In Honor of Professor Anthony Petrotta
There is no question that once Job says, "the arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks their poision (6:4)," Job treats God as his attacker. God violently entered Job's life and reduced this formerly stately prince to a shadow of his former self. Thus, he asks God to finish the job.
"O that I might have my request, and that God would grant me my desire; that it would please God to crush me, that he would let loose his hand and cut me off (6:8-9)!"
But this does not happen. The torment continues; the pain never seems to end. Job's fervent request to be crushed under the divine hand is replaced by a series of questions and complaints that gradually transmute from Job as God's target (7:20; 16:12) to Job as God's burden (7:20) to Job as God's threat (7:12) to, finally, Job as God's studied enemy (13:24; 19:11).
Job as God's Enemy
The Hebrew of the book uses two words to describe Job as God's enemy (tsar and 'oyyeb). The first is used in 19:11 where, amid the graphic images of God's assault on Job, Job tersely observes, "[he] counts me as his adversary." More to the point is 13:24, where he sadly asks,
"Why do you hide your face, and count me as your enemy ('oyyeb)?"
When we realize that the name "Job" in Hebrew ('iyyob) contains the same three Hebrew consonants as "enemy" (aleph, yod and beth) in the same order, but that the vowels (represented mostly as points under or over the letters) are reversed, we have a sentence that could read, 'Why do you count me, Job ('iyyob), as your enemy ('oyyeb)? Though the word 'Job' is absent in 13:24, the meaning is crystal clear: 'iyyob is God's 'oyyeb. The vowels "i" and "e" are almost pronounced identically. The author is engaging in word play.
What has happened, however, is that God has reversed his vowels. Instead of seeing 'iyyob' when he looks out on the human world, he sees 'oyyeb' and thinks the 'oyyeb' is 'iyyob.' Job is not altogether clear whether it is by divine mistake or maliciousness that God has treated him so but, in any case, God reckons him an enemy. Perhaps this is an example of God's anger being out of control (cf. 9:5,13). God is so angry that he, as it were, speaks too quickly and mangles his vowels.
Note that Job does not say, 'I am your enemy, God.' Instead, he says that God counts him as the enemy. It is as if Job occupies a privileged knowledge position with respect to the universe and can divine the divine mind. Maybe it is this confidence, this hubris, this chutzpah, that ultimately sticks in God's craw when he launches into his criticism of Job's limited knowledge (Job 38).
In any case, for now, iyyob is considered God's oyyeb. The relentless march of Job's eloquent anguish continues. Hope is destroyed (Job 14) and the legal case will probably go nowhere (Job 13; 23), but still Job has to oppose God. He must oppose God because he is not yet big enough to forgive God.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long