We run our website the way we wished the whole internet worked: we provide high quality original content with no ads. We are funded by your direct support for ReKnew and our vision. Please consider supporting this project.
Who is Responsible for Job’s Suffering?
In the prologue of the Book of Job, the author seems to ascribe the responsibility for Job’s affliction to Yahweh. For instance, Satan challenges God to “stretch out [his] hand and strike everything he has,“ believing that this would incite Job to curse God to his face (1:11). The fact that the Lord responds by saying “[v]ery well” (vs. 12) arguably indicates that the author of this book understood Job to suffer as a result of Yahweh stretching forth his hand. This perspective is confirmed in the second encounter between Satan and Yahweh, for Yahweh points out that Job “maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason” (2:3, emphasis added).
Taken in isolation, these statements give the impression that Yahweh personally assaulted Job. When we place them in the broader context of this work, however, we learn how the Lord brought trouble on Job. He simply removed the hedge that had up to this point been protecting Job against Satan (1:10).
Once Yahweh agrees to put his way of governing the world to a test, he tells Satan, “[e]verything [Job] has is in your power,“ and Satan even has to go out from “the presence of the Lord” to exercise this power (1:12, emphasis added, cf., 2:7). Moreover, the narrative makes it clear that every destructive thing that happened to Job was the result of Satan exercising his malevolent power. It was this malevolent power, exercised outside the presence of the Lord, that stirred up the Sabeans to kill Job’s servants and steal his livestock (1:15). And it was Satan’s power, exercised outside the presence of the Lord, that reigned down fire from the sky (1:16), that incited the Chaldeans to kill (1:17), that caused a mighty wind to collapse his house on his sons and daughters (1:18-9), and that eventually “afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head” (2:8). The only role Yahweh played in of all this was initially to remove his protective hedge around Job, and this confirms our cross-informed conviction that “something else is going on” when the author seems to ascribe Job’s afflictions to Yahweh.
One of the central points the author of Job intends to make is that the theology of both Job and his friends was mistaken precisely because they consistently attributed to Yahweh the destructive activity of Satan and other malevolent forces of evil. Hence, for example, while Job and his friends disagree as to whether God is just or unjust for afflicting Job, they agree that Yahweh is the one doing this. To this extent they agree that Yahweh is the Machiavellian deity Satan accused him of being in the prologue. Moreover, though this is not apparent in translations, which typically translate the names of ANE deities as abstract nouns, Job at various points identifies Yahweh with ANE forces of evil.
When Yahweh appears to set the record straight (chs. 38-41), however, he rebukes both Job and his friends for speaking nonsense, which is why Job confesses he “spoke of things [he] did not understand” and “repent[s] in dust and ashes” (42:3, 6). Job unknowingly vindicates Yahweh’s character before the heavenly court not by espousing an accurate theology or by remaining pious through his ordeal, both of which Job obviously failed to do. He rather vindicates God by remaining authentic in his relationship with God, speaking straight (kûn, 42:7) from his heart, in contrast to his “friends” whose blame-the-victim theology was motivated by fear (6:18-21).
Moreover, Yahweh refutes Job’s accusations not by claiming God has the right to do whatever he wants with impunity, as though he agreed with Job that he was the one afflicting him, but by exposing Job’s ignorance of creation (chs. 38-9) and by reminding him of the chaos monsters God must restrain and against which Job is impotent (chs. 40-1). This is the central point of this book, highlighted by the fact that it concludes with no human ever learning about Satan’s character assault on Yahweh in the prologue that set this narrative of random affliction in motion.
Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC
Tags: Book of Job, Cruciform Theology, Suffering, Violence
Topics: Interpreting Violent Pictures and Troubling Behaviors
Take America (& the World) Back for God?
Kai Schreiber via Compfight Recently Missio Alliance has hosted a series of posts entitled “Christianity and Violence.” Since Greg has written quite a lot on this topic from the point of view of pacifism, we thought it timely to weigh in on this topic. The following excerpt is quoted from his chapter, “Taking America Back…
The Cruciform Center Part 4: How Revelation Reveals a Cruciform God
I’ve been arguing that, while everything Jesus did and taught revealed God, the character of the God he reveals is most perfectly expressed by his loving sacrifice on the cross. Our theology and our reading of Scripture should therefore not merely be “Christocentric”: it should be “crucicentric.” My claim, which I will attempt to demonstrate…
Not the God You Were Expecting
Thomas Hawk via Compfight Micah J. Murray posted a reflection today titled The God Who Bleeds. In contrast to Mark Driscoll’s “Pride Fighter,” this God allowed himself to get beat up and killed while all his closest friends ran and hid and denied they even knew him. What kind of a God does this? The kind…
Greg Shares His Journey With Chronic Pain
Greg recently decided that he needed to discontinue taking his pain medication despite chronic neck issues for which there are no easy answers. Here he shares that decision and the journey he’s on to remain fully awake to God and others.
Cross-like Love and Non-Violence
Cosmo Spacely via Compfight Though it seems to have been forgotten by many today, the cross wasn’t simply something God did for us. According to the NT, it was also an example God calls us to follow. Hence, after John defined love by pointing us to Jesus’ death on the cross on our behalf, he…
How God Judges Sin
In his third sermon covering material from his book Crucifixion of the Warrior God, Greg explores the topic of judgment. In this clip, Greg suggests that while God certainly does judge sin, how he judges is very different than we might expect. You can view the entire sermon here on the Woodland Hills Church site. You can find the…