Nov 25, 2020 in Exploratory

The Book of Job

The Book of Job is one of the most popular books in the Bible, because it seems to address one of the most important issues that have plagued mankind since the beginning of time, and that is how to make sense of suffering. It is not rare to hear the question: If there is a God, why is it that he is allowing the presence of evil, and hence permit suffering to occur in the world? This question becomes more problematic when viewed from the Christian tradition, because in the New Testament, the LORD is revealed as a loving God. He is different from the cruel gods of mythology, and he is perceived as benevolent not vain and unpredictable like the gods of South America and sub-Saharan Africa. It is therefore important to point out that the Book of Job was written to engage the subject of matter of suffering, especially on the following areas:

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  1. To answer the question why righteous people suffer;
  2. Society's reaction to the one who fell on hard times; 
  3. God's response to the cry for mercy and help.
 

Overview

At this point in the discussion it is critical to clarify how the Book of Job was shaped in order to engage the subject matter of suffering. The proponent of this study would like to make the assertion that this particular book has three major components dedicated to answering the three aspects of suffering. First it addressed a fundamental question raised by those who profess to serve God. If indeed God rewards the righteous, then, it seems a misnomer to ever find a pious person without a roof over his head or food to eat. According to the author of the book entitled Why is there a Book of Job?, the hero of the story is a pious man and it is due to his piety that God made him rich. If indeed he was pious and God made him rich, it is interesting to find out why he experienced a sudden reversal of fortune.

The second major component of the Book of Job is to make sense of the reaction of the social sphere. In the first part, Job contends with the issue of his suffering from a metaphysical context, because he has to find out if he had broken the law. However, in the second layer of suffering's impact, Job had to deal with the people around him. First it was his wife, and then his servants, his friends, and finally the people in the land. Bible commentators share common sentiments, and that misery attracts the pointed criticisms of people around the victim of harsh circumstances, and to make matters worse, the criticism can come from an unlikely sources, such as, fair-weather friends or total strangers who did not have personal knowledge of the situation, and yet, no one could stop them from making unwelcome comments.

The final component of the Book of Job center's on another important human need, and that is to understand how God response to cries of mercy and help. In this particular context, God was silent in what commentators described as undeserved suffering. In an article penned by Elsa Tamez, she said that Job must allow God to behave as God, and therefore, he chooses to be silent, then, Job must not complain.

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Defining Terms

It is also important to point out that the term suffering is not limited to poverty, or the inability to access basic goods and services. According to the aforementioned commentary on the Book of Job, the hero in the story experienced a certain form of suffering and yet it is not accurate to say that he was in abject, poverty, because the commentator said that even after Job lamented the fact that God struck him down he never once complained that he had no food, and he continued to have access to domestic help, and at the same time he was still able to support his wife and at least four servants.

When it comes to the reaction coming from the social sphere, this includes not only members of Job's immediate family and household help but also strangers who did not have a personal connection with Job before the suffered the loss of property and children. Therefore, one can also say that the unkind words he received from friends and strangers alike was a major part of his suffering and one he had to endure.

When it comes to God's silence, it must be made clear that Job desires not only to hear God's audible voice, he was open to receiving any kind of communication from heaven, or in a simpler way, he was ready and willing to receive any heavenly sign that will encourage him to go through the trials and tribulations that he was contending with.

Engaging Suffering in the Book of Job

Even a casual reader of the Book of Job will realize that Job was blessed because he was a righteous man. It is therefore a struggle for him to understand why he experienced hardships even if he faithfully demonstrated his desire to serve God. Thus, the Book of Job attempts to reveal the underlying reason, and it is not just the cause and effect of sins that creates problems for human beings, even the righteous suffers from time to time because God is testing his or her character.

It is also easy to see that the social sphere adds insult to injury whenever a righteous person goes through trials and tribulations. The Book of Job attempts to explain that well-meaning friends and family members may have no idea that God is testing this particular individual, therefore, they resort to judgmental criticism because they wrongly assumed that the said person committed a terrible sin against God.

The Book of Job also attempts to shed a light on the silence of God when his servant needed him most. In times of trials and tribulations God seem indifferent. However, the Book of Job reminds people that God is not silent because he communicates his love and compassion in non-verbal ways.

Objection to Claims

With regards to the first claim, there is plenty of supporting evidence to support the assertion that the Book of Job's primary message was to illustrate the root cause of blessing. However, much of the focus of the story was on the suffering and not on the blessing. In fact, the claim about God's strategy to acquire blessing through a life of piety does not follow a straight line. In other words, a great amount of space is used up to discuss Job's pain and complaints. Nevertheless, the finale erased everything and the reader's mind and heart is compelled to focus only on the blessing and the goodness of God.

With regards to the second claim, there is again plenty of evidence to support the assertion that the people surrounding Job did nothing but to rub salt into his wounds so-to-speak. However, one can also argue that they meant well, and they simply tried to help Job understand the reason behind his sudden fall from grace.

With regards to the thirdclaim there is also enough evidence to support the assertion that one of the book's primary purpose is to examine man's frustrations when God seems awfully quiet and does not provide guidance or words of encouragement when people are in the middle of trials and tribulation. However, one can also argue that God was not entirely silent the whole time, because through his creation he had spoken his intentions and plans for mankind.

Conclusion

Objections to the claims were noted, however, overwhelming textual evidence that the Book of Job engaged the subject of suffering through understanding the root cause of blessing and the reason why a righteous man suffers from injustice. This book also tells the reader that when a righteous man goes through trials and tribulations, the people around him had no idea that God is testing his or her character. Therefore, the common reaction is to judge the person as a sinner deserving of divine punishment. Finally, the book helps the readers realize that although God may sometimes behave indifferent, in reality he is not, because he communicates using his own standards and his own ways to make his children understand that he is indeed a God of compassion and care.

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