of Elyon ). The poet places language and terminology in Elihu's mouth which he ignorantly uses to describe himself but which had previously been employed by Eliphaz to characterize a bombastic fool full of hot air (see on 32: 18-22). Elihu presumes to speak the final orthodox word that God is transcendent and does not dirty himself in dialogue with humans. After Elihu's closure comes Yahweh's shock entrance. Elihu is deflated by the very act of Yahweh speaking to a mortal hero. Yet the pattern of incongruities continues. For the answer of God is a coherent self-defense which neither reveals the hidden facts of the prologue nor deals explicitly with Job's demand for vindication of his innocence. His responses are tangential. Job is left to draw his own consequences. In the end Job retracts his case, even though he has spoken "the truth" about God. He is right about God but submits to God. The incongruity of the plan of heaven and the interpretation of events on earth obtains to the end of the book. Job, the hero, may be the eiron exposing the traditions and beliefs of the friends, but in the artistic hands of this author reality is also uncovered. The literary techniques of this artist thereby highlight the central theme that life is lived in the gap between heaven and earth, between the ideal and the real.



The Legal Metaphor Integral to the structure and coherence of the book of Job is the development of the legal metaphor. As our earlier analysis of the narrative plot suggests, this metaphor is a major literary device which integrates narrative progression and theological motif. T.he centrality of this metaphor has been highlighted by the recent work of H. Richter (Studien zu Hiob); Gemser (SVT 3, 1960, 120-137); Scholnick (Lawsuit Drama); Frye (Legal Language); Roberts (RQ 16, 1973, 159-165); and Dick (CBQ 41, 1979, 37-50). This research has identified a wide array of technical forensic terms employed by the author at strategic points. Though the use of this metaphor does not require that the genre of Job be classified as a "lawsuit drama," as Scholnick suggests, the metaphor does organize major components of the work in a creative and dramatic way. The major stages in the development of this metaphor in the book as a literary whole are reflected in the pattern shown below. A

Ironic Anticipation (1:6-11; 2:1-6) B Contemplating Litigation (chs. 9-10) C Challenging the Accuser (ch. 13) D Announcing an Arbiter (16:18-21; 19:21-29) E Testimony of the Accused (chs. 29-30) El Oath and Challenge by the Accused (ch. 31) Dl Verdict of an Arbiter (chs. 32-37) Cl Challenging the Accused (38:lff.; 40:6ff.) Bl Retracting Litigation (42:1-6) Al Ironic Exculpation (42:7-9)

The forensic language and motifs associated with the legal metaphor permeate the speeches of the book, but the preceding sequence reflects the skeletal design of the author in developing this metaphor in the plot and progression of the book. Literary technique and theological direction move toward a common goal: the question of innocent suffering as exemplified in the case of Job, and the vehicle by which such a case can be judged. The hero is presented as a champion familiar with the legal procedures of the city gate. He upholds the rights of the underprivileged (29:7-16); handles the legal suits (r'ib) of strangers (29: 16); and guarantees litigation (mispaf), even when a member of his own household has a legal complaint (rib) against him (31:13). Ironically, when the case of Job's integrity is presented before the council of heaven (1:6-11), Job is accused in absentia by the Satan, the professional accuser of the celestial court (cf. Zech. 3). Yet in the dialogue which follows, the original accuser fades from the scene and God is identified by Job as the accuser and legal adversary. Job's consideration of litigation as the means of handling his dispute with God seems to have been triggered by a comment of Eliphaz that no mortal



can be "righteous/in the right" (~dq) before God (4:17). Job begins with the same starting point: a mortal cannot possibly win a legal suit against El (9:2). Yet Job explores this apparent impossibility further (see on chs. 9-10). The problems involved in bringing God to trial (rib, 9:3) are legion. He would never answer the charges of mortals (9:3) and would probably not even listen to them (9:16). Mortals are expected to plead for mercy, not bring charges or demand legal proceedings (9: 14-15). Then, of course, the overwhelming presence of God in court would intimidate mortals on the stand (9: 17, 34). Because God is so powerful, ordinary mortals cannot arraign him or force him to appear in court and submit to a fair legal process (9:19, 32-34). Job nevertheless rehearses the legal complaint (sialJ., 10:1) which he would present before God in court if he had the chance (ch. 10), commencing with a demand that God identify the "legal case" (rib) he has against Job (10:2), even though he must know that Job is not guilty (rs~ 10:7). After first contemplating the difficulties involved in litigation (chs. 9-10), Job announces his plan to argue his case (hiphil of ykl;.) with El anyway and handle the various pretrial preliminaries (13:3). He warns his friends that they will be found false witnesses when they are cross-examined by God in court (13:6-12). Job takes his courage into his own hands and announces that he will argue his case (hiphil of yklJ., 13:15) directly to God's "face" (13:13-16). Job claims to have "prepared" ('rk) his "lawsuit" (mispaf) and is ready to face the court (13:18). He then issues a formal challenge to his adversary at law: "Who will contend this suit (rib) with me?" (13:19). In issuing this challenge Job calls for a fair trial in which his divine adversary restrains the intimidating terror of his powerful presence (13:20--21) and presents a bill of particulars specifying the charges against the accused (13:23). To this point Job's guilt has been assumed by the friends; a formal trial would make the charges against Job a matter of public record. Job's shriveled appearance testifies against him (16:8), though no charges have been made. With Job's formal challenge a new catalyst has been introduced into the plot of the narrative. Job anticipates the appearance of an arbiter (mokial;z) to handle his case, even though he at first announces that no such person exists (9:33). He calls on the earth to let his blood cry out against the injustice of his lot until his heavenly witness comes to "arbitrate" (hiphil of ykl;z) his case (16:18-22). One day his mediator will rise in court and Job will be vindicated (19: 25-27). Job is also frustrated by the fact that he cannot locate God's abode. Job is willing to present his case before God in person if he can but find his elusive adversary (23:2-7). Job closes his dialogue with the friends by taking an oath that he has not perjured himself in any of his speeches and that he has held fast to his integrity to the end. Job is not willing to concede that God is "in the right" (~dq) and he, Job, is in the wrong (27:2-6).



. The turning point in the development of the legal process in Job is the public testimony Job addresses to those assembled (chs. 29-31). For Job that assembly constitutes his court, even though no arbiter has yet arisen and the accuser has so far remained silent. Job testifies to a life of righteousness, an obsession for justice, and a concern for public approbation. His formal oath of innocence is designed to clear Job of any guilt relating to the sins enumerated (ch. 31 ). The climax to Job's testimony is his final challenge with its twofold summons for an arbiter (Somea ~ to hear his case and for his adversary at law ('iS rib) to appear with a written document making his position public (31 :35-37). If neither an arbiter nor Job's adversary appears, Job's oath of innocence stands. He is cleared of all charges and his integrity vindicated. In response to Job's call for an arbiter, a brash youth called Elihu steps forward and presents his credentials, such as they are (ch. 32). He summons Job to take his stand (hithpael of y~b) and to present his case ('rk, 33:5). Elihu examines Job's arguments, formally addresses the assembled court in flattering terms (34:2, 10, 34), and presents a verdict in favor of God (chs. 34-37). Central to Elihu's presentation is his claim that it is not for mortals to set a time to come before El in litigation (mispaf, 34:f3). God is the norm of justice. The very act of a mortal challenging God's justice is evidence of guilt (cf. 34:17; 35:2). When the divine adversary speaks from the whirlwind he apparently assumes the legal context created by Job and acknowledges Job as "the one with a suit (rib) against Shaddai" and "the one arraigning (hiphil of ykl;i) Eloah" (40:2). Thus Yahweh answers Job's legal challenge, even if not in the way Job may have hoped. For Yahweh's defense is a challenge of his own (chs. 38-41). Yahweh ignores the question of whether Job is guilty of specific sins that may have provoked his afflictions and focuses on Job's attempt to undermine God's "justice I just rule" (mispaf) in order to prove his own case. Job makes God appear guilty (rn, when the question before the court is Job's innocence (§dq, 40:8). It is Job, not God, who is on trial. Only if Job could demonstrate his capacity to control the evils of the earth could he presume to challenge God's justice and put him on trial (40:9-14). In the end the author has Job retract his case (42: 1-6). Why? On one level it is presumably because Job's oath of clearance stands undisputed, no sin has been charged against him, and no divine sanction has been directed against him. Job is innocent, even if no formal verdict has yet been passed. On another more profound level, Job's retraction reflects his new understanding of how God operates. He is not bound in his administration of the cosmos by a moral law according to which the wicked are necessarily afflicted and the righteous inevitably blessed. A lawsuit based on the assumption that God operates by this moral law is therefore shown to be futile. God is above any such law and the design of the cosmos reveals this



higher order of God's ways. To demand that God conduct a trial based on a law of reward and retribution to which he is not bound is pointless. God's ways reflect a different order of things, which leaves Job without a legal basi~ for pursuing his case. Ironically Job receives confirmation that his integrity has been vindicated in God's address to Eliphaz. Job spoke the "truth" about God (42:7-9). Thus Job is cleared and the friends, who tried to defend God, are found to be false witnesses. The legal process is thereby brought to completion. Yet the artist's use of this legal metaphor has an additional implication for interpreting the problem of Job. For while the metaphor provides the vehicle for the hero to challenge and confront God as the apparent administrator of justice in the earth, the answer of God throws into question that same metaphor as a serious vehicle for relating to God. The human tendency to find necessary laws by which to comprehend God's ways or control his favor is revealed to be foolish. Yahweh is bigger than the law or any legal metaphor. Imagery and Analogy

Imagery and analogy are developed by the author of Job within the broad parameters of a wisdom cosmology. In creating the world, God established an order whose governing principle was wisdom (cf. 28:2(}-28; Prov. 8). In the primordial design of that cosmic order each component has its fixed locus (maqom) and "way," or mode of operation (derek). Through this design all components were organized into an interdependent whole. The order of the natural world could also be expected in the social world. Analogies could be drawn from nature to confirm principles and axioms in the social or moral order of things. To live in harmony with this eternal principle of order was to uphold righteousness in the earth (cf. Schmidt, Gerechtigkeit a/s Weltordnung ). Analogies were drawn from nature to confirm principles and axioms in the social and moral order of things, since a consistent ordering principle was assumed in all domains of the cosmos. The use of imagery from nature is therefore more than a poetic device to add color and poignancy to a particular argument (cf. 35:1(}-l l). The social, moral, and natural spheres were believed to interlock and be governed by a common set of principles which have their source in a common Creator. The principle of moral retribution is substantiated by Eliphaz with the axiom that "those who plough iniquity and sow trouble-they reap it" (4:8). He supports his position by appealing to the fate oflions who perish for lack of prey, apparently because of their evil and ravenous impulses (4:1(}-11). The Babylonian Theodicy echoes this same principle: "For the crime which the lion committed, the pit awaits him" (BWL, 75). Thus the lion becomes a symbol for what is dangerous and evil in the world. A significant feature



of the poet of Job, however, is the use of facts and analogies fr:om nature to challenge this very same principle. Job declares that he is the innocent victim and that God pursues him like a lion so that he can demonstrate his prowess as a hunter (10: 16). Job is perfectly willing to have the birds, beasts, fish, and earth testify to the truth of God's ways (12:7-8). Living creatures will verify that there is no consistent operation of a moral principle of just retribution in the natural realm, though Job still assumes there ought to be one. The approach of wisdom demands a critical examination of the evidence, for analogy is always ambiguous. The ear tests arguments as the palate tastes food, insists Job (12:11). Ambiguity is evident also in Yahweh's response about the needs of the lion. The lion may be ferocious, but God provides food for the lion according to his providential plan. Yet the food God provides is another innocent victim like Job. Botanical imagery employed by the artist also demonstrates that one reality can be interpreted from diverse perspectives. "Grass" may be employed as an analogy for flourishing offspring (5:25) or for the miracle of life that God gives to the desert when it rains (38:27). Bildad cites the traditional parable of two plants as evidence that there are two similar categories of humans, those who die quickly as plants die for lack of liquid sustenance, and those who take deep root (8:8ff.). The former are the wicked and the latter are the righteous who find their sustenance in God. According to Job, however, trees are not like mortals. The tree, like the plant with deep roots, may be cut down, but its trunk will sprout again when its roots scent water (14:7-9). The tree may die, but it has an innate hope which enables it to come back to life. Mortals do not have the same hope. They die and never return to life. Later Job himself modifies the analogy of the tree with hope. God, he declares, has uprooted him like a tree and prevented the possibility of hope or life (19: 10). The cloud may represent the ephemeral nature of mortals (7:9) or symbolize the mysteries of the heavens (37:15-16). The endlessly changing clouds are signals of God's master mind at work (37:15-16), the spectacular pavilion of his presence (36:29), his messengers traveling on high (38: 34-35), and the principle of wisdom governing the mysterious nature of the sky (38:36-38). Clouds, though they may appear flimsy, have a remarkable capacity for enveloping and containing weighty celestial waters (26:8), and God has his own special cloud as a mask for the glory of his holy throne and his terrifying face (see on 26:9). The same phenomenon of nature, be it plant, cloud, light, thunder, or lion, is subject to diverse interpretations and used as an analogy for differing views of reality. This poetic technique of using nature analogies and symbols to support more than one interpretation or side of an argument seems to be deliberately employed to corroborate the substantive argument that the cosmic order is multivalent and



ambiguous. To deduce eternal moral principles on the basis of the natural order, therefore, is foolhardy. The imagery of Job is also drawn from the mythological domain. Leviathan is summoned as a destructive force from primordial times to negate Job's birth (3:8). Later Leviathan appears as a fire-breathing chaos dragon whom Job is challenged to subdue as God himself once did in bringing order out of chaos (40:25ff. [4l:lff.E]). In a brilliant appropriation of a related chaos symbol, the author has Job ask whether he poses a formidable threat like Sea (yam) or Dragon (tannin). According to Job, God was forcibly trying to muzzle his expression of the truth about God's unjust treatment of a mortal (7:12). The poet, who was no doubt familiar with the sea as a symbol of destruction for the enemies of God and Israel, has transformed this image into a personal symbol applied to one emaciated mortal sitting among his potsherds. Symbols and images, whatever their origin, are subject to appropriation, interpretation, and transformation. Yahweh's majestic answer from the whirlwind draws together images, symbols, and analogies from the preceding speakers into a colorful panorama of natural phenomena. His dominant approach is to explore this diverse array of phenomena by posing challenge questions. The God who comes with the answer poses questions about the order from which the previous disputants drew their conclusions. The edifice called earth, with its deep pillars and cosmic cornerstone, may shake as Job contended, but its construction was a celebrated primordial act (38:4-7). The Sea with which Job saw himself identified as God's enemy was once reduced from a threatening chaos monster to a controllable force like a baby in its playpen (38:8-10). Death, into whose arms Job sought to escape, and Darkness, whom he summoned to reverse his birth, were both assigned their destined places in the cosmic order (38:16-21). These great acts of God in establishing the earth are the work of God alone. He knows the complexity of its operation. All the symbols of life and death, chaos and order, are subsumed under his cosmic design. He precedes and oversees that design but is not bound by any laws which operate within it, least of all any presumed law of reward and retribution. The animals portrayed in Yahweh's speech are also figures with symbolic associations deliberately juxtaposed to depict a panorama of opposites and a collage of paradoxes. The terrifying lion is contrasted with the timid ibex (38:39-39:4). The self-sufficient wild ass and the unmanageable wild ox (39:5-12) are beyond human control. Yet the horse, with thunder in its mane and fire in its soul, relishes joining in human wars (39: 19-25). The hawk and the eagle are the epitome of innate wisdom (39:26-30), while the ostrich is a perfect example of the opposite (39:13-18). Thus the author combines contrasting symbols to reflect a paradoxical world where the wild



and the wonderful, the wise and the foolish, the controlled and the chaotic unite in one cosmic design. To argue from that paradoxical world to necessary moral laws of operation in human life is foolish. The natural world has its controls and constraints, but any argument from analogy from one case can be countered by analogy from another. God's cosmic design is ambiguous and God is free to govern it as he wishes. For mortals to prove how God should or would act by observing the ways of nature is to limit God in his eternal goodness and sovereignty. That message of the book is supported by the poet's adaptation of ancient symbols in his portrayal of the primordial design of the cosmos, a portrayal which is itself an artist's interpretation. An argument from analogy seems to govern the poet's formulation of Yahweh's speeches. If the observable world is characterized by diversity, ambiguity, and possibility, the cosmic design in its grand totality must be even more complex. Potential rather than necessity is the hallmark of cosmic order. To glimpse that reality is to look beyond laws to life, beyond any mechanical codes of operation which might be deduced from patterns in the cosmic order to Wisdom as the primordial principle behind the order. The personification of Wisdom (ch. 28) points to an eternal agent or will rather than a set of uncompromising laws that govern the universe. The metaphor of God discovering and acquiring wisdom emphasizes even further the personal and relational in the modus operandi of the world. Through a rich use of imagery and analogy the poet highlights this interpretation of the cosmic design as one characterized by imagination and potential, complexity and constraint. The author of Job is indeed one of the wise and a critic of those who would change wisdom into law. S. Message and Meaning The book of Job is a brilliant tapestry of literary art and theological dispute. Ambiguous images of the world are interwoven with conflicting perspectives about the world. The quest of the wise to interpret reality, suffering, and the order of things is integrated with a struggle to understand the quest itself and the God who launched them on that quest. The artist combines literary techniques and traditional motifs to sustain theological suspense within a narrative boundary. The question of what will happen is continually bound up with what is right and true. Subtle ironies, blatant sarcasm, ambiguities of language, and complexities of plot all unite to portend a theology of paradox. Central to the book of Job is the conflict between God and Job, between the integrity of the Creator and the integrity of a particular mortal. Heaven and earth are at odds again. The conflict is signaled in the opening scenes of the narrative, where the goodness of Job is portrayed in terms so idealistic



that they hardly seem believable (1: 1-5). Yet such is the character ofancient heroes. Job's integrity is fair game in the arena of living history. The way in which God agrees to test Job's integrity, however, raises serious doubts about God's own integrity. He is apparently vulnerable to incitement by the Satan in his heavenly council. He succumbs to a wager-twice (1:6-12; 2: 1-6). He afflicts Job without cause or provocation by Job, and his capacity to rule justly is thrown into question. That question, which is anticipated in the prologue, is probed relentlessly by Job in the subsequent dialogue with his friends. It is a question which assumes a moral order in the world where retributive justice is the norm. The doubts injected by the Satan challenge this principle of retributive justice from another angle (1:9-10). Mortals, he proposes, only worship God out of self-interest; they are righteous because they expect to be rewarded. Their integrity is therefore suspect. God will have to afflict an innocent mortal to prove otherwise. Job and the friends explore numerous realities of their world, including the ground of knowledge, the nature of the wicked, the human condition, the role of friends, the analogy of nature, the rule of God, and the moral order. Throughout their dialogue, Job is intent on vindicating his own integrity at the expense of his divine antagonist. Job exposes the dark side of God. Job's personal experience as an innocent sufferer gives him a new vision of heaven. God is an enemy, a spy rather than a protector, a hunter rather than a healer, a destroyer rather than a sustainer of the cosmic order (6:4; 9:5-13; 12:13-25; 16:9-14). Job views God as devious, fashioning mortals with an ulterior motive to discover their weaknesses and harass them until they die (10:8-17). To live as a human being on earth is to be oppressed by a ruthless heavenly taskmaster (7: 1-8). In the context of the traditional law of retributive justice, God's integrity is clearly in question. He is supposed to bless the righteous, not affiict them. What has been said about his ways in the past and what he does in real life are in conflict. In the cold reality of history, mortals are dehumanized by their celestial overlord. They are prevented from attaining their potential (ch. 7). But the hero of this legend refuses to allow heaven to be exonerated. He assumes the sufferer's right to be angry and "tell it like it is," no matter what the consequences. The friends and Elihu, in turn, support the integrity of God as an axiomatic truth and challenge the integrity of Job. God, by his very nature and position as cosmic ruler, acts righteously in all things and upholds the principle of distributive justice within the social and natural orders. The eternal law of reward and retribution is guaranteed by his righteous character. In accord with widespread ancient Near Eastern belief, they contend that the just are rewarded and the wicked are punished. But they also endorse the converse of that principle: those who are suffering affiiction must be sinners who deserve the suffering. Job's arguments and outbursts



about the alien character of God are evidence that Job is deceitful and lacking integrity. His guilt may be hidden but his speech betrays him (15:4-6). Causality in the moral order is guaranteed by God. There is a necessary nexus between sin and affiiction. Job's affiiction, therefore, must be interpreted as divine punishment and living proof of that axiom. Those who plow iniquity and sow trouble inevitably reap it (4:8). The problem of how suffering is to be interpreted is reflected in the polarity between the way Job, as an insider, understands his plight and the way outsiders like the friends view the same plight. The insider and the outsider have different views of the world. Their perspectives highlight the conflict between belief and experience, between the consolation offered by tradition and the living despair of a crushed hope. The conflict is intensified throughout the dialogue, not only as a substantive issue, but also by the poet's technique of having each side in the dispute employ innuendo, ironic allusion, and sarcastic comment to undermine its opponent. Each party deliberately reinterprets the text of the opponent and, in the process, tends to misinterpret. The author's quest to interpret suffering becomes a quest to understand interpretation. At various points in the book, suffering is interpreted as punishment for sin (e.g., 4:7-9), the inevitable lot of frail mortals who have an inherent propensity for evil (e.g., 15:14-16), a calculated disciplinary work of God (e.g., 33:15-28; 36:8-15), part ofa mysterious divine plan (11:5-11), or a test imposed on a righteous mortal to satisfy a heavenly dispute (1:6-12). These diverse answers leave the wisdom teacher with the even deeper question of the criteria or ground for interpreting suffering and whether, in the end, the book offers a genuine solution to the problem of innocent suffering. The efforts of the friends to solve Job's problem move from friendly persuasion to vehement indictment. The ground of their claims is a tradition which reaches back to primordial times (8:8; 15:17-19) and is confirmed by personal visions (4:12-16) or careful investigation (5:27). In the light of this tradition, Job's only hope of salvation is to repent of his sins, even if they be secret sins, and tum in humble submission to God. The Creator will then reverse Job's fortunes. A striking feature of the presentation of the friends is the extended portraits of the wicked man who is paraded before Job like a mirror, in which he is supposed to see himself, his mental anguish, and his inevitable fate (e.g., 15:20--35; 18:5-21). The possibility that Job is innocent is never seriously entertained by the friends. His pathetic condition is proof positive of his guilt. The friends demonstrate, in the underlying scheme of the author, the folly of arguing from a limited theological perspective on reality and pursuing that argument to its logical absurdity. The friends take one aspect of reality and make it prescriptive for all reality. The presence of unwarranted suffering, hardship, and evil in life poses the further question of the purpose of life. Is it not better to follow the advice



of Job's wife to "curse God and die" (2:9)? Death seems an inviting world where one is free from the ordeal of living (3:11-19). Why, exclaims Job, should human beings see the light of day if God prevents them from discerning their "way," that is, their direction and purpose in life (3:23)? Though Job does not plan suicide, he prefers death to an endless life of oppression at the hands of an arbitrary God (7:11-16). The crisis of Job is not only the problem of unjustified suffering but also the question of meaning in life when there is no future, no justice, no relief, and no purpose he can discern. He is completely separated and alienated from God and his community. The hero stands alone in his misery (19:6-20). Every avenue of hope he explores proves illusory. Trees have a greater hope than mortals. Trees may be felled and die, but they have an inner resource which enables them to come back to life again (14:7-10). Mortals, in spite of their fantasies (14:13-17), descend to Sheol and their hope dies with them (14:18-19; 17: 11-16). Yet death, with all its terrors, is ultimately more appealing than suffering through life with no goal or hope. Job, however, refuses to commit suicide. His very alienation from God provokes him to act. The vindication of his integrity gives him the reason to keep struggling with God, no matter what the consequences. He does not tum to God in penitence or submission, but in righteous indignation. Job, however, is not content with indulging his anger, berating his friends in typical disputational style, protesting his innocence, bewailing his miserable mortal condition, or exposing the wanton cruelty of his celestial foe. Nor will he tolerate the course of action demanded by the friends. Instead, he explores a bold alternative for resolving the conflict between himself and God. He contemplates and plans litigation, a court hearing in which both parties can be heard without fear of intimidation or false witness (see discussion under "The Legal Metaphor," above). Job begins rather tentatively with his planned lawsuit but progressively takes his life in his hands and eventually challenges his adversary at law to appear in court with an appropriate writ (31:35-37). Repeatedly Job turns from disputing with the friends to confront God with the truth and the option of litigation. Job explores the possibility of various legal arbiters or celestial mediators who could handle his case and assure him of a fair trial (9:32-35; 16:18-21; 19:23-27). He is convinced that, were his case brought before an impartial court, be it before or after his death, he would be totally vindicated. He maintains his integrity to the bitter end. Under oath he vows he is free of perjury or deceit (27:2-6). This oath foreshadows Job's climactic oath of clearance in his concluding speech (ch. 31). After closing the dialogue with the friends, Job addresses an assembled community as if it were a court in session (chs. 29-31). In that setting Job challenges God by taking an oath of clearance. By that terrible act he takes his life in his hands. lfhe is guilty, God ought to strike him with sudden disasters, many of which Job describes



in horrible detail. In the belief system of that ancient world, a righteous God would be bound by the oath to respond. If God did not react with the appropriate calamities, the surviving mortal would be cleared of guilt. In the design of the author, provoking God into action is presented as a right and an option for the audience to contemplate. The conflict thereby assumes new proportions. In the very act of calling the bluff of his divine antagonist, Job appears to overstep the bounds of humble faith and assume a posture of Promethean arrogance. His obsession with his righteousness borders on hubris and self-righteousness. Yet for Job the vindication of his integrity is the one thing left in life; he is ready to defy God rather than deny his integrity! In this he is a true hero. He not only takes an oath of clearance but summons God to appear in court and state his case unequivocally (ch. 31 ). Job wants the unthinkable-to see God face to face. The "face" of God and the "seeing" of God are two motifs which highlight the exalted level of Job's anticipated confrontation with God (13:15-16, 20, 24; 23:4; 19:26-27; 42:5). Job challenges the ancient tradition that the invisible God is too holy for the eyes of wise and righteous mortals to behold. Job summons God to emerge from his celestial corner and show himself for what he really is. Elihu's intervention delays the final showdown between Job and his opponent but heightens the improbability that such a showdown could ever take place. Elihu presumes to play the part of the impartial arbiter whom Job had earlier sought to handle his case. According to Elihu, God is truly transcendent and above the petty demands of a mortal obsessed with gaining a glimpse of his face (chs. 34-35; cf. 35:14). Job's demand for God to present his legal case in person is ludicrous. God does not appear in court at an hour set by self-serving earthly litigants (34:23). He is a distant ruler of the heavens who leaves evidence of his character and will among the intrusive phenomena of one's personal life and the meteorological activities of the sky (chs. 33 and 36-37). God has left all the clues necessary to understand his nature; it is simply a matter of interpreting them correctly. A young man with an insightful spirit, claims Elihu, is as likely to have the answer as old men steeped in traditional wisdom. Once again the author throws open the question of the criteria by which the cosmic order and its Creator are to be interpreted. Contrary to Elihu's reasonable expectations, Yahweh makes a shock appearance in a whirlwind. The transcendent adversary steps out from behind the veil of his invisible holiness and manifests himself to Job. The hero has provoked his God to appear in person. Perhaps no prophet had arisen in Israel like Moses, "whom the Lord knew face to face" (Deut. 34: 10), but the author is signaling that the experience of Moses was anticipated by a great non-Israelite hero. Job's faith in himself is vindicated. He sees God and survives! Yahweh's personal appearance is the first stage



in the resolution of the conflict between Job and his God. Job's innocence is affirmed. None of the sanctions given in Job's oath of clearance are imposed. Yahweh's appearance, however, is accompanied by a lengthy divine speech which is apparently designed to resolve the issues raised in the conflict but which, at first reading, appears to complicate the question even further. The one who challenged God is himself challenged. The opening divine challenge, however, is not directed specifically toward Job's integrity or the problem of innocent suffering, but toward Job's level of discernment about the design of the cosmos (38:2). Job's innocence is not in question but his understanding of God's ways is deficient. It is God's integrity as the designer of the cosmos which is at stake. The challenge questions addressed to Job about the various components of the cosmic design point to the Creator as the only one who could comprehend its primordial complexity and rich ambiguity. Its intricate design incorporates structural, functional, and celebrative aspects. The structural aspect highlights internal laws governing the cosmos, the functional points to God's containment of evil and his providential care, and the celebrative emphasizes the paradoxical, incongruous, and festive features of this design. They lead Job back to the primordial fundamentals involved in the construction and control of the cosmos. How does Yahweh's speech answer Job's problem about the justice of his case or the suffering of the innocent? It depicts a world ruled by the freedom of God within the constraints of his cosmic design. That design has the sun rising on the evil and on the good, and the rain falling on desert as well as arable land. Natural laws govern the cosmic order. But these natural laws are not governed by a higher law of reward and retribution which is applied mechanically each dawn. The natural order is amoral (cf. Tsevat, HUCA 37, 1966, 73-106). The wicked may be restrained, because the dawn arrives and deprives them of the darkness where they hide, but the darkness is not eliminated and the wicked are not struck down by the sun each morning (38:12-15). The food for the lion and the kill for the raven are innocent creatures who no more deserve to die than any others. God cares for and controls the cosmos within the laws he has established in creation. One cannot deduce from these laws that the wicked will inevitably be punished or the innocent be immune from suffering. There is no eternal principle of natural justice inherent in the natural order. The operations of the cosmos are controlled within certain broad parameters and constraints. The mechanical operation of a moral causality is not a necessary feature of that order, even though mortals like Job's friends may seek to substantiate a universal principle of retributive justice by appealing to the natural order. Yahweh's second challenge to the hero is focused precisely on this question. Does a righteous ruler intervene in the routine operation of things to



abase all the proud and crush all the wicked on earth? Should divine retribution be automatic, immediate, and obvious? If Job has the capacity to achieve this kind of direct retribution equitably, Yahweh will concede Job's superiority in the debate (40:7-14). There is, however, another basic question which Job must first consider: "Would you prove me wrong so that you may be in the right?" (40:8). Does Job need to negate God's integrity to uphold his own? Only if Job assumes that God is bound to run the world on the basis of the principle of justice articulated in the law of moral causality and epitomized by the traditional doctrine of reward and retribution. If in his governance of the cosmos God is not bound by that principle but by an integrity of his own, then the ground for a court case, where the operation of this principle is assumed, has been removed. God admits there is evil and chaos in the world. He does not annihilate it but contains it within certain boundaries, just as he contained Leviathan and Behemoth (chs. 40-41 ), the great primordial chaos monsters. The forces of chaos are harnessed and the threatening sea confined like a baby to its playpen (38:8-11). The universe is a paradoxical world where the regular and the unexpected, the good and the bad, the successful and the sufferer coexist. The eagle may soar freely by innate wisdom, while the foolish ostrich needs continuous attention (39:13-18, 26-27). Death and life are intricately united in a cycle of growth and decay, pleasure and pain. The innocent do suffer unjustly in a cosmic order where natural laws and structures operate without repeated divine interruption. Those who do good and act righteously are not necessarily rewarded in this world either by direct divine compensation or by the necessary operation of inherent natural laws. That answer brings the audience back to the opening prologue where Job is afflicted in spite of his goodness. Thus the principle of retributive justice as a mechanical law of the cosmos is repudiated in three contexts-by the message of the prologue, by the experience of Job, and by the answer of God. Job's personal experience of God through whirlwind and word leads him to retract his legal suit. Since the design of the cosmos is not bound by the law of retributive justice, there is no point in proceeding. Job affirms God's integrity by acknowledging that he did not understand the structure of God's cosmic design or the powerful freedom operating within that design (42:2-6). Job learns the truth about God's paradoxical ways without ever learning about the wager which forced him to undergo his ordeal. God is indeed the "source" of the evil that Job suffered (2: 10), just as he is the Creator who controls chaos. Job's integrity is also iJ1tact. He did not succumb to the pressure offriends, accede to their interpretation of God's way, and repent. Job's presentation of the dark side of God is acknowledged as a more honest expression of the truth than the traditional formulations of



justice promoted by the friends (42:7). Accordingly, Yahweh announces that the lives of the friends are in jeopardy, because they have not spoken the "truth" as Job has done. In a backhanded way, Yahweh's words to Eliphaz vindicate Job's integrity publicly and concede that Job had exposed the "truth" about God's treatment of humans like Job. The ironic circle is complete: Job was afflicted without cause and subsequently acclaimed for demonstrating that God may act in just that way. Finally the hero who defied God to his own integrity is honored as the one intercessor who can confront God on behalf of his disgraced friends. Job had repeatedly explored the need for mediation between an afflicted human and God. It is the allotted role of a friend, according to Job, to show loyalty (l;zesed) to a despairing person who has forsaken the fear of Shaddai (6: 14). A friend comforts and sustains another even if it means taking sides against God (cf. Habel, Int 31, 1977, 227-236). Job denounces his three friends because they have betrayed him by defending God in the interests of their orthodox teaching and at the expense of Job's spiritual need. They added "trouble/misery" ('amal) to Job's life rather than alleviating it (see on 16:2). Job also looked for a celestial advocate, a friend before Eloah, who would arbitrate a lawsuit on Job's behalf (16:18-21). When God and a mortal are locked in combat, the mortal needs a mediator (cf. 9:32-35), though the services of the holy ones above are generally not available (5:1). Job even reaches a point where he envisages the appearance of a figure who is more than an arbiter. He foresees a redeemer who will rise in court to vindicate Job before God, even if Job is already dead. The redeemer will act as kin, friend, and defender against God (19:23-27). Elihu claims he can act as the arbiter for Job's case, but instead of defending Job he defends God. He suggests that an angel might perhaps act as an intermediary for Job if Job were bent on repentance (chs. 32-33). In the end it is Job, the man in search of a mediator, who becomes a mediator and friend. His heroic encounter with God made him the only person fit to intercede for the lives of the three friends (42:7-9). Job is declared the one intercessor who can move God to intervene, just as he did when he provoked God to appear in the whirlwind. Since God is not bound by the law of retributive justice, he may set aside judgment on the friends if Job acts on their behalf. God is not a remote ruler of the heavens, but a personal deity accessible to the bold human mediator. Just as the deliverance of the friends was an act of grace mediated by Job, so the restoration of Job's family and goods was a gesture of divine goodness, not a reward for Job's integrity or heroic persistence. God freely chooses to bless Job with good, just as he chose to afflict him with evil. Job experienced the freedom of God by being afflicted even though innocent and by being blessed even after defying God and accusing him of being demonic..



The integrity of Job and God is confirmed, but integrity has taken on a new meaning that transcends conformity to a mechanistic moral or natural law of reward and retribution. The traditional hero returns from his exploits with a boon for others to share. In the context of a wisdom writing, we might expect that Job's boon is the gift of wisdom. But is wisdom the gain and goal of Job's experience? It is significant that the author of the book of Job never has any of the human participants actually designate himself "wise," though each in turn lays claim to an authoritative source of knowledge and accuses his opponent of claiming to have wisdom (cf. 15:2-20; 26:3). The quest for wisdom as distinct from knowledge is the central theme of the author's poem on wisdom (ch. 28). Wisdom is not portrayed as an attribute of God, but personified as a figure whom God discovered and acquired in the process of creating the cosmos. Wisdom is that primordial principle or design which governs the ordering of the cosmos. Primordial wisdom is inaccessible to mortals (28:12-15; cf. 11:7-9; 26:14). By speaking without full knowledge of the cosmic order, Job was obfuscating the primordial principle and design of the cosmos (38:2). Job lacked "discernment" (bina, 38:4) of the primordial "way" of God. The cosmos has an apportioned "place" (maqom) and "way" (derek) for all things. Rules and structures govern the cosmic order. Beyond these rules and structures, however, lies the principle of wisdom. Wisdom is apparently God's own "way" (Prov. 8:22; Job 26: 14). Wisdom, however, is depicted not as an eternal law established by God but as a figure with whom he has a personal relationship. The force and freedom of God's personal relationship with wisdom lies behind the cosmic design. What Job discovers is not primordial wisdom, but the reality of God in a direct personal relationship and an honest confrontation. God is known through the passionate questioning of Job rather than through the complacent submission of the friends; through the ambiguity of life rather than through his adherence to a moral law. God may establish a personal relationship with mortals on earth as he once did with Wisdom in the primordial (cf. Habel, CTM 10, 1983, 142-154). The message of Job, then, is bound up with the interplay of tradition and experience, the search for moral laws and the discovery of a cosmic design with laws which are not in themselves the guarantors of moral order; the right of the sufferer to be angry with God and the need of outsiders to interpret that suffering; the dilemma of a hidden transcendent deity and the living experience of his holiness; the unexpected dark side of God and his elusive sovereign goodness; the paradox of an ambiguous reality called life and the search for meaning in the face of death; the inaccessibility of primordial wisdom and the eternal quest for understanding the mysteries of the cosmos; the laughing Leviathan silenced by God's might; and the comical ostrich in need of God's personal care. Job finally understood that



"the Lord gives and the Lord takes away" (1:21), but not in the manner many mortals may wish, expect, or understand. For Job experienced God and his paradoxical ways as an insider. The design of God frees Job from a mechanical, blind submission to a moral law of retributive justice. God creates the space in his order for the freedom of humans and the freedom of God, for the integrity of mortals and the integrity of God, for the angry complaints of those in agony and the challenge of God in whirlwind or whisper. Job discovers his God and in so doing finds his own "place" (maqom) and "way" (derek), a "way" once hidden from him by God himself (3:23). Job, like God, comes to transcend the moral order by his innocent suffering.


The Narrative Plot: An Outline

MOVEMENT L God Afflicts the Hero-The Hidden Conflict Introduction


Episode 1. The Hero Is Tested Setting 1:6-7 Catalyst 1:8 Conftict Challenge

Challenge accepted



Execution Apparent Resolution

1:13-19 1:20-21



Episode 2. The Hero Is Tested Again Setting 2:1 Catalyst 2:2-3 Conftict Challenge

Challenge accepted

Execution Secondary Complication



2:7-8 2:9

Pretemporal exposition of Job, his character and his world

The council of heaven God's boast about the mortal hero The Adversary (the Satan) predicts a conflict between the hero and his God God accepts the challenge to test the hero with affiiction The hero is afilicted The hero submits and passes -the test The narrator's verdict on the hero's response

The council of heaven Divine boast accompanied by a divine confession The Adversary (the Satan) again predicts a conflict between the hero and his God God again accepts the challenge to test the hero with afiliction The hero is afilicted The hero's wife urges him to curse God and die


Appendix Apparent Resolution




The hero rejects his wife's temptation, submits to the affliction, and passes the test The narrator's verdict on the hero's response

MOVEMENT II. The Hero Challenges God-The Conflict Explored

Episode I. The Hero's Dispute with His Friends 2:11-13 The ash heap of the hero. The Introduction and Setting friends of the hero introduced Complication/Catalyst ch. 3 The hero changes his stance, curses his origins, and complains about his lot Conflict/Dialogue Speeches The hero is rebuked by his chs. 4-26 Rejection friends and accused of being one of the wicked The hero repudiates his helpers ch. 6 Repudiation as untrue to their role as friends chs. 7; 12; The hero accuses his God of Accusation 16; 19 becoming his enemy chs. 9-10; The hero plans a legal suit Litigation 13; 16; against his adversary and seeks 19; 23 an arbiter to handle his case Closure/Anticipation Oath 27:1-12 The hero pronounces an oath against perjury and a self-imprecation protesting his innocence Closure ch. 28 Narrator's comment on the dialogue speeches Episode 2. The Hero's Challenge Setting Conflict Testimony chs. 29-30


ch. 31

Climax/Catalyst Challenge



31 :40c

Court setting assumed


The hero delivers his to the court, relating his past achievements and present plight The hero delivers an oath of purity The hero issues a challenge summoning an arbiter to hear his case and his adversary to appear with a writ The hero rests his case



MOVEMENT III. God Challenges the Hero-The Conflict Resolved

Episode I. The Advent of the Arbiter Introduction and Setting The legal assembly 32:1-5 Anticlimax/ Fulfillment Challenge accepted 32:6-33:7

Elihu, the arbiter, introduced

Elihu assumes the role of arbiter and summons Job to take his stand

Conflict Hearing


Elihu hears Job's case and analyzes his claims before the assembly of "wise men"

Apparent Resolution Verdict

chs. 36-37

Elihu pronounces in favor of his Maker

Episode 2. The Advent of the Adversary Setting Climax/Fulfillment Vision 38:1 Complication/Conflict Challenge

chs. 38-39

Challenge not accepted



40:6-41:26 [41:34E]

Resolution Concession




(Same as for previous episode) The adversary appears in a whirlwind The adversary challenges the hero to a test of wisdom about the cosmic design The hero does not attempt to answer the questions posed in the challenge The adversary challenges the hero to a test of power to rule over evil/chaos The hero concedes the superior wisdom and might of the adversary, whose integrity is vindicated The hero retracts his case and role as litigant assuming the vindication of his own integrity



Vindication/ Intercession


The hero intercedes for his friends; his integrity is acknowledged by his adversary at law

The Hero's Restoration


The hero's status, wealth, and world are restored. He dies blessed



Chapters 1-2 THE AFFLICTION OF JOB Introducing Job--on Earth

1:1 There was a man in the land ofUz, Job was his name. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and shunned 3 evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. His possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred she-asses, and a very large household. That man was the greatest among the people 4 of the East. Now his sons used to hold feasts in the house of each in turn. They would send and invite their three sisters to eat and 5 drink with them. When a round of feast days was over Job would send for them and sanctify them, rising early in the morning and sacrificing a burnt offering for each of them, for he said, Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. This Job always used to do. The First Assembly-in Heaven

6 One day when the sons of God came to present themselves before Yahweh, the Satan also came with them. 7 Yahweh said to the Satan, Where have you been? The Satan answered Yahweh, Roving the earth and patrolling it. 8 Yahweh said to the Satan, Have you marked my servant, Job? Truly there is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and shuns evil.


Job 1-2

9 The Satan answered Yahweh, So nothing makes Job fear God? 10 Are you not the one who placed a hedge round him, round his household and round all he possesses? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions are spread throughout the earth. 11 Just stretch forth your hand now and strike all he possesses, and he will certainly curse you to your face. 12 Yahweh said to the Satan, So be it. All he possesses is in your hand, only do not lay a hand on him. Then the Satan left Yahweh's presence.

The First Test-on Earth 13 14

15 16




20 21

One day his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother, when a messenger came to Job and said, The oxen were ploughing, and the she-asses were grazing nearby. Then the Sabeans fell on them and carried them off. The boys they put to the sword. I alone escaped to tell you. This one was still speaking when another came and said, A fire of God fell from heaven, burned the sheep and the boys and consumed them. I alone escaped to tell you. This one was still speaking when another came and said, The Chaldeans formed three companies, made a raid on the camels, and carried them off. The boys they put to the sword. I alone escaped to tell you. This one was still speaking when another came and said, Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother, when suddenly a great wind came from across the desert and it struck the four comers of the house. It fell on the boys and they died. I alone escaped to tell you. Then Job arose, tore his robe, cut off his hair, fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I shall return there;

The AjJliction of Job



Yahweh gives and Yahweh takes away. Blessed be the name of Yahweh! In spite of all this, Job did not sin and express contempt for God.

The Second Assembly-in Heaven

2:1 One day when the sons of God came to present themselves before Yahweh, the Satan also came with them to present him2 self before Yahweh. And Yahweh said to the Satan, Where have you been? And the Satan replied, Roving the earth and patrolling it. 3 Yahweh said to the Satan, Have you marked my servant Job? Truly there is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and shuns evil. He still holds fast to his integrity. So you have incited me against him to swallow him-all for nothing! 4 The Satan answered Yahweh, Skin for skin! All that people possess They will surrender for their life. 5 Just stretch forth your hand now and strike his bones and his flesh and he will certainly curse you to your face. 6 Yahweh said to the Satan, So be it! He is in your hand; only watch over his life.

The Second Test-on Earth

7 Then the Satan left Yahweh's presence and afflicted Job with 8 foul sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 9 He took a potsherd to scratch himself as he sat in ashes. And his wife said to him, You still hold fast to your integrity! Curse God and die! 10 But he said to her, You talk like a shameless fool! Shall we accept only good from God and not accept evil? In spite of all this Job did not sin with his lips.


Job 1-2

The Third As.semb/y-on Earth 11 When Job's friends heard about all this evil that had befallen him, each came from his place-Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They arranged to 12 meet together to come and console and comfort him. When they caught sight of him from afar they did not recognize him. So they raised their voices and flung dust into the heavens above 13 their heads. They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights. No one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his anguish was very great.


1:4. "Each in turn" is literally "a man on his day." 5. The Hebrew for the rendering "curse" is brk, "bless" (see Message on vs. 5 and 21). 6. hassafan is not the later proper name Satan but a title, "the Adversary/Opponent." 10. Given the narrator's propensity for hyperbole and the later reference to Job's probable trading ventures, 'ere~ is best rendered "earth" as in v. 8, rather than "land" as in v. 1. 11. "curse." See note on v. 5. 12. hinne can hardly mean "behold" in contexts where seeing is not implied. NEB "so be it" seems to catch the idea of the original. 13. "Wine" is omitted here by the Syriac and in v. 18 by the LXX (cf. 1:4). The MT seems preferable; the omission probably reflects an effort to heighten the innocence of the celebrations. 15. The translation "boys" (for n•'arim) is retained to preserve the literary effect, though the sense is probably "servants." 19. Most translations render n•'arim in this verse by an expression which implies a reference to Job's children; thus "children" (RSV), "young people" (NEB, GGS, JB). But this distorts the literary force of the original by making explicit what the narrator leaves the audience to deduce, namely, the death of Job's children. The rendering "boys," as in vs. 15, 16, 17, is more forceful and faithful to the MT (see under Message). 2:1. "To present himself before Yahweh" is omitted in the LXX and some translations follow suit (NEB, Pope). It is more likely that the LXX translators would wish to minimize the Satan's role in the divine council by omitting the expression than that Jewish scribes would increase his role by a textual addition.

The Affliction of Job


3. The literal rendering "swallow" (bl') is retained to preserve the bold imagery of the original. Most translations render "destroy/ruin." 4. "People" here renders the generic 'iS, "man." 5, 9. "Curse." See note on 1:5. 12. "Into the heavens" (hassamayema) is omitted in the LXX. Dhorme follows the LXX and suggests that this expression is but a variant of the preceding expression, "above their heads" ('al-ra "Sehem). An allusion to the practice of Ex. 9:8, 10, however, is much more plausible (see under Message).

2. DESIGN A plot analysis of the prologue reveals a masterful narrative design in the opening episodes of the book. These prologue scenes are part of an extended frame narrative which constitutes the substructure for the total plot of the book of Job (see Introduction). The narrative design of the prologue can be outlined in the following manner. Pretemporal Background


Episode 1. Yahweh Versus the Satan Setting 6-7



Conflict Challenge


Challenge accepted




Apparent Resolution




Episode 2. Yahweh Versus the Satan 2:1 Setting



Introducing Job, his character, and his world The council of heaven; Yahweh and the Satan Yahweh boasts about the blameless character of Job The Satan challenges Yahweh's boast and predicts a conflict between Job and God if Job is afflicted Yahweh accepts the challenge and gives the Satan power to afflict Job Job is afflicted according to the decision in h_eaven Job passes the test and Yahweh is vindicated Narrator's verdict: Job does not express contempt for God The council of heaven; Yahweh and the Satan Yahweh repeats his boast about Job and accuses the Satan of inciting him to afflict Job


Job 1-2 Conflict Challenge

Challenge accepted

4-5 6


Execution Complication Apparent Resolution





The Satan challenges the depth of Job's integrity and again predicts a conflict if Job is afllicted Yahweh accepts the challenge and gives the Satan power to afllict Job again Job is afllicted with sores Job's wife tempts him to curse God Job rebukes his wife, accepts evil from God, and passes the test Narrator's verdict: Job did not sin with his lips

Episode 3. Job Versus His Friends



Temporal Transition



3: lff.

The three friends with Job among the ashes Seven days of silence and silent comfort Job curses the day of his birth

The opening verses of the prologue (vs. 1-5) are a pretemporal exposition which sets the stage for the entire narrative plot of Job and not merely the initial episodes of the prologue. The concluding verses (2: 11-13) are not a closure for the prologue but establish the setting and context for the dialogue between Job and his friends. The above analysis indicates that the catalyst which initiates the plot in the opening episodes is Yahweh's boast about Job's character. His provocative words lead to a conflict with the Satan. By a clever ironic twist, however, the narrator has Yahweh accusing the Satan of being the catalyst and inciting him to afflict Job for no reason. The narrator's ironic treatment of Yahweh's speeches is matched by the dramatic irony of the total episode. The decision to test Job is known to Yahweh, the Satan, the council of heaven, and the audience but not to the victim, Job, or his earthly companions. By means of this device the narrator evokes our sympathy for Job in his intolerable position. The apparent resolution of the conflict between Yahweh and the Satan revolving around the integrity of Job is not portrayed as a capitulation of the Satan in heaven but as the utter subservience of Job on earth. His pious speeches reinforce the blamelessness of his character and imply that Yahweh is the victor in the celestial dispute. The secondary complication of having Job's wife recommending that he curse God and die is a brilliant deviation from the structure of the first episode. Her propos~tion intensifies Job's temptation; she is the intimate incarnation of the Sata\l's doubt and prediction. Her appearance, moreover, provides a transition scene which transfers the conflict from the celestial to the earthly context. The conflict

The Affliction of Job


between Yahweh and the Satan is apparently resolved when Job rebukes his wife and accepts evil from God. The Satan therefore retires and there is no reason for him to reappear in the plot. The conflict between Job and the m~mbers of his earthly community, however, is only just beginning, while the conflict between Job and his God which the Satan predicted has not yet commenced. A significant feature of the prologue is the primacy of dialogue in moving the narrative plot and in revealing the relationship between characters (see Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, ch. 4). The conflict between Yahweh and the Satan is expressed in dialogue form; the effect of their verbal encounter, however, has repercussions in events on earth. The conflict between Job and his wife is likewise a verbal battle. Both conflicts, in turn, are resolved by a verbal expression of piety. These dialogues provide important precedents for the extended dialogue conflicts, first between Job and his friends and then between Job and his God, and constitute further evidence of continuity between the so-called prologue and the chapters which follow. The closure statements to the opening episodes (1 :22; 2: lOb) are not peripheral appendages to the plot of the book. They pronounce a verdict on Job's innocence. He did not express contempt for God or sin with his lips, that is, he did not curse God as the Satan had predicted in his challenge. But these verdicts are also signals of a key question posed by the book as a whole. Is Job absolutely pure in all he says, or do his subsequent railings against God constitute a verbal sin of which he repents in the end (42:6)? Of the various narrative techniques adopted by the artist who constructed this prologue only a selection have been chosen for comment here: (a) repetition and variation; (b) foreshadowing and continuity; (c) characterization and reticence. The presence of repetition or parallelism of expression is not necessarily evidence of an epic substratum preserved in an ancient tale appropriated by the author (Sarna, JBL 76, 1957, 13-25). Rather, these features are more likely to indicate that the author who skillfully constructed lengthy poetic speeches for his characters and set them in the world of antiquity also employed ancient narrative techniques to relate sections of the plot. The legends of patriarchs like Abraham and prepatriarchal figures like Noah, both righteous heroes whose faith was tested to the limit, are obvious traditional models which were part of the artist's literary heritage. The author employs the technique of repetition with variations in a number of significant ways. These include: a. Scene repetition: the council scene (1:6-12; 2:1-6) and the messenger scene (1:13-15, 16, 17, 18-19). A striking example of how variation in a repeated scene is significant both for that scene and for interpreting the parallel scene is found in the addition where Yahweh accuses the Satan of


Job 1-2

inciting him to afflict Job-"all for nothing" (2:3b). Not only does Yahweh expose his hidden vulnerability to the Satan's provocations, but he offers a new interpretation of the first council scene in heaven by placing the blame on the Satan (see under Message). The forcefulness of episode repetition is also apparent in the fourfold reference to the "boys/servants" being killed (1:15, 16, 17, 19). Step by step, Job loses his household as well as his possessions. The final messenger "boy" who reports the fall of Job's house also announces the death of the "boys" but omits any explicit reference to Job's sons (see Textual Notes). They are "missing" in the report, and the audience, along with Job, is left to deduce their fate. By not varying the report pattern here, the narrator heightens the sense of the tragic. b. Repetition of key formulae and idioms is another technique employed by the author of Job: "blameless and upright" (1:1, 8; 2:3) "fears God and shuns evil" (1:1, 8; 2:3) "In spite of all this Job did not sin" (1 :22; 2: 10) "I alone escaped to tell you" (1:15, 16, 17, 19) "This one was still speaking when another came and said ... " (1:16, 17, 18).

"I alone escaped to tell you" is like a haunting refrain which echoes in the brain long after the details of the ugly event have faded. There is only one survivor to testify, only one! While the report of each lonely fugitive persists with an ominous sameness, the narrator's verdict on Job has a common introduction which specifies two ways in which "Job did not sin." "Job did not sin" by expressing contempt for God, nor did he sin with his lips. Thus the focus is not on whether Job sinned, but on whether he committed oral sins, thereby anticipating the opening line of 3:1, "After this Job opened his mouth and cursed . . ." c. Repetition of key words/themes is also extensively used in the book of Job: "blameless (tam) I integrity (tumma)" (1:8; 2:3, 9) "bless/curse" (brk, 1:5, 11, 21; 2:5, 9).

The "blamelessness" and "integrity" of Job is a governing theme introduced in the prologue and developed throughout the subsequent dialogue speeches of the book. In the prologue Job's integrity is tested by his afflictions and in the dialogue speeches by friends, tradition, and circumstance. In the prologue Yahweh affimis Job's integrity; in the dialogue Job must fight to vindicate his own integrity (e.g., 27:2-6). The repetition of the term "bless" (brk) with opposite meanings of "bless" and "curse" may be recognized as a brilliant literary device and need not be interpreted as a later softening

The Affliction of Job


of Job's speech by sensitive scribes (see Textual Notes). The oral sin of "cursing" God is introduced at the beginning as the ultimate misdeed against which Job must protect his sons (1 :5). The Satan predicts Job will commit this very sin (1:11; 2:5), and Job's wife recommends it as a way of ending Job's miserable life (2:9). When the Satan predicts Job will "curse" God, however, he employs the euphemism "bless." When Job first speaks he "blesses" the name of Yahweh (1:21). Thus Satan's prediction comes true, but not in the veiled sense he intended. The technique of foreshadowing or anticipation is important for appreciating the signals of continuity which integrate the prologue and the chapters which follow into a literary totality. The following listing is but a selection of the major expressions which foreshadow significant ideas, terminology, themes, and plot developments of the subsequent speeches. [ [ "blameless" (tam), l:l, 8; 2:3 "integrity" (tom I tumma), 2:3, 9 "fear" of God (yr' I yir'a), 1: l, 8, 9; 2:3 "roving" (swt), 1:7 "hedge" (swk), 1: 10 "servant/slave" ('ebed}, 1:8 "hand" of God (yad), 1:11; 2:5 "face" of God (panim), 1:11, 12; 2:5, 7 "fire" of God ('e'S), 1: 16 "evil/calamity" (ra' I ra'O}, 2:7, 10, 11 "friend" (rea~. 2:11 "comfort" (n}Jm I ne}Jama), 2: 11

"dust" ('apar), 2:12

8:20; 9:20, 21, 22 4:6; 27:5; 31:6 4:6; 6: 14; 22:4; 28:28 5:21 3:23 7:2; 31:13; 40:28 [41:4E]; 42:7, 8 6:9; 10:7, 8; 12:9; 19:21; 23:2 (cf. 13:21); 27:11; 30:21 (cf. 5:18; 26:13) 13:15-16, 20-21; 23:4, 15 (cf. 33:26) 15:34; 20:26; 22:20; 31:12 5:19; 21:30; 22:5; 30:26; 31:29; 42:11 6:27; 12:4; 16:20; 19:21; 30:29; 31:9; 32:3; 35:4; 42:7, 10 6:10; 7:13; 16:2; 21:34; 29:25 (cf. 15:11) 4:19; 5:6; 7:5, 21; 17:16; 19:25

The various themes and ideas foreshadowed in the prologue and developed in the speeches which follow cannot be explored in detail here. One example of a key motif in both the prologue and dialogue speeches which has not been widely recognized by commentators is that of the "face" of God. The Satan declares that Job will curse God to his face (1: 11; 2:5). Each time the Satan leaves the council he departs from the "face/presence" of Yahweh (1:12; 2:7). Subsequently Job seeks to come before God, not to curse him to his face, but to present a legal suit before his "face" (13:15; 23:4). Job's problem, however, is that God's face is a terrifying reality which mortals cannot normally handle (13:20--21; 23:15). In his closing words Job


Job 1-2

confesses that he saw God with his own eyes (42:5) leaving the audience to wonder whether that means he has actually come before the "face" he so feared. In some instances the links between prologue and dialogue speeches suggest the interplay of a cluster of terms and concepts. Moore (CBQ 45, 1983, 17-31) has shown in his study of the integrity of Job that Job's initial speech in the prologue (1:21) is echoed at key points in his opening lament (ch. 3). The pattern of associations is evident from the following table: Job 1:21

Job 3


Job regrets his emergence from the womb "It did not shut the womb doors"

Job's reverent acceptance of the womb "Naked I came from my mother's womb" 1:21a

3:10 "Why did I ... come forth from the womb?" 3:11


Job's reverent acceptance of the tomb "And naked I shall return there" 1:2lb

Job regrets he is not in the tomb "There the exhausted find rest" 3:17

"Small and great alike are there" 3:19


Job's reverent acceptance of God's ways "Yahweh gives and Yahweh takes away" 1:2 lc

Job's questioning of God's ways "Why does he give light to the sufferer?" 3:20


Job blesses God ''Blessed be the name of Yahweh" 1:2ld

Job invokes curses "Job ... cursed the day of his birth" 3: l; cf. 3:8

The life/death polarity reflected in this comparison is also emphasized by the Satan, who asserts that people will surrender everything "for their life" (2:4) and reiterated by Job's wife with her inviting him to "curse God and die" (2:9). The ultimate question is whether life or death is preferable. Job begins his speeches (in ch. 3) by negating life as oppressive and affirming death as a blessed rest. Thus the language of the book reflects a literary unity which embraces an inner tension reflecting divergent perspectives on the same reality. Basic to the design of the prologue is to introduce bold positions that are challenged and explored in the speeches which follow. The characterization of Job in the opening lines of the prologue is necessary as background to the entire plot of the book. In the episodes which follow, however, no similar details are given about the character of Yahweh and the Satan, the two chief protagonists of the opening scenes. Nothing is mentioned about their emotions or their personal reactions to events. In

The Affliction of Job


this the narrative artist exhibits a reticence typical of classical biblical narrators. Only in the subtlety of the dialogue are hints of character and emotion implied. Yahweh's designation of Job with the honorific title "my servant" suggests a feeling of pride. That pride approximates boasting when Yahweh adds, "He still holds fast to his integrity" (2:3). The innuendo seems to be that Yahweh is saying, "See, I am right! I told you so!" By employing the emotive expression hal;zinnam ("so nothing I for nothing?" 1:9), the narrator suggests that the Satan is playing on the assumed doubts of Yahweh about Job. With that expression the Satan also challenges the entire doctrine of reward and retribution. He apparently strikes at the point where Yahweh is most vulnerable; do people only love and praise him because he rewards them with blessings? This vulnerability is exposed when he accuses the Satan of inciting him to afflict Job (2:3), for in that very accusation he admits his own apparent weakness. The emotive dimension to this speech is suggested by Yahweh's own use of the term l;zinnam, "for no reason I all for nothing" (2:3). The Satan doubted if Job would praise God "for nothing." The Satan was proved wrong, though he induced God to do it "for nothing." The tone of Yahweh's indignant accusation suggests the English equivalent "You made me do it! But I was right anyway!" When the Satan raises the same doubt a second time, Yahweh accedes to his proposal, willy-nilly. There is no deliberation or soul-searching. Yahweh is incited a second time. Through the dialogue Yahweh is portrayed as a deity unwilling to avoid a challenge and driven by a desire to be right at all costs. Thus the design of the prologue narrative introduces major issues of the book of Job as a whole: the doctrine of reward and retribution, the arbitrary nature of God's ways, the innocent suffering of a man of integrity, the nature of evil and the human condition, the purpose of life and the dilemma of death.




[1:1] Job is introduced as an ancient paragon of piety and wisdom, a hero at the pinnacle of success poised for a fall. He belongs in the same company as prepatriarchal figures such as faithful Noah, the hero of the fJ.ood epic, and Danel, the wise ruler of a Canaanite epic. All three had the potential to mediate salvation by virtue of their great righteousness (Ezek. 14: 14, 20). The narrator begins the introduction of this renowned figure from the heroic past with a rapid-fire sequence of short words which culminates in the emphatic "Job (was) his name." The typical formula "and his name was X" has been replaced with an expression which gives prominence to the


Job 1-2

name ofacharacter well known to the audience (e.g., Ex. 15:3; I Sam. 25:25; I Kings 13:2). No obvious point is being made about the etymology of Job's name ('iyyob), though a pun based on a popular interpretation of Job's name may be implied later where Job calls himself an "enemy" ('Oyeb) of God (13:24). Various forms of the name Job have been identified in the Tell el-Amama letters (No. 256), the Egyptian Execration Texts, and Akkadian documents from Mari, Alalakh, and Ugarit (see Pope, Fohrer). For the author of this narrative, however, this Job is the illustrious hero from the land of Uz, a hero already familiar to the audience, as the reference in Ezekiel clearly testifies (Ezek. 14: 14, 20). The land ofUz belongs somewhere among the regions once inhabited by ancient peoples of "the East" (v. 3). Uz appears as a personal name in genealogies associated with both Seir (in Edom, Gen. 36:28) and Aram (Gen. 10:23; 22:21). In Lam. 4:21 Uz appears in parallel with Edom, a connection which supports the position of many scholars who associate Uz with the land of Edom (Dhorme). The links with Edom or Aram, however, are tenuous. The tone of the narrative suggests that the narrator is using an obscure designation to conjure up an image of antiquity and mystery. A vague land in the distant East is more intriguing as the abode of an ancient hero than a familiar town just across the river Jordan in Edom. Perhaps, as Weiss proposes (The Story of Job's Beginning), the name Uz ('fl$), by the principle of aural association, also suggests the word 'e$a. "counsel, design," a key word in wisdom literature and a leading motif in Job (see on 38:2). Four attributes characterize Job. The first pair are one-word designations, the second pair two-word idioms which interpret the first pair. The adjective tam, "blameless," and the related noun tumma, "integrity," are key thematic terms which focus on Job as a person who is whole, free from sin, completely right with God, and at peace with his world (cf. on 9:21-24; 27:5; Moore, CBQ 45, 1983, 28). An "upright" (yasar) individual is honest, true, and faithful to the path of righteousness (Prov. 21 :8). To be "blameless and upright" means to "fear God and shun evil." The "fear of God/Yahweh" is a traditional expression of wisdom theology for that total devotion which underlies and motivates those who follow the path of wisdom to salvation and success (Prov. 1:7; 2:5-8; 3:7; 16:6). The correlative of Job's perfect devotion to his God is the moral fortitude he possesses to "shun evil." Job is the model of a righteous wise man who epitomizes the advice of the sage: Be not wise in your own eyes; Fear Yahweh and shun evil. (Prov. 3:7; cf. 14:16)

The Affiiction of Job


That this characterization of Job as a wise man was intended is confirmed by the inclusio which links this opening verse of Job with the closure that marks the midpoint of the book of Job (see on 28:28), namely: Behold, to fear the Lord is wisdom, To shun evil is understanding. (28:28)

[1:2-3) Job has an ideal family, seven sons and three daughters-ten children in all. Seven, three, and ten are all numbers which signify completion. Seven in particular is a round number for a full complement of children (I Sam. 2:5; Ruth 4:15). Job's complete family is a visible expression of his inner completeness (cf. Gen. 17: 1-2). His material expressions are a further demonstration of the completeness of his world. The sum of each pair of animals is ten (five plus five, seven plus three). The activities of Job also mark him as a man whose success is evident in all major commercial ventures of his society (cf. Gen. 12:16). Five hundred yoke of oxen point to extensive agricultural pursuits, seven thousand sheep indicate significant pastoral operations, five hundred camels suggest major merchant enterprises, and a large household implies an organized support base providing human services and craft commodities for such ventures. Job seems to match and perhaps surpass the patriarchs of Israel (cf. Gen. 12:16). Jacob had a "large household" (Gen. 26:14), but Job has "a very large household." In material blessings he is greater than Jacob, the father of Israel. In fact, he is the "greatest among the people of the East" (v. 3). This summative statement refers to Job's renowned wisdom, wealth, piety, and integrity. Job is the greatest human being in the ancient East. The expression "people of the East" is deliberately vague and may refer to any community living in lands east of the Jordan valley (Gen. 29:1; Isa. 11:14; Judg. 6:3; 7:12). In the Egyptian Tale of Sinuhe, the term Qedem (East) refers to vague Semite territories east of Byblos. The term qedem also connotes the idea of "antiquity" (Deut. 33:15; Micah 5:1 [2E]). When Solomon is said to have wisdom superior to "all the people of the East" (I Kings 5:10 [4:30E]), a traditional association with wisdom and the East also seems to be implied. Job, then, appears to be the greatest man living in the mysterious realms of the East, the dim domain of ancient epic and legendary wisdom. [1:4-5] The periodic feast celebrated by Job's family accentuates Job's piety in his role as mediator (cf. 42: 10) and sets the stage for the tragic death of his children (vs. 18-19). Job's greatness is crowned with the joy of celebration. He lacks nothing. His sons too have settled happily in their own homes, yet they feast together in family harmony. Job's absence may reflect his affirmation of their independence. More important, it provides the situation for introducing his role as a mediator who even atones for a particular


Job 1-2

sin his children may have have committed without his knowledge. A "feast" (miste) is often associated with noncultic occasions such as marriages (Judg. 14: 12, 17), birthdays (Gen. 40:20), treaties (Gen. 26:30), and the cessation of hostilities (II Sam. 3:20-21). Job's absence would be strange if this were a communal cultic festival (as Ex. 23:14-17) in which Job would be expected to play a key role as the community leader. By contrast with Danel, the hero of the Canaanite epic (Aqhat Il.i.1-19), who holds a seven-day feast and bewails the fact that he has no sons, Job can rejoice in the seven-day feast his seven sons celebrate regularly. As the devout head of his household, Job, like Abraham, plays the part of the perfect priest, going beyond the requirements of the later Israelite law. Job's concern is not with blatant public misdeeds, but with a particular sin his sons might have committed "in their hearts" (cf. Gen. 6:5). That sin is the ultimate wrong of "cursing God" and a governing motif of the prologue. It is the sin which the Satan predicts Job will commit if pressed to the limit ( 1: 11; 2:5) and the sin Job's wife recommends as the means of repudiating his integrity (2:9). Job seeks to protect his family from the death and destruction which this sin provokes (2:9). Ironically, Job's family is destroyed by God to test whether in fact Job will "curse God." The Hebrew word rendered "curse" (1:5, 11; 2:5, 9) is actually the opposite term, namely, "bless" (brk). This euphemism is viewed by some interpreters as the work of scribes seeking to soften the repulsive language of the text (cf. I Kings 21:10, 13; S. Blank, HUCA 23, 1950-51, I, 83ff.). However, given the creative skills of the narrator, this device may be viewed as a deliberate literary technique to heighten the radical nature of this unmentionable sin by employing an antonym to describe it. As priest of a patriarchal household, Job is responsible for the welfare of his family. He invites his sons to a sacrifice to "sanctify" (qdS) them and thereby restore right relations with God. The "burnt offerings" ('olot) which he sacrifices are usually gift offerings (cf. Gen. 22:13; Num. 29:36) but in some contexts also appear to have propitiatory functions (Judg. 21:4; I Sam. 13:9). For Job they are expiatory, serving to nullify the effects of the one fatal sin which could destroy his family. Job's role as mediator for his family anticipates his later intervention on behalf of his friends "who did not speak the truth" about God (42:7-9). This role also serves as a counterpoint to Job's longing for a personal mediator before God when all his friends fail him (9:32-35; 19:13-29). 1:6-12 THE FIRST ASSEMBLY-IN HEAVEN [1:6] The one particular day when the heavenly council met stands in contrast to "all the days I always" when Job practiced his salutary piety. No link with a specific cultic day of celebration is indicated (cf. Pope). This

The Affliction of Job


is the day of destiny for Job. The members of the council assembly are the "sons of God" (b'ne ha''/ohim), the host of the celestial court who surround Yahweh, their King (I Kings 22:19ff.; Pss. 29:1; 82:1; 89:6--9 [5-8E]; Dan. 7:9-10) and who were once part of the primordial scene (38:7; Gen. 6:2, 4). The ancient Canaanite deity El presides over a similar council of divine beings (Baal III*.B19ff.) which is the counterpart to the council of Yahweh (Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, 186ff.). The "sons of God" first "present themselves" before Yahweh, thereby accentuating their role as royal attendants duly subservient to their divine monarch (as in Zech. 6:5; Prov. 22:29; cf. I Sam. 16:21). Whether the Satan is a regular member of the council or an unexpected visitor is left ambiguous. The designation "the Satan" (hassafan) is not the personal name Satan but a role specification meaning "the accuser/adversary/doubter" (cf. ha'adam, the Man I Adam, Gen. 2:7). In later biblical and postbiblical texts Satan appears as a name rather than a title (cf. I Chron. 21:1). The verbal root S{n does not refer to an action which is necessarily evil but to the behavior of one who opposes or challenges another party (Num. 22:22, 32; I Sam. 29:4; I Kings 11:14). In the court context of Zech. 3:1-2 the Satan seems to hold the office of a prosecutor intent on establishing justice. The Satan before the council of Yahweh in Job appears to play a similar role. There is no necessary evil intent or malice in his comments or actions (as in I Chron. 21:1). Rather, he expresses the skepticism of any realist who understands human nature. How can any human being be that perfect? The fact that God himself raises the subject of Job's incomparable goodness suggests that the Satan may be verbalizing Yahweh's own latent misapprehensions (cf. Kluger, Satan in the Old Testament, l l 8ff. ). Yahweh's hidden fears about Job are the counterpart to Job's inner fears about his sons in the preceding earthly assembly (v. 5). [1:7] At first blush the opening question Yahweh asks the Satan seems quite innocuous: "Where have you been?" The Satan's reply suggests that Yahweh was asking for the Satan to report on a particular role he was playing on Yahweh's behalf. The verb swf, "roving," immediately suggests a word play on safan, the title which the Satan bears. Pope follows the lead of Tur-Sinai, who interprets the roving activity of the Satan as that of a royal spy involved in intelligence operations similar to those attested by Herodotus as being part of the Persian administration of foreign lands. Clearly the "roving" (swf) eyes of Yahweh (Zech. 4: 10), and his "patrolling" (hithpael of h/k) angels (Zech. 1:10--11), perform the same function as the Satan, namely, to range the earth, report back signs of disorder, and raise doubts about the integrity of leading citizens (as in Zech. 3:1-2). The Satan, it seems, is more than an aimless angel rambling the earth; he has a specific role as Yahweh's suspicious one, his spy. [1:8] There is no preliminary fencing on Yahweh's part. His opening


Job 1-2

query about the renowned figure of Job is the catalyst for the first episode of the plot. Yahweh does not ask for a register of evils on earth. There is one man who, like Noah (Gen. 6:8), has caught his eye. The quest for one truly righteous man appears at several points in the Old Testament (Gen. 18:22ff.; Jer. 5:1-5). Is Job perhaps that man? If the suspicious Satan agrees that Job is a perfect human, then even the council's greatest skeptic has been convinced and Yahweh's fears can be allayed. By designating Job as "my servant," Yahweh has accorded him a place of honor among other favored men of God such as Moses (Ex. 14:31), David (II Sam. 7:5), Isaiah (Isa. 20:3), and Zerubbabel (Hag. 2:23) and loaded his question for a verdict in favor of Job. The reference to Job as "servant" in a laudatory sense, however, foreshadows Job's later use of the term as a symbol for life as slavery and oppression (see on 7:2). Yahweh's praise of Job is couched in the very formulae employed by the narrator in the opening lines (v. 1), but with one telling addition, "There is no one like Job on earth." He is Yahweh's pride and joy.· Surely this righteous man par excellence has not escaped the keen eye of the Satan! [1:9-11] Satan's very first word, l;zinnam, "for nothing/without reason," signals a direct challenge. His second word yare: "fear," latches onto the traditional characterization of a wise person as one who "fears God" (see v. 1). The Satan thereby not only signals doubts about Job's piety as an individual but also questions a basic tenet of a wisdom theology which assumes an inevitable nexus between reward and righteousness. Righteousness is the result of divine blessings, not vice versa. If Job were cursed instead of blessed, would he still exhibit piety and wisdom? What the Satan raises as a hypothetical case in the prologue Job explores as a reality in real life throughout the dialogue speeches which follow. It is in Job's interest to be righteous. Yahweh has sheltered him from the harsh realities of life with a hedge of blessing. The "you" (v. 10) is emphatic in the Hebrew. Yahweh is the one responsible for Job's goodness and good fortune. He has never really been tested. Remove his blessing and the story will be different. The verb "hedge" (swk) here refers to the protective barrier of blessings around Job. This reference is an ironic anticipation of Job's accusation that God deliberately "hedges" in the "way/future" of mortals so that life becomes aimless (3:23; cf. swk I swk in 38:8; Hos. 2:8 [6E]). Job agrees with the Satan; Yahweh is the one responsible for "hedging in" mortals! There is also a bite to the Satan's assertion that Yahweh has "blessed" (brk) Job, since the Satan uses the same verb as a euphemism to predict that Job will "curse" Yahweh (v. 11). Is the Satan implying, by using "bless" in place of its antonym "curse," that the extensive blessings of Job scattered across the "earth" (see Textual Notes) are tantamount to "curses" which hinder true wisdom and righteousness? In any case the Satan sees Yahweh as the

The Affliction of Job


culprit because he has made Job the greatest man on earth. But could Job love and praise God simply because he is God and not because he showers mortals with blessings? [1:11] The situation could be tested if Yahweh "stretched out his hand" to strike rather than bless the work of Job's "hands." The striking "hand" of God foreshadows the cruel "hand" of God as the symbol of his oppressive intervention in human life (see on 19:21; cf. 6:9; 10:7; 12:9; 13:21). Job's complaint in 19:21 echoes the Satan's words; the "hand" of God has "struck" him as if he were the enemy. Satan heightens the intensity of Job's predicted curse by adding the idiom "to your face," an idiom that Job's wife omits (2:9). In contrast to the curse which Job's sons may have spoken "in their hearts" (v. 5), Job's curse is expected to be a blatant public utterance in God's face. The Satan's prediction that Job will curse God "to his face" anticipates Job's later demand to defend his suit "to God's face." Job explicitly asserts, "I would press my suit to his face" (23:4; cf. 13:15). Instead of opting out by cursing God to his face at the very outset, Job seeks to come before "his presence" in the council and finally challenge him face to face. [1:12] Yahweh's immediate acquiescence to the Satan's proposition is surprising. The narrator does not leave Yahweh struggling with his decision to strike Job. Yahweh is as ready as the Satan to test Job. But the Satan must do the dirty work, the opus a/ienum of God. It is the Satan's "hand," not Yahweh's, that will actually "strike" Job's possessions. The only condition Yahweh imposes is that the Satan's hand not extend to Job's person. Nothing is said about Yahweh's confidence or the Satan's glee at having incited Yahweh (cf. 2:3). The conflict of characters is reflected in the juxtaposition of their speeches and the nuances of their language. One character is ever ready to doubt surface appearances and insinuate that Yahweh is the real culprit; the other is only too ready to defend Yahweh's good judgment by allowing the doubts of the first to be tested on an unsuspecting mortal. 1:13-21


[1:13-15] The "one day" of the feast scene on earth corresponds to the "one day" (v. 6) of the assembly scene before Yahweh in heaven. The two events apparently happen simultaneously. Since the feast is held in the oldest brother's house it is presumably the first day of the seven-day cycle (v. 4) and prior to any likelihood that one of Job's sons has committed the unspeakable sin of "cursing God" in his heart (v. 5). The disasters which follow cannot therefore be interpreted by Job as the result of family folly (cf. 8:4). The report of each disaster has the same basic structure: the messenger boy arrives, the disaster is related briefly, and the messenger declares he is


Job 1-2

the sole survivor. There is no elaborate dramatization of details, no expression of shock at the enormity of the tragedy, no outburst of wonder or bewilderment at the sudden ugliness that has invaded Job's world. The cold hard realities of each disaster stand alone in stark cruelty. The dramatic irony is complete: Job remains in complete ignorance of the reason for the disaster and seeks no immediate explanation. The first disaster spells an end to Job's agricultural enterprises. The animals are taken captive and the "boys" working the field are murdered. The marauders are identified as "Sabeans," a people associated with the distant land of Sheba in southern Arabia (Gen. 10:7; 25:3). Since the Sabeans were famous traders (I Kings 10: lff.; Isa. 60:6), the attacking party was probably a passing caravan (cf. 6:19), and their presence gives no indication of where the land of Uz was located. The calamity is total; the single fugitive survives to testify to the ugly truth of what happened. [1:16] In the second disaster the "fire of God" destroys Job's pastoral pursuits by annihilating his seven thousand sheep and consuming the shepherd "boys" attending them. Many commentators interpret the "fire of God" as lightning (e.g., Kissane), citing the fire which falls at the climax of the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal (I Kings 18:38). The "fire of God," however, as distinct from lightning, is not part of a natural thunderstorm but a phenomenon sent directly from God with a specific divine purpose (cf. Gen. 19:24; Num. 11:1; II Kings 1:10, 12, 14). On Mt. Sinai the thunder and lightning are phenomena quite different from the unique "fire" which surrounds Yahweh's presence (Ex. 19:16-19). In the devastation of Job's flocks the "fire" is interpreted by the messenger as a public testimony that God was the agent of destruction (cf. 20:26). The fire of God "falls," "bums," and then "consumes" an entire flock in an abnormal manner which distinguishes it from ordinary lightning. Meanwhile the Satan's role remains carefully hidden. [1:17] The third disaster parallels the first and marks the demise of Job's trading and transport activities. His camels are captured and his caravan "boys" put to the sword. The Chaldeans mentioned in the Bible were the rulers of the Neo-Babylonian empire of Nebuchadrezzar. Job, however, belongs to an era centuries before this empire. The choice of the name Chaldean to characterize this "three-company" marauding party (cf. Judg. 7:16) may have been intended to evoke associations with the organized destruction wrought by the Babylonian army on Israel. [1:18-19] The "great wind" from the desert which reduces Job's household to ruins parallels the "fire of God" in the second disaster and, as such, represents a special act of God focusing on a particular target, not a typical tornado or storm wind (cf. Jer. 13:24). The closing expression "It fell on the boys and they died" is an artistically constructed finale. Each disaster account reports the fate of the servant "boys." The last word spoken about

The Affliction of Job


them is that they "died." In the last disaster the messenger boy also reports that the servant "boys" were crushed and died, but he omits any reference to Job's family. The most tragic disaster of all, the death of Job's family, is not actually stated. It is left for the audience to deduce. The stark omission in this report contrasts with the wording of the report of Absalom's death where David asks explicitly about the welfare of the "boy" Absalom. The omission of an explicit reference to the death of Job's children heightens the sense of the tragic; they are lost even in the messenger's report. [1:20] The closing verses (20-22) of this episode affirm the unwavering devotion of Job signaled in the opening portrayal of this pious patriarch. Job's initial pair ofresponses are customary rites of mourning and grief. Job tears his garments (cf. Gen. 37:34) and shaves off his hair (cf. Isa. 15:2; 22:12; Jer. 7:29). His second pair of actions, however, are expressions of reverence and devotion. In his mourning Job worships; he "falls on the ground" in obeisance as he would before a king (cf. II Sam. 1:2; 9:6; 14:4), and "worships" his God in spite of everything. Yahweh's faith in Job appears to be vindicated. [1:21] Job's words of worship are, in fact, a thematic declaration of his stance; their poetic form anticipates his longer dialogue speeches. Job refers to himself as "naked," that is, devoid of possessions, in the womb and the tomb. Having lost his possessions he is again like a newborn infant or one of the recent dead (cf. Eccl. 5:14 [15E]). The ambiguous "there" creates a double entendre in the preceding parallel expression "mother's womb." As the "womb" of Job's actual mother the expression foreshadows Job's curse on the day he emerged from the womb (3:10, 11). As a reference to the womb of Mother Earth (cf. Ps. 139:13) the expression initiates a major theme in Job, that mortals arise from the dust of the earth and "return" to that dust (4:19; 17:16; cf. 42:6; Gen. 3:19). The term "there" as a veiled allusion to the realm of death also anticipates Job's reference to "there" as the underworld domain where all mortals are equal as well as naked (3:19). The sovereign activity of Yahweh "giving" (ntn) and "taking" (lqQ) is acclaimed as a positive reality in the world. In the later speeches of Job it is precisely God's sovereign deeds which are denounced as arbitrary, unjust, and cruel. He "gives" light to no purpose (3:20) and "takes" discernment from elders without cause (12:20). As the righteous and blameless hero, Job "blesses" God rather than calling down "curses" on those who harmed him (cf. Jer. 11:20; 18:21, 23). When Job "blesses" (brk) the name of Yahweh, the Satan's prediction comes true in a literal sense but not in the intended sense. Job's "blessing" is not a euphemism for a curse (1: 11) but an acclamation of Yahweh as his God. The use of the divine name Yahweh at this point in the text is surprising since the author assiduously avoids placing this name for God in the mouth


Job 1-2

of Job or the other human spokesmen who historically precede the revelation of that name (Ex. 6:2). The insertion of the name here may reflect the use of a fixed formula which the author did not wish to break (Gordis). More probably, however, the wording is a deliberate reversal of the Satan's prediction (in 1:11). Had Job blessed his God by any other name at this point, it might have remained ambiguous as to whether Job was actually blessing the same deity who was afflicting him. [1:22] The closure of the opening episode points to a fundamental question in the overall plot of Job. Do Job's vehement speeches in the subsequent dialogue constitute "contempt" (tip/a) for God? And if so, are they equivalent to the supreme sin of "cursing" God? The narrative comment in this closure passes a verdict of not guilty. Yahweh may "give" (ntn) and "take" good, but Job in turn does not "give/express" (ntn) contempt for God. Job has proven he is blameless by his pious response to Yahweh's afflictions. Yahweh has won the first round of the dispute; Job has passed the first test. To the bitter end Job insists that he committed no "sin" to justify his afflictions (cf. 27:4-6; ch. 31). But do his ugly accusations against God constitute "contempt" (cf. chs. 3; 12; 16)? 2:1-6 THE SECOND ASSEMBLY-IN HEAVEN [2:1-3] The wording of the first three verses of the second council scene in heaven is identical with that of the first council scene except for three additional features. These additions introduce fresh nuances into the scene. Here the Satan not only comes with the sons of God but actually presents himself before Yahweh (v. 1). Yahweh has won the first round of the dispute, and the narrator, it seems, has the Satan acknowledge the state of play by an appropriate act of obeisance (see Textual Notes). The second addition is Yahweh's announcement that Job "holds fast to his integrity" (tumma, v. 3b). These words are Yahweh's boast that he was right about Job (cf. 1:1). Yahweh's announcement that Job "holds fast" (J;zzq) to his "integrity" anticipates Job's later oath in which he declares that he will never be deprived of his "integrity" but will "hold fast" to his righteousness (27:5-6). Thus Job restates Yahweh's own words to his face, words he has never heard Yahweh utter. The third addition is the most telling. Here Yahweh seems to admit that he is vulnerable to incitement by the Satan. "Incite" (swt) normally carries negative overtones (as in 36:18; I Sam. 26:19; II Kings 18:32). Thus the image of God projected in the prologue is as ambivalent as that found in the speeches of Job in the dialogues. Yahweh admits that the afflictions of Job were provoked by the doubts of another and that the outcome was "all for nothing" (l;zinnam). This is a deliberate appropriation of the challenging "for nothing I so nothing" (l;zinnam) with which the Satan introduced his

The Affliction of Job


doubt (1 :9). If the Satan's opening l;iinnam had an edge, the same is no doubt true of Yahweh's response. The Satan loses, but Yahweh has been induced to act like Mot, the Canaanite god of death, and "swallow" (bl~ cf. 10:8; Num. 16:30) a human being for no other reason except to win a wager with the Satan. [2:4-6] The Satan does not concede defeat. He again questions the depth of Job's integrity. Perhaps his integrity is only skin deep. People will do anything to save their life and in so doing reach a point where they curse God. The Satan's cryptic expression "skin for skin" (v. 4) is probably an ancient folk saying with innuendos now lost to us (see Gordis for various interpretations). An adequate interpretation can be derived from the words of the text which follow. "All people possess" (see Textual Notes) is an allusion back to "all he [Job] possesses" (1:10, 11). The first test did not affect Job's life (nepes); it only removed a layer of "skin," that is, possessions. People will surrender anything to save their lives. "Bones and flesh" are deeper than an external "skin" or ''.hedge" of protection around a person. The Satan argues that by striking deep into Job's body with disease the true character of Job's being will be exposed and he will curse God for his capricious ways (v. 5). Once again Yahweh accedes to the Satan's proposition and once again he is incited to affiict Job. But there is a subtle catch to the Satan's role. He is given power to "strike" Job's body with his "hand" (cf. on 1:11), but is also given the task of "watching over" (Smr) his life (v. 6). "Watching over" mortals is normally an expression of God's providential care (cf. 29:2; Ps. 16:1). Ironically, Job later asserts that God's "watching" activities are a sinister search for wrongs that prove Job has violated his integrity (10:13-14; 13:27; 33:11). Without knowing, Job accuses God of playing the spying role of the Satan, while the Satan is expected to play the role of God by protecting Job. 2:7-10


[2:7-8] The sickness with which Job is affiicted is probably not to be identified with a specific disease, though past interpreters have suggested leprosy, ulcers, elephantiasis, and various skin disorders (see Rowley). Job is stricken by a condition which derives from Satan's hand, not from natural causes, just as the "fire of God" was an extraordinary event, not a normal meteorological phenomenon (see on 1: 16). Elsewhere the term "sores" (s•J;iin) is associated with skin disorders (Lev. 13:18-20), such as those experienced during the plague caused by Moses scattering ashes in the air (Ex. 9:9-11; cf. Deut. 28:27, 35). Job's own language about his bodily and psychological affiictions is not medical but poetic. He portrays his plight as a fate worse than death (7:4-5, 14-16; 19:20; 30:17). He is living with an abnormal affiiction which is readily interpreted by his friends as evidence


Job 1-2

of guilt before God. Job gives public prominence to his plight by sitting among the "ashes" which symbolize total negation and mourning (30: 19; Gen. 18:27; Isa. 58:5; Jonah 3:6). The Septuagint identified these ashes with a "dunghill" outside the city, thereby introducing the idea that Job was an outcast, like a leper (cf. Habel, Job). However, the closest parallel to Job's case is probably that of David, where in empathy and grief for his ailing son he fasts and lies on the ground all night (II Sam. 12:16). Thus Job does not hide his sickness or exclude himself from the community, but highlights his condition by sitting on the ground among the ashes, an action which provokes the response of Job's wife. A similar custom is found among tribal societies where the sick lie in the dirt to identify with their plight and smear their bodies with dust and ashes (G. Lewis, Knowledge of Illness in a Sepik Society, London: Athlone Press, 1979, 132). [2:9-10] Job faces his ultimate test when he hears the inviting proposition of his wife that he "curse God and die." This secondary complication echoes the prediction of the Satan (v. 5). Lest the hero himself entertain this drastic option, the narrator has Job's wife serve as the earthly mouthpiece for the hidden Satan. But the option is flatly refused. Job does not waver. Nothing is said about the character of Job's wife. She is clearly not a patient comforter who, like the friends, waits seven days before presenting her ideas. Her function, as Augustine said, is to play the role of diaboli adjutrix, the Satan's unwitting ally. Cursing God is not to be interpreted as an outburst of imprecations to clear the air. A curse is an action which provokes a necessary reaction, namely, that Job will "die." The expectation is that God will retaliate when a person curses him to his face. Thus a curse is a form of self-destruction, a final act of defiance by forcing God to act. Job rebukes his wife by likening her language to that of a "shameless fool." The substantive naba// n•bala carries the connotation of a crude and churlish fool who is a disgrace to the community (II Sam. 3:33; 13:13; Prov. 17:7). The churlish Nabal exemplifies the nabal in his name and his nature (I Sam. 25:25). Job's closing speech in this episode summarizes Job's response to the second test and reveals again the depth of his unquestioning piety. He is willing to accept all that Yahweh dispenses, whether good or ill. "Evil" (ra ') here refers to the calamities and disasters of life rather than to moral evil (cf. Amos 3:6). The motive for this "evil" Job does not probe; its origin, however, he places fairly and squarely on Yahweh and not on some secondary divine power. Later Job admits that he had "hoped for good, but evil came" (30:26). The narrator's verdict (cf. 1:22) on Job's response to Yahweh's evil afflictions, in contrast to the verdict of Job's wife, is that his words were blameless. He "did not sin with his lips," a point which Job himself avows later (31 :30). With this verdict the second episode in the plot of the Job

The Affliction of Job


narrative is concluded. But hardly has the restraint of Job's lips been applauded before Job "opens up his mouth" and begins to curse (3:1). 2:11-13


[2:11] The third episode of the narrative is located on earth amid the ashes with Job. The friends assemble around Job in much the same way as the council gathers around Yahweh. The names of the three friends and their places of origin have been the subject of considerable speculation. There is no textual evidence that their names are intended to designate roles like the Satan, "the opposer/doubter." Eliphaz and Teman both appear in Edomite genealogies (Gen. 36:4, 15). Teman's association with Edom elsewhere suggests a place known for its wisdom (Jer. 49:7). The term Shuhite is presumably to be linked with the name Shuah, a son of Abraham by Keturah (Gen. 25:2). The abode of Shuah remains unknown, except that it is probably somewhere in the "land of the East" where Shuah was sent (cf. 1:3). The term Naamathite derives from Naamah, a female descendant of Cain (Gen. 4:22). The diverse geographical origins of these three "wise" men suggests that they each bring their own traditional wisdom to comfort Job and interpret his plight. Unlike the four messengers who appear in hurried procession, the three friends first arrange to meet before they intrude on Job's grief. These visitors have come to perform a traditional role of the friend in ancient society, namely, to "console" (nwd) and "comfort" (nbm). A "friend" (rea~ is characterized by deep loyalty and close bonds of faithfulness (besed; cf. Prov. 18:24; II Sam. 16:17; Habel, Int 31, 1977, 227-236). It is precisely this loyalty which Job later accuses his friends of violating, thereby not fulfilling their true role as "friends" (see on 6:14). [2:12] The reaction of Job's friends to his tragic condition is to weep, tear their robes, and fling dust above their heads. These actions are traditional expressions of mourning and extreme anguish. Earlier Job tore his robe to express his grief over the loss of his sons and possessions (1:20). To place dust or earth on the head is a traditional way of marking the tragic (Josh. 7:6; I Sam. 4:12; II Sam. 13:19). There may, however, be another dimension to the actions of the friends here, for they "fling/sprinkle" (zrq) the dust above their heads "into the heavens." If the reading "into the heavens" is original (see Textual Notes), then their action recalls the symbolic or magical act of Moses throwing ashes heavenward to produce the same sort of "boils" as those which now affiictJob (Ex. 9:10; cf. Weiss, The Story ofJob's Beginning). Thus the friends perform a rite which symbolically calls forth the same sickness on themselves as an act of total empathy. They are one with the dust of death and one with Job in his diseases. [2:13] The silence of the friends need not be explained on the basis of a


Job 3

particular ancient custom. The reason given is that "they saw his anguish was very great." Their silence is a further expression of their genuine empathy. This period of silence, however, is important in the plot of the narrative, for it allows time for bitterness and rage to build up within Job before they explode in the curses of Job's next speech (ch. 3). Thus the silence sets the stage for the violent verbal outburst of Job which follows. The opening idiom "after this" (3:1) marks the end of the period of silence which, for Job, has become unbearable. Seven days symbolizes a complete period of suffering (Ezek. 3:15) and mourning (Gen. 50:10; I Sam. 31:13). Before this period of transition Job's words are blameless; during this period nothing is said. When the period ends a definite change has come over the hero. This change is similar to David's transformation (II Sam. 12:15-23). For seven days David grieves, fasts, and lies on the ground in sympathy with his sick son. When the child dies, his household expects David to plunge deeper into grief. But instead David anoints himself and eats heartily. His seven-day transition period is complete. After a similar seven-day period Job is also transformed. But how complete is the transformation? Does he sin with his lips or does he maintain his integrity? That is the question which the opening incident in the third episode of the plot provokes.


After this Job began to speak and cursed the day of his birth. Job spoke, saying:

The Curse

3 4 5

Perish the day on which I was born And the night that said, "A male has been conceived." That day! Let it be darkness! Let Eloah above not seek it! Let no light shine on it! Let darkness and death's shadow reclaim it!

Job '.S' Cries Against His Origin

6 7

8 9


Let cloud hang over it! Let demons of the day terrify it! That night! Let sinister dark take it! Let it not be counted in the days of the year! Let it not appear in any of the months! Oh, that night! Let it be barren! Let no joyful sound penetrate it! Let it be damned by those who curse day! By those ready to rouse Leviathan! Let its twilight stars remain dark! Let it hope for light that never comes! Nor see the eyelids of the dawn! Because it did not shut the womb doors And so hide misery from my eyes.

The Lament 11

12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

23 24


Why did I not die at birth, Come forth from the womb and expire? Why were there knees to welcome me, Or breasts for me to suck? For now I would be lying in repose, I would be asleep, resting in peace With kings and counselors of earth Who build ruins for themselves, Or with princes, rich in gold, Who fill their houses with silver. Or why was I not a hidden stillbirth, Like infants who never saw the light? There the wicked cease raging! There the exhausted find rest! Prisoners are quite at ease; They do not hear the taskmaster's voice. Small and great alike are there, And slaves free from their master. Why does he give light to the sufferer, Life to the bitter in spirit; To those who long for death that does not come, Who search for it more than treasure, Who rejoice with gladness, Delighted when they find the grave? Why, to a person whose way is hid, Hedged around by Eloah? For my groaning arrives like daily bread, My roaring pours forth like water, For the fear I feared has reached me


Job 3



And what I dreaded has overtaken me. I have no repose, no quiet, No peace-what comes is turmoil!


3:3b. The MT hora is retained as a qal passive. Sa. The meaning of the rootg'/ is disputed. Some (Dhorme, Horst) follow the Targum and discern a root g'l II (=g'/), "pollute" (cf. Mal. 1:7, 12). Johnson (SVT 1, 1953, 73) argues for a basic root meaning "cover" which yields both "protect" and "defile." The common meaning of "redeem" or "reclaim as one's own" makes good sense. Sa. ~a/mawet is literally "shadow of death" (LXX, AV). However, many scholars propose an abstract noun from a root ~Im, "be dark," and claim the present form derives from folk etymology (Dhorme, Driver-Gray). D. Thomas (JSS 7, 1962, 191-200) argues that ~a/mawet is the correct form, but perhaps to be read as two words, with mawet having superlative force, and that the expression is to be translated "deep darkness." The association of ~almawet with darkness in general is common (e.g., 16:16; 28:3). However, it is also connected with Sheol in Job (10:21-22; 38:17), and the connotation of darkness as death's shadow seems to be present in the context of Job's summoning the forces of darkness. Sb. kim•rire may be derived from a root kmr, "be black" (Syr.), and the idiom rendered "the blacknesses of the day." The Targum discerns a root mrr, "be bitter," which yields the translation "like the bitternesses of the day." Dhorme interprets "the blacknesses of the day" as "fogs," and Pope considers the "bitternesses of the day" a reference to an eclipse. He takes his cue from yom mar, the "bitter day," in Amos 8:10 (cf. de Wilde). According to Gordis, early Jewish commentators (Rashi, Ibn Ezra) link this verse with Deut. 32:24 (cf. Ps. 91:6) and find a reference to demonic spirits of noon. In Deut. 32:24, m•riri is parallel to resep, the Northwest Semitic god of pestilence (see on 5:7). The form m•rire yom anticipates 'or're-yom, "those who curse day/sea," in v. 8 (see note below) and suggests a verbal wordplay between 'rr, "curse," and mrr, "be bitter, hostile" (Grabbe; cf. Num. S:23, 27). The "bitter/hostile ones" of the day, therefore, would also appear to be personified forces of destruction such as demons or evil spirits. 6b. Following most commentators we read yel:zad, jussive imperfect of yl;uJ, "be reckoned, united with," rather than the MT vocalization, which derives from l;zdy, "rejoice." G. Rendsburg (CBQ 44, 1982, 48-51) argues for polysemy in this term and in yaho: which may mean either "enter" or "desire." The proposed double polysemy produces a rendering such as the following:

Job 'S Cries Against His Origin


Let it not be united with I rejoice in the days of the year; In the number of months let it not enter/desire. Blommerde, however, follows Dahood in vocalizingye~d as a niphal from l:zdy = l;zzy, "to see." 6a. Recognition that the 'ope!, "sinister darkness," is a power other than the night itself makes the deletion of hallay•/a hahu' unnecessary (see JB translation). Sa. At first reading it seems logical to emend MT yom, "day," to yam, "Sea," and make the parallelism between Yam and Leviathan explicit. Yam is parallel to Leviathan in Ugaritic mythology and in the Aramaic inscription from Nippur cited below (see under Message on vs. S-9). In Isa. 51:9-10 yam is parallel with tannin, "dragon," which in turn is parallel with Leviathan in Ps. 74:14. Yam and Leviathan can therefore be considered a standard word pair. If so, the parallelism would be inferred by the audience without being made explicit. By retaining the MT we preserve the development of the yom ("day") theme, the allusion back to m•rire yom ("the demons of the day"), the yom I yam wordplay which is evident from the implied parallelism, and the clever irony of the "day-cursers" casting their spell on the "night" of Job's conception. On literary grounds, therefore, the reading yam is superior to yam. Fishbane (VT 21, 1971, 151-167) supports this reading on the basis of the magical power in wordplays of this kind and in the dual mythic tradition which such a wordplay preserves. This parallelism, he claims, "would then be a clever paratactic device for preserving two mythologems of the Dragon," the first relating to his battle with Baal and the second to his causing eclipses. Some scholars render the verb nqb as "pierce" rather than "curse." Thus E. Ullendorf (VT 11, 1961, 350-351) renders the verse "Let light rays pierce (nqb) it [i.e., the night], apt even to rouse Leviathan." As darkness eliminates day, he argues, so light expunges night. Sb. We take 'orer as a polel of 'wr with the meaning "rouse, awaken," as in 41:2 [lOE]. Driver (SVT 3, 1960, 72) discerns an unknown Hebrew root yr related to Arabic 'ara, "revile." Gordis proposes emending 'Or're in Sa, "those who curse," to 'or're, "those who rouse," thereby making a precise parallelism between the two lines of verse. In 2:9, however, the proposed "cursing" of God is intended to provoke him to "curse" and hence kill Job. Thus the emendation is unnecessary. The sense of Gordis' emendation is probably implied, since the intention is clearly to stir Leviathan, and by inference Yam, to destructive action. 14. Many commentators consider l;z0 rabot, "ruins," problematic (see Rowley). Pope retains the original and sees an allusion to the restoration of ruined cities by ancient Near Eastern kings (cf. Isa. 5S:12; Horst). Dhorme sees an allusion to "desert places" (Isa. 5S: 12) where kings build


Job 3

pyramids. We retain the MT, assuming that the poet is using a literary device to describe the end result of royal building enterprises rather than the object of the building itself. 22a. '•le-g'il, "unto exultation/gladness," is considered spurious by some. Horst and others read gal, "stone-heap," for g£/, since stone heaps mark graves on a few occasions in the OT (II Sam. 18:17; Josh. 7:26). But gal is not normally a synonym for a grave (cf. Grabbe). Guillaume proposes Arabic fa/, "inside of a grave." The MT makes good sense, but a wordplay with gal may be intended. A poetic pattern similar to that of v. 22, with three related expressions followed by one contrasting expression, is found in v. 26.

2. DESIGN The opening line of Job 3 is more than a simple narrative transition from the prose prologue to the poetry of the book, for Job's curse is an event which is integral to the plot of the story. The consistent story line of a pious patriarch responding submissively to the affiictions of heaven is suddenly broken by an action of Job which creates a complication that is not resolved until his final words in 42:2-6. Job's curse, like his oath in 27:2-5 and his formal challenge in 31:35-37, is a catalytic action which provokes reactions from other characters in the narrative. In the design of the book of Job, therefore, ch. 3 is that action which stirs the friends to engage in a dispute with Job. For Job's words are not merely the everyday moaning and groaning of a person in pain, but include incantations to summon forces of darkness against his origin, and nasty allegations about God's modus operandi in the design of human life (v. 23). Thus, the opening prose line announces that the curses which follow are basic to the plot of the book. From the moment they are uttered, Job is under a shadow; he has called for his origins to be negated, invoked forces of darkness, and set himself against God. His wife had advised him to "curse God and die" (2:9). The listener is now left wondering whether Job's execration of his birth will mean that Job has provoked God's curse and will therefore be put out of his misery. Or will his curses lead to an audience with God in much the same way as the curses of the wise Adapa forced an audience with the sky god Anu (ANET, 101)? Or will he eventually be delivered from his obsession with primordial annihilation and the pall of his own execrations? Job's opening cry is constructed of two primary units, a curse (vs. 3-10) and a lament (vs. 11-26), the latter being about twice the length of the former. The structure of these units is reflected in the outlines below. Basic to the structure of both units is a framing device in which the opening statement announces the subject of the outcry (vs. 3, 11), and the

Job's Cries Against His Origin


reason for the outcry is established by a k'i clause at the end of the unit (vs. 10, 24-26). Freedman (Bib 49, 1968, 503-508; cf. Horst) discerns three units of approximately equal weighting in this chapter (vs. 3-10, 11-19, 20-26). He recognizes that vs. 3 and 10 provide the framework for the first unit, but ignores the parallel structure in the second, longer unit. The Curse A Subject of the Curse: Day and Night B Curses on that day six incantations summoning darkness and oblivion B 1 Curses on that night three incantations summoning darkness and oblivion three incantations summoning barrenness and chaos three incantations summoning darkness and oblivion Al Ground for the Curse: Misery ('amal) The Lament A Subject of the Lament: The WHY of Job not dying at birth B The WHY of Job being raised a child C Portrayal of the land of death as repose and rest (nua&J Bl The WHY of Job seeing the light of life Cl Portrayal of the land of death as freedom from turmoil (rogez) B2 The WHY of any sufferer seeing the light of life C2 Portrayal of sufferer's longing for death B3 The WHY of a sufferer having no direction in life Al Ground for the Lament: Turmoil (rogez)-no repose or rest (nua&J

3:3 4-5


7-8 9 10

11 12 13-15 16 17-19

20 21-22 23 24-26

Terminological and thematic links between Job 3 and Jer. 20:14-18 have long been explored. What has not been appreciated is that the tradition which both Jeremiah and Job are appropriating is employed by the poet of Job primarily for the framework of his curse in the first unit. The four basic motifs of cursing the day of birth (Jer. 20:14a), announcement of a male child (Jer. 20:15), blocking the womb (Jer. 20:17), and seeing "misery/trouble" ('amal, Jer. 20:18), which are taken from this tradition, are the substance of the inclusio formed by vs. 3 and 10. Within this frame the poet inserts sixteen lines of incantation against the day and night announced in v. 3. Unlike Jeremiah, who links his curses with historical precedents, Job operates with a cosmogonic prototype. As Fishbane points out (VT 21, 1971, 151-167), many ancient and tribal rituals, including incantations, are grounded in a cosmogonic myth (cf. M. Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane, New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967, 80ff.). The Maori cosmogony involving the supreme god Io was used in rituals for planting a child in the womb (M. Eliade, From Primitives to Zen,


Job 3

New York: Harper & Row, 1967, 86-87). The Cosmological Incantation of the Toothache grounds the cursing of the worm that causes toothache in an ancient cosmogony commencing with the creation of heaven and earth and leading to the origin of the toothache worm to be eradicated (ANET, 100-101). The cosmogonic connections between Job's incantations and the creation account of Gen. 1 are given in the following table of terminological and thematic parallels (cf. Fishbane): Genesis 1 5 The first day . . . 3 Let there be light/ 7 And the waters above the firmament ... 2 And darkness was upon the face Let darkness reclaim it . . . 4 of the deep . . . And God made a separation between the light and the darkness ... 14 Let there be lights in the That night ... firmament of heaven to divide Let it not be counted in the days between day and night and let of the year, nor appear in any of them be for signs and seasons its months and days and years 21 And God also created the great Let it be damned by those who sea monsters (tannin) curse day, by those ready to rouse Leviathan Let it hope for light that never 15 Let them be for lights in the firmament of heaven to give comes light on the earth

Job 3 4a That day, Let there be darkness/ 4b Let Eloah above not seek it Sa




As Fishbane demonstrates, the sequence of incantations generally follows the progression of events in the creation account of Gen. 1. The theme of rest, taken from the seventh day of creation, is developed at length in the self-lament which follows (vs. 11-26). This pattern of reversing the order of creation and returning the universe to primordial chaos and darkness has a prophetic counterpart in the vision of Jer. 4:23-26. In the design of Job's curse, however, it is his personal origin rather than Israel's fate which is made contemporaneous with the primordial through the ritual act of execration. The second unit in Job 3 is a self-lament (Jchk/age) which, unlike the laments of the Psalms, is not directed to God personally by employing the second person singular form of address (cf. Westermann, Structure, 31). The frame of the unit (vs. 11, 24-26) employs traditional lament elements. The opening verse (v. 11) picks up the theme given in the closing line of Jeremiah's curse (20: 18) as its point of departure, while the closing lines (vs.

Job's Cries Against His Origin


24-26) relate Job's plight to themes explored within the unit. These themes, namely turmoil and rest, are developed in vs. 12-23 by a series of exclamatory "why" statements (vs. 12, 16, 20, 23) which are interspersed with portrayals of the realm of death and those who long for death. A significant progression can be discerned in this series of "why" exclamations. The first two relate specifically to Job's condition while the second two broaden the question to the suffering of anyone whose life is bitter. The first pair focus on the negation of Job's birth and origin. "Light" serves as the transition term (v. 16) between the two sets of exclamations. "Light" here symbolizes life as a reality given by God. This symbol provokes Job to raise the issue of why anyone with a bitter life caused by suffering should be granted light. That topic, in turn, leads to the climactic question in the series: Why is the light of life given if an individual lives with an encompassing hedge constructed by God to obscure any direction or personal destiny in life (v. 23)? These poignant questions and the portrait of Sheol as an appealing realm of peace and equity recall the Egyptian text, A Dispute Over Suicide (ANET, 405-407). In the argument of the sufferer with his soul, he portrays death as an appealing land of pleasure and release from the captivity, sickness, and confinement of living: Death is in my sight today (Like) the recovery of a sick man, Like going out into the open after a confinement. Death is in my sight today Like the odor of myrrh, Like sitting under an awning on a breezy day .... Death is in my sight today Like the longing of a man to see his house (again) After he has spent many years held in captivity. (ANET, 406)

Among the poetic features which give Job's opening speech its distinguishing character and design are several which deserve comment. The device of framing unorthodox materials within traditional forms and themes has already been discussed. Repetitions (e.g., the "why" exclamations), extended descriptions (e.g., those of Sheol), and listings (e.g., the series of incantations) give a cumulative force to the poetic imagery as well as to the execration and lament formulae of the text. The dominant literary feature of the speech is the intricate pattern of reversals: from birth to prebirth death, from order to primordial chaos, from light to darkness, from gloom in life to pleasure in the underworld, from turmoil and confinement on earth to liberation and peace in Sheol. The bold language of these reversals, ranging from the cosmogonic and universal to the existential and individual, would seem to reflect an underlying intention on the part of the poet to


Job 3

shock the audience and thereby prepare it for a traditional rebuke by the friends. In painting these bold images, however, the poet does not neglect attention to detail. Wordplays, ambiguities, assonance, polysemy, and double entendre have been detected throughout the speech. The following examples taken from the first unit (3:3-10) illustrate the poet's art: ~osek


hayyom hahu' (v. 4) ga'a/ / ga'al (v. 5)

'Orer / 'orer (v. 8) befen (v. 10) yam I yam (vs. 5, 8)

'Or (vs. 9, 16) yiqq•bu (v. 8) ylµJ (v. 6) yb' (v. 6)

darkness: underworld (10:21-22) chaos (Gen. 1:2) that day: the day of Yahweh (Jer. 4:9) the day of origin (cf. Gen. 2:4) reclaim: redeem (Ex. 6:6) pollute (Mal. 1:7) curse (Num. 22:6; 24:9) arouse (Isa. 14:19) womb: of mother (Jer. 20:17) of earth (Job 1:21) day (Amos 8:10) sea (Yam; Ps. 74:13) light: light of dawn (Judg. 16:12) light of life (v. 20; 33:30) pierce (Hab. 3:14) curse (Num. 23:25) yi~d from ~dy, desire (Ex. 18:9) ye~d from y~d. be united (Isa. 14:20) yabo' from bw', enter (Josh. 6:1) yobe' from 'by, desire (Prov. 1:10)

(Cf. Fishbane, VT 21, 1971, 151-167; cf. also G. Rendsburg, CBQ 44, 1982, 48-51.) The curse and self-lament of Job are complementary. The former creates a shock interruption of the silence surrounding Job and his friends. The self-lament depicts Job's personal condition and introduces Job's central complaint against God: A life of suffering in which the purpose (derek) of his life has been obscured by God is pointless (v. 23).

3. MESSAGE IN CONTEXT 3:1-10 JOB'S CURSE [1-2] An abrupt complication interrupts the narrative plot of Job's story. A hidden side of the hero's character is exposed as he unleashes curses on his origins. This pious patriarch had castigated his wife for her counsel to "curse God and die" (2:9). Now he unloads a string of incantations that approximate her advice. He does not, however, curse God directly nor

Jobs Cries Against His Origin


provoke God to impose curses. His execration falls on the day of his birth and he himself pronounces the incantations or calls on sinister experts to assist him. Such curses were considered automatic agents; their words were efficacious formulae and the powers they summoned were released in the utterance of the formula (S. Blank, HUCA 23, 1950-51, I, 78; cf. Num. 22:6). By cursing his birth Job has therefore set in motion forces of destruction. Ironically, however, his curse falls on a past event which would appear to be irreversible. Yet that day appears annually in the calendar, and in a ritual of remembrance the day of origin could be made present. Job's curse seeks to effect the opposite. [3] Job opens with an execration which announces the two figures he wishes to annihilate: the day of his birth and the night of his conception. These personified figures (cf. Ps. 19:3-5), rather than his parents, represent his origins. Night is portrayed as a mysterious soothsayer who announces the sex of the child in advance. The day which would normally bring happy proclamations of birth (cf. Jer. 20:14-15) is to be expunged. Thus, the pivotal points at either end of his origin are negated and the reversal of his beginnings set in motion. [4-5] In a series of incantations or execration spells Job summons the forces of darkness to eradicate the day of his birth (cf. Fishbane, VT 21, 1971, 151-167). As with many ancient and tribal incantations, these curses have a cosmogonic myth as their charter. Thus the ritual of cursing may emulate and activate the forces of the primordial. The opening execration signals this characteristic. y•hi-lfasek, "Let there be darkness," reverses the word of creation, "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3). "Darkness," which God called Night, is now to characterize Job's day of origin (Gen. 1:5). God is asked to vacate the creation scene and allow the forces of darkness to have their effect. In the series of incantations which follow (vs. 5-9), God is not mentioned. Here (v. 4), however, Eloah is requested to refrain from "seeking" (drs) that fateful day of Job's creation. Fishbane maintains that drs, which may mean seeking an oracle from God (I Sam. 9:9; cf. Job 5:8), also belongs in magical contexts (he cites Judg. 6:29; II Kings 8:8). It is customary for the worshiper to "seek/consult" God for an oracle. Rebekah consults (drs) Yahweh when Jacob and Esau struggle in her womb. The result is an oracle from Yahweh pronouncing on their character and destiny (Gen. 25:22-23). A reversal of this process is here sought by Job; God is called on not to "seek" the day and, presumably, not to pronounce on its destiny. In the biblical creation account, light is called "Day." That light, once created, is separated out from the darkness (/;zosek). Inv. 5, Job invokes a reversal of that event whereby the "darkness" once more "reclaims" (g'l· see Textual Notes) Job's day with all the light that gives it existence. Who the specific powers of darkness are which Job rouses to effect this return to primordial darkness is not clear. lfasek apparently has connotations of


Job 3

primordial oblivion (Gen. 1:2). Both bosek, "darkness," and ~almawet, "death's shadow" (see Textual Notes), are, however, associated with the netherworld (10:21-22; 17:12; 38:17). Darkness may also itself be a designation for death or the underworld (Ps. 35:6; Dahood, Psalms I, 211; cf. I Sam. 2:9). Proposed connections with the heavy darkness produced by the final plague in Egypt (Ex. 10:2lff.; Horst) are more tenuous. Perhaps the "cloud" ("'nana) is a black thundercloud (cf. 37: 11). The context, however, suggests a more ominous cloud that eradicates all light (cf. Ezek. 30:3; 32:7-8; 34:12; Joel 2:2). The last evil forces in this series of incantations are the "demons of the day" (see Textual Notes), whose terrifying powers apparently transform day into night. Thus an awesome array of figures capable of destroying light are invoked to return Job's day of origin to dark oblivion. [6-7] "That night," the object of the next series of execrations, is announced in the same way as "that day" in v. 4a. The night, too, is to be cursed by the powers of darkness, or more specifically, 'ope!. That this force is more than the darkness which characterizes night as such is evident from the themes of disaster and evil associated with this term and the related "'pela (cf. Ex. 10:22; Prov. 4:19; Joel 2:2). In 30:26 'ope! is parallel with ra~ "evil." In 'ope/ Pestilence stalks to devour its prey (Ps. 91:6). Thus that night is to be eradicated by a sinister darkness greater than night itself. The consequence of this eradication is its elimination from the calendar, where it can no longer play a part in determining Job's destiny. The designation of that night as barren (galmud; cf. Isa. 49:21) resumes the motif of the night as a person who in some mysterious way determines Job's origin (cf. v. 3). It is the night, not his mother, who is cursed with barrenness and prevented from hearing joyful sounds associated with the arrival of a child. (On the probable polysemy in v. 6, see Textual Notes.) [8-9] An Aramaic inscription from Nippur (cited by Fishbane, p. 160) reads: I enchant you with the adjuration of Yam, and the spell of Leviathan the serpent.

Here, as in the Baal myth of Ugarit, Yam and Leviathan are companion deities identified with the forces of chaos. Leviathan is the violent sea monster with whom Baal does battle (cf. Isa. 27:1) and who represents the forces of chaos overcome by Yahweh in a primordial battle (Pss. 74:13-14; 89:10-11; see further under Design for chs. 40-41). The "rousing" ('wr) of Leviathan recalls the "rousing" of the shades in Sheol (Isa. 14:9). More significant, perhaps, is the "rousing" of Yahweh's arm with the style he exhibited in his primordial conquest of the chaos monsters Yam (Sea) and Tannin (Isa. 51 :9-10). In rousing Leviathan, and by implication Yam (see Textual Notes), Job is calling up the powers of chaos to destroy the created

Job's Cries Against His Origin


order and return the night of his creation to the domain of primordial absence. Later, Yahweh, a victor over Leviathan in the distant past, declares that Leviathan is ferocious when "roused" ('wr) and that no one but Yahweh can hope to confront him (see on 41:1-2 [9-lOE]). Verse 9 is a lyrical tricolon depicting a total blackout in which no signs of light are seen from twilight (nesep; cf. II Kings 7:5), through the long night hours of waiting, to the first glimmer of dawn. The eyelids of dawn (Saf:iar) may conceal a mythological allusion to Shachar (Isa. 14:12). The stars of twilight probably have their counterpart in the "stars of the morning" (38:7). The stars are the lights which give the night its character, from dusk to dawn. These execrations are intended to eliminate any celestial lights or beings who give the night its identity. [10] The grounds for Job's curses lie in the fact that the night, like some goddess of infertility, did not block the womb to prevent his conception and hence his entry into a world of misery. Closing and opening the womb are common expressions for preventing and facilitating conception respectively (I Sam. 1:5-6; Gen. 29:31-32). But whose womb is intended? His mother's? The womb of the night (Michel)? Or the womb of Mother Earth (as in 1:21)? Given the mythological overtones throughout these incantations, the word may be deliberately ambiguous since his parents are clearly excluded from the curse of his origins in the preceding verses. Jeremiah closes his execration of his birth day with the cry: Why did I come forth from the womb, To see misery ('amal) and sorrow, And spend my days in shame? (Jer. 20:18)

The sentiment expressed by Job and Jeremiah is the same. The key term Job selects to characterize his lot is 'amal, "misery/trouble." A dual aspect of agony and evil is discernible in this term. It may refer to hardships such as those of the Israelites in Egypt (Deut. 26:7) or to agonies like those of the suffering servant (Isa. 53:11). But 'amal may also be the work of evil minds (Ps. 94:20; Prov. 24:1-2) or an evil deed Yahweh cannot tolerate (Hab. 1:13; cf. Hoffman, VT 30, 1980, 116). An interplay between both meanings of the term obtains in the speeches of Job and the friends. When Job begins he rails against the "misery" of his life (3: 10); Eliphaz immediately interprets this 'amal as the evil which people reap for the sins they sow (4:8; cf. 5:6). Human beings, he continues, are destined to experience 'amal because of their nature as corrupt creatures (5:7). Zophar too sees Job's 'amal as a misery resulting from his sins, a misery which would be alleviated if he repented (11:16). Job describes his unwarranted misery (7:3) in his first response to Eliphaz (7:1-6). This misery, he laments, is like the oppressive hardship experienced by a slave. By misunderstanding his condi-


Job 3

tion, the friends have been guilty of providing additional "misery" rather than comfort for his misery (see on 16:2). The 'amal of Job's affiiction reaches such a level of intensity that Job considers it grounds for incantations calling on sinister forces to revoke his origins. 3:11-26 JOB'S LAMENT [11-12] The opening "why" of Job in this unit is typical of cries of lament in the Psalms (Pss. 10:1; 22:1; cf. Jer. 20:18; Lam. 5:20). Job's outburst, however, is not a straightforward complaint to God because of his suffering and the absence of divine deliverance from it, but an alternative way of expressing the curses of vs. 3-10. The "whys" of vs. 11-12 are a wish that his origins had never been. Even the congenial images of a child welcomed on its parent's knees or nourished at the breast are negated (cf. Gen. 30:3; 50:23). His cry is equivalent to a death wish that he would like to make retroactive. If he had died at birth, he would now enjoy the bliss of peace among the dead. [13-15] Job's portrayal of the inviting land of the dead represents a desperate reversal of traditional understandings of that unhappy domain. Sheol spelled gloom, darkness, and forgetfulness (Ps. 88:11-13). Job himself characterizes the underworld as a place of gloom ('ope!), darkness (/:tosek), and death's shadow (~a/mawet; 10:21-22). These are the very forces he summoned to curse the day of his birth (3:4-6). The world of those same forces he now paints in glowing terms as appealing and comfortable. He knew the ugly side of Sheol where one embraces the Pit as father and maggots as mother (17:12-16). Yet he prefers a home with such parents than continued existence on earth. In that gloomy but beckoning land Job expects to find kings and princes, rulers and their counselors. The tradition that kings and heroes have a continued shadowy existence in Sheol is reflected in Isa. 14:9-11, where past rulers rise from their thrones to taunt the king of Babylon when he arrives in the underworld. His meeting with the maggots of Sheol is his ultimate downfall. The grand achievements of these rulers may have been reduced to mere "ruins" (see Textual Notes), but for Job their end is preferable to their glories in life. [16-19] The "why" of Job's lament and his retroactive death wish of vs. 11-12 are resumed in v. 16. As an aborted fetus he would be happily buried and hidden forever among the dead. "There" (Sam) is a circumlocution for the underworld where the dead reside. In that world all those activities associated with evil oppression on earth disappear. All conflict is resolved and peace reigns. The wicked cease "raging" with turmoil (like thunder; cf. 37:2) and their exhausted victims find respite (cf. Gordis). The taskmaster's voice is silenced and the slaves are totally (yalJad) at ease. All are equal in

Job's Cries Against His Origin


Sheol, liberated by death itself. The term "taskmaster" (noges) is used of the Egyptian overseers who harassed the Israelites in bondage. These allusions to liberation from oppression suggest that initially Job identifies strongly with the oppressed. Life is a form of slavery and enforced labor (7:1-2); only death can free the sufferer from the injustice of existence. [20-22] After a total negation of his beginnings and a nostalgic look at the world of death, Job confronts the bitter reality of his present condition. He turns from what might have been to the cruelty of what is. If we accept God as the subject of the opening verb, then Job's complaint about the bitterness of life is directed against him, a complaint which grows in intensity and rage as Job's speeches continue. The contention that God has been unjust in his treatment of Job is not yet explicit, though Job's apparent identification with the oppressed may be implied in the preceding verses and in his use of the term 'ame/, "sufferer." The related noun 'ama/, "misery," with which Job characterizes his lot (v. 10), suggests that Job views his condition as one of hardship and oppressive agony (see comments on v. 10). Here, however, Job is no longer looking back longingly to an aborted beginning of his life, but to the eternal question of meaning in a life which has nothing but misery and affliction to recommend it. The choice of"light" ('Or) rather than an alternative word for life (v. 20) was probably dictated by the cosmogonic imagery of the opening curses and the correlative language of birth used earlier (vs. 4-5, 10, 16). "Bitterness of soul" recalls the "bitter ones (demons) of the day" (v. 5). The use of the verb IJky, "wait" (v. 21), seems to be ironic. Instead of waiting for Yahweh and his counsel (Pss. 33:20; 106:13), the afflicted person longs for death as a welcome savior. The intensity of that longing is compared to the drive of treasure hunters to locate hidden wealth. The catalog of riches given in the copper scroll from Qumran illustrates the interest of one ancient community in buried treasure. In a later poem on the quest for wisdom (ch. 28) a contrast is drawn between the extraordinary capacity and compulsion of human beings to search the depths of the earth for natural riches and their corresponding inability to discover wisdom. Those who "find" (m~ ') their grave, cries Job, are as elated as those who dig for treasure and celebrate their discovery. For each party there is hidden joy in an aperture of the earth. [23] The idiom "Why does he give life to ... ?" (v. 20) also serves as the introduction to v. 23. This final "why" makes the basis of Job's complaint explicitly existential. It is not the suffering or bitterness of life as such that consumes him, but the misery of meaninglessness. The futility of existence has two clear features: (a) the derek of life is hidden, and (b) the one who hides it is God. In wisdom literature derek, "way," is a symbol for the conduct of life, personal destiny, and the underlying principle of order (Habel, Int 26, 1972, 135ff.; Prov. 4:10-19). When the di-


Job 4-5

rection or purpose for life is hidden, life becomes aimless and futile; the "way" is lost. The problem is compounded when one believes that God himself has deliberately obscured that "way" and created chaos (cf. 12: 24). The obscuring of life's purpose is here described as a "hedge" enclosing the individual and hiding the way out. Job's accusation reverses the allegation of Satan that Job's integrity was conditioned by a hedge of blessing (1:10). With this complaint Job initiates one of his leading themes: that of God the violent adversary waging an unjust campaign against Job the innocent victim. [24-25] In these verses Job indulges his feelings of unrelenting misery. His "roaring" is like that of a lion in pain (cf. 4:10; Pss. 22:2 [lE]; 32:3). His intense physical agony is matched by a mental anguish associated with the dread involved in such an experience. Extended portraits of physical suffering follow in Job's later speeches (7:3-6; 30:17-19). The motif of debilitating fear also persists; Job knows it (13:21;-30:15; 31:23) and the friends expect it (15:21; 22:10). Job continues to live in "dread" (ygr) of his suffering because of the insidious actions of his God (9:28). [26] Job summarizes his plight. He can find none of the repose he has envisaged in the realm of the dead. Instead ·Of a threefold exultation on discovering his grave (v. 22), he endures a threefold absence of peace, rest, and quiet. One thing dominates his life-rogez, "turmoil" (cf. v. 17). His inner being is in chaos and his world in confusion.

Chapters 4-5 THE COUNSEL OF ELIPHAZ THE FRIEND Exploration of Job'..\' Situation 4:1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said: 2 If one dares a word with you, can you handle it? But withhold a message-who could? 3 Yes, you instructed the aged And supported weak hands; 4 Your message lifted the falling And you gave strength to tottering knees.

The Counsel of Eliphaz the Friend 5




9 10 11

But now it happens to you, you falter; It strikes you and you are stunned. Is not the fear of God your confidence And your hope the very integrity of your ways? Recall now! What innocent person ever perished? Or where have the upright been annihilated? As I have seen, those who plough iniquity And sow trouble-they reap it! A breath from God and they perish, A blast of his nostrils and they vanish. The lion may roar and the fierce lion growl, But the teeth of the young lion are broken. The lion perishes from lack of prey And the whelps of the lioness are scattered. A Teaching Revealed to Eliphaz

12 A word came to me in stealth; My ear caught a sound of it 13 In the traumas of night visions, In the slumber that falls heavy on humans. 14 Terror faced me and shuddering; It left all my limbs trembling with fear. 15 A wind glided over my face, A whirlwind made my flesh shiver. 16 It stood still, I did not recognize its appearance. It was but a form before my eyes. A hush! Then a voice I heard: 17 "Can mortals be righteous before God? Humans pure before their Maker? 18 If he does not trust his own servants, And ascribes no glory to his angels, 19 What then of those who dwell in clay houses, Whose foundations are in the dust, Who are crushed before a moth? 20 Between morn and eve they may be smashed And perish forever without a name. 21 Their tent cord may be ripped from them; They may die devoid of wisdom." A Teaching Verified by Eliphaz

5:1 Call now! Will anyone answer you? To which of the holy ones will you turn? 2 For passion kills the fool And anger slays the simple.



Job 4-5

3 I, I saw a fool striking root And at once I declared his dwelling would be cursed, 4 That his sons would be far from safety, Crushed in the gate without a deliverer; 5 That the Hungry One would consume his harvest His sheaves the thorns would take And after his wealth the Thirsty Ones would pant. 6 Evil also springs from the ground And trouble sprouts from the dry ground. 7 A human is born for trouble As the sons of Reshef fly upward. Eliphaz' Affirmation of Hope

8 Now if it were me, I would seek El And commit my case to God, 9 Who does great inscrutable deeds, Wonders beyond reckoning, 10 Who gives rain upon the earth And sends waters across the countryside; 11 Who exalts the lowly on high And lifts the forlorn to safety. 12 He thwarts the schemes of the crafty So their hands achieve no success. 13 He traps the wise in their cunning And the designs of the wily collapse. 14 By day they meet darkness, At noon they grope as at night. 15 He saves the simple from the sword, The needy from the mighty hand. 16 So the poor have hope And deceit shuts her mouth. Assurance of Restitution

17 Yes, blessed is the mortal whom God corrects. So do not reject the discipline of Shaddai. 18 He it is who inflicts pain and then binds. He wounds, but his hands then heal. 19 In six calamities he will deliver you; In seven no evil will befall you. 20 In famine he will redeem you from death; In war from the power of the sword. 21 From the roving tongue you will be hidden, Nor will you fear the demon when he comes. 22 At plunder and famine you will laugh;

The Counsel of Eliphaz the Friend


The beast of the earth you will not fear. 23 For you will hl!ve a pact with the stones of the field And the beast of the field will be at peace with you. 24 You will know your tent is at peace; When you visit your fold, nothing will be missing. 25 You will know your progeny is great; Your offspring will be as the grass of earth. 26 You will reach the grave full of vigor, Like a sheaf of grain in season. 27 Yes, we have searched all this! It is true! Hear it! Know it for yourself!


4:3a. Some scholars consider the root ysr, "instruct, correct, discipline," an inappropriate parallel to l;zzq, "strengthen, support." They therefore emendyissarta and propose a form derived from 'sr, "bind" (cf. Hos. 7:15; Gordis), or ysd, "found, support" (Tur-Sinai; cf. Ps. 8:3). Disciplinary instruction, however, may be a vehicle for redeeming the weak (cf. 36:10; Prov. 19:18). ysr is equivocal and allows the listener to discern whether Eliphaz is being critical or complimentary (Hoffman, VT 30, 1980, 114). 3b. In 32:9 rabbim clearly means "aged"; the parallelism of the present text supports the same rendering here, though the evidence is not unequivocal. rabbim as "aged" has its equivalent in the later Qumran expression rbym, "senior body of men," and the Ugaritic rb, "great in years" (UHP, 71). 6b. The waw of w•tom (Blommerde, 29, 40) is emphatic; hence the rendering "very." lOb. nitta 'u is usually taken as an Aramaism for nitta~u from nt~. "break down" (cf. Ps. 58:7); see Gordis, ad loc. 13. The proposal of D. Clines (ZA W 92, 1980, 289-290) that tardema refers to the ordinary sleep of mortals (as in Jonah 1:5) and not to a supernatural state of consciousness is plausible. However, the parallel experience of Abraham, who experiences a terror and a message from God during· a tardema, suggests that the poet is using a patriarchal prototype. 14a. The root qr' is here equivalent to qry, "meet, confront," as testified by the versions (cf. Num. 23:3). 15b. The parallelism of the text favors reading sa "'rat as "storm, whirlwind," rather than as the singular "hair." The form is an archaic feminine absolute. The orthographic interchange of the letters sin and samek is evident from the manuscript traditions of9:17 (cf. 38:1; Ex. 19:16; Dahood, Bib 48, 1967, 544-545; J. Lust, Bijdragen 36, 1975, 308-311).


Job 4-5

16a. The LXX reads "I stood still," perhaps to avoid the implication of a visible manifestation of God being seen by Eliphaz (cf. I Sam. 28:13). 17a. The KJV rendering "more just than God" reflects the normal comparative sense of min in similar contexts (32:2). Yet this meaning is inappropriate to Eliphaz' argument at this stage. It is preferable to render min as "before" (cf. Num. 32:22; Jer. 51:5) or "from, by" (cf. 9:2; 25:4; Tur-Sinai and GGS translation). 18b. The problematic term toh 0 la is emended by some scholars to tip/a, "folly" (cf. 1:22), and by others to hattala, from the root tll, "mock, deceive," a sense consistent with the context. Dhorme proposes a noun derived from hll, "be mad." For hole/a, "madness," see Eccl. 1:17; 2:12. The significance of mad angels in this context, however, remains obscure. More plausible is the suggestion of Blommerde (p. 42) that the negative in the first line may also serve the second. If so, the vocalization t"hilla, "praise, glory," offers a serious option that avoids emendation of the consonantal text. For a similar association of t"hilla, "praise," and the root 'mn, "trust," see Ps. 106: 12. 19b. 'as, "moth," is rendered "bird's nest" in several translations (e.g., NEB) on the basis of an Arabic cognate and the Assyrian asasu, "nest of reeds" (Gordis). Blommerde follows N. Herz in reading 'osam, "their Maker," which makes eminent sense. However, the image of the moth brushing humans aside as dust bears the marks of rich ironic style and need not be erased. 19b-20. J. Rimbach (JBL 100, 1981, 244-246) reads 'osam with Blommerde, follows the emendation "without a name" (v. 20b), and rearranges the text to yield: They are crushed before their Maker, they are without name; In the space of one day they are cut off, they perish forever.

While the emendations are reasonable, the restructuring is based on the spurious assumption that a symmetrical rather than an asymmetrical poetic pattern is likely to be more original in Job. 20-21. On the modal rendering of the verbs in vs. 20-21, see Clines, VT 30, 1980, 354-357. 20b. Gordis reads mesim as an ellipsis for mesim leb, "pay attention" (as in 23:6), and renders the idiom mibb•fl mesim as "they pay no heed." Dahood proposes the vocalization mibb•fi-m sem, "without a name," assuming an enclitic mem (NWSPJ, 55). Either rendering fits the context, but the latter option requires less modification of the text. 21a. yeter refers to "tent cord" (30: 11; Ps. 11 :2) rather than "excellence" as in Targum and Vulgate. bam, literally, "in them," is probably to be read

The Counsel of Eliphaz the Friend


"from them." For this use of the preposition b•, see Sama, JBL 78, 1959, 310-316. 5:3b. wa'eqqob as a qal of the root qbb, would normally mean "I curse," as in RSV. That Eliphaz would testify to having actually cursed the abode of a fool seems implausible in this context. The LXX suggests a passive form wayyukab, "was cursed." However, since the verse focuses on Eliphaz' own experience, it seems preferable to retain the MT as declarative (as Gordis) or delocutive (in Hillers' terms; see JBL 86, 1967, 320-324), and to read "I declared accursed." 5a. Lines b and c are difficult to translate and the emendations are numerous. One of the most plausible renderings is that of Tur-Sinai, who revocalizes the MT w•'el-mi~#nn'im (literally, "and to from thorns") to read w•'ullam ~an'im, with 'ul referring to "strength" (Ps. 73:4) or "possessions," and ~an'im being a substantive of ~nm, "be shriveled." Thus he renders the line "and dearth takes their possessions." If, however, ra 'eb is taken as "the Hungry One," referring to Death or one of his powers, rather than as a generic reference to the hungry as a social group, then the thorns (#nn'im) of the MT may be retained as associated symbols of destruction, and the consonants 'Im, "bind," may be read as a substantive meaning "shear' (cf. Gen. 37:7; Michel). 5b. ~amm'im may be revocalized ~·me"im, "the thirsty ones," in line with the Vulgate and other versions, a meaning consistent with the rendering of ra'eb as "the Hungry One." 6. Consistent with the sense of the passage, the particle /' is vocalized Ju: "surely," rather than Jo: "not" (cf. Pope). 1 la. The opening infinitive absolute lasum is interpreted as having the same function as the participle hassam, "he who exalts" (GK, §113yz), in the sequence of participles in vs. 9-13. 15. Scholars generally emend the opening line which literally means, "He saves from the sword, from the mouth." Gordis believes the expression "from the sword, from the mouth" is a hendiadys for "from the sharp tongue." More plausible, however, is a term parallel to 'ebyon, "poor," in the second line. Pope therefore proposes p•tay'im, "simple ones," for mipp'ihem, "their mouth." 17a. hinne is an emphatic particle which serves to introduce a new idea and is not to be deleted (LXX) as overloading the meter (cf. v. 27). 2la. sot may be taken as the noun "scourge" (Dhorme), as in Sirach 51:2, ,but the probable allusion to the demon in 2lb suggests the infinitive of sw{. "rove," as in 1:7; 2:2. 2lb. The MT sod, "devastation," is probably to be read sed, "demon" (as in Dent. 32:17), a term consistent with the roving tongue of 21a (cf. Pope). 26a. kelal;t here and in 30:2 apparently means "ripe old age," though no


Job 4-5

clear cognate has been adduced. Any connection between this term and leaf:z (Deut. 34:7) remains dubious (see Pope). 27a. The balancing of hinne with ken, "true," suggests a meaning for hinne other than "behold," as it is usually rendered. As Guillaume (p. 77) points out, the rendering "behold" is misleading since there is nothing to look at. The purpose of the particle is apparently to declare that what follows is true, valid, or well known. Perhaps the English "of course," "yes," or "in fact" come close to the original intent.

2. DESIGN Eliphaz' speech in Job 4-5 offers a paradigm for sapiential counseling. The rhetoric of Eliphaz reflects the role of a friend offering wise counsel to Job, the sufferer. Eliphaz' intention is to convince Job that restoration is possible if he accepts Eliphaz' considered advice, grounded as it is in traditional teaching and personal experience. To appreciate the features of this ancient paradigm, it is necessary to analyze (a) the literary technique of framing traditional materials, (b) the contextual modification of these traditions, and (c) the poet's perspective on Eliphaz' role. a. The discourse falls quite naturally into five major sections or units: 4:2-11, 12-21; 5:1-7, 8-16, 17-27. The traditional sayings, proverbs, teachings, and doxologies incorporated in these sections are framed by intermittent comments which betray a particular technique of sapiential counseling and a corresponding pastoral mood. The major framing verses which deserve attention are 4:2, 3, 7; 5:1, 8, 17, 27. In four instances a direct imperative is employed to offer immediate counsel to Job: "Recall now" (4:7); "Call now" (5:1); "Do not reject/despise" (5:17); and "Hear it and know" (5:27). In the progression of these verbs the sufferer being counseled is moved from a past knowledge of reality to a new knowledge that may be experienced by heeding the wisdom extended. There is no justification for considering these imperatives belligerent or paternalistic. They reflect the sapiential language of direct counsel employed in wisdom literature such as Prov. 3:1-4:1: "Do not forget" (3:1); "Trust" (3:5); "Do not despise" (3:11); and "Hear" (4:1). At two points where similar imperatives might have been expected, a variant is employed which suggests a heightened sensitivity in the technique of Eliphaz. In 4:2, instead of a direct appeal to heed wisdom (as, for example, in Prov. 5: 1), Eliphaz speaks in the indirect third-person singular: "If one dares a word with you ... " This deferential approach also needs to be seen in the light of Eliphaz' readiness elsewhere to speak forthrightly in the first person and testify to his own experience (4:8; 5:3). In 5:8 an

The Counsel of Eliphaz the Friend


imperative such as "Trust in God" (as Prov. 3:5) might be anticipated. Eliphaz, however, offers an empathetic appeal: "Ifit were me, I would seek El." His persq, "decree, rule, law." A "way" is a law or principle of God's cosmic design


Job 25:1-6; 26:5-14

(cf. 38:33). In Prov. 8:22 Wisdom speaks of herself as his "way" preceding his works, that is, the principle or law which governs his creative works (cf. Habel, Int 26, 1972, 154--155). Accordingly, we follow the Kethib and read darko, "his way," singular, rather than the Qere, which has the plural.

2. DESIGN Most scholars are agreed that the third cycle of speeches has suffered considerable disruption (see Introduction). Clearly Bildad's speech is too short (25:2-6), if the pattern of the previous speeches provides any guide, whereas the final speech of Job (chs. 26-31) is much longer than any of the preceding discourses. We suggested above that ch. 24 may be a speech belonging to Zophar. Later we will argue that ch. 28 is an independent poem providing a closure for the three speech cycles. Our immediate concern here is an inconsistency between 26:5-14 and Job's earlier speeches. The mood and perspective of 26:5-14 seem to be at odds with Job's previous use of hymnic materials relating to God's creative power and governance. In 9:5-13 Job cited God's cosmic power in order to highlight his violent and fickle character as an adversary at law. In 10:8-13 Job alleged that God's creative and providential deeds were but a facade which veiled his devious plan to catch Job in sin. Further, 12:13-25 is a satirical doxology hailing God's use of his wisdom and might for creating chaos rather than order in nature and society. Job uses these hymnic materials to expose God's insidious destructive mode of governing. In 26:5-14, however, the tone is positive and the hymnic materials are employed to emphasize the transcendent mystery and orderly design of the cosmos. It seems reasonable, therefore, to assign this hymnic section to one of the friends, presumably Bildad, whose brief speech preceded (cf. Pope and Gordis). When the two pieces (25:1-6 and 26:5-14) are brought together, a basic coherence of structure and theme is evident. It is noteworthy that 25:2a is a hymnic opening formula (cf. 12:13) which is appropriate as an introduction to both pieces, but especially 26:5-14. The design ofBildad's total speech can be seen from the structural outline shown below. In the design of this speech as reconstructed above, the hymnic acclamation of God's "awe" and "dominion" (25:2a) announced in the opening formula is elaborated in the vivid poetry of 26:5-13. This hymnic piece is composed of two major sections (vs. 5-8 and 10-13) which balance each other. Each of these sectfons is composed of two four-line units; each unit deals with a discrete theme. At the pivot point between these balanced sections is the declaration that God hides his celestial throne behind his cloud (26:9). Thus somewhere beyond the awesome mysteries of the cosmos

[Bi/dad] on God's Cosmic Design


God dwells in hidden transcendence, inaccessible and invisible behind the cloud which masks his face. A

Opening Hymnic Formula i With him are "awe" and "dominion" B Axiom Contrasting the Relative Guilt of Mortals and Celestial Powers Rhetorical Questions on divine control and human guilt ii Axiom: If celestial powers are impure, mortals are more so C Hymnic Portrayal of God's Awe and Mystery The underworld is exposed and fearful in his presence ii The mystery of his suspended world and heavy clouds D Portrayal of God's Transcendence i God's own cloud hides his celestial throne Cl Hymnic Portrayal of God's Dominion and Power Establishment of structures for the heavens and the waters ii Establishment of control over the chaos waters A 1 Interpretive Summation i The mystery of God's "way" is beyond human comprehension


3-4 5-6

26:5-6 7-8

9 10-11 12-13 14

The major opening segment of the speech (25:3-6) incorporates an earlier tradition about the inevitable guilt of mortals before God (4:17-19; 15: 14-16). That tradition is here set in the context of God's control over the cosmos by his celestial troops and all-pervading light (25:3), and a cosmic structure which contrasts celestial and earthly domains. Not only is God completely inaccessible (26:9), he is absolutely pure and holy; even the moon and stars fade before him (25:5). The speech closes with an interpretive summation similar to those of other speeches (cf. 5:27; 8:19; 18:21; 20:29; 27:13). This summation draws together the themes of the total speech. The extremities of God's cosmic "way," whether they be in the heights of heaven (25:2) or the depths of the underworld (26:5-6), the celestial north where God dwells (26:7) or the horizon where light and darkness meet (26: 10), are but a whisper of God's total world and his hidden design in that world. If mortals can barely "discern" the outlines of God's "way," how can they possibly discern his person (26:9) or come before him · guiltless (25:4)? A major argument in support of the coherence of this speech is the way in which it responds to specific elements of Job's previous speech (ch. 23). A number of key thematic and terminological links illustrate the nature of


Job 25:1-6; 26:5-14

this response. In his longing to bring his case before God's presence Job stood in "dread" of his face (panim) and in "awe" (pl;td) of his person (23:15). Bildad responds with an opening formula which announces that "awe" (pa'f:zad) is essential to God's being and rule (25:2a). There is no way Job can escape God's terrifying presence; even the shades of the underworld writhe before him (26:5). Job's central concern was to find God's dwelling place (23:3); his dilemma was that he could not locate God or "discern" (byn) his presence at any of the extremities of the compass (23:8-9). Bildad responds by proposing a modified cosmology according to which the cosmic north where God dwells is stretched out and suspended like a canopy high above a void. God's abode is therefore totally inaccessible to humans like Job (26:7). In addition God's throne, and hence his face, are covered by God's own celestial cloud (26:9). Job complained about the "limit" ('f:zoq) God had decreed for his life (23:14); Bildad responds by asserting that "limits" ('/:zOq), like the boundary for the sea, are essential to the structure of the cosmos (26: 10). Job insisted that God knows Job's "way" (derek, 23:10) and that he has kept God's "way" (23:11); Bildad, playing on the various meanings of the word "way," closes his speech by asserting that mortals like Job can barely discern (byn) the outlines of his cosmic "way" (26:14). Thus the speech ofBildad taken as a whole emphasizes the holiness, transcendence, mystery, and awesome power of God in a way which counters the desire of Job (in ch. 23) to circumvent the laws of the cosmos, enter God's presence, and plead his innocence.

3. MESSAGE IN CONTEXT 25:2-6 MORTALS AND MOON BEFORE EL [25:2] Bildad's exordium addressed to Job may have been lost (see on 8:2). The speech commences with a hymnic formula (cf. 12:13, 16) acclaiming El's awesome presence and power. This formula is especially appropriate to introduce the hymnic materials of26:5-14, where the fear and power of God are extolled in his creation and control of the world. The "awe" (pa'f:zad) or fear that God generates in human beings because of his holiness and might was emphasized by Job in his previous speech (see on 23:15-16; cf. 13:11, 21). God's fearsome dominion is not confined to the earthly domain but is also operational in the heavens, where he has established "peace" (salom) and order. This "peace" may refer to the quelling of conflicts between heavenly powers which rebelled against God (cf. Ps. 82:1; Isa. 14:12-14; 24:21-22), though it probably refers more generally to the celestial order established in heaven (cf. 38:33). The realms above have stability and peace even if the earth below is not yet so fortunate. In later

[Bi/dad] on God's Cosmic Design


apocalyptic thought the belief developed that earthly conflicts had corresponding celestial protagonists (Dan. 10:13, 20-21). Since God is in control of the heavens he has absolute dominion. [25:3] El's celestial squadrons (v. 3a) and his penetrating light (v. 3a) are vehicles for maintaining his control over all powers, above or below. In Yahweh's speech from the whirlwind he announces the light of the dawn as his means of exposing and constraining the forces of wickedness associated with the darkness (38:12-15). The "light" of God's presence is a partial disclosure of his presence when he appears in theophanic glory with his celestial forces (Ps. 104:1-4). Before his brightness the underworld is exposed (26:6; cf. Ps. 18:8-16 [7-15E]). The reference to God's heavenly squadrons (gedudim) recalls the ancient tradition of Yahweh as the warrior God oflsrael (Ex. 15:3; Judg. 5:20; Joel 2:11; Zech. 14:3-5). Earlier Job had accused his God of being El Gibbor, "El the Mighty Warrior," hunting Job as his enemy (16:9-14; see especially v. 14). Here, however, the poet probably intends an ironic allusion to the claim of Job that these "troops, squadrons" (gedudim) attacked him personally when God laid siege to him without cause (see on 19:12). According to Eliphaz even these celestial messengers are not trustworthy (4:18; 15:15); God alone is absolutely guiltless. [25:4-6] The point of this argument is clear: if even the celestial realms are not free from guilt, how can a mortal be found innocent before God? The verbs ~dq and zkk I zky, when used by Eliphaz (4:17; 15:14-15), emphasized the moral dimension of being "righteous" and "pure" respectively. But these verbs assumed a forensic sense in contexts where Job sought to vindicate his innocence before a public court (see on 9:2 and 16: 17 respectively). Bildad, it seems, in repeating this tradition again (see on 4:17-19; 15:14-16), takes into account Job's demand for legal acquittal. No mortal can be naturally pure or be found legally without guilt before God. Even in God's heavenly court God's holy ones are found guilty (Ps. 82:1). Bildad, however, makes a subtle shift from the versions of this tradition found in Eliphaz' earlier speeches. Instead of heavenly beings as such being impure or untrustworthy, Bildad refers to the concrete realities of the moon and stars, though these are sometimes identified with celestial beings (38:7). The brightness of the moon is seen as a poetic image of its ethical purity; it does not match God in splendor and holiness (v. 5a). If the purity of the moon pales before God, how much more the supposed innocence of mortals. In his first speech Eliphaz stressed the creatureliness of mortals; they are clay, one with the ground from which they came (4:19) and vulnerable to chthonic forces (5:6-7). In his second speech Eliphaz stressed the nature of human beings as "born of woman," rather than heaven-born (15: 14), and therefore subject to the corruption linked with human birth processes (see also on 14:1). Mortals, moreover, have an innate

Job 25:1-6; 26:5-14


propensity to do evil (1S:l6). Bildad here emphasizes that mortals are not only "born of woman" and hence subject to corruption, but are one with symbols of corruption. They are "worms" and "maggots." The "worm" (rimma) is a symbol of death, decay, and the underworld in the book of Job (7:5; 17:14; 21:26; 24:20). Mortals are not merely weak, sinful creatures, they are at the bottom of the order of creation. They belong to Sheol, not heaven. They are not a little less than the angels or God (Ps. 8:6 [SE]), but little more than maggots. The possibility of mortals like Job standing before God and being declared guiltless is preposterous (see further Habel, in Die Botschaft, 377-380). 26:S-9


[26:5-6] Just as the heavens are controlled by God and his order imposed on the domains above (2S:2b-3; cf. 38:33), so too the underworld is overwhelmed by his awesome presence. Sheol is here identified as the realm of the "shades" (repa'im, v. Sa). In some passages this word is rendered Rephaim and identified as an ethnic group (Deut. 2:10-11) associated with aboriginal giants of the Transjordan area (Deut. 3:11; I Chron. 20:4). The LXX renders the term "giants" in this passage of Job. Elsewhere repa 'im refers to inhabitants of the underworld, some of whom may have been ordinary mortals on earth (Ps. 88:11 [IOE]), while others were obviously great leaders (Isa. 14:9; 26:14). To live among the shades was viewed as an undesirable existence (Prov. 2:18; 9:18). Two major views have developed about the identity of the Rephaim (rpum) in the Ugaritic texts which may have relevance for interpreting biblical references. The first holds that the Rephaim are dead who have been deified and now possess healing or quickening powers. The second maintains they are a mythological and social group headed by the god Rapi, the patron of an aristocratic warrior guild (see IDB Supp, 739-740, for recent bibliography). These shades, however great they may have been on earth or in Sheol, writhe in fear before the advent of God in his terrible holiness. The pit of the underworld was located deep in the watery abyss (II Sam. 22:S; Ps. 88:7-8 [6-7E]). When Jonah calls out from the belly of"Sheol" he is located at the roots of the mountains in the watery deep (rhom) where the bars of the "pit" close forever on mortals who descend to the underworld (Jonah 2:2-6). The denizens of the watery deep (v. Sb), therefore, are not fish or sea creatures, but the inhabitants of Sheol, the realm of death. The "writhing" and "uncovering" of Sheol and its inhabitants are apparently caused by El's theophanic appearance (as in Ps. 18:14-16 [13-15E]; cf. Ps. 104:7; Prov. 15:11). The light of God's presence penetrates to the deepest recesses of earth (cf. on 2S:3b, above). Sheol represents the extremity of the lower regions of the cosmos (cf. 11 :8) while Abaddon is associated

[Bi/dad] on God's Cosmic Design


with the deep mysterious world of death and decay (see on 28:22; cf. Ps. 88:12 [llE]; Gordis). Thus the most formidable powers and realms at the depths of the cosmos are exposed for what they are when the light of El's presence shines on them. There is no escape from God's presence (Ps. 139:7-8) at the deepest extremities of the universe where Job first hoped to hide from God (14: 13) and later sought to find him in order to pursue litigation (23:3, 8-9). [26:7-8] The "north" (~apon) is a common designation for the abode of the gods in northwest Semitic (see on 23:9) and is usually associated with the cosmic mountain where the gods assemble (Isa. 14:13). Here, however, the north is not identified as the mountain which God founds in the deep, but as a domain which God "stretches out" (n{Y) above the void. This verb is used in a traditional formula referring to God "stretching out the heavens" like a tent (cf. Habel, CBQ 34, 1972, 417-430). "Stretching out the heavens" may refer to pitching the heavens as a vast celestial tent for Yahweh's theophanic appearances (Pss. 18:10-12 [9-1 lE]; 104:1-4) or to his primordial work of spreading the heavens as a canopy above the earth (Isa. 42:5; 45:11-12; 51:13, 16). "Stretching out the north" like a tent, therefore, suggests a similar action. The north, it seems, is here portrayed as a celestial canopy, perhaps the sky itself (NEB; cf. Ps. 11:4), where God himself resides (v. 7a) and where his throne is hidden (v. 9a). The choice of the term "north" rather than some other designation for God's abode was probably dictated by Job's frustrated quest to find God "northward" (23:9), a quest upon which Bildad may be making an ironic comment. The suspension of earth over "emptiness" and the stretching of the north over the "void" indicates that the poet was operating with a poetic cosmology which deviated from the major Israelite tradition. According to that tradition the earth (see on 9:6) was believed to rest on pillars fixed in the watery deep (see on 9:6; cf. 38:4, 6; I Sam. 2:8) while the heaven was supported by pillars which are probably to be identified with distant mountains (see on v. 11). Here, however, the earth "hangs" over b•ti-ma, a word which clearly means "emptiness" or "nothing." The parallel term tohu, therefore, does not refer to the chaos waters (as in Gen. 1:2) but to the "void" or "nothing" over which the canopy of the north is pitched. This is clearly the sense in several passages in Deutero-Isaiah where tohu is parallel to 'ayin, "nothing,' nought and similar terms (Isa. 40: 17, 23; cf. 41:29; 44:9; 49:4)'. The north above where God dwells and the earth below where humans reside are suspended mysteriously above empty space. Whether the poet is employing ideas from Greek thought (e.g., Pythagoras; see Buttenwieser) or speculating as a poet within his own cosmological framework is probably secondary. Clearly he has Bildad emphasizing that the domain of God above or the deep below the earth are totally inaccessible 1 ,"


Job 25:1-6; 26:5-14

to mortals. For Job to find God in either place is a futile dream (cf. 23:3, 8-9). Just as mysterious is the marvelous way in which the celestial waters, whose volume can produce a flood (cf. Gen. 1:7), are enveloped by the clouds (v. 8). They too hang suspended in the sky but do not burst under the weight of the waters they hold (cf. 37:11; 38:37b; Ps. 104:3). Clouds are a favorite subject of the poet in Job and operate as major symbols of the mysterious and marvelous in the celestial domain (36:29; 37:15-16; 38:37). For the special function of clouds as the veil over God's throne, see comments on v. 9; though clouds hide God's mysterious presence, they do not prevent him from seeing the actions of humans on earth (22:13-14). [26:9] Clouds have various functions in the design of the cosmos. They may serve as God's celestial chariots in his movements across the heavens (Ps. 104:3). Yahweh even usurped the title "Rider of the Clouds," a title once proudly borne by the Canaanite storm god Baal (Ps. 68:5, 34 [4, 33E]). Clouds, however, not only signaled God's operations but they also veiled his presence at Sinai (Ex. 19: 16; 24: 15-16), in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34-38), and in the Solomonic temple (I Kings 8:10-ll). The cloud functioned as the "mask of God" both identifying his manifest operations and veiling his essential being, that is, his glory orface (cf. Ex. 33:17-23; G. Mendenhall, The Tenth Generation, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973, 56ff.). Thus the traditional motif of the cloud ('anan) covering the ark, where Yahweh is enthroned above the cherubim (I Sam. 4:4), to hide God's glory or face is here associated with the realm of God's celestial abode. The "face of his throne" is covered quite explicitly by "his cloud" ("'nano, v. 9b), that is, by God's own cloud, not clouds in general. The association of "face" with throne may also have hidden allusions to the presence of God. The relevance of this pivotal verse in relation to Job's earlier speeches is immediately evident when we recall Job's desire to find God's dwelling place (23:3) in the north (23:9) and his obsession with presenting his suit before God's "face" (panim, 23:4; cf. 13:15, 24), even though that "face" terrified him (23:15; cf. 13:20-21). Not only is God's abode suspended far above the void, his face is veiled by an awesome "cloud" which functions as his mask and agent. Perhaps there is even a wordplay between Job's cry after searching in the north, "I cannot behold him" (lo'-'a!µiz, 23:9a), and God's act of"spreading" (m•'al;zez, 26:9a) his cloud across his throne in the celestial north. Job sought to behold God's "face," but God hides even the "face" of his throne. 26:10-14 THE ESTABLISHMENT OF COSMIC ORDER [26:10-11] In the construction of the cosmos, God decreed a "limit" (l;zjjq) to contain the primordial chaos waters (38:10). That "limit," which

[Bi/dad] on God's Cosmic Design


is here depicted as a circle at the extremity of the sea (v. lOa), is fundamental to the structure of God's cosmic design. The "boundary" or extremity (taklit; cf. 11:7) of that circle is presumably the horizon (cf. NEB), the point where light and darkness meet (v. lOb). The horizon represents the extremity of the known cosmos in all directions beyond which mortals cannot travel to find God, though Job may have been foolish enough to consider trying (23:8-9). The "pillars of heaven" are also foundational structures designed to sustain the cosmic order by supporting the vault of heaven. "The pillars of heaven" in II Sam. 22:8 are designated "the pillars of the mountains" in the parallel version of this psalm (Ps. 18:8 [7E]), suggesting thereby that the pillars of heaven are identical with the mountains on the distant horizon. The common imagery reflected in Ps. 104:6-9 and these verses of Job (vs. 10--11) makes it apparent that the shuddering mountains are those which emerged from the primordial waters at God's thunderous "rebuke"