Studies in the Bible and Jewish Thought

By Moshe Greenberg | Go to book overview

Reflections on Job's Theology
1980

Job is a book not so much about God's justice as about the transformation of a man whose piety and view of the world were formed in a setting of wealth and happiness, and into whose life burst calamities that put an end to both. How can piety nurtured in prosperity prove truly deep-rooted and disinterested, and not merely a spiritual adjunct of good fortune ("God has been good to me so I am faithful to Him")? Can a man pious in prosperity remain pious when he is cut down by anarchical events that belie his orderly view of the world? The Book of Job tells how one man suddenly awakened to the anarchy rampant in the world, yet his attachment to God outlived the ruin of his tidy system.

Job is a pious believer who is struck by misfortune so great that it cannot be explained in the usual way as a prompting to repentance, a warning, let alone a punishment (the arguments later addressed to him by his friends). His piety is great enough to accept the misfortune without rebelling against God: "Should we accept only good from God and not accept evil?" (2:10). But his inability, during seven days of grief in the company of his silent friends, to find a reasonable relation between the misfortune and the moral state of its victims (himself and his children) opens Job's eyes to the fact that in the world at large the same lack of relation prevails (9:22-24; 12:6-9; 21:7-34). Until then, the crying contradiction between the idea of a just order and the reality of individual destinies had, because of his prosperity, hardly been visible to Job. He may not have been as simple as his friends, but neither was he more perceptive than Elihu, who, at the end (chs. 32-37), offers those above-mentioned explanations of misfortune. But Job now

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