He teareth himself in his anger: shall the earth be forsaken for thee? and shall the rock be removed out of his place?
In his second “at bat,” Bildad doesn’t seem to have much new to say. His opening lament is rather interesting, though, where he implies that Job’s request is tantamount to earth-forsaking (‘erets `azab) and rock-removing (tsuwr `atahq). As best I can figure, its alluding to how Job is rejecting ‘foundational’ understandings of God for the sake of preserving his own integrity.
The rest of the chapter rehashes a familiar theme:
Yea, the light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark of his fire shall not shine.
How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words?
He then basically tells them to butt out:
And be it indeed [that] I have erred, mine error remaineth with myself.
and reiterates that is God who has done this:
Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with his net.
Needless to say, Job still isn’t happy about it:
Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but [there is] no judgment.
Then follows a long list of complaints about what God has done to him, sounding vaguely like the American revolutionaries railing against King George, ending with a piteous cry:
Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me. Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh?
“C’mon guys, just because God has it in for me, doesn’t mean you should too!” This seems like a good place for this brief chapter to end — but it doesn’t. Instead, something amazing happens:
Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!
For I know [that] my redeemer liveth, and [that] he shall stand at the latter [day] upon the earth: And [though] after my skin [worms] destroy this [body], yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; [though] my reins be consumed within me.
This has got to be one of the most mind-blowing passages in the Old Testament. The earlier rather vague advocate seems to have become a concrete redeemer (ga’al). True, he may just be thinking of the more usual concept of kinsman-redeemer, rather than consciously foreshadowing Christ. Yet he does seem to be thinking of a future time (‘acharown), after skin is removed (‘achar `owr naqaph), when his flesh will see God (basar chazah ‘elowahh). He says it twice more (chazah `ayin ra’ah), to make sure we don’t miss the point. The point being rather pointed, that since Job gets the last word, his persecutors shouldn’t mess with him:
Be ye afraid of the sword: for wrath [bringeth] the punishments of the sword, that ye may know [there is] a judgment.
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It is a curious passage; the certainty and even optimism regarding his future fate might seem out of character for Job. No doubt many commentators would prefer to treat it as a later addition, since they consider such a belief in saviors and afterlife anachronistic. Yet, somehow, to me this passage fits. Job does consider his integrity immensely important. He clings to it after all rational hope is gone. There must be something beyond sheer cussedness motivating him. Even if Job himself can’t put all the pieces together, at the bottom of his soul there is a sense that Somebody will ensure he gets his final hearing.
God, for all his hangups, there is something awe-inspiring about Job. Despite the fact that his senses, his reason — and his friends — tell him to despair, Job clings to a belief in both his own worthiness and the importance of a relationship with God. That’s a hard tension to maintain in the midst of suffering. Lord, I’d prefer you spare me the sufferings of Job, yet nevertheless grant me the courage of his convictions. Amen.