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Interpretations of Job

December 28, 2013

Misery by Joan Acocella

Last week’s New Yorker review by Joan Acocella of Mark Larrimore’s Book of Job: a biography (click here), begins with plot summary – Satan persuading God to test Job, first by harming his family and then Job himself, Job steadfast even after his comforters suggest he deserved it, until God appears in the whirlwind to tick them all off, punish the comforters and reward Job for repenting.

Over the last couple of thousand years pundits have tried to explain how God can so brazenly allow the innocent to suffer and the wicked to triumph.  Perhaps Job’s problems presage the sufferings of the Jews, or of Jesus, or perhaps a higher justice is hidden from humans? Perhaps there is no God? Larrimore lists the theories, but Acocella concentrates on one. The possibility, raised by holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, that the book is incomplete – it is certainly made up of different fragments – and that the ending is lost. Perhaps, Wiesel suggested, Job did not meekly defer to God. Maybe he just pretended to, or maybe he resisted. Or maybe he just went silent, realising that God was ultimately as impotent as man.

Whatever, says Acocella; only a discovery of lost scrolls will answer that question. But why does this book, of all the ones of the Old Testament, so fascinate us?  The reason, she says, is the depiction of God.  Job is just the pretext, “the one who is like us, and makes the argument that we would make”.

God is the one who speaks to us vividly. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? When I created the animals: the goats, the asses, the hinds, the peacocks, the ostriches, the grasshoppers? When I created the eagle who dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place. From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off. How dare you question me?

God as force of nature. Powerful, but not powerful enough to protect the innocent. As Acocella ends the essay: God bypasses all the moral “what should be” rest of the book of Job, and cuts to the real world. We may not like it, but “he makes the argument that, at least as far as nature is concerned, is true”.

Jim Thornton

One Comment leave one →
  1. pureform 2000 permalink
    December 30, 2013 2:26 pm

    “Satan persuaded God”… it starts…yet Satan was cast out of heaven.

    Where did they meet.?

    Who invited who.?

    Date: Sat, 28 Dec 2013 17:47:05 +0000 To:

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