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

By Margaret Brackenbury Crook | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
The Way of the Poet with Job and God

With the abrupt end of the third cycle of debate, the Poet approached the task whose solution, more than anything else, has made his book timeless and enduring. The reply of the Almighty to the pleading Job is the masterpiece of the entire work. Yet the reply does not immediately follow the conclusion of the third cycle. Even the Poet had to search for a way to set forth new aspects in the relationship of the Divine to the human.

Job had been traveling a road to a dead end. His distress was proportionate to his failure to induce the Almighty to acknowledge him. In his newly discovered assurance of his own integrity, he has defied the Almighty, has been willing to equate Him with "a doer of wrong" [27:2-12]; yet he still longs for God's consolation. Surely concern over this tragic impasse is reflected in the Poet's circle. Its members anxiously inquire of the Poet: Does God ever actually reveal Himself to man? Is God of any service to man? Should intelligent people worship Him?

Clearly, a break has come in the Poet's work. Thus far he has recorded questions his students posed about Job's sad condition and helped them frame the replies that contemporary wisemen would supply. But now the initiative in a new development lies with him. His students' questions challenge him directly. He must, if he can, enlighten them on the burning topic of the reality of divine revelation; he must make clear the actual service of God to the world and to mankind.

The Argument has now shifted to a deeper level. While Job and his friends debated the claims of a man upon God in purely ethical terms, Job was not able to sustain his own moments of faith. But the visionary revelations claimed by Eliphaz also failed to convince Job. The Poet must therefore resort to stronger measures.

Apparently the Poet's first inclination was to reveal the ways of God through Wisdom, personified as the agent of divine

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