GOD, SAY WHAT?

Looking at Job Chapter Seven

 

saywhatJob begins chapter 7 continuing his discourse; yet the recipient will seem to change. While chapter 6 had Job responding somewhat to Eliphaz, chapter 7  Job’s peroration will become aimed at God. While verse 2:22 asserts, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong,” the reader now has to determine if the same can be true after reading chapter seven.

            The first pericope of chapter 7 (vv.1-6) begin with the parallelism that is common to Hebrew poetry and has been a feature of the book of Job. Verses 1 and 2 form individual parallel lines while verse 5 and 6 perform the same. Yet, tuck neatly in the middle of all the parallelism are verse 3 and 4. They are written in another vice of Hebrew poetry: chiasm. And, their place in the middle points to Job’s emotional state—because of the misfortunes mentioned in the surrounding verses [this is brought out by the use of conjunction ‘so’ beginning verse 3] (1-2;5-6).

Verses 3 and 4 and their chiastic structure:

             A1                                 B1

V3. so I am allotted         months of emptiness

              B2                                                  A2

      And nights of misery      are appointed me.

 

The center of the chiasm points to emptiness and misery as the emotional components of Job’s current life. Job interestingly forms the next pericope of 7 (7-10) into 2 chiasms—7-8 form the first while 9-10 form the later.

 

 

Verses 7-8:

              A1                                                                              B1

7 Remember that my life is but a breath   my eye will never again see good.

                B2                                                                           A2

8 The eye of him who sees me            will behold me no more.

 

For Job, a man whose life is emptiness and misery, his eyes will never see good again, nor will the eyes of him who sees him—while many attribute the ‘eyes of him who sees me’ as being God, it almost seems a better interpretation to see the ‘eyes …’ as anyone who now sees job including his friends who are taking part in the discussion. If we believe to be able to see all then we would have to concede that God would be able to see Job in sheol—see him anymore, his life is but a breath and will be no more. While it is tempting to want to make an appeal to James 4:14 when interpreting  ‘life is but a breath,’ we should refrain from using the New Testament in interpreting Job—a case could be made however when handling James 4:14 to make an appeal to Job 7:7.

Verse 9-10’

             A1                                                                                  B1

  1. As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to sheol does not come up,

             B2                                                                                  A2

  1. He returns to no more to his house, nor does his place know him anymore.

 

 

We now have a man whose life is misery and emptiness, whose eye will never see good any longer, nor will anyone see him any longer because when one goes to sheol—this is not hell but simply the place of the dead—he does not anymore return [This predates resurrection theologies]. Because of this Job feels unrestrained in addressing God at t he beginning of the final pericope of verse 7: “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth.”

            For Job, all of his problems are coming from God, and God does not—in Job’s eyes—want to let up. Job makes this clear in the last pericope of chapter 7.  Job, for all of his problems simply needs a break. He can’t sleep because—in his opinion—God sends bad dreams (v.14). Job just wants God to back off for long enough for him (Job) to swallow his spit (v.19).

            But, what is very interesting in this final passage is this man Job, who is upright and blameless, who is so upright that he makes sacrifices on behalf of his children in case they might have sinned, has now to come to the conclusion that he has sinned and that is the reason for his problems. He seems to have taken Eliphaz’s cause and effect theory to heart: Verse 20- Why do you not pardon my transgressions and take away my iniquity?

            Job has come from being upright to believe he has sinned so bad that God now is tormenting him. And for Job this torment will go on until death—For now I shall lie in the earth, you will seek me, but I shall not be (v.21).

            While we always speak of the “patience of Job,” as we read more into Job that patience seems to have been replaced with bitterness. Job sees himself as man tormented by God. As a result, he lives a life of emptiness and misery—remember this is a man who sum five chapters earlier had it all and was upright before God—he will go to the grave in this condition and all he wants is just a break for the amount of time it would take to swallow his spit.

            We have all been in that situation where it seemed that the ‘bad’ would not let up. It is at that time that cheerful hymns just do not seem to comfort. And, like Job, we seem to feel like the good and gracious God has it out for us. As well, we have all probably been angry at God. And Job is not the only person in the Bible who has felt betrayed by the almighty. Jerimiah said:

 

 

            O Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived;

                You over powered me and prevailed.

            I am ridiculed all day long;

              Everyone mocks me (Jeremiah 20:7).

 

Bad things happen in a good world and to good people. There are not always, though they definitely can be, the result of cause and effect. And, we will at times get mad at God. As I have been meditating on this chapter, over in England baby Charlie Gard is dying—as a result of a genetic condition [there have been many court cases about him receiving help that would not help him], and it would be safe to assume that his parents, if they are Christians, might have a bit of anger directed towards God. Why would you God not step in and heal this genetic problem; why would you God not allow him to cross the big pond for treatment in the USA; Why would you not step in and let him come home and be well; why would you not step in and let him come home to die? The questions could go on and on, but the point is we all can get angry at God. Some people might not express it as forcefully as Job, while others might express it stronger. But, not matter how it is expressed, we have to see God as sovereign over all creation. We have to remember the word’s that Job has seemed to have forgotten, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil [at this point he has not attributed the evil to God] (v. 2:10)? The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord (1:21).

We serve a good God in an evil world. We, like Job, will receive good. But, like Job, we also will receive bad. While we love God, just like the family member we love, we will at times feel angry his way. But in all things we should remember, blessed be the name of the Lord.

 

Collect for today:

O God, you make us glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord: Give us this day such blessing through our worship of you, that the week to come may be spent in your favor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Until next time, may the good Lord bless and keep you!

sign

 

 

Advertisements

BEGIN THE BEGUINE:

 

The Cycles begin and Job dances with the theodicies of his friends.

 

job picChapter 4 begins cycle 1—many commentators will argue that the 1st cycle begins with Job’s speech in chapter 3, but that doesn’t fit the pattern of the rest of the cycles. Beginning with chapter 4 balances the cycles— and the meat of the book of Job. Job’s friends entered the story in chapter two, yet up to this point none have spoken; they sat and mourned with Job at their entrance.[1] Job’s speech of chapter 4 then sets the stage for the first cycle to begin.

The first person to address Job and offer reasons as t why all this trouble had come upon Job is Eliphaz. Not much is known about Eliphaz, but we do know he is a Temanite. This most likely means he was an Edomite. And, Eliphaz is most likely the oldest of Job’s friends that are gathered at the beginning of the cycles. The custom would have been for the oldest to speak first and then follow the same pattern through the rest of the speakers.

It should also be noted that the poetry of Eliphaz’s speech is true to the form of Hebrew poetry. Where we may look for rhyming words—Roses are red, violets are BLUE, sugar is sweet and so are YOU—the Hebrew poetry has rhyming thought patterns:

Your words have upheld him who was

stumbling,

and you have made firm the feeble knees.

Job’s speech is replete with this type of rhyming.

After asking permission to speak, Eliphaz uses what we pastoral counselors, and people in conflict management,  would call  the sandwich method to address Job. As Bullock asserts, “He commenced courteously and ended gently.”[2] Eliphaz begins with words of encouragement and praise for Job 4:3-4. And, as well, He ends as well on a peaceful note, Job 5:24-27.  Yet, it is the middle ground where Eliphaz gives his thoughts on Job’s problems.

In verses 5-11, Eliphaz puts forth the theory of cause and effect. This comes out well in verse 8: As I have seen those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. While this is a plausible theory, we know from chapter 1 this is not the case with Job. Yet, for Eliphaz things do not happen without a reason. Thus—according to Eliphaz, when something bad happens to us it is because we have done something bad to warrant its happening: retribution. And while Job 1 tells us that Job was blameless, for Eliphaz, mortal man cannot be right before God (v.17).  This was revealed to him in a dream that he relates.

Eliphaz puts forth another reason for Job’s suffering. In chapter 5: 17-18, Eliphaz suggests that suffering may be viewed as the chastisement of God with the purpose of correction and healing. Now, while he puts this forth as a slightly different idea, it could be seen to go along with his first cause and effect theory.

  1. We do something bad.
  2. God enacts some form of punishment on us.
  3. The reason God does this is to bring us back in line.

 

Job 5:17-18—Blessed is the one whom God

reproves;

therefore despise not the discipline of

the Almighty.

For he wounds, but he binds up;

He shatters, but his hands heal.

 

Cycle one begins with a great speech by Eliphaz. He delivers to Job his ideas for the calamities that have happened to Job. His theory is either ‘cause and effect’ or God’s chastisement in order to bring the person, in this case Job, back into right living. Yet, we know from the first chapter of Job that Job does live right—[Job] was blameless and upright, one who feared God (1:1).  So, while cycle one begins with a nice speech and good idea of what might have caused Job’s problems, as readers we have information that Eliphaz does not have and we know that his theories are wrong.

 

Until Next time may the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

sign

 

[1] Some years back a friend of mine, and a preacher, had a son that was run over and killed. He told me that he had many visitors come to the house and per usual they had the wrong things to say—“God needed him;” “There is another angel in Heaven now” … But the one person he told me that helped him the most said nothing. One person from his church came and sat in a chair behind him. He put his hand on the grieving father’s shoulder and said, “I am here if you need anything.” Then there was silence—silence never broken. But, ever so often he would lean forward and put his hand on the grieving dad’s shoulder reassuring him that he was still there with him. This silence, no wrong or right theories on death, just the reassurance that a friend was there if needed; the friend sat quietly and mourned with the mourning father (Job 2:11-13).

[2] C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1988), Kindle Location 1996.