MORE JOB ESSAYS
Job and Sp. Form. I
Job and Sp. Form. II
Spiritual Formation III
Spiritual Formation IV
Spiritual Formation V
Spiritual Formation VI
Sp. Formation VII
Sp. Formation VIII
Sp. Formation IX
Sp. Formation X
Sp. Formation XI
Sp. Formation XII
Job's Wife I
Job's Wife II
Visit of the Friends I
Visit of the Friends II
Silence of Friends
Job 3:6-8 I
Job 3:6-8 II
Job 3:11-19 II
Noise and Quiet
Job 3:20-23 II
Job 4:6 II
Job 4:7-11 II
Job 4:12-16 I
Job 4:12-16 II
Job 4:21 II
Job 5:1-2 II
Job 4:7-5:7 II
Job 5:8-11 II
Job 5:12-16 II
Job 5:17 (2nd)
Bill Long 4/22/05
MORE Job essays? You have got to be kidding. No, not really. I write them because my second look into Job has kept opening new interpretive angles that I didn't recognize at first. My most recent book (A Hard-Fought Hope: Journeying with Job Through Mystery, Upper Room Books, 2004) emphasized the psychological dimensions of Job's anguish, even though I wanted to make the language of Job resonate for the reader. But, after completing the book I felt that I needed to do a genereal overall study of Job for those who might want to be "eased in" to this great classic. Hence my "Basic Essays" on this web site. Yet, when I was writing those Basic Essays I realized that there were lots of little subjects that cropped up that invited further consideration. Sometimes it was the way that Job seemed to used Scripture, either turning it on its head or reaffirming it (hence my essays on Job and Psalm 139). Sometimes it was a brutally arresting verse describing God's assault on Job. Someties it was a verse that tried to capture the depth and complexity of Job's feelings in just a few words (like my essays on Job 9:20-21). And, sometimes I felt that I was just beginning to understand the flow of a shorter passage that I could "ignore" in the overview treatment. Hence, the Advanced Essays.
But that wasn't enough for me either. I wanted to encourage others to take advantage of this most difficult and challenging biblical book. Hence, beginning in January 2005 I started writing a study guide for the Book of Job. Though this didn't bring me much deeper into the text of Job than my book, it did give me an opportunity to try to show how I would guide people through the book, if they were inclined to study it. Then, as I explain in the introduction to my conversations with Job essays, I felt like I wanted to "speak with Job" directly. He is a sage for me, a kind of wisdom figure who endured tremendous suffering and thereby is qualified to "listen" and "answer" my own needs.
But even as I was writing the study guide and the conversations, I was painfully aware that they were forcing me back to the text itself. Since I hadn't memorized the Hebrew text, I was constantly learning new things--turns of phrase, alternative possible translations of a text, new connections between one part of the text and another, new questions to ask of the language. That is, I realized that despite the fact I had studied the Book of Job closely, I hadn't really immersed myself in the language to the extent that I wanted to. And I discovered, when I began to do that close language work, the text opened up a new level of richness for me.
My essays on Job's Wife, though written in January 2005, were sort of "breakthrough" essays for me. What they represent is the ability of a close study of language to call into question dominant theses about a character. I suggest some things in these essays about my new approach to her, but it wasn't until the last one or two essays in my conversation with Job, where I reflect on why the Book of Job mentions Job's daughters' names at the end and not the sons, and why they inherit equally to their brothers, that I was ready to confirm the thesis first argued in the "Job's Wife" essays. In short, I take the "curse God" in her line "curse God and die" (2:9) literally and render it "bless God." Then I take the imperative form "die" as a consequential action--following Clines here ("The second imperative most probably indicates the consequence of the first"-p.5), and render the line, "Curse God and die," as "Bless God and you're going to die." Or, 'if you keep on blessing God (in the way you did in 1:20f.), you will simply die. You will not be able to maintain the dissonance of the words of blessing and the anguish of your heart, and you simply will die.'
Then, we can look at Job's words in ch.3 as Job's having listened to his wife. He will no longer keep on "blessing God" as he has in 1:21. He will "curse" the day of his birth. One of the keys to the book of Job is to realize that Job followed his wife's advice in 3:1. Isn't that the way it is with husbands and wives? The wife picks up rather immediately what is "ailing" her husband, and she makes a suggestion on how to extricate himself from his bind. She, almost invariably, is right. So, she was right here. In gratitude to his wife for perceiving his situation with accuracy, Job, when he is restored, places his daughters in specially honored positions.
Thus, a close reading of the text led to a linking of the text with other parts of the Book and to a new thesis that is not only attractive to our day (a "feminist" reading of Job's wife) but seems to fit the contours of the text. Reasoning like this has encouraged me to see the Book of Job as an engaging challenge, as a book that wants to appeal to all my ingenuity and intelligence.
The only "downside" to this realization is the awareness that I have to read very slowly. I can go an entire day with only reading a line or two of text. This is a terribly "inefficient" way of learning, according to our culture. We are supposed to breeze through pages of text, to learn how to "cover" massive amounts of material, and then present this to students as well as to absorb it ourselves. But I find that the scope of the Book of Job, where each line may suggest morsels of psychological truth or expose layers of thinking on life, or may provide us with unforgettable images of unusual power, simply tells me that I have to slow down in order for the text to speak to me. These pages are my attempt to "slow down" in reading the Book of Job.
But as I was writing this page, I couldn't get a poem out of my mind. It is John Keats' "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer." He is referring to a "new" translation of Homer that had come his way and how the reading of it opened new realms of insight for him. I can't but feel as I read and memorize HIS poem, that I understand perfectly, through my second reading of the Book of Job, the joy at unexpected and overpowering discovery. Here is the poem:
MUCH have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
Can you feel the wonder?
Looking at you with a wild surmise,
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long