Good morning! I had occasion to visit with one of our group members yesterday, and she shared her impression of Job: “What a whiner! He goes on and on about his own righteousness, and how nobody in the whole world understands him!” Job does seem melodramatic sometimes, but let’s keep in mind that this is a philosophical argument set within a story. Each party to the story has a strong interest in making sure their perspective is represented as adamantly as possible. Today in Job 8-10 we have the counsel of another friend, followed by Job’s response.
In chapter 8, Bildad takes a firm stand against Job, as though God needs some defending against slander. He believes it’s impossible for God to be wrong, so Job should throw in the towel of self-righteousness and just accept what comes as from God. If he does so, he can trust the promise that abundant blessings will follow, beyond even what he had at the start of the book. Sadly, Bildad also repeats an old and damaging trope, that Job’s children died because of their transgression. This smacks of dangerous theology to me—blaming the victim without proof. Nevertheless, Bildad piles up one poetic description after another of how the wicked will fail. Like weeds, they are good for nothing and won’t be missed. How callous this must sound in the ears a parent whose dead children are being called sinful! Yet that theology still exists when people are trying to make sense of why innocent people suffer. “Maybe they aren’t really innocent!”
Job replies to BIldad in chapters 9-10, but it almost sounds like they are talking past each other. Job’s main criticism is that while he might be judged wicked or righteous, there’s nobody who can judge God Almighty. Humanity and divinity exist on completely different scales of power, time, and everything else. Nothing exists to hold God in check—whatever God does is automatically assumed to be correct. There is no objective measure by which to evaluate God’s performance. God is already, by definition, the most just, honorable, fair and proper that is possible, because there’s nobody beyond God who could measure otherwise. Job sinks into a place of cynicism where righteousness doesn’t matter, only God’s opinion does. If God says that what is unrighteous is actually righteous, then so be it. Job feels like a mouse—created by the cat and given a good life for awhile, but now the cat’s desire for a plaything is revealed. Job believes God created him for this turmoil and punishment, so he wants it all to end, seeking relief in the grave. “Happy” reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Job 11-14. Thanks for reading!