Bill Long 2/6/05
The Relentless Divine Attacks Continue
Job feels besieged by God, the friends and the physical circumstances of his life. In this situation he is not in the frame of mind to admit personal culpability for anything. "There is no violence in my hands, and my prayer is pure (16:17)," are his words from his previous speech. He maintains that spunky oppositionalism in Job 19 even as he continues to describe the rapacious attacks of God on him with language which, if anything, is as poignant, intense and exhausting as the language of Job 16. Scholars are not in agreement about how to divide the first 12 verses of this chapter, but I think there is a transition in Job's thinking after v.6.
1 Then Job answered: 2 "How long will you torment me, and break me in pieces with words? 3 These ten times you have cast reproach upon me; are you not ashamed to wrong me? 4 And even if it is true that I have erred, my error remains with me. 5 If indeed you magnify yourselves against me, and make my humiliation an argument against me, 6 know then that God has put me in the wrong, and closed his net around me."
A. This question relates to 1-12 in its entirety. What is Job's tone here? Is he defiant? Hurt? Expressing vulnerability? That is, when he asks how long they will "break" him in pieces (other translations have "pulverize"), is he speaking as a "broken" man? How would you be speaking at this time of the conversation, taking into consideration the reaction of the friends so far?
B. How does Job say "these ten times" in v.3? Would it have been helpful for someone to have pointed out to Job that there have, in fact, only been five speeches of friends before he said this?
C. How do you read v.4? What might he be referring to?
D. When Job says that "God has put me in the wrong," he is putting his finger on the central part of his complaint--God's culpability for Job's distress. He says it even more clearly in 19:21--"for the hand of God has touched me." Another translation takes the verb rendered "put me in the wrong" as "bent" me, on the analogy of its use twice in 8:3 where Bildad talks about Job accusing God of "perverting" or "bending" justice. I like to experiment with meaning so that when we have two possible translations I play with both resultant interpretations. What would each translation of the verb suggest?
E. The picture of God encircling Job with a net (v.6) matches Bildad's picture of the fate of the wicked in 18:8. Do you see Job's reference as an implicit response to Bildad?
7 "Even when I cry out, 'Violence!' I am not answered; I call aloud, but there is no justice. 8 He has walled up my way so that I cannot pass, and he has set darkness upon my paths. 9 He has stripped my glory from me, and taken the crown from my head. 10 He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone, he has uprooted my hope like a tree. 11 He has kindled his wrath against me, and counts me as his adversary. 12 His troops come on together; they have thrown up siegeworks against me, and encamp around my tent."
A. Now Job will turn away from the friends and, figuratively speaking, turn "in the direction" of God, even though he does not address God personally. The Hebrew word for "violence" is "Hamas," which is one Semitic word that almost every educated American now knows. What is it like to feel like you are crying for justice in the world or for your life and there is no response? Is the longing for justice the fundamental yearning of the human heart?
B. The images in vv.8-12 are like a cascading waterfall that pounds and pummels as it crashes over the lip of the falls. Compare the imagery here to that in 16:6ff. Where are the similarities? Differences? Any development in thought?
C. Each of the pictures in vv.8-12 can give us pause. Which ones have a resonance with you? Let's review them. God "walls up my way" or 'blocks my road.' Talk about what it is like to have your way blocked, both physically and intellectually or spiritually or psychologically.
D. God "set(s) darkness upon my paths." Darkness is a "mega-theme" in the Book of Job, as we have seen. But maybe the picture here is just drawn from the terrifying experience of being waylaid or delayed because of darkness. Why would that be terrifying for a person from the ancient world?
E. V.9 should be read in connection with Job 29:7-20. Have you ever experienced the emotions attendant upon demotion? What is it like?
F. V.10 combines images of breaking down and uprooting. The picture I get is of something that comes crashing down only to be ripped out of the earth. No roots, no heights. What feelings does this picture create?
G. Vv.11-12 portray God as one who attacks in wrath. Where have we seen the themes of God's anger previously? Why does Job keep returning to that theme? What is it like to feel besieged? What happens to the individual who is besieged?
As we saw in ch.16, the intensity of the flowing images led to Job's intellectual exhaustion and a rather disjoined ch.17. Here the intensity of images will continue for several more verses until everything breaks apart into near-meaninglessness in 19:25b-27. Why is it worth it to devote so much energy to a personal search for vindication? Why isn't it about time for Job to "give up" or "relax" or at least to "learn to accept" his situation? As Job becomes more adamant, the 2nd person address to God disappears. Is there any relationship between the two? If he had continued to talk to God in the 2nd person, would it have come to this?
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long