Then Job answered the LORD, and said
I know that thou canst do every [thing], and [that] no thought can be withholden from thee.
Job clearly gets the point God has been hammering on, about His prevailing power (yakol).
Who [is] he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.
Other translations make it clearer that Job is repeating God’s assertions before replying. Basically, he is conceding God’s point about covering up (`alam) God’s purposes (`etsah). He admits that he didn’t really understand (biyn ) or know (yada`) what was going on.
Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor [myself], and repent in dust and ashes.
So, what’s the deal here? As we might’ve guessed, Job’s interview with God didn’t go as planned. Job doesn’t maintain his righteousness, nor does God vindicate Job (at least not yet). This used to bother me when I read Job as a child. Job had all sorts of legitimate questions — yet God didn’t answer them. It seemed like God basically showed up and said, “I’m God, you’re not”, and Job said, “Ah, OK. Thanks, I feel better.” What’s with that?
Well, while I was in college, it suddenly started making sense. I didn’t exactly understand, but I noticed that when I had deep, disturbing questions, somehow the Lord revealing his presence would quiet my soul. Now perhaps I understand even better. Job’s primary issue wasn’t logical, but emotional. He felt abandoned and insecure, and clung to his own righteousness like a security blanket. When the Father came, His display of power didn’t just blow away Job’s false security, it also gave him real security.
Interestingly, God (like a stereotypical Asian parent!) doesn’t anything positive about Job to his face, just to his friends:
for ye have not spoken of me [the thing that is] right, as my servant Job [hath].
God feels strongly enough about this to say it twice, that they have not spoken rightly (dabar kuwn), unlike servant Job (`ebed ‘lyowb). God even tells the friends (rea`) to have Job make the acceptable (nasa’) offering (`olah ) and pray (palal):
go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept:
I can’t help but feel that God is trying to restore the friendship as much as the individuals. Still, that begs the question: Did Job speak rightly of God? And if so, why is Job still speechless at the end?
The stock answer is that Job did describe God correctly, but didn’t describe himself properly. I might characterize it slightly differently. The friends described God wrongly, but Job described Him incompletely. Or, to put it another way, Job knew God accurately with his head, but not his heart. So God couldn’t tell Job he had spoken rightly, but He could use Job as an example for his friends.
What’s particularly intriguing is the implication that Job’s redemption is intertwined with that of his friends:
And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.
Job’s captivity (sh@buwth) was relinquished (shuwb) as he interceded (palal) for his friends (rea`). Maybe that was the final piece. Job’s friends were wrong, but Job’s pride had also played a part in the barrier that had grown up between them. They needed to repent, but Job needed to forgive them before God could bless (yacaph) him. With double (mishneh) everything — except kids, perhaps because twice as many kids isn’t necessarily a blessing!
The most unusual part of the epilogue, to me, is that the daughters are named and given an inheritance:
And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Kerenhappuch. And in all the land were no women found [so] fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.
Now, perhaps this is just a fairy-tale ending demonstrating how rich Job was, or conversely part of the traditional record because people knew or heard other stories of the daughters. Yet, at least the name Jemima (Y@miymah) is evocative, and not just of maple syrup. It is apparently translated “day by day”, and I wonder if that explains Job’s new attitude. It is noteworthy that he is not recorded as making daily sacrifices anymore. Perhaps he has finally found true security, and can peacefully take each day at a time.
So Job died, [being] old and full of days.
So Job ends. I must admit, at times it made me feel old (zaqen ) and full (sabea`) of words! Yet, in the end I found it very transformational. At least the way I read it, God was continually at work through even arbitrary suffering to accomplish holistic healing in Job. And far from a purely logical discourse, God addressed emotions, intentions, and actions as peers of reason. He ultimately both validated and humbled Job, and managed to both judge and restore Job’s friends — and friendships.
Would that I could do the same.
Dear God, thank you for Job. Thank you for this amazing story of pain, faith, and hope. Thank you that you are a transforming God, that works through all things for our good. May I learn to see you as Job finally saw you, and humble myself before you. That I may receive your blessing, and become a source of blessing to my friends and family. May I find my security in you, one day at a time. Amen.
I believe I mentioned earlier that I am no Hebrew scholar. One example of that is that before this week, I never really looked at the actual Hebrew text for each verse — just the Hebrew ‘root form’ associated with each English word or phrase. I was somewhat disturbed to realize that there are often more words in the Hebrew than are defined, and I have no idea why. So, I need to be wary of assuming I understand any grammar, rather than just a (partial) vocabulary, when looking up Hebrew.