Restored!? (Job 42:10-17)
Bill Long 3/31/05
This study presents the unexpected and ambiguous final words of the Book of Job. I say the words are "ambiguous" because they seem to provide an answer to a problem that had been answered in a different way just a few verses previously. Here is what I mean. When God excoriated the friends in 42:7, he did so because they had not spoken "right" of God. The friends were proponents of the wisdom theology, and their words on God's judgment of the wicked, his discipline of the righteous, and his rule over the world are expressions of that theology. So, by chiding the friends, God implicitly finds fault with the wisdom theology. Proverbs had said: "Honor the Lord with your substance and with the first fruit of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine" (Prov. 3:9-10). God, therefore, is seemingly disagreeing with that theology. The gravamen of religion, so to speak, is not on hearing and doing (and getting rewarded) but on seeing--God.
But then, in 42:10-17, Job is restored. He gets back twofold what he had lost (with select exceptions). From the perspective of the wisdom theology, Job has weathered a severe trial in faithfulness and has been rewarded for his perseverance and fidelity. In other words, the closing verses of the book seem to reinforce the very tradition that was criticized only a few verses earlier. Faced with this problem, many scholars argue that the last eight verses are some kind of later addition, maybe by an embarrassed editor, who was trying to "clean up" or harmonize the Book of Job with the dominant (wisdom) tradition of the day. That he did so clumsily, the argument goes, is unfortunate.
In my judgment, this is "too easy" an answer. We need to deal with the Book of Job as we have it, and not try to take refuge in uncertain editing practices that have left no trace in the manuscript tradition. So, what we have, I believe, is an ambiguity at the end of the book. Do you agree? If you agree, does it taint or, possibly, increase your appreciation of the Book of Job? If you disagree, how do you explain or reconcile the two different emphases?
10 "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. 11 Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. 12 The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. 15 In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job's daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16 After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children's children, four generations. 17 And Job died, old and full of days."
A. What is the relationship of Job's prayer and his restoration? Does restoration only stand in temporal relationship to the prayer (i.e., afterwards) or is it causally related, too?
B. Could you argue that Job's inner restoration already took place in 42:5-6 and that this is only an external or physical sign that such an internal transformation had already occurred?
C. One of the strangest things about this passage is the visitors that come and see Job once he is restored. For the first time in the book we have references to his sisters and brothers, who come and visit him. Where were they when the roof collapsed, so to speak? Does this suggest anything about the relationship between Job and his family and friends? Why do they wait so long to comfort him?
D. What is the meaning, if there is any, of the gifts they bring him?
E. Everything seems to be doubled for Job, except the servants, of whom no mention is made, and the children. Any reason for the exception of the servants?
F. Job's daughters, but not the sons, are named. What might the significance of this be?
G. According to Israelite law (Num.27), the daughters would only get an inheritance if there were no sons, but Job does things differently. Some scholars have argued that this suggests that the Book of Job is a very early book, even before the law of Moses. I disagree with that, since the Book of Job reflects fairly sophisticated understanding of several of the Psalms. If Job does things contrary to Israelite practice by giving the daughters an inheritance, what might that mean?
H. Job ends his life as a satisfied man. Do you understand this to include a sense of spiritual as well as material satisfaction?
I. What do you think would happen if there was a verse 42:18 to the Book of Job, which described a second visit that the Satan made to God, and the Satan had said, "Well, Job appeared to weather this first set of trials just fine, but I have yet another plan to test his faith. Let me test him again, to see how genuine his faith is." Would God have heeded the Satan's advice a second time?
Though this ends an extensive set of studies on the Book of Job, your adventure with it is really just beginning. I have discovered almost infinite complexity in the book, with new insights leaping out at me as I delve more deeply into the Hebrew and as I try to hear the tone of the speakers throughout the whole. I have found Job to be a lifetime book--one that I can come back to at every point in my life and discover incredible gifts of insight and language that I want to adopt in my own thought and language. It takes loss seriously. It holds out hope for some kind of restoration. It shows that clinging to legal categories, even when we know we are right, does not profit us at all. Yet it patiently lets Job speak all his words until they are ended. The last word, then, is that the Book of Job has that characteristic which it predicated of its namesake: integrity.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long