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Friday Bible Blogging - Job 21 to Job 30

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.

BibleI apologize for being late yet again. I've been rather busy at work and cutting my lunches short, and then had a lot going on this past weekend with getting ready for the holidays and doing chores around the house. And then a few blogging opportunities popped up that drew my attention more than this series. I suspect that with Christmas being next week, I won't get up another Bible post until January 3rd or maybe even the 10th. So, I apologize in advance. Anyway...

Chapters 21 through 30 of Job continue on in much the same way as the preceding 20 chapters. Like I wrote last week, the poetry is pretty good, but it's getting pretty repetitive at this point. Job complains, his friends offer replies about why God would punish people, and Job responds that he hasn't done anything wrong.

These chapters cover most of the third cycle of speeches. The structure of this cycle is just a bit different than the first two, in that Zophar is left out of this cycle entirely, and Bildar's speech is quite a bit shorter than his previous two.

Job, Chapter 21

Chapter 21 started the third cycle with a speech from Job, again complaining about the arbitrariness of suffering, how the wicked often escape punishment, and how little recourse there is for mortals. A couple verses caught my eye. Job echoed the common sentiment that God would punish children for the sins of their parents (a theme throughout the earlier books of the Bible), but wondered why God wouldn't just punish the people committing the sins.

You say, "God stores up their iniquity for their children."
   Let it be paid back to them, so that they may know it.
Let their own eyes see their destruction,
   and let them drink of the wrath of the Almighty.

Job, Chapter 22

Eliphaz was a bit more explicit here than in the first two cycles. Previously he allowed for Job's innocence, but spoke in general of God's punishments against the wicked. Here, he's actually accusing Job of sinning, by failing to act when he should have. Other than that, it's more of the same, with a promise at the end that God will set everything straight if you just "return to the Almighty, you will be restored".

Job, Chapter 23

Job responded in his typical manner, still maintaining his innocence.

Job, Chapter 24

More of Job's response.

Job, Chapter 25

This was Bildad's third speech. It was very short - just 6 verses long. It ended on a pretty negative view of humanity:

If even the moon is not bright
   and the stars are not pure in his sight,
how much less a mortal, who is a maggot,
   and a human being, who is a worm!'

However, this might not have originally been the full extent of the speech.

Job, Chapter 26

According to the text, this was Job's response to Bildad. However, according to the NOAB, this is most likely the remainder of Bildad's speech. This would seem to flow better. The first part of the chapter is the speaker asking his audience if he'd helped those in need, which would fit Bildad interrogating Job to see if Job was as innocent as he claimed. The remainder of the chapter was mostly pointing out how powerful God is.

I've seen people use these verses to support differing views of Israelite cosmology - from anticipating geocentricism ("He stretches out Zaphon over the void, / and hangs the earth upon nothing"), to a flat earth ("The pillars of heaven tremble"). Personally, I think that no matter what the view was in that culture (probably a flat earth), what's written here could be chalked up to poetic license, and shouldn't be taken as a literal statement of the writer's cosmological beliefs.

Job, Chapter 27

Job began another speach by bemoaning his fate, but moved on to what seems like a different message from his previous speeches and responses. Instead of the utter hopelessness of some of his previous statements, pointing out that God allows the wicked to escape punishment, in this chapter he seems to be saying that God will punish the wicked. Consider the following verses (which like several passages I pointed out last week equate godlessness with wickedness).

'May my enemy be like the wicked,
   and may my opponent be like the unrighteous.
For what is the hope of the godless when God cuts them off,
   when God takes away their lives?

After reading the footnotes of the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), it seems that this change in message may be due to portions of the book of Job getting a bit mixed up. Given the structure of the previous cycles and the message given here, it seems more likely that most of this chapter should be ascribed to a speaker besides Job, perhaps Zophar who is otherwise left out of the third cycle.

Job, Chapter 28

Taking the text of the Bible at face value, this is supposedly a continuation of Job's speech from Chapter 27. But again, it's out of character for what Job has said throughout the rest of the book. It's largely praising God, and pointing out the limitations of human knowledge. The NOAB notes two likely alternatives - that it's the conclusion of Elihu's speech (who I'll get to next week), or an independent poem that wasn't originally associated with any of the characters from the story.

In fact, the beginning of the chapter is very different from anything so far in Job.

Job, Chapter 29

Chapter 29 begins another speech of Job, and this one appears to be correctly ascribed to him. This chapter was devoted to looking back on Job's life before tragedy struck - how good he had it, and how revered he was in the community.

Job, Chapter 30

Chapter 30 moves on to looking at Job's condition now, how he is mocked by society, and how he has seemingly been abandoned by God.


Like I've written several times now, Job has some pretty good poetry, but it's very repetitious. Chapters 21 through 30 of Job were very similar in theme and message to the previous chapters. However, there were a few breaks in continuity pointing to some sort of scribal error some time in the history of the book.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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