13 August 2010

The Long-Suffering Job

Job (pronounced /ˈdʒoʊb/; Hebrew: אִיּוֹב, Modern Iyyov Tiberian ʾIyyôḇ, Arabic: أيّوب‎ ʾAyoub) is the central character of the Book of Job in the Hebrew Bible. The Book of Job begins with an introduction to Job's character — he is described as a blessed man who lives righteously. Satan challenges Job's integrity, proposing to God that Job serves him simply because God protects him. God removes Job's protection, allowing Satan to take his wealth, his children, and his physical health in order to tempt Job to curse God. Despite his difficult circumstances, he does not curse God, but rather curses the day of his birth. And although he protests his plight and pleads for an explanation, he stops short of accusing God of injustice. Most of the book consists of conversations between Job and his three friends concerning Job's condition and its possible reasons, after which God responds to Job and his friends. God opens his speech with the famous words, "Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me." After God's reply, Job is overwhelmed and says, "I am unworthy - how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth."  Job realizes how little he knew; he confesses to the Lord,"My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you." Then Job is restored to an even better condition than his former wealthy state, and lives for another 140 years.

The characters in the book of Job consist of Job, his wife, his friends, God, and Satan. Neither the patriarchs nor any other biblical characters make an appearance.

A clear majority of Rabbinical Torah scholars saw Job as having existed; an actual historical figure. He was seen as a real and powerful figure. Some scholars of Orthodox Judaism maintain that Job was in fact one of three advisors that Pharaoh consulted, prior to taking action against the increasingly multiplying "Children of Israel" mentioned in the Book of Exodus during the time of Moses' birth. The episode is mentioned in the Talmud (Tractate Sotah): Balaam gives evil advice urging Pharaoh to kill the Hebrew male new-born babies; Jethro opposes Pharaoh and tells him not to harm the Hebrews at all, and Job keeps silent and does not reveal his mind even though he was personally opposed to Pharaoh's destructive plans. It is for his silence that God subsequently punishes him with his bitter afflictions. However, the book of Job itself contains no indication of this, and to the prophet Ezekiel, Yahweh refers to Job as a righteous man of the same calibre as Noah and Daniel

The Talmud occasionally discusses Job. Most traditional Torah scholarship has never doubted Job's existence. He was seen as a real and powerful figure. One Talmudic opinion has it that Job was in fact one of three advisors that Pharaoh consulted, prior to taking action against the increasingly multiplying "Children of Israel" mentioned in the Book of Exodus during the time of Moses' birth. The episode is mentioned in the Talmud (Tractate Sotah): Balaam gives evil advice urging Pharaoh to kill the Hebrew male new-born babies, Jethro opposes Pharaoh and tells him not to harm the Hebrews at all, and Job keeps silent and does not reveal his mind even though he was personally opposed to Pharaoh's destructive plans. It is for his silence that God subsequently punishes him with his bitter afflictions.

Some of the laws and customs of mourning in Judaism are derived from the Book of Job's depiction of Job's mourning and the behavior of his companions. For example, according to  the behavior of Job's comforters, who kept silence until he spoke to them, is the source for a norm applicable to contemporary traditional Jewish practice, that visitors to a house of mourning should not speak to the mourner until they are spoken to.

In most traditions of Jewish liturgy, the Book of Job is not read publicly in the manner of the Pentateuch, Prophets, or megillot. However, there are some Jews, particularly the Spanish-Portuguese, who do hold public readings of the Book of Job on the Tisha B'Av fast (a day of mourning over the destruction of the First and Second Temples and other tragedies).

The cantillation signs for the large poetic section in the middle of the Book of Job differ from those of most of the biblical books, using a system shared with it only by Psalms and Proverbs. A sample of how the cantillations are chanted is found below.

Many quotes from the Book of Job are used throughout Jewish liturgy, especially at funerals and times of mourning

Maimonides, a twelfth century rabbi, discusses Job in his work The Guide for the Perplexed. According to Maimonides (III 22–23), each of Job's friends represents famous, distinct schools of thought concerning God and divine providence.

According to Maimonides, the correct view of providence lies with Elihu, who teaches Job that one must examine his religion (Job 33). This view corresponds with the notion that "the only worthy religion in the world is an examined religion." A habit religion, such as that originally practiced by Job, is never enough. One has to look deep into the meaning of religion in order to fully appreciate it and make it a genuine part of one's life. Elihu believed in the concepts of divine providence, rewards to individuals, as well as punishments. He believed, according to Maimonides, that one has to practice religion in a rational way. The more one investigates religion, the more he will be rewarded or find it rewarding. In the beginning, Job was an unexamining, pious man, not a philosopher, and he did not have providence. He was unwise, simply grateful for what he had. God, according to Elihu, did not single out Job for punishment, but rather abandoned him and let him be dealt with by natural, unfriendly forces.

Conversely, in more recent times, Russian existentialist philosopher Lev Shestov viewed Job as the embodiment of the battle between reason (which offers general and seemingly comforting explanations for complex events) and faith in a personal god, and one man's desperate cry for him. In fact, Shestov used the story of Job as a central signifier for his core philosophy (the vast critique of the history of Western philosophy, which he saw broadly as a monumental battle between Reason and Faith, Athens and Jerusalem, secular and religious outlook):
"The whole book is one uninterrupted contest between the 'cries' of the much-afflicted Job and the 'reflections' of his rational friends. The friends, as true thinkers, look not at Job but at the 'general.' Job, however, does not wish to hear about the 'general'; he knows that the general is deaf and dumb - and that it is impossible to speak with it. 'But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God' (13:3). The friends are horrified at Job's words: they are convinced that it is not possible to speak with God and that the Almighty is concerned about the firmness of his power and the unchangeability of his laws but not about the fate of the people created by him. Perhaps they are convinced that in general God does not know any concerns but that he only rules. That is why they answer, 'You who tear yourself in your anger, shall the earth be forsaken for you or the rock be removed from its place?' (18:4). And, indeed, shall rocks really be removed from their place for the sake of Job? And shall necessity renounce its sacred rights? This would truly be the summit of human audacity, this would truly be a 'mutiny,' a 'revolt' of the single human personality against the eternal laws of the all-unity of being!" (Speculation and Apocalypse).
According to the mystical approach, Job is being punished because he is a heretic. One reason why Job can be seen as a heretic is because in Chapter 3, he automatically assumed and was convinced that he did not sin and God therefore has no right to punish him.

According to Nachmanides, Job's children did not die in the beginning of the story, but rather were taken captive and then return from captivity by the end of the story.

Christianity accepts the Book of Job as canon in the Old Testament and thus contains the same information regarding Job as discussed above in the Hebrew Bible. In addition, Job is mentioned in the New Testament: the Epistle of James 5:11 cites Job as an example of perseverance in suffering. The New Testament also quotes and references the Book of Job throughout.

Job's declaration "I know that my Redeemer lives" (Job 19:25) is considered by Christians to be a proto-Christian statement of belief, and is the basis of several Christian hymns.

He is commemorated as a patriarch by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in their Calendar of Saints on May 9, and in the Calendar of saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on August 30.

Christian themes include God's mercy (not treating sinners as they truly deserve), grace (treating unworthy sinners as they do not deserve), compassion (toleration of much discrediting, inappropriate mortal speculation impugning the divine character, and allegations of unrighteous/unfair dealings with men), restoration (where sin abounds, generosity superabounds) omnipotence, omnisapience, omnipresence, omniliberty, aseity and infinite love.

Many Christians hold that Job is a historical prototype of Jesus: the Man of Sorrows.

In chapter nine, Job recognizes the chasm that exists between him and God: “For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together.”  Job’s regret is that he has no arbiter to act as a go-between; that Job can not reconcile himself with God anticipates the need for the Messiah to become Incarnate. In verse 33, Job wishes that there was an “umpire” (Heb. mokiah) to decide between him and God. One scholar says, “This person would have to be superior in authority to either party, ”; thus the arbiter for whom Job hopes would have to himself be divine, or else he would no more be qualified to “lay his hand upon” God than is Job.

This idea of a divine arbiter is returned to at Job 16:19. Job again expresses his desire for a witness, and then declares, “my eyes pour out tears to God, that he would maintain the right of a man with God”. Job addresses God, desiring that God will advocate on Job’s behalf with himself. Job knows that no man such as himself, conceived in sin, can appeal to God on his behalf; so God must do it himself. The language used earlier is that of a judicial judgement , in which God is both judge of and lawyer for Job. Job “draws a distinction in God” , and this distinction anticipates the multiplicity of God’s persons.
Job’s faith in this arbiter is again brought up in chapter 19. It is commonly accepted that the “Redeemer” of 19:25 is the same person as the witness of 16:19. This verse in particular is often seen as an anticipation of Christianity. Telgren notes that it has been suggested that verses 25 and 26 have a poetic structure of ABBA. If this is true it would support the notion that God is himself the Redeemer, by associating him with the living Redeemer in the parallel structure. The RSV’s “Redeemer” is a translation of the Hebrew go’el. That this go’el could refer to God is explicitly demonstrated in the Psalms and Proverbs, and elsewhere.

Job's unjust suffering has often been interpreted as a prophetic anticipation, or type, of the suffering of Christ

In the Qur'an, Job is Ayoub (Arabic: أيّوب‎) in Arabic and is considered a prophet in Islam. In the Arabic language the name of Job (Ayyūb) is symbolic of the virtue of patience, though it does not mean patience in itself. Job's narrative in the Qur'an is similar to the brief Qur'anic description of prophet Dhul-Kifl (most commonly identified with Ezekiel) as both men are seen as men of "patience".
There are a number of references to Job in the Qur'an. They include:

  • Job's prophecy: 4:163, 6:84
  • Trial and patience: 21:83, 21:84, 38:41, 38:42, 38:43, 38:44

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "While Job was naked, taking a bath, a swarm of gold locusts fell on him and he started collecting them in his garment. His Lord called him, 'O Job! Have I not made you rich enough to need what you see? He said, 'Yes, O Lord! But I cannot dispense with your Blessing.Volume 4, Book 55, Number 604: Sahih Bukhari
In Palestinian folk tradition Job's place of trial is Al-Joura, a village outside the town of Al Majdal. It was there God rewarded him with a fountain of youth that removed whatever illnesses he had, and gave him back his youth. The town of Al-Joura was a place of annual festivities (4 days in all) when people of many faiths gathered and bathed in a natural spring.

The Bosnian version of the name is spelt Ejub/Ejup and pronounced Eyub/Eyup.

The tomb of Job is believed to be situated in Jabal Qara outside the city of Salalah in Southern Oman.

Additionally, the Druze community also maintains a tomb for the Prophet Job in the El-Chouf mountain district in Lebanon.

The Turkish city of Urfa (formerly Edessa) claims to be the location at which Job underwent his ordeal, and has a well said to be the one formed when he struck the ground with his foot as described in the Qur'an.

The Eastern Orthodox Church reads from Job during Holy Week.
“Throughout the whole Lent the two books of the Old Testament read at Vespers were Genesis and Proverbs. With the beginning of the Holy Week they are replaced by Exodus and Job. Exodus is the story of Israel's liberation from Egyptian slavery, of their Passover. It prepares us for the understanding of Christ's exodus to his Father, of his fulfillment of the whole history of salvation. Job, the sufferer, is the Old Testament icon of Christ. This reading announces the great mystery of Christ's sufferings, obedience and sacrifice.”
Alexander Schmemann,, "A Liturgical Explanation for the Days of Holy Week"
The Roman Catholic Church traditionally reads from the Book of Job during Matins in the first two weeks of September. In the revised Liturgy of the Hours, Job is read during the Eighth and Ninth Weeks in Ordinary Time.
Post a Comment
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...