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Thread: Putting God on Trial: The Biblical Book of Job

  1. #31
    3. Capturing the dragon

    The first aspect of the Jewish reworking of the Leviathan myth is the capture of the dragon.

    God tells Job that he and he alone can draw Leviathan from the chaos waters. Seven times God promises he will do it: by “hooks”, “snare”, “draw”, “fishhook”, “cord”, “rope”, “hook”. “Can one take it with hooks or pierce its nose with a snare? Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook, or press down its tongue with a cord? Can you put a rope in its nose, or pierce its jaw with a hook?” (Job 40:24-41:2) The number seven here has symbolic import. It is the perfection of divine power. Only God can destroy the chaos monster. Drawing the monster from the waters is the first part of its destruction.

    No lesser divine being can control, let alone, destroy the evil that it represents.

    “Any hope of capturing it will be disappointed; were not even the gods overwhelmed at the sight of it? No one is so fierce as to dare to stir it up. Who can stand before it? Who can confront it and be safe? --under the whole heaven, who?” (Job 41:9-11) “When it raises itself up the gods are afraid; at the crashing they are beside themselves. Though the sword reaches it, it does not avail, nor does the spear, the dart, or the javelin. It counts iron as straw, and bronze as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make it flee; slingstones, for it, are turned to chaff. Clubs are counted as chaff; it laughs at the rattle of javelins.” (Job 41:25-29)

    Here, God is drawing on the Babylonian myth of a cosmic struggle between good and evil, where even the gods themselves are dumb struck.

    In the Babylonian myth of creation, the god of wisdom Ea is “struck dumb with horror and sat stock still” at the rebellion of the chaos monster Tiamat. Ea goes to his grandfather Anshar and tells him the bad news of a demonic horde.

    “They are massing around her, ready at Tiamat’s side
    Angry, scheming, never laying down night and day,
    Making warfare, rumbling, raging,
    Convening in assembly, that they might start hostilities,
    Mother Huber, who can form everything,
    Added countless invincible weapons,
    gave birth to monster serpents,
    Pointed of fang, with merciless incisors (?),
    She filled their bodies with venom for blood.
    Fierce dragons she clad with glories,
    Causing them to bear auras like gods, (saying)
    “Whoever see them shall collapse from weakness!
    Wherever their bodies make onslaught,
    they shall not turn back!”
    She deployed serpents, dragons, and hairy hero-men,
    Lion monsters, lion men, scorpion men,
    Mighty demons, fish men, bull men,
    Bearing unsparing arms, fearing no battle.
    Her commands were absolute, no one opposed them.
    Eleven indeed on this wise she created.”

    This demonic refrain will be repeated four times in the poem to heighten the fear of the gods. Anshar orders Ea and Anu in turn to destroy Tiamat, but both:

    ‘…stopped, horror-stricken, then turned back….
    Her strength is enormous, she is utterly terrifying,
    She is reinforced with a host, none can come out against her.
    Her challenge was not reduced,
    it was so loud (?) against me,
    I became afraid at her clamor, I turned back.”

    Even the high God Marduk is dumb struck as he approaches that evil. Tiamat cast her own spell on him and “his tactic turned to confusion, His reason was overthrown, his actions panicky.”

    No human being such as Job can destroy the evil Leviathan represents. “Look on all who are proud, and bring them low; tread down the wicked where they stand. Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below. Then I will also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can give you victory.” (Job 40:12-14) Only God can destroy it.

  2. #32
    This destruction of Leviathan by drawing it out of the water finds some interesting parallels in Psalm 74, Ezekiel 29 and 32.

    (a) Psalm 74 is a lament incorporating both a myth of creation and a myth of re-creation. As in the Canaanite myth of re-creation, the emissaries of the chaos monster have occupied and devastated the holy place of God. This violent act has upset the moral order. This psalm is a plea, a petition, that God restore or recreate that moral order.
    “O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture” Remember your congregation which you acquired long ago….Your foes have roared within your holy place; they set up their emblems there. At the upper entrance they hacked the wooden trellis with axes. And then, with hatchets and hammers, they smashed all its carved work. They set your sanctuary on fire; they desecrated the dwelling place of your name, bringing it to the ground. They said to themselves, "We will utterly subdue them"; they burned all the meeting places of God in the land. Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the earth. You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the dragons in the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan; you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness. You cut openings for springs and torrents; you dried up ever-flowing streams. Yours is the day, yours also the night; you established the luminaries and the sun. You have fixed all the bounds of the earth; you made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:1-2,4-8,12-16 Italics added for emphasis.)

    The hope is that this “King from of old” will act as he did in the times “of old” and once again subdue the powers of chaos. They are a threat to his kingship and he needs to restore that kingship. Only God can restore the moral order. Echoes of the Babylonian myth of creation can be heard in the references to the “dividing of the sea” and “the openings for springs and torrents” which recall the splitting of Tiamat and the creation of the Tigris and Euphrates from the eyes of her body. Echoes of the Canaanite myth of re-creation can be heard in the reference to a multi-headed Leviathan which recalls the seven headed Litan.

    (b) Ezekiel 29 describes the tyrannical Pharaoh, king of Egypt, as a chaos dragon living in the waters of the Nile.

    “Mortal, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him and against all Egypt; speak, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon sprawling in the midst of its channels, saying, "My Nile is my own; I made it for myself." I will put hooks in your jaws, and make the fish of your channels stick to your scales. I will draw you up from your channels, with all the fish of your channels sticking to your scales. I will fling you into the wilderness, you and all the fish of your channels; you shall fall in the open field, and not be gathered and buried. To the animals of the earth and to the birds of the air I have given you as food.” (Ezekiel 29:3-5 Italics added for emphasis.)

    This chaos dragon regards himself as the lord of creation. “My Nile is my own; I made it for myself.” (Ezekiel 29:3) Herein lies a threat to the created order that recalls the Canaanite myth of re-creation. Inherent in this refusal to accept one’s created status lies a claim to deity or at least to the kingship that is God’s alone. Just as the Canaanite chaos monster Mot is flung into the wilderness, this chaos dragon will be similarly overthrown.

    (c) Ezekiel 32 continues the thought as it describes the Pharaoh, king of Egypt, as both a “dragon in the seas” and a “lion among nations”. Echoes of the Canaanite myth of re-creation can be heard here. A voracious lion is how Mot, the Canaanite dragon of death, describes himself. His appetite is such that it consumes the earth and all in earth.

    “Mortal, raise a lamentation over Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say to him: You consider yourself a lion among the nations, but you are like a dragon in the seas; you thrash about in your streams, trouble the water with your feet, and foul your streams. Thus says the Lord GOD: In an assembly of many peoples I will throw my net over you; and I will haul you up in my dragnet. I will throw you on the ground, on the open field I will fling you, and will cause all the birds of the air to settle on you, and I will let the wild animals of the whole earth gorge themselves with you. I will strew your flesh on the mountains, and fill the valleys with your carcass. I will drench the land with your flowing blood up to the mountains, and the watercourses will be filled with you. When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens, and make their stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light. All the shining lights of the heavens I will darken above you, and put darkness on your land, says the Lord GOD. I will trouble the hearts of many peoples, as I carry you captive among the nations, into countries you have not known. I will make many peoples appalled at you; their kings shall shudder because of you. When I brandish my sword before them, they shall tremble every moment for their lives, each one of them, on the day of your downfall.” (Ezekiel 32:2-10 Italics added for emphasis.)

    Once again, the imagery of drawing the chaos monster out of the waters and the feeding on the body of the monster are conjoined. The one follows the other. This time there is the suggestion that defeat may be everlasting. The dragon will be “blotted out.” The “day of his downfall” sounds like the day of the Final Judgment. The sun, moon and stars go dark. Darkness covers the land. Most of the inhabitants of the nations of the earth “tremble” and shutter at this Day of Judgment.

  3. #33
    4. Eating the dragon at the Messianic Feast

    The second aspect of the Jewish reworking of the Leviathan myth is the eating of the dragon at the Messianic banquet where God is the Messiah. The fullest expression of that is found in the writings of the prophet Isaiah.

    “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:6-9 Italics added for emphasis.)
    “On that day the LORD with his cruel and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will kill the dragon that is in the sea.” (Isaiah 27:1 italics added for emphasis.)
    The time is the end of human history. The dead of the world are summoned to a Messianic feast. The shroud of death which is “the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations” is lifted by God himself. (Isaiah 25:7) A universal resurrection of the dead has been accomplished. This final resurrection is contemporaneous with a Final Judgment.

    “Leviathan the fleeing serpent”, “Leviathan the twisting serpent”, Leviathan “the dragon that is in the sea” will be judged. He will be killed once and forever. (Isaiah 27:1) The dragon represents that evil, all sorts of evil. In its most horrific form, the dragon is a personification of death. The dragon is the person Death. The death of Death is the creation of new life, now and forever. On that day, God will “swallow up death forever.” (Isaiah 25:7) This death of Death is the creation of a new earth and a new heaven. On that day, God removes all “tears”. God wipes away all “disgrace”. (Isaiah 25:8) This is the day of salvation for which all peoples have “waited”. (Isaiah 25:9)

    The communal nature of the Messianic feast strongly suggests the participants partake of the dead body of the chaos dragon. They eat what the host eats. This communal eating of the dragon is a kind of sacramental acceptance of the new life God offers at the end of time, an eternal life in a completely transformed world. This communal participation is implied but never explicitly stated. All that is required in my interpretation is that Job infer that God will “swallow up” Leviathan in a final judgment to end all human history.

  4. #34
    Still, it may be interesting to explore later understandings of this passage to gain a more canonical perspective to communal participation. Later Jewish tradition, apocryphal, pseudo-epigraphical and rabbinic, has the body of the dragon being consumed by the participants in the Messianic banquet. It makes explicit what was merely implicit in 1 Isaiah.

    (a) The apocrypha means “things that are hidden”. It refers to fifteen or so Jewish works written in Greek that were not included in the Hebrew canon of the Bible, but which were included in early Greek translations of that Hebrew canon. For the most part, Jews inside Israel did not accept those works as authentic; Jews outside Israel did. The Orthodox and Catholic branches of Christianity generally accept them as authentic; the Protestant branch does not. Many of the early church fathers did accept them as authoritative.

    2 Esdras is one such apocryphal work, probably written in the first century A.D. For our purpose, it is important in that it reveals the common Jewish understanding of Isaiah’s apocalypse. It refers to the eating of the chaos dragon at the Messianic banquet.

    “Upon the fifth day thou saidst unto the seventh part, where the waters were gathered that it should bring forth living creatures, fowls and fishes: and so it came to pass. For the dumb water and without life brought forth living things at the commandment of God, that all people might praise thy wondrous works. Then didst thou ordain two living creatures, the one thou calledst Enoch, and the other Leviathan; And didst separate the one from the other: for the seventh part, namely, where the water was gathered together, might not hold them both. Unto Enoch thou gavest one part, which was dried up the third day, that he should dwell in the same part, wherein are a thousand hills: But unto Leviathan thou gavest the seventh part, namely, the moist; and hast kept him to be devoured of whom thou wilt, and when.” (2 Edras 6:47 Italics added for emphasis.)

    It was always God’s intention to kill the dragon. The dragon was “kept” alive only for the Messianic banquet to be devoured by “whom thou wilt and when.” It makes clear what is already fairly clear in the Isaian Apocalypse; namely, that human beings consume the dead body of the chaos dragon at the same time God does.

    (b) The pseduoepigrapha means “falsely written”. It refers to a large number of Jewish works written in Greek that purported to be from God, but which works were not accepted by the majority of Jews living inside or outside of Israel as either canonical or authoritative. They are not part of the Hebrew or Christian scriptures in any way.

    2 Baruch is one such psedoepigraphical work, probably written early second century A.D. For our purpose, it is important in that it reveals the common Jewish understanding of Isaiah’s apocalypse. It refers to the eating of the chaos dragon at the Messianic banquet.
    “And he answered me and said to me: ‘That which will happen at that time bears upon the whole earth. Therefore, all who live will notice it. For at that time I shall only protect those found in this land at that time. And it will happen that when all that which should come to pass in these parts has been accomplished, the Anointed One will begin to be revealed. And Behemoth will reveal itself from its place, and Leviathan will come from the sea, the two great monsters which I created on the fifth day of creation and which I shall have kept until that time. And they be nourishment for all who are left. The earth will also yield fruits then thousandfold. And on one vine will be a thousand branches, and once branch will produce a thousand clusters, and one cluster will produce a thousand grapes, and one grape will produce a cor of wine. And those who are hungry will enjoy themselves and they will, moreover, see marvels every day.” (2 Baruch 29:1-7 Italics added for emphasis.)

    It makes clear what is already fairly clear in the Isaian Apocalypse; namely, that “all” human beings “who are left” consume the dead body of the chaos dragon at the same time God does.

    I Enoch is another such psedoepigraphical work, probably written between the second century B.C. and the first century A.D. For our purpose, it is important in that it reveals the common Jewish understanding of Isaiah’s apocalypse. It refers to the eating of the chaos dragon at the Messianic banquet.

    “On that day, two monsters will be parted- one monster, a female named Leviathan, in order to dwell in the abyss of the ocean over the fountains of water; and (the other) a male called Behemoth, which hold his chest in an invisible desert who name in Dundayin, east of the garden of Eden, wherein the elects and the righteous dwell.…And the angel of peace who was with me said to me, “These two monsters are prepared for the great day of the Lord (when) they shall turn into food. So that the punishment of the Lord of the Spirits should come down upon them in order that the punishment of the Lord of the Spirits should not be issued in vain but slay the children with mothers and the children with their fathers, when the punishment of the Lord of the Spirits comes down upon everyone. After that there shall be the judgment according to his mercy and his patience.” (1 Enoch 60:7-8, 24-26 Italics added for emphasis.)

    (c) The rabbis were local teachers in the synagogues of Israel following the return of the Jewish people from the captivity in Babylon in the sixth century B.C. They established an oral tradition, preserving and passing on the teaching of one generation to the next. Those teachings include common understandings of scripture. As various points in time, those oral traditions were converted to writing. The Mishnah converted some oral traditions to writing in the second century A.D. The Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds converted some oral traditions to writing in the fourth and sixth centuries A.D. respectively. And the Midrash Rabbah converted some oral traditions to writing in the fifth through seventh centuries A.D. The precise dating of any oral tradition is very difficult. It may be very early or it may be very late.

    The Midrash Rabba on Leviticus preserves an oral rabbinic tradition concerning the common Jewish understanding of Isaiah’s apocalypse. It refers to the eating of the chaos dragon at the Messianic banquet.

    “R. Judan b. R. Simeon said: Behemoth and the Leviathan are to engage in a wild-beast contest before the righteous in the Time to Come, and whoever has not been a spectator at the wild-beast contests of the heathen nations in this world will be accorded the boon of seeing one in the World to Come. How will they be slaughtered? Behemoth will, with its horns, pull Leviathan down and rend it, and Leviathan will, with its fins, pull Behemoth down and pierce it through…R.Berekiah said in the name of R. Isaac: In the Time to Come, the Holy One, blessed be He, will make a banquet for his righteous servants, and whoever has not eaten nebelah in this world will have the privilege of enjoying it in the World to Come.” (Midrash Rabba Leviticus 13:3 Italics added for emphasis.)

    The rabbis were especially concerned with ceremonial law, including the proper killing and eating of food. A concern had been expressed that the slaughter of the chaos monsters Leviathan and Behemoth may not have been in accordance with proper ritual. The concern is dismissed. This passage makes clear what is already fairly clear in the Isaian Apocalypse; namely, that God’s “righteous servants” consume the dead body of the chaos dragon at the same time God does.

  5. #35
    The Isaian Apocalypse is a new Exodus.

    “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD! Awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago! Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon? Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep; who made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to cross over? So the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. I am he who comforts you…You have forgotten the LORD, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth…Thus says your Sovereign, the LORD, your God who pleads the cause of his people.” (Isaiah 51:9-13, 22 Italics added for emphasis.)

    God will interfere in human affairs to do in the near future what he has done in the “generations of long ago.” The old Exodus foreshadows the new and final Exodus. He will free his people from the chaos of their world. This prophecy of a future death of the chaos monster carries with it the promise of full and final destruction to that evil. The death of that dragon will inaugurate a new “redemption” that will bring “everlasting joy” and “gladness”. All “sorrow and sighing” shall fall away. God the Redeemer will finally “plead the cause” of his people and justice will be established for all to see. God the Redeemer will finally “plead the cause” of Job himself.

    The Isaian development of the myth of Leviathan into a Messianic feast was a poetic way for the ancients to say three things. Evil is all around us, deep within us. But there will come a time when that evil within us will be purged and destroyed. For evil is not God's final purpose in creation.

    In God’s second speech to Job, the scholar Tur-Sinai finds a reference to this Messianic feast of 1 Isaiah. The NRSV obscures the allusion with its translation: “can you fill its skin with harpoons, or its head with fishing spears?” (Job 42:41:7) Tur-Sinai would clarify the allusion with his own translation: “couldst thou stud his body with cloves, with fish-onions his head?” “Harpoons” have been replaced by “cloves”; “fishing spears”, by “fish-onions.”

    “If Job thus appears to be questioned as to the filling of the body of Leviathan, which had been bought and divided by food-hoarders or merchants, then this inquiry would seem to refer to the preparation of Leviathan’s body for cooking. In that case, bslsl is not slsl with prepositional b, but bslsl with b as a radical, meaning a kind of seasoning (small) onions, like bslswl in the Mishna. The omission of another, prepositional b- if at all necessary- may be due to the frequent phenomenon of haplography or haplology, as byt prsh for bbyt prsh etc. The mention of small onions in connection with the cooking of the fish seems quite natural.- It follows that sbwt is likewise a condiment, probably clove, Naglein (= skwt Accadian, shikkatu “pin, nail” etc.).” (the transliteration from Hebrew to English is mine)

    The image is that of a stuffed and roasted beast. Since Leviathan is a sea monster, the image is that of a stuffed and roasted fish.

    Tur-Sinai finds additional support for his view in what he sees as an earlier reference to a stuffed and roasted fowl. “And having caught him, would you bind him and hand him to your maidservants, so that they might prepare him for your table?- spwr is here a general term for any edible fowl, as e.g. in Deuteronomy 14:11, and in Canaanite inscriptions.”

    There are many good reasons to adopt Tur-Sinai’s understanding of the passage.

    (a) First, the amendments are minor. It is easy to understand how the corruption of the text could have occurred.

    (b) Second, his interpretation makes good sense in terms of the surrounding verses. God has been talking about the preparation of a special meal connected with Leviathan. The image of stuffing an animal for cooking is strong.

    (c) Third, his interpretation accords with the common Jewish understanding that Leviathan would be served up as the main course at the Messianic banquet at the end of human history. This is especially the case when one remembers the structure of that apocalyptic myth. The capture of the chaos dragon by hooks and by net is immediately and invariably followed by a feast, a feeding on the dead body of the dragon, by the animals and peoples of the world. The verses that closely precede these focus on the capture of the chaos dragon by hooks. “Can one take it with hooks or pierce its nose with a snare? Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook, or press down its tongue with a cord? Can you put a rope in its nose, or pierce its jaw with a hook?” (Job 40:24-42:2) And the verse that immediately precedes this passage focuses on food preparation in the market. “Will traders bargain over it? Will they divide it up among the merchants?” (Job 42:6) Certainly, the “dividing” up of the monster by the fish mongers of the market can mean “cut up” in preparation for a meal. (Job 41:6) The preceding verse describes an edible fowl (Job 41:5), a bird that one might play with, but a bird that is normally meant for eating.

    In any event, Tur-Sinai’s insights are not necessary to this interpretation. God’s seven-fold reference to the capture of the dragon Leviathan entails its ultimate destruction and an answer to all things. This is the apocalyptic structure of the Jewish myth of Leviathan. It is a myth of purpose, God’s purpose in the creation, control, destruction and justification of evil.

    This ultimate destruction of evil is a significant advance on the Babylonian myth of creation and the Canaanite myth of recreation.

    In the Babylonian myth of creation, the high God Marduk’s victory over evil is temporary. The strong suggestion is the evil will re-emerge. God and man have the joint responsibility for continuing that struggle. The gods “made Marduk’s destiny highest, they prostrated themselves…They established him forever for lordship of heaven and netherworld….He shall do the same on earth as what he brought to pass in heaven.” Marduk will continue to battle an evil that he cannot completely destroy. Man will assist. God’s will, Marduk’s will, is to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Man’s struggle on earth is a divinely imposed burden. It is the struggle to impose order on chaos that is the history itself. It is never ending. And so the myth ends.

    In the Canaanite myth of recreation, the high God Baal and the chaos monsters Yam and Mot reach a compromise, a mutual co-existence. Each will retain their separate kingdoms. “Divine <M>ot was afraid: the Beloved of El, the hero was in dread. Mot started at her voice. [He lifted up his voice and cried:] Let Baal be installed [on the throne of] his kingship, on [the back-rest, on the siege of] his dominion!” Together they sit down to a communal meal to seal the peace. “Shapsh, you rule the chthonian gods; lo, mortals are your company. Kothar is your associate, and Hassis is your companion. In the sea of Arsh and the dragon, Kothat-and-Hasis, steer (the bark)!, Pilot (the ship), Kothar-and-Hasis.” The realms of order and chaos are both preserved. Chaos is not destroyed for ever. The dragon that is in the sea Yam remains alive. An accommodation is reached between the forces of order and the forces of chaos. Baal’s counselors Kothar and Hasis drive off chaos’ enemies. The conflict continues, though in a muted form. The high God Baal may control death, but he can never defeat it once and for all. And so the myth ends.

  6. #36
    5. Explaining the dragon at the Symposium to follow

    The third aspect of the Jewish myth of an apocalypse is the explanation for evil that follows in the Symposium after the Messianic banquet. This is where the justification for evil is given to all mankind. Again, the prophet Isaiah has the best exposition of that Symposium. It is a time when God the Messiah sits down and explains all things to all people.

    "Whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from milk, those taken from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little." Truly, with stammering lip and with alien tongue he will speak to this people, to whom he has said, "This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose"; yet they would not hear. Therefore the word of the LORD will be to them, "Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little;" in order that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” (Isaiah 28:9-13 Italics added for emphasis.)

    “On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. For the tyrant shall be no more, and the scoffer shall cease to be; all those alert to do evil shall be cut off-- those who cause a person to lose a lawsuit, who set a trap for the arbiter in the gate, and without grounds deny justice to the one in the right.” (Isaiah 29:18-21 Italics added for emphasis.)

    “Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. Truly, O people in Zion, inhabitants of Jerusalem, you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you. Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."” (Isaiah 30:18-21 Italics added for emphasis.)

    This is the moment for which the “weary” have “waited”. This is the moment in which God gives the explanation for why there is evil in the world. The Lord has given the “bread of adversity” and the “water of affliction”, but God the Teacher no longer hides himself or his purposes in creation. God answers all questions at this time. That is the time God will answer Job’s question as to why he created a world of undeserved and unremitted suffering.

    The author of The Book of Job may have had this passage before him. For it curiously makes reference to a person much like Job. That person is “one” involved in a “lawsuit” who was “in the right” but “denied justice” at the time. (Isaiah 29:21) On the terms of God’s trial by Satan, God could not in this life answer Job and give him the reason for evil in the world. Job is denied justice in this life. But in eternity that restriction will be lifted. At that moment, the Lord will hear the sound of Job’s cry, and answer it. At that moment, God will fulfill the requirements of justice and reveal his hidden purpose (Job 10:13-14) in creation. At that moment, God will give a full and final explanation to all and to Job as to why there is evil in the world.

    There is nothing in either the Babylonian myth of creation or the Canaanite myth of recreation that even remotely compares to this explanation and justification for the existence of evil.

    In his appearance and his two speeches, God reveals himself and his intentions through the literary imagery of myth. It is not so much revelation as the occasion for the insight and inference.

  7. #37
    6. Condemnation and Justification

    Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be justified? (Job 40:7-8 Italics added for emphasis and clarification.)

    God has picked up on Job’s hesitation to “proceed further”. In the context of Job’s Oath of Innocence, that can only mean Job’s hesitance to proceed beyond his own vindication to a condemnation of God brought about by a curse. The mere swearing of the oath has vindicated Job. God’s appearance and the fact that God has not struck him dead has vindicated Job. Job is justified. The question is whether Job fully understands that fact. A condemnation of God for wrongdoing is neither logically nor legally necessary at this point. Job is vindicated and God has been found causally responsible for evil. As yet, God has not been found to be morally blameworthy for that evil. The question is whether Job will pass a prematurely blame and condemn God, depriving God of the chance to work out his purpose in bringing evil into the world. God expects Job to walk that razor’s edge.

    God suggests a moral purpose in his review of the mythological world. The image of Leviathan carries with it two time frames: the beginning of time and the end of time. The beginning of time is the creation and control of the chaos monster. There is an efficient cause for evil in the world. The end of time is the destruction of that chaos monster and an answering of all questions. There is a final cause for evil in the world. Through the myth of Leviathan, God is subtly drawing Job’s attention to the beginning of time and the end of time. From the beginning of time symbolized by the creation of the dragon to the end of time symbolized by the destruction of that dragon, God claims to be in control of that evil and to be using it for his own purpose.

    At best, these are all suggestions. The suggestion to Job is that he should infer from God’s creation and control of evil an ultimate purpose for that evil. Job should infer from God’s ability to capture the dragon and draw it out of the waters the two further Jewish developments of the myth: namely, a Messianic feast symbolizing the full and final destruction of evil and God as Teacher sitting down with mankind after that meal to answer all questions including the question of why there is evil in the world. These three elements of the Jewish apocalypse follow one after another and the presence of one suggests the presence of all three. Moreover, Job should infer that that ultimate explanation will be a rational demonstration and justification of the need for evil in the world. These are inferences that Job might reasonably draw, but they are inferences that he need not draw.

    In his second speech to Job, God never mentions what that moral purpose is. He never mentions what has transpired in heaven. He never mentions a special second order good, a particular type of selfless love, which might justify a massive first order evil, this world of undeserved and unremitted suffering. He never explains how and why the one might justify the other. God rests his case, so to speak, having hinted at the existence of a defense, but having never presented it.

    And in doing so, God deliberately opens himself to the condemnation that is the second default judgment in the Oath of Innocence. In doing so, God puts Job and mankind to the ultimate test. Will we condemn God so that we ourselves might be justified? Will we condemn God so that we ourselves might be vindicated?

  8. #38
    Job’s Second Response

    In his second and final response, Job appears to have understood God’s strategy of indirection.

    “Then Job answered the LORD: "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.' I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:1-6 Italics added for emphasis and clarification.)

    1. I understand your purpose.

    "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.. I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you..” (Job 42:2 Italics added for emphasis.)

    Job finds purpose in God’s two speeches. Job has understood the suggestions of purpose and providence in God’s first speech. And Job has understood the suggestion of a final purpose in God’s creation and control of evil in God’s second speech. The Hebrew word for “purpose” here is “mezimma”, meaning “considered plan”. It is often associated with wisdom and prudence but there is a certain shrewdness to it. That shrewdness may evidence a sophisticated or nuanced approach to God’s goodness. At least, the author may be suggesting the same. In any event, it is a purpose that cannot be “thwarted”. The Hebrew world for “thwarted” here is “batsar”, meaning “cut off”. Cut off usually means death. So in Job’s thinking, God’s purpose in life cannot be defeated by even death itself. God’s purpose in life cannot be defeated by the person Death that is Leviathan himself.

    God had commanded Job to listen and he has listened attentively to everything that God had just spoken and left unspoken, with the consequence that he now “saw” or “understood” the existence of a possible answer. The “hearing by the ear” refers to the two sets of speeches God has just delivered and not to any prior revelation received secondhand. Job has learned something through God’s second speech, but it is not God’s sovereignty over the evil that is Leviathan. Job had much earlier in his speeches acknowledged that God was sovereign over Leviathan. (Job 9;8,13; 26:12) Job has learned that there will be an end to the evil that is Leviathan and there will be an explanation for that evil. Those two insights explain Job’s comments “I uttered what I did not understand”. (Job 42:1)

    Job knows that God has not answered his ethical question: why do the innocent suffer, why do I suffer. But God’s coming to Job, in the midst of his suffering, deepens his understanding. For all God’s blustering, Job finds in it evidence that God cares. Whatever suffering may be, it is not punishment; it is not correction. He has seen the face of God and lived. No formal declaration of innocence is required, though one has issued. God has not entered a defense and Job is vindicated or justified through his Oath of Innocence.

    However, evidence that God cares is not sufficient evidence to acquit God on the charges facing him. The mere fact that God is with those who suffer is no justification for God having caused the suffering in the first place. At best, God’s ex-post facto compassion may be relevant to sentence, but not to guilt. The trial of God must continue.

    Job temporarily grants God the benefit of the doubt, which in this case is the benefit of time. Whatever that purpose may be, God should have the opportunity to bring it to fruition. God will have all of human history to work out his purpose in his use of evil. At the end of human history, all the evidence will be in and God will be able to present a full and meaningful defense, a defense of justification or necessity. Job will not thwart that purpose by prematurely passing judgment on God and blaming him for evil in the world.

  9. #39
    Dear Robert,
    In some ways Carrie is right and instead of directly answering the points that I raise, you direct me to huge portions of text which really take an awful lot of reading and though I like to learn, I find a lot of this confusing and I don't have time to study and take it all in. I have attempted to read some of this regarding the chaos monster, but haven't finished it yet. I answered your post originally because I love the book of Job and decided I would like to discuss it but I had no intention of taking up a full scale study which this is turning into.

    I totally agree with this: 'In The Book of Genesis, evil comes into the world with the fall of man. Man is created out of the “dust of the earth” and the spirit or “breath” of God. (Genesis 2:7) He is awakened to a truly human life through a kiss from God. It is God’s love that animates man. His parents are mother earth and father God. He takes his body from the earth. But he takes his mind, his intellect and free will, from God himself. That is what it is to be made in the “image” and “likeness” of God. (Genesis 1:26) Unlike any other animal, man is capable of apprehending the immaterial concepts of good and evil and choosing accordingly. Man is created neither good nor evil. His natural orientation is towards the good, for that is what makes for a truly and fully human life. But man becomes good or evil through his choices. He is evil not by nature, but by nurture.'

    But lots of other things I dont agree with you on. What is running through my mind now is this: The bible is written under the inspiration of God. He has preserved it as His Word through the ages and He enlightens those who truly search for the truths in it, by the Holy Spirit. So it is, that even a child can understand the things of God, when He reveals Himself and His will and purpose. However, all this with the chaos monster, babylonian myth etc, must be learned and to be learned, much studying of other ancient texts has to be undertaken. So I have to ask 'is it possible to understand the book of Job as it stands' without all this 'background knowledge?' I think that it's inclusion in the bible was intended by God and that He also intended it to be understood by ordinary people and not just by scholars. But to understand about The Oath of Innocence (which I had never previously heard of) the chaos monster etc, considerable research and study must be undertaken. I wonder what your opinion of all this is? Is it possible to understand the book of Job in simplicity of understanding, enlightened perhaps by the operation of the Holy Spirit, or must great study be undertaken to comprehend it properly?

    Miranda

  10. #40
    Miranda:

    You ask why I gave extended posts on the Oath of Innocence and Leviathan.

    Modern culture is radically different from ancient Hebrew culture. These items were widely known in the ancient world, but not so in the modern world.

  11. #41
    Dear Robert,
    I have given you extended and thoughtful answers too, that have taken me a long time to write, and have given much considered attention to the points you have raised and would be pleased if you would answer the points that I raised in my last post, regarding the inspirational word of God and how He has meant us to understand it ie:

    'What is running through my mind now is this: The bible is written under the inspiration of God. He has preserved it as His Word through the ages and He enlightens those who truly search for the truths in it, by the Holy Spirit. So it is, that even a child can understand the things of God, when He reveals Himself and His will and purpose. However, all this with the chaos monster, babylonian myth etc, must be learned and to be learned, much studying of other ancient texts has to be undertaken. So I have to ask 'is it possible to understand the book of Job as it stands' without all this 'background knowledge?' I think that it's inclusion in the bible was intended by God and that He also intended it to be understood by ordinary people and not just by scholars. But to understand about The Oath of Innocence (which I had never previously heard of) the chaos monster etc, considerable research and study must be undertaken. I wonder what your opinion of all this is? Is it possible to understand the book of Job in simplicity of understanding, enlightened perhaps by the operation of the Holy Spirit, or must great study be undertaken to comprehend it properly?'

  12. #42
    Miranda:

    1. You write: "He has preserved it as His Word through the ages"

    Infallibility refers to the original writings not the transcribed copies. The transcriped copies were substantial accurate.

    God perserved the text not the culture in which it was written. He left that to man.

    2. You write: "He enlightens those who truly search for the truths in it, by the Holy Spirit"

    And he expects you to use your mind and his Spirit to study everything.

    3. You write: "So it is, that even a child can understand the things of God,"

    I don't think a child can understand the Book of Job, the Book of Daniel or the Book of Revelation. A child can understand love and the stories of Jesus quite easily.

    4. You write: "However, all this with the chaos monster, babylonian myth etc, must be learned and to be learned, much studying of other ancient texts has to be undertaken."

    Yes, that is true in our case. Although just about every commentary will talk about the Oath of Innocence and the chaos monster. Those things were known to the original people who received the book. The connections would have been clear to them.

    5. You write: "So I have to ask 'is it possible to understand the book of Job as it stands' without all this 'background knowledge?'"

    Not fully or correctly.

    6. You write: "I think that it's inclusion in the bible was intended by God and that He also intended it to be understood by ordinary people and not just by scholars."

    With the right knowledge.

    7. You write: "is it possible to understand the book of Job in simplicity of understanding, enlightened perhaps by the operation of the Holy Spirit,"

    No.

    8. You write: "or must great study be undertaken to comprehend it properly?'"

    Yes. A pearl of great price requires great effort. It is worth the effort.
    Last edited by Robert Sutherla; 07-19-2004 at 09:01 AM.

  13. #43
    Robert, I believe that God's word is infallible and I also believe that He is able to reveal the meaning of His word by the power of the Holy Spirit without reference to any other texts if this is His will. I believe that the King James version of the bible was so carefully translated by many scholars who prayerfully pored over each word that there are very few mistakes in it, especially as the translation was guided by God - and I do believe this is so. I think you and I are looking at the bible in different ways. You are seeing it from the historical viewpoint where background and knowledge are essential, whereas I see it from a more spiritual point of view - the difference being that I believe that when God wants to make known a truth to someone, He highlights His word and will bring to them the meaning that he wants them to understand. It is possibe, Jesus said to hear and not understand, and to see but not percieve. The Scribes and Pharisees could quote the law and the prophets without hesitation, but spiritually they were dead, devoid of spiritual understanding. ..blind leaders of the blind. When the Saducees came to Jesus and asked Him a question about marriage in heaven, despite their much study and deliberation over the scriptures, Jesus told them..'Do you not err, because you do not know the scriptures, neither the power of God?' Thus it is possible to have lots of knowledge, yet still miss the essential truth. I am not saying that you have missed the essential truth Robert, but am trying to point out that head knowledge isn't everything and without the operation of God's Holy Spirit, some things are impossible to understand..even the plainest. Thus I believe that a child is able to understand the prophets and prophecies - if God so wished to enlighten him. Samuel was but a child when God called him, as was Ezekiel himself. Moses couldn't even speak properly and had to have Aaron to speak for him. God chooses the weak things to demonstrate His power - not the cleverest or the mightiest. He chose to set His name in Israel because it was the smallest among nations..and He made it great when the people trusted Him.

    You see the book of Job as a lawsuit against God, but I see it as an explanation of why good people suffer and an inspiration to continue to have faith in God despite adversity...although I think that you would not disagree with my view. But I don't see it as a lawsuit against God. I don't think mankind has a right to challenge God in that way and I think this is why God intervenes and shows Job how mighty He is and how puny and ignorant Job himself is by comparison - even in comparison to the things He has made.

    Taking your point of view..Job has the right to challenge God because God has broken a covenant relationship with Him by taking away the blessings he had bestowed on Job and also by allowing evil to torment him. God's lawsuit against us has a far stronger case for we broke His commandment in the first instance which separated us from Him. God warned..you shall surely die.. and as we are all sinners, we are all guilty and worthy of death. But Jesus died in our place on Calvary..and mankind is guilty of His death and suffering for if we were all sinless He would not have died - nor been separated from His Father. I don't think that Job had a case against God since God is able to do whatever he chooses with His creation..but He does have a case against us and not only are we guilty but the condemnation and judgement has been already given.. our sentence is death. But because Jesus has died in our place, if we accept Him as our sacrifice, He sets us free from death and we receive eternal life instead of the condemnation we richly deserve. God would not allow Satan to take away Job's life..yet he allowed us to put His son on a cross. He did not allow Abraham to take away Isaac's life but intervened providing a lamb for the sacrifice. Jesus later became the sacrifice which delivers us from death, giving His life a ransom for many.

    I don't accept that a person needs the 'right knowledge' to understand the book of Job - when God enlightens the understanding this is all that is needful. When Jesus called the disciples, He chose fishermen - not scholars. He lived among the common people and taught them the truths that the educated city fathers couldn't understand despite all their knowledge and study.
    Last edited by Miranda; 07-23-2004 at 09:14 PM.

  14. #44
    God is saying he God destroyed Job through Satan. God is saying he was the principal; Satan was the agent. Because God authorized and intended those actions (the destruction of Job's property, servants, family and health), God is responsible for it. He caused it. He is a party-to-the-offence, an accessory, a co-conspirator.

    Interesting comment here. If you took it a bit further you could also say that God put Himself on trial through Job.

  15. #45
    Hi..I dont know what to call you! I haven't been here for a long time until yesterday and its strange that you should answer my post of long ago now for this discussion took place last summer. Well summer in the UK anyway! This is one of Robert's points, that God put himself on trial through Job. I got a little frustrated with replying to Robert because he kept referring back to his book and I didn't have time to read through all the places he referred me to, though I did some. Robert dealt with the text from a historical/knowledge point of view and believed that to properly understand the book of Job you had to study it deeply and understand the ancient myths buried within the text. But my view is that the book of Job was written to give us some insight into why mankind suffers and that God by His Holy Spirit can enlighten the reader as to its meanings, without recourse to great study and head knowledge.

    Miranda

    Quote Originally Posted by q0987
    God is saying he God destroyed Job through Satan. God is saying he was the principal; Satan was the agent. Because God authorized and intended those actions (the destruction of Job's property, servants, family and health), God is responsible for it. He caused it. He is a party-to-the-offence, an accessory, a co-conspirator.

    Interesting comment here. If you took it a bit further you could also say that God put Himself on trial through Job.

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