Happy Lord’s day everyone. Day 11 of lockdown Aotearoa. Just brief thoughts today, jotting these down after a full and wonderful day with family (the photo is of our #3’s birthday!)
Yesterday I read a New York Times op-ed where the author reports her mum as declaring: “God punishes those who do bad things. If the people listen to God, they will be protected.” That’s pretty much Eliphaz’s argument so far about why his friend Job is suffering (chapters 4-5). Now we hear Job’s reply.
6:1 Then Job answered, saying:
2 “If only my vexation were weighed
and my calamity (lit. falling) carried together in the balances!
3 For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea,
Thus my words are rash.
4 For the arrows of the Almighty are with me,
which their poison my spirit drinks
the terrors of God are arranged against me.
5 Does the donkey bray over grass?
Or the ox low over his fodder?
6 Is tasteless food eaten without salt?
Or is there taste in the white of an egg?
7 My appetite (lit: soul) refuses to touch [them],
they are as loathsome food to me.”
- In response to Eliphaz’s charge that “vexation slays the fool” (5:2), Job challenges his friends to weigh them alongside all the calamities that have literally “befallen” (see chapter 1’s discussion) him.
- Job keeps calling out to God – but only today did I realise that he actually hasn’t addressed him as Yahweh since chapter 1. “Shaddai” (the Almighty) seems to be front of mind in his grief (v4, 14; perhaps echoing Eliphaz’s use in 5:17). It’s this character of God that Job is clinging to (or reminded of).
- Unlike Eliphaz, Job is vexed because he doesn’t think he’s sinned.
8 “Oh, that my request would come
and my hope God would give
9 And may God be pleased, and to crush me
May he loose his hand and cut me off!
10 And it may yet be my comfort
So I would exult in pain unsparing,
Since I have not denied the words of the Holy One.
11 What is my strength that I should wait
What is my end, that my soul should be patient?
12 Is the strength of stones my strength?
Is my flesh bronze?
13 Is there no help in me,
and is resource driven from me?”
- His friends meant to “comfort” Job with their presence (2:11), but for Job, in his grief he would rather the comfort of death (v10). But his appeal is to God “to crush” him; he knows it’s not for him to end his suffering himself.
- Crucially, in verse 10 he maintains that he has not “denied God’s words” – he is innocent of sins that Eliphaz suggests he’s kept hidden
- He is defending his lament – he doesn’t feel like he can wait like Eliphaz wants him to (v11-13).
- Oh, Job. I can’t imagine what it’s like to suffer like you.
14 “To withhold from a friend loyalty (chesed),
and (or when?) he forsakes the fear of Almighty.
15 My brothers are deceitful as intermittent streams,
as river valleys that overflow
16 being darkened with ice,
whereupon snow hides itself
17 In time they thaw, they disappear,
in its heat they evaporate from their place,
18 The [river] paths turn from their course,
they rise [inland] into emptiness and perish.
19 The caravans of Tema gaze,
The procession of Sabeans hope
20 They are dashed for they are confident [for the rivers],
They came up this far but are confounded.
21 Indeed, you now have become nothing,
You have seen [my] terror and fear [it].”
- Job nails it on the head – in times of suffering, one should expect loyalty / loving-kindness from our friends (v14a). But Job’s friends are showing themselves to as unreliable as rivers that dry up suddenly before expectant caravans (read: broken traffic lights in our day and age).
- Interesting that the Sabeans here are traders, when in chapter 1 they’re terrorists. Goes to show you can’t generalise whole people groups or devolve to blunt racial stereotypes in describing atrocities, or people responsible for our suffering (e.g. the “China” virus).