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

By Margaret Brackenbury Crook | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
The Source of Job's Misery . . . Job 9-11

Eliphaz has advised Job to submit his cause to God. Job asks: does a man dare do that if he has a case to argue against God? God does not distinguish between the worthy and the unworthy. With God, "it is all one." If there were an umpire between God and himself, Job would speak his mind without fear. He appeals again to God to tell him the charges held against him; but in vain. Zophar, brilliant and sarcastic, rebukes Job's blasphemous babble. Can Job explore the Almighty to the utmost? God's ways are entirely satisfactory. The path of the wicked leads to death.

The Poet and his circle do not produce the Book of Job at a single sitting; breaks and turns show where there is a pause. One of these comes at the end of Bildad's hasty speech. Job has replied to Eliphaz, and, when Bildad has spoken, we expect him to reply to Bildad. Instead, Job replies once more to Eliphaz.

When the Poet has completed Bildad's address, his students take him to task. They hold that Bildad has come too soon, that Eliphaz has a case, and so has Job. They wish to hear Job do more than protest his lot. Above all they want to hear what he can say to the Almighty. And so the Poet records this turn in the debate when he lets Job attend once more to the words of Eliphaz.

The Poet must be clear to himself about Job's problem, for his pupils are asking him to give, through Job, the fruits of his own reflections. The Poet sees Job probing something in God that the prophets and wisemen of Israel have rarely faced. Job is finding both beneficence and ferocity in God's dealings with himself. God's ferocity terrifies him, for it seems to occur without reason.

Capricious deities, alternately kind and cruel, were well known in the ancient world, but the Holy One of Israel was said to be above caprice. Job's experience runs counter to the

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