Reading through the Bible together
This chapter teaches us more about Job. Yes, the younger generation laughs at him now in his sickness. They have no respect for their elders and act like dogs that go after sheep. Job has little respect for their fathers (verse 1). Job did no wrong to these unskilled young laborers and since they needed income, Job employed them and found a place for their fathers to work. But the children of these fathers hated Job for where their fathers were working. King David also cared for the sheep day and night so there is nothing wrong with this position of labor. Verse 2 indicates that Job needed men with strong hands; weak hands were no use to him. He needed laborers to help him since he had many sheep but their lifestyles were problematic.
Job followed proper labor-practices and treated his servants better than what was custom in his days and accepted labor laws. That is because he was a faithful person and perfect in his ways. Believing in God and stepping over his employees cannot be linked to Job. Verse 3 is probably the most difficult verse in the whole book of Job. It talks about “losers” driven from society. They are homeless and have to live on roots (verse 4). Root-eating vegetarians are all over the world and Job is not saying they are in misery but he is indicating that these ‘losers’ driven from society had no choice but to live on roots. “From lack they are driven forth (meaning that as homeless and needy they are marginalized from regular society) and people shout upon them like a thief” (verse 5). Society is always skeptical of homeless and links them automatically with theft in the neighborhood.
“Flood-water carves out holes and there is where the homeless dwell, or in caves, or like animals among the bushes (verses 6-7). “Sons of senselessness and sons of no-name, they were broken from the land” (verse 8). These miserable homeless people were the ones that Job employed and gave a staff to look after his flocks. “But now, I have become their song” (verse 9). Instead of being thankful that Job elevated their condition to give them a stable income, they gossip and sing about Job’s trouble. They “reject me and they distance themselves from me” (verse 10).
In verse 11 Job and Moses end the citation from a probable popular poem with many Egyptian loan words describing the condition of a homeless man and then Job describes his own condition. God “enlarged the door/opening and afflicted me.” Job’s disease started on his right leg as “sprouts” that disabled him from walking properly (v. 12). They increased his calamity (verse 13; his physical suffering (see v. 17, 30). Like a wide wound or breach [in his skin] the disease came (v. 14). “Terrors cast themselves upon me” (v. 15) and “like [an evil] spirit” they pursue him, and “my salvation passed by like a cloud” (v. 15). After the disease attacked him, “my soul pours out upon me” (verse 16). At night he had no rest and his bones had troubles (verse 17). Due to his pain and disease, he had to change into a [hospital gown] look (verse 18). The disease took him to medical mud-treatments of his day and he felt like ashes and dust (verse 19). Mud-therapy is applied also in modern times still at the Dead Sea.
Prayer is part of the therapy for Job so “I cry out to You, Lord, but You do not answer me” (verse 20). “You poured me out to the lord of the spirits [Satan] with the strength of Your hand (verse 21). “You lifted me up unto the [evil, satanic] spirit” (verse 22). But those who are faithful to You and in whom they trust, they are put on theatrical display for their faithfulness; “You cause me to ride in the wind and the storm” (verse 22). In all of this, Job’s faith was unchanged and he testifies: “I knew that You would return me to death and to the house of meeting for all the living” (verse 23).
Job knows about the resurrection morning and the meeting of all the living saints in the eschaton. “Indeed”, says Job faithfully, “not with severity does He stretch forth His hand” (verse 24). Job confirms his innocence by emphasizing that he wept for those who had a difficult day, and his soul grieved for the needy (verse 25). He hoped for good and evil came, he looked forward to the light and darkness fell on him (verse 26). Days of affliction came over his body (verse 27). His skin became darkened without sunlight and in the congregation he would cry out (verse 28). Driven from people “a brother I became to the feeble and a companion to the sons of those who grieve” (verse 29). His skin blackened and his bones dried out from the heat. Job’s imaginary harp and flute became like the voice of weepers (verse 30).
What we learn from Job is that he remained faithful despite his tribulation on the stage of heaven’s display, that he was a good employer of people with miserable backgrounds and that despite physical infirmities he knew His God. Also we dear Lord, want to remain steadfast. Amen.
Koot van Wyk
Kyungpook National University
Sangju, South Korea