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Commentaries on Job: 1957, 1942, 1929

I was lamenting at the Kingdom Hall that there is no overall Watchtower commentary on the Book of Job. The elder I was speaking to said there was. ‘I almost fell out of the truth when I read it!’ he quipped. All sorts of understandings, including types and antitypes that we don’t do anymore. He said how he has not seen any of that material in modern times. ‘I don’t think they’re proud of that one,’ he said.

I thought he was speaking of some articles in the 60s that some of the Eliphaz, Bilday, & Zophar remarks link to in the Research Guide, items that come across today as peculiar, though one person in the Kingdom Hall spotted them and commented how ‘deep’ they were. But it turned out it was not them at all referred to. It was a 42-paragraph article in the Sept 1, 1957 Watchtower. It being brought to my attention, I went there. 

1957 is not too long after WWII and the article framed the organizational War experiences of the anointed in terms of Job. (Carl Jung, in 1952, showed how much WWII, specifically the Holocaust, had impacted him when we wrote ‘Answer to Job’—wherein he altogether trashed the God who does nothing but carry on about his almightiness in the face of Job’s great suffering—as though that is the last thing the suffering man needed, whereas the Book of Job itself indicates it is the first.) Job foreshadows Jesus in this 1957 article, since Job’s name means “object of hostility,” and on earth Jesus Christ was the principal object of Satan’s hostility. 

Then, of course, just as Job was persecuted for showing integrity through thick and thin, so was the anointed remnant for showing such integrity during the period of the World Wars, calling out the church clergy for being such ardent cheerleaders of those wars. The Eli, Bill, Zop trio become the clergy continually mean-mouthing and denying the remnant’s supposed integrity towards God, insisting that their lowly circumstances and legal woes meant exactly as outward appearances suggested—that they were losers and frauds. Then, the anointed remnant enters in again as Elihu, who speaks truth about God to counteract the fathheaded and God-dishonoring false doctrines of the clergy, and of Eli, Bill, and Zop.

The 1957 article referred to two books of the Rutherford era, The New World (1942) and Life (1929), each of which devoted many chapters to Job. They were both on eBay, still up for bidding, and not too pricey. I topped the going bid for both of them, then immediately felt (potential) buyer’s remorse—who cares about ancient organizational history? I told myself—it is ‘been there, done that.’ I resolved not to bid anymore. But—no need to—I won both bids and now the books are sitting on my shelf. Yes, I will be going through them, maybe not with a fine tooth comb (or maybe I will) but I will see what they have to say.

That elder who told me of the 1957 article said it doesn’t bother him when interpretations and viewpoints are changed. Part of the ‘light getting brighter’ and all; he had no problem with it. I told him neither did I, however with the caveat that any future revisions I also view as tentative, things that may or may not endure. 


Chapter 4 of the book The New World, published in 1942, begins:

“In the critical year of 1942 the developments of the great conflict for world domination drew our attention to the neighborhood of the ancient home of Job, the land of Uz. The inspired record becomes alive with meaning today. It reads: ‘There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job’ (Job 1:1) The record concerning Job is no mere bit of dead ancient history to be pushed aside because of urgent conditions that grimly face us at present. Job was involved in an important way in the chief issue confronting all heaven and earth, and which issue shall be settled in this ‘the day of Jehovah.’ The issue is UNIVERSAL DOMINATION.” [caps theirs, reflecting the still-present recognition that they main issue today is, ‘Who will rule? Will it me human rulership, furthering that claim in Eden that men could be ‘like God, knowing good and bad’—that is, setting their own standards for what is good and what is bad?]

Not “to be pushed aside because of urgent conditions that grimly face us at [1942] present?” Of course not. Job gave meaning to those suffering near-parallel conditions, in some ways worse than those of Job. For nearly a decade by then, there were Witnesses interned in Nazi concentration camps, paying the huge price for what they sporadically still must pay for today—the cost of remaining strictly neutral in national affairs.. They were among the very first so consigned, preceding the far-more-numerous Jews. It’s also well known that once in the camps, they were the only inmates with opportunity to get themselves out; Nazi policy was that if they renounced their faith and pledged allegiance to the regime they could go free. Only a handful took advantage of the offer. Thus, they were not victims of Nazi persecutions so much as martyrs in the face of it.

So, of course they, as serious Bible students striving to keep the faith, would see themselves in terms of Job’s trials. Job’s “true life experience was [like theirs] a prophetic drama which exposes the war hotly waged by religion against Jehovah’s Witnesses from and after Abel, the first martyr slain by a religionist.” Religious unity, as demonstrated by the two largest German faiths, Lutherans and Catholics, had blown sky-high just then, as it had 20 years previously during WWI, necessitating worldwide members of those faiths to rise and stop their fellow church-members who had demonstrated readiness to rise up and blow their fellow ‘brothers’ heads off with a gun if some man with authority would tell them to.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, almost alone, had a logically consistent ‘out’ as to non-participation. If some mama grieved the loss of her son in the European war, well that was a terrible thing, but at least it was not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who killed him.


******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'


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