Sunday, September 15
Job 26: Bildad has not said anything worth answering, so Job doesnŐt. Instead, he discourses on the immense majesty of God in the phenomena of heaven and earth. This is a further and significant development in JobŐs spiritual maturation through the course of the book. Especially since his avowal of personal faith in his "Redeemer" in Chapter 19, Job has become more preoccupied with the world around him than with the misery of his own existence. Now he contemplates what God has made. The nether world Ń sheol and abaddon Ń though concealed from the sight of man, lies open to the eyes of God (verse 6). From his consideration of the world beneath, Job rises to contemplate the heavens above. The "north" (saphon) of verse 7 refers to the lights of the northern sky, dominated by the pole star. The Greek rendering here, borea, may evoke in some readers a memory of the Northern Lights, the aurora borealis. These celestial lights are suspended over "emptiness," tohu (cf. Genesis 1:2), says Job. The earth floats beneath this emptiness above and mere "air" beneath. (This last noun, belima, which is found nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible, I have translated as "air," because in rabbinical literature it bears the meaning of "upper atmosphere." The Greek text here says "nothing," ouden.) Since most ancient texts, including the Bible, speak of the earth as suspended "upon the waters," the imagery here in Job is doubling striking. From air, Job moves on to consider water, first in its atmospheric form (verses 8-9) and then in its earthly form (verse 10). The shaking of the "pillars of heaven" (verse 11) suggests a booming storm. God adorns these heavens by His Spirit, ruah (verse 13), a theological truth proclaimed also in Psalm 33 (32):6. This is still descriptive of a storm scene, as is the "thunder of His might" in verse 14.
Monday, September 16
Job 27: For several chapters now, Job has been gaining the grip on his soul. The present chapter begins with his resolve to live in integrity, no matter how painful, humiliating, and short that life may be (verses 2-6). All Job has left is his integrity, and he will wager everything on it. If he is right, though, his critics are wrong (verse 7), and the judgment of God is inevitable in their case as well (verse 8). Job, then, prepares to lecture his three friends (verse 11) on the theme of the divine wisdom. (This lecture will be Chapter 28.) Often men do not seek wisdom, distracted by the love of wealth (verses 16-17). The initial steps toward wisdom lie in the consideration of the divine judgment that hangs over human life (verses 18-23). Job here touches the theme to which Psalm 49 (48) is devoted, the universal mortality of men, "all the inhabitants of the world, both low and high, rich and poor together." This entire psalm, based on a strictly philosophical motif, mentions God only twice, and the second of these instances sounds the very note that Job has pursued: "God will deliver my soul from the power of the grave."
Tuesday, September 17
Job 28: From his consideration of the moral effects of silver on the conscience of man (27:16-17), Job now takes up a reflection on silver and other metals that are found in the mines of the earth. This is the first section of a chapter devoted to the theme of hidden wisdom. Because wisdom, like the lode veins of precious metals, lies concealed beneath the empirical surface of reality, man must dig for it. When he endeavors to do this, nonetheless, he discovers that it lies deeper than his thought can penetrate. It is by His hidden wisdom that God made the world and continues to sustain it in existence. It lies deeper, however, than any precious metal or costly stone, and its worth is incomparably greater. Wisdom is buried, in fact, in the depths of God. Job is no longer answering his critics here. He has abandoned them to their shallow theories about how the world is constructed. Job pursues, rather, the mind of God, realizing even in his pursuit that it vastly transcends the mind and comprehension of man. Only God knows the way to wisdom (verse 23). How does man even make a start in his search for it? By turning away from evil by the fear of God (verse 28). This is JobŐs own chosen path. He cannot read the mind of God, not even in those things that concern his own life and destiny, but he does know what God requires of him, and he has affirmed already his resolve to live in perfect integrity (cf. 27:4-7).
Wednesday, September 18
Job 29: These next three chapters contain the longest of JobŐs soliloquies, in which he surveys, for the last time, what has happened to him and the moral puzzle that it poses. He reviews the happiness of his former life (Chapter 29), the misery that has befallen him (Chapter 30), and his own innocence in the matter (Chapter 31). The present chapter, then, is about "the way it used to be," when Job was content, wealthy, and universally honored. (His lot in those days may be compared to the patriarchs of Genesis, most notably Jacob.) He had felt GodŐs presence very tangibly (verses 2-5). In his relationships with his fellow men, he was esteemed by everyone (verses 7-11,21-23), not only because of his wealth, but because of his righteousness and charity (verses 12-17). He expected, moreover, to die in that state of universal approbation (verse 18), beloved of God and men. In those bygone days all these things seemed normal to Job, who related such blessings to friendship with God and the doing of His will. But then, with no discernible explanation, everything changed, and this change is the subject of the next chapter.
Thursday, September 19
Job 30: The motif of this chapter, which is an extended and detailed contrast with the chapter before, is indicated by the repeated expression, "but now" (verses 1,9,16). Whereas Chapter 29 began with JobŐs relationship to God and went on to speak of his relationship to his fellow men, the present chapter reverses the order, beginning with JobŐs alienation from his fellow men and going on to his sense of alienation from God. Formerly revered by elders, princes, and nobles (29:8-10), Job now finds himself contemned and reviled by utter nobodies (verses 2-15). All such treatment might be bearable, but God, it appears, is treating him no better (verses 16-19). Then, abruptly Job turns to speak to God directly (verse 20), for the first time since 17:3. Is all of this fair, Job asks, since he has never treated anyone as badly as he is currently being treated by both God and man (verses 24-25)? He does not deserve this, Job thinks, and in the following chapter he will spell out the details of his deserts.
Friday, September 20
Job 31: If Job has recently felt himself to be on trial, it would be hard to blame him for it. Now that his three witnesses have already borne their testimony against him (more as "character witnesses" than as "eye witnesses, to be sure), it appears that "the prosecution rests its case." But this is all absurd, thinks Job. Even before the trial started, he had already been sentenced. In fact, the sentence is already being executed! Everything is proceeding backwards. This is chaos! (For a strikingly similar sensation of a legal trial as an outright nightmare, one may profitably read Franz KafkaŐs Der Prozess or The Trial.) No matter, says Job, his defense will be made, no matter what. So he "swears himself in" and proceeds on a detailed testimony to his innocence. He runs through a fairly high code of ethics, not unlike that of Ezechiel 18:5-9, and rings the changes on his "not guilty" plea, giving specific rebuttal to the testimony of his accusers (notably Eliphaz in Chapter 22). Job repeatedly employs the normal Hebrew formula for a legal oath or imprecation: "If have done such-and-such, may the Lord do this-and-that to me." Often, in this formula, only the antecedent, not the consequent, is actually spoken, meaning that the person is swearing that the accusation against him is untrue. Job employs both the complete and the truncated form of this oath rather frequently in this chapter (verses 5,7,9,13,16,19,20,21,24,25,26,29,31,33,38,39). Thus, the entire chapter is just a series of imprecations, at the end of which "the words of Job are ended" (verse 40). Is Job correct and proper in all these affirmations and denials? In the sight of men, arguably so, but not in the eyes of God. Man cannot litigate against God. Job has clearly gone too far in his claims, and the next speaker, Elihu the Buzite, is going to call him on it. In the bookŐs final chapter, moreover, Job will retract this defense very explicitly.
Saturday, September 21
Job 32: By the end of Chapter 31, Job has answered all of the objections and arguments made to him by his three friends, having reduced them to silence. But then, out of nowhere, an entirely new speaker bursts on the scene, "Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram." He insists on adding his own comments. Maintaining silence up till now, he says, and thereby showing deference to the four older men (verse 4), this Elihu has been listening to the give-and-take of their lengthy discussion, a debate that has lasted through twenty-nine chapters. Outwardly patient during of that discussion, Elihu has been inwardly seething with rancor at both Job and the other three gentlemen (verses 2-3). Hardly able to contain himself any longer, he disagrees with nearly everything said so far. Now, therefore, with a great display of indignation he begins his discourse (which will run on for the next seven chapters, easily the longest single speech in the book). Elihu informs the four older men how patient he has remained during their pointless and frustrating discussions. Even as he boasts about his heroic longsuffering, nonetheless, we note the irony that Elihu mentions his own anger four times in five consecutive verses! JobŐs three comforters, having exhausted their arguments, seem content now to leave the suffering Job to God, having nothing more to say. Not so Elihu. In a torrent he will vent the pressure that has been building up within him (verses 18-20).Even as he answers his elders, not surprisingly, Elihu demonstrates the self-consciousness of youth and inexperience. He must justify himself by explaining that he is a plainly spoken man, a fellow both candid and proud of it (verses 21-22).