"Hi again, Job. Well, guess what? After all those words l yesterday on Tuesdays with Morrie, I looked at the calendar and guess what? Yep, today is Tuesday. So, now I have my Tuesdays with Job. But, the joy I have is that I speak with you every day, and sometimes twice a day, Job. I don't have to wait until next Tuesday to listen to you and talk with you. How lucky am I!
But I need to keep talking with you, Job, because I am right smack in the middle of a conundrum. I really need to know ultimately if it was possible for you to be "restored," whatever that might mean, after your huge loss. So far we have been talking about God's speech to you in 38-41, but before I return to that, I have to make one small detour back to ch.31.
You are your defiant self at the end of 31, when you stop speaking. It really is your finest moment, Job. How did you feel, for example, when you said with great boldness and disdain, "Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!" (31:35)? I bet that even in your weakness and lassitude you felt such a surge of energy, such an electric jolt so to speak (oh, Job, electricity was discovered/invented late in the 19th century in America. Believe me, we can't live with out it) that you were temporarily on top of the world. Then, a few verses later, when it says "The words of Job are ended" (v.40), it is almost as if I hear rumbling going on for about another minute or so, as if the earth itself is reverberating because of the echoing fury and confidence and arrogance of your last words. You, Job, the solitary guy, have taken it directly to God. Friends could not dissuade you; your inner pain and physical turmoil couldn't hold you back; even God's silence did not deter. You stayed the course; you held fast to what you knew was true; you would not budge from your integrity.
But there is one other small point I need to mention, Job, before returning to God's speech to you in 38-41. I know some people who talk about you (and not too many people do, Job, and I think that is a shame) as follows: 'Job was blameless and upright because the Scripture says so. He feared God and turned away from evil. But ultimately Job must have been arrogant someplace so that God had to slap him down. Ultimately Job's own pride or arrogance or self-centeredness got the better of him and God had to 'put him in his place.' So, that is what happened in 38-41 and that is why Job confessed in 42. He realized that 'God was God,' and that he was human, and he was restored when he realized his 'place' as humble servant before God.'
That is what some people are saying about you, Job. And, I have to admit, it has a superficial attractiveness to it, but when I think of it for more than about 30 seconds, I see it as one big crock. It rests on a fundamental mistake, and that mistake is that somehow you "turned" arrogant in your suffering. There is absolutely no textual support for the notion, as far as I can see, that you "lost" your integrity, your uprightness, your blamelessness, your "tamheit" so to speak, in anything you did. In addition, my interpretation of 42:7, which you didn't disagree with, has God recognize you as being right all along. That is, God himself admits that you never lost your integrity. Thus, we have to see your conduct from 3:1-31:40 as driven by or reflective of or flowing out of (or whatever metaphor you want to use) your integrity. It was your integrity that made you attack God, make your case against God, say all those nasty things about God. It was your unerring sense that something was dramatically wrong with the world and with God that drove you to be so dogged, so persistently persnickety in everything you said. So let's put that so-called interpretation of you to rest, Job. You never lost your integrity. Those who say otherwise are possibly driven by pure motives; maybe they are unconsciously afraid (like the friends). Whatever.
Ok, so let's return to God's speech to you in 38-41. You must have been heart-broken and fearful when you heard God start to speak. How, by the way, did you know it was God? Was there a sign that says, "Now God speaks?" Does God have a sort of Ed McMahon who can announce his coming..."Heeeere's God!" Oh, did Elihu function in that capacity? He is a kind of bumbler at one level, but he doesn't seem to be a wine-bibbing (or on the wagon) Irishman. Did God speak audibly? I guess so. But I can't really imagine how that might have happened and I leave it alone here.
I think that God wasn't satisfied with your words in 40:3-5, Job. That is, I think he saw that there was ambiguity in them, as I have pointed out. Ambiguity means to God that you might not have been completely submissive to him. I think that ticked God off a lot. That is, you had disturbed him both with your insistence and with the nature of your complaint. It isn't often that someone just goes after God like that. But I actually think that he tried to "play nice" to you in 38-39. That is, he was going to expose gently your ignorance of the natural world and he expected you to humbly submit and say, "Wow God, you are amazing. I am completely humbled." But you don't say that. You give the impression that you are knuckling under to God (40:4), but then you have those lines in 40:5 that can be interpreted as just more impertinence.
So here is what I think went through God's mind after you said 40:5. God is thinking, 'Darn that Job! (He may even have used a stronger expletive) I need to corner this guy, stamp out every sign of confidence, really level him. I need to speak to him in such a way that he has absolutely no escape. He is a lawyer of sorts, and I have run into the lawyer types in the past. They speak all kinds of words but always try to wriggle out of responsiblity. I won't let Job do that. Thus, I think I will frame my second speech (i.e., 40-41) in terms of pride and lowliness (cf. 40:11) to bring this guy down a notch. He didn't 'get it' in 38-39. Now he must be forced to get it.' I bet that is exactly what God was thinking. Don't you agree Job?
Well, now we are ready to continue with God's assault on you or barrage against you, but, as usual, we are out of time. Let's pick up on this tomorrow or whenever we have the next chance. I am so glad you have given over your business affairs to your daughters now, Job (Isn't the company called "Keren-happuch and Father" now?) so that you are available to talk. I so look forward to our next chat.