Reading through the Bible together
In this chapter onward, Job started to reflect on his condition. Scholars want to call these sections “speeches in poetic form” with Satan as part of an artificial introduction but what they miss is that Satan’s hand stretches across chapter three into chapter four with an appearance to Eliphaz in 4:12ff. Satan utilized Job’s friends to continue his onslaught. So they were silent but here Job started speaking. The Jewish Talmud says that comforters are not to say anything until the mourner opens the conversations.
So Job begins by complaining about the day of his birth in a series of comparisons: day and night (verse 3); darkness and light (verse 4); cloud and blackness (verse 5); no special day (verse 6); no joyful shout (verse 7); let them be quiet and curse the day” (verse 8); stars should be darkened and not see dawn (verse 9). All this because of his birthday. He asked that God do not look for his birthday (verse 4).
Job wants someone to point out the purpose of his existence and why he was born. (verses 11-12). He says that if he died at birth he would be sleeping and tasting a true Sabbath rest (verse 13). A second meaning of Sabbath rest is in verse 17, namely to cease from anger; for prisoners to be at ease, servants not hearing the voice of the taskmaster; freedom from the employers (verses 18-19). A third meaning of Sabbath or rest is in verse 26 namely it is to be at ease, quiet, and free from turmoil.
The Jewish understanding is that because of the report of the lose of his livestock Job was not at ease; because of the report of the fire, he was not quiet; because of the report of the camels, he was not at rest; and because of the report of his children feasting troubles came. This Jewish interpretation is not correct. Losing loved ones and possessions is very tough on anyone. But Job is saying that he wishes he had never been born then he would not have had to suffer from the deprivation of a Sabbath-like peace and blessings in his life.
Job is wondering why God did not prevent the evil although he does not blame God. After all, what is the purpose of living when you gain the whole world and then lose everything? Why does a loving God continue to give life to a bitter soul (verse 20)? In ancient Greece stages for plays were built with three wooden floors on three levels: above for heaven, below for the underworld, and in the middle for daily living. The audience had the full perspective since they could see the spiritual forces above being acted out and below that the results on daily living.
The book of Job was written to give us a look at the level above and the level below on daily living. Job’s agony was his absence of knowledge of the plot of the leader of the Rebellion in Heaven. But we, the readers, are well informed and can see it all.
We live with daily tragedies and turmoil surrounding us and affecting us. Thank You for Moses’ historical story on the life of Job informing us how to deal with suffering and pain in our lives.
Koot van Wyk
Kyungpook National University
Sangju, South Korea