Friday Bible Blogging Archive

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday Bible Blogging - Job 31 to Job 42

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.

BibleIt's been a busy past few weeks. First there were Christmas and New Years, and all the chores, functions, and activities associated with those (even though I do most of the writing for this blog during my lunchbreaks, I do a lot of the prep work for this series on weekends, plus I took off Christmas week). Then it was especially busy at work as we had a big review meeting and a lot of prep work for that. I was even out of town for the meeting two days this week. I just haven't had much time at all to work on this series. I only got two posts up in December, and this is my first post in January. It feels good to be back into it, and I'm hoping that I can jump right back into my old groove.

After so much repetition in the earlier parts of Job, things pick up a bit in these final chapters. We get two more characters (one being the Almighty himself), and much, much more to comment on. Actually, there was so much to write about that I even got a little excited to do this entry, and it's been a little while since I've actually been excited to do one of these entries.

One aspect I haven't commented on too much in my entries so far on Job is the theme of a trial or a lawsuit. Job wants to bring his case against God to some arbiter who can decide who is in the right. He's spoken of indictments and witnesses throughout the book.

Job, Chapter 31

Chapter 31 concludes Job's final big speech. In this chapter, he focuses mainly on maintaining his own innocence.

There was a bit of misogyny:

'If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
   and I have lain in wait at my neighbour's door;
then let my wife grind for another,
   and let other men kneel over her.

Because obviously, if you've done wrong, then the appropriate punishment is for your wife to fall into prostitution. She's just one of your possessions, anyway.

There was one aspect that was somewhat good. Job talked of how he hadn't mistreated his slaves. Compared to previous books, it's nice to see a mention that slaves should be treated well, and Job affirming his common humanity with them. Still, it's talking about how to treat slaves. I know - don't judge people from the past based on modern day morality. But by the same token - don't hold up the Bible as a good source of morality.

There also appears to be another continuity goof in this chapter. Verse 37 would make the most sense as the conclusion of his speech, but the chapter goes on a bit longer with three verses that would seem to fit better earlier in the chapter.

I did like the way the chapter ended, rather matter of factly, "The words of Job are ended."

Job, Chapter 32

Chapter 32 introduces a new character to the story - Elihu. He had been listening to all the previous speeches, and deferring out of respect for his elders. But now that they've all had their say, he can't help but voice his opinions. This first part of his speech in this chapter was just calling out the others for not satisfactorily answering Job, and explaining that he had something worthwhile to say. He did make a good point that wisdom is not limited only to the elderly, and that even someone young like him could say something worth listening to.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) mentioned that there's some discussion over whether Elihu's speeches were originally part of the book or not. He isn't mentioned in the prologue or epilogue, 32:1 mentions "these three men" - Eliphaz, Bildad, & Zophar, and if you get rid of Elihu's section, Yahweh's response immediately follows Job's last speech.

Job, Chapter 33

Elihu reprimanded Job for trying to put himself on par with God, "God is greater than any mortal. / Why do you contend against him..." Most of the chapter was pointing out God's power and how great he was.

There was one verse that caught my eye:

to spare their souls from the Pit,
   their lives from traversing the River.

That sounds suspiciously like the River Styx, not the modern Christian conception of the afterlife. Perhaps it's just poetic license. Or, more likely considering the Jewish belief in Sheol, that really was part of the belief system of this writer.

Job, Chapter 34

Elihu continued to call out Job, particularly for the way he talked about God after his bad fortune.

Job, Chapter 35

Elihu made a point about human actions having no effect on God.

If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him?
   And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him?
If you are righteous, what do you give to him;
   or what does he receive from your hand?
Your wickedness affects others like you,
   and your righteousness, other human beings.

It seems a little counter to the New Testament teaching from Matthew 25:40 ("just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me"), but not so out of character for the type of god presented in the Old Testament. But to tell the truth, the last part of that passage is something I can agree with. Actions should be judged by their real world consequences on other people.

Elihu also responded to one of Job's earlier complaints, that God doesn't always help those in need. Elihu's response makes God sound more callous than the rightest of right wing ideologues:

There they cry out, but he does not answer,
   because of the pride of evildoers.

God may have the power to help them, but it's their own pride that keeps him from doing anything. Maybe if they'd just praise him a bit more, he'd do something to lift them out of their oppression.

Job, Chapter 36

Elihu continues his speech, first defending that God does indeed punish the wicked and reward the righteous, then getting in a bit of criticism of "the godless". A large part of the chapter was pointing out that God
sometimes teaches us lessons in ways that we don't always understand, and that Job shouldn't ignore this as a possibility for a lesson.

Beware that wrath does not entice you into scoffing,
   and do not let the greatness of the ransom turn you aside.

There was one verse I found a bit humorous from a modern perspective.

Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds,
   the thunderings of his pavilion?

Yes, we can, actually. We now have meteorologists who understand what causes various weather phenomena, including clouds and thunder, and can give us pretty accurate forecasts out to a week. And we have climatologists who understand global climate and can predict how what we're doing is going to affect the

Job, Chapter 37

This was the conclusion of Elihu's speech. It was basically more of the same, praising God and his greatness, and urging Job to reconsider his words against God.

Job, Chapter 38

Now it's time for God himself to come into the story, addressing Job directly. This entire chapter was God talking about how great he was, bragging about all his accomplishments that a mere mortal like Job could never dream of doing. He never addressed Job's complaints about injustice. The NOAB offered a potential explanation, "The divine speeches are notable for their silence ofver Job's complaint of injustice, as if God means to say that administering justice is not part of his cosmic plan." Again, this aloofness matches the character of the OT god, but isn't the way most Christians imagine God to be.

I did like the way God first addressed Job, kind of like the uncle who gives you a shot of whiskey telling you it'll put hair on your chest.

   Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
   I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

There was a verse that mentioned "when the morning stars sang together". Like I've said before, it's hard to tell if this is poetic license, or if the writer really believed that stars were divine beings.

Job, Chapter 39

God continued on with his boasting of his own might and power - another 30 verses worth.

Job, Chapter 40

After momentarily wrapping up with his boasting, God asked Job if he still wanted to "contend with the Almighty". Now, I'll admit that I read Job's response a bit differently than the scholars from the NOAB. For refernce, here's the entirety of what Job said.

'See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
   I lay my hand on my mouth.
I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
   twice, but will proceed no further.'

I took that to mean that Job had been put in his place, and was done complaining about his situation. But the interpretation from the NOAB was, "Strikingly, Job does not capitulate; he says only that he will not repeat what he has already said. He defers his response until he speaks again in 42.2-6."

When God continued on with his speech, after first asking Job, "Will you even put me in the wrong? / Will you condemn me that you may be justified?", he responded sarcastically by telling Job to try it for himself.

Deck yourself with majesty and dignity;
   clothe yourself with glory and splendour.
Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
   and look on all who are proud, and abase them.

I only quoted a bit of God's sarcasm here - it continued for several verses.

There's an interesting passage in this chapter if you spend any time following creationists, where God describes "Behemoth". It's a big, powerful animal, that only God can approach. But just what exactly is it? According to the likes of Ken Ham, it might have been a dinosaur (seriously), while according to the NOAB, the scholarly opinion is divided over the hippopotamus or simply a mythical creature. If I had to bet, I'd wager on the hippo idea. It certainly fits with all the verses about living in the water and rivers. The only verse that seems out of character for a hippo is the one about the tail, "It makes its tail stiff like a cedar". But, when you consider how many euphemisms the various Biblical writers had for genitalia, this verse takes on a new meaning (Google also turned up an entirely appropriate image - you should click on it, it's fairly funny and mostly SFW).

Job, Chapter 41

This chapter was similar to the Behemoth section from the last chapter, but this chapter was devoted entirely to "Leviathan". The NOAB notes two possible interpretations - a crocodile, or "the mythical chaos monster". Many aspects certainly do seem crocodilian, but the fire breathing is something I've not yet seen in any nature documentary.

Job, Chapter 42

Job finally was able to answer God, and it seemed to be a response just utterly full of despair.

I know that you can do all things,
   and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

It's completely hopeless to try to go against God's will. After a few verses describing how he finally understood God's true character after having met him in person, Job finished off his response with the only action he had left.

therefore I despise myself,
   and repent in dust and ashes.

According to the NOAB, 'despise' is probably better translated as "melt, be discouraged", making the extent of Job's despair even more clear. The NOAB also indicates that 'repent' is not the proper translation (especially considering that Job never admitted guilt), and that that verse probably means that Job is merely done with his mourning and ready to get back on with his life.

Job's reply was the last of the poetry. The chapter concluded with the prose epilogue. First, God was angry with Job's three friends (apparently not Elihu) for not speaking the truth about God while Job had. They were commanded to offer sacrifices for their forgiveness. This seems to indicate that Job's complaints about God not administering justice were true.

The final verses closed with a passage that I've always found horrible. It doesn't start off too bad, "And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before." (The NOAB noted that the two-fold restitution was in keeping with the lawsuit analogy.) The bad part of this is that restoring what Job had lost included giving him new children. I never liked the implication of that when I was younger, but now as a parent I absolutely hate it. There's no way that children can be replaced like they're some type of property.


The book of Job is quite a dichotomy. Out of all the Biblical books I've read so far, it's one of the best from a literary perspective. The poetry is rather good, if repetitious. But the message delivered is also one of the bleakest. We're all slaves to the whims of God, whatever they may be. And God isn't particularly concerned with actual justice, nor justifying his actions. He's powerful, we're not. If you've been a good and blameless person, and God decides to make your life absolutely horrible just to test you, there's not a damn thing you can do about it other than take it. And you sure as hell better not complain, or even consider blaming God for what he's done to you, because then he might decide to actually punish you and make your situation even worse. It's a universe of might makes right, and God's the mightiest of them all.

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.

Friday, December 20, 2013

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.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday Bible Blogging - Job 11 to Job 20

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.

BibleChapters 11 through 20 of Job continue on in much the same vein as chapters 3 through 10. Job continues to lament his position, while his friends continue to offer different perspectives.

Job, Chapter 11

This is the first chance for Zophar to respond to Job. He's the least sympathetic of Job's friends, implying that Job really must be guilty of something that none of them know about, "Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves." Other than that, Zophar's message is similar to previous ones - be faithful to God, and he will set things right.

Job, Chapter 12

Chapter 12 begins what is commonly known as the second cycle of speeches. There are three cycles in the book. The cycles all begin with a speech from Job, and then alternate between speeches from his friends and Job's responses to them.

Job gets a little more explicit in his criticism of God in this speech. It's almost a lament that we are all at the mercy of God, no matter what he decides to do, good or bad. Consider verse 14:

If he tears down, no one can rebuild;
   if he shuts someone in, no one can open up.

or verses 24 and 25:

He strips understanding from the leaders of the earth,
   and makes them wander in a pathless waste.
They grope in the dark without light;
   he makes them stagger like a drunkard.

Job also points out that the wicked aren't always punished for their crimes, a theme he'll return to in later chapters.

The tents of robbers are at peace,
   and those who provoke God are secure,
   who bring their god in their hands.

Job, Chapter 13

Job continues his speech in much the same way. One interesting thing mentioned in the translation notes of the NRSV and the footnotes of the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) is that the traditional translation of verse 15 is not the best one. For example, the King James Version (KJV) translates it as "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him...", the New International Version (NIV) has "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him...", and the New Living Translation (NLT) has "God might kill me, but I have no other hope." The NRSV has a much bleaker translation, "See, he will kill me; I have no hope." This is one of those times when I wish I knew enough to not be at the mercy of the translation of others.

Job, Chapter 14

Chapter 14 is yet more of the same from Job - not bad reading, but not much else for me to write in reviewing it.

Job, Chapter 15

This is Eliphaz's second speech. He chastizes Job for all that he has said against God, pointing out that Job wasn't the first person to ever suffer. He also repeated the theme that God is just. There was one passage that caught my eye, being an atheist. It wasn't the first time 'the godless' were mentioned in this book, but it was a pretty explicit insult against them.

For the company of the godless is barren,
   and fire consumes the tents of bribery.
They conceive mischief and bring forth evil
   and their heart prepares deceit.

Job, Chapter 16

Job responded to Eliphaz, in much the way he's responded throughout this book. I did particularly like verse 3:

Have windy words no limit?
   Or what provokes you that you keep on talking?

There was also a verse where Job was calling on the earth itself to give some justice to Yahweh.

O earth, do not cover my blood;
   let my outcry find no resting-place.

Job, Chapter 17

More of the same from Job, so not much more for me to say, other than pointing out another set of verses that I liked.

If I look for Sheol as my house,
   if I spread my couch in darkness,
if I say to the Pit, "You are my father",
   and to the worm, "My mother", or "My sister",
where then is my hope?
   Who will see my hope?

I'll also note that there was a bit more denigration of 'the godless' in this chapter, though not as explicit as in other places:

The upright are appalled at this,
   and the innocent stir themselves up against the godless.

Job, Chapter 18

Chapter 18 was Bildad's second speech. There was one part of this that caught my attention, thanks to the footnotes in the NOAB. Verses 13 and 14 state:

By disease their skin is consumed,
   the firstborn of Death consumes their limbs.
They are torn from the tent in which they trusted,
   and are brought to the king of terrors.

The 'king of terrors', or Death, was apparently the king of the underworld. And like any king, his kingdom would pass on to his 'firstborn'. And, to quote the NOAB, "the terrors are his agents who drag people from life down into his kingdom." This really does seem to be, if not outright polytheism, at least very, very different from the Christian conception of Hell being ruled by an immortal devil Satan (and not 'the Accuser' Satan from the opening chapter of this book).

Job, Chapter 19

This is yet more of the same from Job, but there are a few verses worth pointing out. Verse 20 is the source of a very common saying:

My bones cling to my skin and to my flesh,
   and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.

The NOAB has a rather graphic description of what this verse is supposed to mean, "Escaped by the skin of my teeth, or rather, with the skin of my teeth, means that Job feels he has been flayed alive, his skin being stripped from every part of his body except his teeth, which of course have no skin."

The NOAB also notes that in Verse 25, " For I know that my Redeemer lives, / and that at the last he will stand upon the earth...", that 'Redeemer' should not be capitalized, since God is not going to be Job's champion, as God is the very one causing all of Job's problems.

Job, Chapter 20

This is Zophar's second speech to Job. It's largely of the same theme as all the other speeches from Job's friends, but this time it wasn't just the wicked, but also the godless who were badmouthed. It began with a verse that equated 'godless' with 'wicked':

Do you not know this from of old,
   ever since mortals were placed on earth,
that the exulting of the wicked is short,
   and the joy of the godless is but for a moment?

And then there was an extended section criticizing the godless, and detailing the fates they can expect, with such lovely sentiments as "they will perish for ever like their own dung", "Their children will seek the favour of the poor" (because as elsewhere in the Bible, children deserve to suffer for the actions of their parents), "They swallow down riches and vomit them up again", etc. This goes on for over 20 verses.


Like I wrote last week, the book of Job is actually one of the better books of the Bible I've read so far. To quote that entry, "The poetry is actually pretty good, and there are some moving passages." However, as I feared, it is becoming repetitious. To give an idea of how bad this can be, here's a quick anecdote. I usually do most of my initial reading on my phone, and then follow up later in the NOAB with the footnotes and translation notes. Usually, whenever I start the browser on the phone, it goes right to where I left off, acting as a good bookmark. But sometimes the phone browser will reset and go back a few chapters. This happened last week, and it took me two or three chapters before I was positive that I was re-reading passages I'd already read. That's how similar Job is from chapter to chapter.

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.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Friday Bible Blogging - Job 1 to Job 10

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.

BibleWell, once again I've missed my Friday goal, but at least I'm not too late. I plan on not posting this Friday since it's Thanksgiving week, and I'd rather spend my time preparing for and enjoying the holiday. I should be back to normal posting for the first part of December, but then I imagine that Christmas will throw me off again.

This week's entry begins the foray into the Wisdom books. They are sometimes referred to as the Poetical books because of the high proportion of poetry they contain (but this is when taken as a group, as the book of Ecclesiastes doesn't contain any poetry). Biblical poetry is a bit different from the poetry most English readers are used to. It doesn't rhyme, and doesn't appear to have meter (though there's a minority group of scholars who think it may have had meter in older pronunciations of Hebrew). It's poetry comes from its structure - making a statement, and then following it with one or more statements that vary according to certain patterns. These follow on statements are related in some way to the first statement, but it's not always clear which statement is the main theme of the stanza, and which is meant as supporting text. As an example of this structure, consider the first three lines of poetry from Job (Job 3:3).

'Let the day perish on which I was born,
   and the night that said,
   "A man-child is conceived."

The first line mentions 'day' in the first phrase, and being 'born' in the second. The following lines mention the opposite of day, 'night' in its first phrase, and 'conceived' as the analog to born in the second. It's a parallel structure with opposites.

Given the amount of white space on the pages due to the poetry, I'd originally thought that I'd make it through these verses faster. However, I find myself subconsciously studying the structure of these verses at the same time I'm reading them for content, forcing me to actually read them more slowly.

The overall structure of the book of Job is prose 'endcaps' surrounding the poetry that makes up the bulk of the book. The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) notes that there's some debate over whether or not the book was compiled from different sources. The prose/ poetry divide is the most obvious break that could denote different source materials (with the prose portions being older), but scholars have also debated whether some of the poetry portions might be later additions, and whether or not the original order of the verses has been preserved, "but a tendency among scholars to regard the book as a unified whole is becoming noticeable."

Job, Chapter 1

Chapter 1 is the first chapter of prose prologue. Job is presented as an idealized man, "blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil." He had sons, daughters, servants, livestock of various kinds, and was just successful in general. But one day when the "heavenly beings" all gathered together, the Satan and God had a conversation about Job, where God boasted about how upright Job was. The Satan countered that it was easy to be faithful when you've got it so good, and challenged God to "stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face." God agreed to the challenge, and allowed the Satan to do what he wanted to Job, so long as he didn't harm Job directly. So, the Satan killed all of Job's livestock, servants, and even children (though it appears that some of the actions were committed by God himself). And these were mostly violent deaths - raiders putting them to "the edge of the sword", the "fire of God" coming down from heaven and burning them up, and even a wind blowing over a house to make it collapse on Job's children. But at the end of the chapter, even though Job "tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshipped", he did not curse God or commit any sin.

One notable aspect from this chapter was that Job was from the land of Uz. He wasn't an Israelite, though he did worship God. However, as noted in the NOAB, the terms he used for God included 'El', 'Eloah', and 'Elohim'.

The NOAB noted that 'the Satan' was not the same character that many Christians think of when they hear that term. Since it's so interesting, I'll quote that entire footnote.

6-12: The gathering of the divine council in heaven (cf. Kings 22.19-12; Ps 82.1) includes "the Satan," i.e., "the adversary" of Job and other humans (cf. Zech 3.1), not of God; he is not the "devil" of later Jewish and Christian literature (see textual note b). Here he acts as God's eyes and ears on earth. He questions whether Job's righteousness is for its own sake of for the sake of its reward.

Note that the 'textual note' from the NRSV translation read, "Or the Accuser; Heb ha-satan"

Job, Chapter 2

Chapter 2 began with another meeting of the "heavenly beings", and again God boasted about Job. This time, the Satan said that Job would probably give in if things were to happen to him directly, "Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives." So God gave the Satan permission to torment Job physically, just so long as he didn't kill him. And Job was inflicted with sores from head to foot. Now destitute, his wife asked him why he wouldn't just "Curse God, and die", presumably because God would kill Job for such an insult. But Job still persisted in not cursing the Lord, "Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?" The chapter closed with three of Job's friends who had heard of his troubles coming to meet with him, but then mourning as if he were dead as soon as they saw him.

Job, Chapter 3

Chapter 3 begins the poetry. Most of the verses in this chapter are variations on the theme of Job lamenting that he was even born, and wishing that he were already dead. Although it's not an uplifting message, it is rather moving.

Job, Chapter 4

Chapter 4 was the first response from one of Job's friends, Eliphaz. Keep in mind the mindset of the Jews when this was written (and still among many religious people today). They believed that God would reward or punish people based on how good they were. Heck, this has been a theme throughout the Bible up to this point. Job's friends couldn't believe that he was being made to suffer so badly for no reason, or that if he was, that God wouldn't eventually set things right. After describing Job as a basically good man, Eliphaz told him this:

'Think now, who that was innocent ever perished?
   Or where were the upright cut off?
As I have seen, those who plough iniquity
   and sow trouble reap the same.

After going on a bit more in that vein, Eliphaz went on to describe a vision he'd had, where a spirit came to visit him in the night, and told him how nobody can appear pure before God, not even angels, and especially not mere mortals.

Job, Chapter 5

Eliphaz went on with his speech, speaking to the human condition, and how suffering is just an inevitable aspect.

For misery does not come from the earth,
   nor does trouble sprout from the ground;
but human beings are born to trouble
   just as sparks fly upward.

Actually, the NOAB notes that the third line above would be better translated as "Humans beget suffering for themselves", that we bring it on ourselves.

Eliphaz went on to describe the good nature of God, that even when he causes or allows bad things to happen, he will redeem people in the end, "For he wounds, but he binds up."

Job, Chapter 6

Job responded to Eliphaz, maintaining his innocence. In this his section, Job is even more explicit in hope that God would kill him to end his suffering, "that it would please God to crush me". Job also berated his friends for not being true friends and assuming the worst of him. To a large degree, it was more of the same theme from Job - lamenting his position and his powerlessness to do anything about it.

Job, Chapter 7

Job continues his personal lament, and also touches a bit on the general human condition.

There's a passage that even mocks Psalm 8.4. The passage here is "What are human beings, that you make so much of them, / that you set your mind on them..." Contrast that to Psalm 8:4, "what are human beings that you are mindful of them, / mortals that you care for them?" Whereas Psalms showed wonder that God would care about humans, Job shows bitterness that God gives humans undue scrutiny.

Job, Chapter 8

It's now Job's other friend's turn to speak, Bildad. He started off with a figure of speech that gets used a few times more in this book, and I found it pretty humorous, "How long will you say these things, / and the words of your mouth be a great wind?"

Bildad's response is similar to that of Eliphaz, except Bildad is not as charitable in assuming that Job is innocent. Most of Bildad's response boils down to saying that God punishes the wicked accordingly, and that if Job is innocent and upright, his current sufferings will be set right.

Job, Chapter 9

Job responds to Bildad, and now there's an even stronger sense of hopelessness. Just consider his first few lines of the chapter.

'Indeed I know that this is so;
   but how can a mortal be just before God?
If one wished to contend with him,
   one could not answer him once in a thousand.

Job went on to describe many of the great accomplishments of God to highlight his power, and then listed all the examples of how lowly he himself (Job) was. I especially liked these lines.

There is no umpire between us,
   who might lay his hand on us both.

Job, Chapter 10

Chapter 10 continues on with Job's speech that he started in the previous chapter. It's more of the same theme - Job's powerlessness, his suffering, and his wish that he'd rather be dead or to never have existed than to have to go on experiencing this suffering.

There were a couple verses that caught my eye, especially for the footnote in the NOAB.

Did you not pour me out like milk
   and curdle me like cheese?
You clothed me with skin and flesh,
   and knit me together with bones and sinews.

According to the NOAB, the understanding at the time was that a man's 'seed' would coagulate into the fetus inside the womb.


So far, the book of Job is interesting. The poetry is actually pretty good, and there are some moving passages. However, I'm only a quarter of the way through, and it's already starting to seem a bit repetitious. I hope it moves on to more themes in the coming chapters.

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.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Bible Blogging - The Book

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index.

The Skeptic's Perspective, Cover
The Skeptic's Perspective: An Atheist Reads the Bible
by Jeffrey Lewis
$9.99 from
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.
Have you been following along with this series, and found yourself hoping for a professionally printed and bound copy to put on your bookshelf? (No? Just me?) Well the wait is over. I've collected all of the entries for the Pentateuch and the Historical Books, and compiled them into the first volume of a multiple-part series, The Skeptic's Perspective: An Atheist Reads the Bible.

As with my other book, I'm using the print on demand company, Lulu. I've just this week completed all the work to put the book together on Lulu, and am eagerly awaiting my copy of the book. For this reason, I've made the note on the product page that this is a proof copy version. Now, I was pretty careful to try to make the book correctly, but until I get the review copy in my hand, I can't promise that it's perfect. So, if you'd prefer, you can wait until I look over the hard copy and change the product page to the release version. But, if you're trying to get an early start on your holiday shopping, and you trust that I haven't screwed things up too badly, you can place your order now for everyone on your Christmas list (everyone, that is, who would appreciate a Christmas present written by an atheist).


Yeah, yeah. I know that I'm probably going to be the only person to order this book. Unlike my previous book that I really do think has broader appeal, I don't foresee a huge market for this one. And I probably shouldn't write something like that on the page where I'm trying to convince people to buy the book, but it's the truth. Really, I just wanted a nice copy to put on my bookshelf, and with print on demand companies it's just as easy to make it available to the whole world.


Selling Out