Job as Legal Argument
One of the most important things to do in approaching a piece of literature is to try to understand its basic structure and the devices used by the author to communicate its meaning. My contention in this essay is the Book of Job can fruitfully be understood in the context of legal argumentation. In short, the Book of Job is Job's "Complaint" against God for the humiliating and painful treatment Job has endured.
Job says so himself. When he mentions the bitterness he feels, Job expresses the following wish: "Oh that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments (Job 23: 3-4)." Earlier Job has said, "But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God (Job 13: 3)." Then, lest we miss the point, Job says, "I have indeed prepared my case; I know that I shall be vindicated (Job 13: 18)."
Understanding the Book of Job, or at least through Job 31, as Job's legal Complaint against God helps to clarify the reason for his stress on God's need to answer [because, in legal altercations, the defendant needs to respond to plaintiff's allegations in the Complaint], on the way Job concludes his words ["Here is my signature! let the Almighty answer me!"--Job 31:35-- The last thing that lawyers should do before filing a Complaint is to sign it] and even on the most important silent character in the first half of the Book of Job, whom Job calls his "witness in heaven (Job 16:19)."
After Job feels the deep pain of his loss suffered in Job 1-2 and cries out in anguish (Job 3), he begins to formulate his approach to his pain. We cannot understand the flow of the Book of Job, from Job 3-31, without first being aware that the strategy of dealing with his pain that he finds most compelling is to frame his it in the context of a formal legal process. Pain is funneled into legal categories.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long