The Cruel God: Job's Search for the Meaning of Suffering

By Margaret Brackenbury Crook | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ELEVEN
The Remoteness of God . . . Job 21-22

Job, in trepidation, now points to the evidence of God's misrule. God is defied by godless men, but He allows them to prosper. It is useless to say that the sons will suffer for the sins of the fathers. Let the Almighty punish the actual sinners. Clearly His attention is elsewhere. He is absorbed in rule on high. The consolations offered by the friends are empty nothings. Eliphaz asks why God should not be indifferent? Does God gain anything from human righteousness? Men suffer because in God's eyes they are so worthless. Could God rule the heavens unless He were all-seeing? Eliphaz tries to persuade Job to acquaint himself with God and make his peace.

In his sudden access to faith Job expected to see his friends rebuked and their mockery checked. But God gives no sign of a redeeming act, and Job is faced with the frightening conclusion that he has found God wanting. The remoteness of God stuns him.

In his first reply to Job, Zophar had asked: "Can you gauge the nature of God, explore the Almighty to the utmost?" [11:7-8]. Job decides that he must continue the attempt. Through a third cycle of debate, the Argument spirals to new crises when Job sets before the three wisemen evidence of God's misrule of individuals and of nations. Job's questions explode with shattering resonance among his friends' theories.

The wisemen throughout the ancient world are pioneers in the inductive method. They try to base their teachings upon careful observation and to offer to their pupils instruction in useful lines of conduct. Almost all of them are deeply involved in the religious cultures of their day. This is especially true of the wisemen of Israel. Eliphaz, for instance, does his utmost to fuse a partially scientific method with his claim to be the recipient of heaven-sent revelation and to link the findings of the fathers with the word of God.

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