Job 29-30: Taking Delight in Another’s Downfall

Why do I think of that Billie Halliday song”

‘And when you’ve got money, you’ve got lots of friends, crowding round your door. When the money’s gone, and all your spending ends, they won’t be round anymore.’

It’s a lot worse than that for Job. They do come around—to spit on him. What is it with people who take delight in another’s downfall?

“They mock me even in their songs; I have become an object of scorn to them.  They detest me and keep their distance from me; They do not hesitate to spit in my face.  Because God has disarmed me and humbled me, They throw off all restraint in my presence. On my right they rise up like a mob; They put me to flight And put up barriers of destruction in my path. They tear up my roadways And make my calamity worse, Without anyone to stop them.  (Job 30:10-13)

Not like in the old days at all when Job “used to go out to the city gate And take my seat in the public square, The young men would see me and step aside, And even the old men would rise and remain standing. Princes refrained from speaking; They would put their hand over their mouth. The voices of the prominent men were silenced; Their tongue was stuck to the roof of their mouth. Whoever heard me would speak well of me, And those who saw me would testify for me. For I would rescue the poor who cried for help, (29:7-12)

It was a big deal to be at the city gate. Here the JW Library footnote links to Insight Book coverage:

“Because of the important usages of the city’s gateway, it was a high honor to sit down with the older men of the land in the gates.” The point is then illustrated with several references to scripture:

The capable wife’s husband “is well-known in the city gates, Where he sits among the elders of the land,” (Proverbs 31:23) which is no place for a fool: “True wisdom is unattainable for a fool [who] has nothing to say in the city gate.” (Proverbs 24:7)

David, when he is on the run, frets over being the “talk of those sitting in the city gate.” (Psalm 69:12)

To ‘crush the afflicted one in the gate’ meant judicial corruption: legal cases were handled there: “Do not rob the poor man because he is poor, And do not crush the lowly man in the city gate,” (Proverbs 22:22) something Job never did (see above). “For I know how many your revolts are And how great your sins are,” said Amos to a later people: “You harass the righteous, You take bribes, And you deny the rights of the poor in the city gate.”

and several others.

Cheering over a respected one’s downfall. What’s with that? I think of Davey the Kid’s talk, many years ago, on how love does not rejoice over unrighteous (1 Corinthians 13:6) No, it does not. But, he asked, might we even take a secret delight in the troubles of another? Then he illustrated, with ‘So and so was reproved,’ (hooking his thumb in his belt and thrusting himself forward—it was a memorable gesture) ‘But I wasn’t!’

 

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Job 25-26: Bildad’s Last Stand and the Fringes of God’s Ways

It is last batter of the last inning (there are only three) of speeches meanmouthing Job. Bildad’s up. After that, Elihu enters as sort of a self-appointed ref. Then—gasp!—an unexpected appearance from the Great Ref follows.

What’s with Bildad? Cat got his tongue? His speech is by far the shortest. Let us analyze:

Rulership and fearsome might are [God’s]; He establishes peace in heaven. Can his troops be numbered? Upon whom does his light not rise?” (Job 25:2-3)

Synopsis: Lofty praise of God—his power and place! What pious fellow would not swell to have uttered such remarks himself? Now—what comes next?

So how can mortal man be righteous before God, Or how can one born of a woman be innocent?  Even the moon is not bright And the stars are not pure in his eyes, How much less so mortal man, who is a maggot, And a son of man, who is a worm!” (3-5)

Translation: He treats us like dirt but we’re used to it.

 

Sheesh! Who is this character, spouting his mangy ‘theology’ as though it were good news gospel? It is so lacking that Job all but says, ‘Where did you get this crap?’ “Who inspired you to say such things?” is what he does say. (26:4)

‘You’re going to teach me about God? I’ll teach you about God!’ Job retorts, (27:11) and then, even half-dead as he is, he bests Bildad’s praise of God, such as it is, by a factor of ten. It is like one brother I knew who, if you said to him something witty, he instantly came back with something ten times as witty. I was almost afraid of him, though he gave no reason to be other than breathtaking proficiency—instantly mastering anything he set his mind on.

Some of Job’s remarks blow one away, being far ahead of their time. If you want to back your claim that you think the Bible is inspired, you head directly to 26:7-10:

He stretches out the northern sky over empty space, Suspending the earth upon nothing; . . . He marks out the horizon on the surface of the waters; He makes a boundary between light and darkness.

He suspends it on nothing? It’s not exactly ‘turtles all the way down,’ is it? Similarly, it is hardly to reconcile a boundary between light and darkness as revealing anything other than knowing how the spinning planet works. We are not speaking of Columbus’s men here, ever fearful that they might sail off the edge of the earth.

Look! These are just the fringes of his ways,” he says, to round out the chapter. (vs 14) Little did he know then that there would emerge future wise men who would explore the fringes and find them so weird as to break from the pattern of Galileo, of Newton, of Kepler, and others. These ones took for granted that to discern laws of physics was to understand and thereby give praise to God for his handiwork, but they would give way to a later generation of science who would bizzarely concoct the view that the fringes are so hard for them to understand—and their goal is to understand everything—that there must not be a God.

 

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Job 22-24: No Wonder People Say the God of the Old Testament is Mean

These brothers who say how prayer is communication with God and you never get a busy signal, to modest chuckling from the audience?

Job keeps getting a busy signal!! That’s what he can’t understand. He’s heard those talks, most likely, and even joined in applause at the end. But now he keeps getting a busy signal!

He does express confidence in God—if only he could get through to him:

“Would [God] contend with me using his great power? No, surely he would give me a hearing,” he says. (Job 22:6) If only he could get through. Why does he want to get through? Because his life has devolved into a pile of you-know-what, that’s why, and he wants to fill God’s ear about it!

And then Eliphaz comes around—man, these guys are obnoxious! to say:

“Get to know Him, and you will be at peace; Then good things will come your way. . . If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored.”

‘Why why why doesn’t God hear me? Job cries. ‘I cry out to him day and night, but all I get is a busy signal!’

‘Well, if you weren’t so wicked, it wouldn’t happen,’ is Eliphaz’s answer, and that of the two other companions.

It is only Eliphaz and crew who feel this way? There was a flood of preachers post-Katrina in New Orleans to say the cities ruination was its own fault. God destroyed New Orleans, Pat Robertson declared, because of abortion and homosexuality. But the mayor, Ray Nagin, disagreed. Sharply. At his own news conference, he set the record straight. God did not destroy his town because of abortion and homosexuality.

He destroyed it because of war in Iraq and disunity among black residents!

The reasons differed, according to individual and political peeves. But the common ground was that God did it!

And here are these three frauds advancing that ‘theology’ with Job—God did it! For what reason? Listen to Eliphaz carry on: (22:6-9)

“You strip people of their garments, leaving them naked. You do not give the tired one a drink of water, And you hold back food from the hungry. The land belongs to the powerful man, And the favored one dwells in it. But you sent away widows empty-handed, And you crushed the arms of fatherless children!”

He’s made the point before, more gently, but been rebuffed. He does not like to be contradicted, and so juices up his charge of what Job ‘must have’ done to be suffering so!

Furthermore, to distill his remarks, ‘God could care less if you’re good—what’s that to him? But he sure does care if you’re bad, ever eager to dish out the punishment in that event. No wonder people say the God of the Old Testament is mean! If we are to listen to Pat Robertson and Ray Nagin, the God of the New Testament is, too! And don’t get me going on how when a tiny child dies, it’s because God needed another flower in his perfect heavenly garden; these preachers make a god-awful mess when they try to extract themselves from the corners their wrong doctrines unfailingly paint them into! (in this case, not only the doctrine that the soul can never die, but that all good souls go straight to heaven upon doing so):

Eliphaz the Temanite said in reply: “Can a man be of use to God? Can anyone with insight be of benefit to him? Does the Almighty care that you are righteous, Or does he gain anything because you follow the course of integrity?” (22:1-3) He could care less, is the charge, whereas Santa Claus at least doesn’t give you coal when you’re ’been nice!’

Job is not going to let these guys gaslight him; that’s why he wants his hearing before God—but he keeps getting a busy signal! If he could only argue out his case, he knows God would listen.

“If only I knew where to find God! I would go to his place of dwelling. I would present my case before him And fill my mouth with arguments; I would learn how he would answer me And take note of what he says to me. Would he contend with me using his great power? No, surely he would give me a hearing. There the upright one could set matters straight with him, And I would be acquitted once and for all by my Judge.” (23:3-7)

“But if I go east, he is not there; And I return and I cannot find him. When he is working on the left, I cannot look upon him; Then he turns to the right, but I still do not see him.” (8-9) A busy signal!

Whereupon Job expands on, not just his own suffering, but all the rotten things God puts up with:

“People move boundary markers; They carry off flocks for their own pasture. They drive away the donkey of fatherless children And seize the widow’s bull as security for a loan. They force the poor off the road; The helpless of the earth must hide from them. The poor forage for food like wild donkeys in the wilderness; They seek food in the desert for their children. They must harvest in another’s field And glean from the vineyard of the wicked. They spend the night naked, without clothing; They have no covering for the cold. They are drenched by the mountain rains; They cling to the rocks for lack of shelter. The fatherless child is snatched away from the breast; And the garments of the poor are taken as security for a loan, Forcing them to go about naked, without clothing, And hungry, as they carry the sheaves of grain. They toil among the terrace walls in the heat of the day; They tread the winepresses, yet they go thirsty. The dying keep groaning in the city; The fatally wounded cry for help, But God does not regard this as improper. (24:2-12)

God will fix it; Job does not doubt he will—but it would sure be nice if He would step on it a little. He will fix it in the long run, but as John Kenneth Galbraith said, ‘In the long run we’re all dead,’ and Job’s faith in a resurrection for himself is not so ironclad as some suppose.

“God will use his strength to do away with the powerful; Though they may rise up, they have no assurance of life. God lets them become confident and secure, But his eyes are on everything they do. They are exalted for a little while, then they are no more. They are brought low and gathered like everyone else; They are cut off like heads of grain.” (24: 22-24)

 

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Job Rebukes the Prosperity Gospel Preacher: Chapters 20-21

It’s Zophar’s turn to package a nastigram. He rises to the occasion. He is the guy who visits a fellow dying in the hospital, under excruciating pain and so says something rash, who responds: “I have heard a reproof that insults me.” (Job 20:3) What next, challenge him to a duel?

Almost as bad: “My understanding impels me to reply,” he follows up. Job, you lost your money and everything else because of your wickedness, he charges:

“The joyful cry of the wicked is brief And the rejoicing of the godless one is for a moment. . . . He will perish forever like his own dung; Those who used to see him will say, ‘Where is he?’  (20:5-7)

“He has swallowed down wealth, but he will vomit it up; God will empty it out of his belly. . . . He will give back his goods without consuming them; He will not enjoy the wealth from his trade. For he has crushed and abandoned the poor; He has seized a house that he did not build.  . . . His wealth will not help him escape. There is nothing left for him to devour; That is why his prosperity will not last. (15-20)

“When his wealth reaches its peak, anxiety will overtake him; The full force of misfortune will come against him. . . . God will send his burning anger upon him, Raining it down upon him into his bowels. . . . A flood will sweep his house away; It will be a heavy torrent on the day of God’s anger. This is the wicked man’s share from God, The inheritance that God has decreed for him.” (22-29)

Tell me about it! There’s no connection! is Job’s response, as though rebuking a prosperity preacher. The wicked do just fine these days. Is it just me that imagines he hurls this reply with some heat and sarcasm?

Their houses are secure, they are free from fear, And God does not punish them with his rod. Their bulls breed without failure; Their cows give birth and do not miscarry. Their boys run outside just like a flock, And their children skip about. They sing accompanied by tambourine and harp And rejoice at the sound of the flute. They spend their days in contentment And go down peacefully to the Grave. But they say to the true God, ‘Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. . . . How often is the lamp of the wicked extinguished? How often does disaster come upon them? (9-17)

Job is on to these shallow theologians with their sham holiness, these ones who equate money to God’s favor:

“Look! I know exactly what you are thinking,” he says. “And the schemes you devise to wrong me. For you say, ‘Where is the house of the prominent man [himself], And where is the tent in which the wicked one lived?’” (27-28)

All they have to do, he says, is expand their narrow horizons a little, and they’ll see it is not that way. “Have you not questioned travelers? Do you not carefully study their observations, . . . an evil person is spared on the day of disaster . . . And rescued on the day of fury?  . . . Who will repay him for what he has done? . . . When he is carried to the graveyard, A vigil will be kept over his tomb. The clods of earth of the valley will be sweet to him, And all mankind follows after him. . . . So why offer me meaningless comfort? There is nothing but deceit in your answers!” (29-34)

The sanctimonious blowhards, descending with their gospel of prosperity! How much dough did Jesus have? You don’t think God could have arranged for his son to be born at the Jerusalem Hyatt instead of the Bethlehem Manger? He knows a lot of people. He would have chosen the former were he one to slobber over wealth.

 

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“Show Me Mercy, My Companions, Show Me Mercy!” but They Show Him None: Job 19

Nobody has ever had a wish granted to them like Job:

“If only my words were written down, If only they could be inscribed in a book!” (Job 19:23)

Folded into the world’s all-time best seller, they now are, where they stand as the supreme example of a ‘theodicy,’ an exploration of the the problem of evil—or, define it as the question, ‘Why do the righteous suffer?’

The university-educated promptly shoot themselves in the foot by dividing the Book of Job into two books. The first, in their opinion, is a Jewish fable comprising what is now the first two and the last chapters of Job. The second consists of all the rest, the unending dialogue of Job, his three tormentors, Elihu, and God. You almost suspect that their goal is to flatter the intellect, and it matters not to them that they throw away the key to understanding—as they do with the early Genesis chapters that frame the overall theodicy of which the Book of Job is a subset.

Is it that those first two chapters read too ‘fundamentalist’ for them, they who are educated in critical thinking? They should waste their time on a silly little story of God and the Devil making a wager? As though, once they finish and the outcome with Job has been determined, they say, ‘Whoa! That was loads of fun! Let’s do it again with someone else!’ The notion (which every Jehovah’s Witness understands, even the children) that Job represents a test case of whether humans can keep integrity under trial, is lost upon them.

The other ‘benefit’ of divorcing Job’s trials from the opening chapters which frame it is that you get to spin the poetic dialogue any way you wish without regard to ever settling anything. A windy debate of philosophy—‘Yeah! That’s what I’m talkin about!’ Never mind if it doesn’t lead anywhere. It becomes one of those, ‘they are having their reward in full’ scenarios of which Jesus spoke at Matthew chapter 6.

But if you don’t cleave the book into two, you come away with some understanding. You come away with the knowledge that humans can maintain integrity to God under the most trying circumstances. They may give vent to plenty of ‘wild talk’ along the way, not being privy to the big picture, but eventually the dust settles, all is forgiven, and the louts that leaned into the righteous with their own smug theories of superiority get rebuked.

Those three interrogators do lean into Job, and Job says, ‘Why aren’t you ashamed?’ “These ten times you have rebuked me; You are not ashamed to deal harshly with me.“ (Job 19:3) They should be ashamed—using their robust health to pound an unfortunate into the ground. 

“Show me mercy, my companions, show me mercy, For God’s own hand has touched me,” Job pleads, but they show him none. Aggravated that their initial gentle accusations were rejected, they double down and turn vengeful. “It gets personal,” Kushner says. Gentle insinuations become harsh accusations. The three appoint themselves interrogators for God, though God has asked for no such interrogators, terrorists who will brook no ‘wild talk,’ who will regard it all as apostasy to be put down with machine gun fire. 

What they should do is ‘weep with those who weep.’ What they should do is quote Ecclesiastes 5:2: “Do not be quick with your mouth, nor let your heart speak rashly before the true God, for the true God is in the heavens but you are on the earth. That is why your words should be few.” Job’s three visitors do not use few words; they use many, although they can’t possibly know what they are talking about, since “the true God is in the heavens but you are on the earth.”

Horrific suffering happens today. Some months ago a young woman in a nearby circuit suffered vicious physical assault. Even Job was not physically assaulted. Nor did he suffer the complete betrayal of the human justice system when the perpetrator was brought to court. Her life irrevocably changed with scars that are not visible, she decided to go public, as a first step towards healing. She’s very brave. She also hopes, no doubt, to forestall any speculation from those who see her altered behavior but have not the facts to put it in context. It’s good congregations are in the Book of Job lately, from which we may draw the conclusion that we don’t need them.

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Job 12: ‘Who Among All These Does Not Know that the Hand of Jehovah Has Done This [Calamity]?

I had the Bible reading last week and tried to do it as Brother Friend advised: “Put some fire in your talk . . . or put your talk in the fire.”

I read Job 12:1-2 as though Job is kicking back at his accusers—it seems pretty obvious.

Then Job said in reply: 2 “Surely you are the people who know, And wisdom will die out with you!  3 But I too have understanding. I am not inferior to you. Who does not know these things?

‘Look, any donkey knows the things you are saying, but what makes you think it applies to me?’ is his complaint.

Then, some sarcasm about how the wicked and the fools sail along breezily, suffering no punishment at all: “The carefree person has contempt for calamity, Thinking it is only for those whose feet are unsteady.  6 The tents of robbers are at peace, And those who provoke God are secure, Those who have their god in their hands.”

Then—a bit more interpretive, his contrasting accusation that, whereas Eli, Bill, and Zop can’t read what’s going on, even the animals, birds, fish, and the very earth, can. Everyone knows what’s going on except these three guys—and they would teach that trio if the latter weren’t so blockheaded: ‘The hand of Jehovah has done this—unjustly caused all his calamity:  

However, ask, please, the animals, and they will instruct you; Also the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you.  8 Or give consideration to the earth, and it will instruct you; And the fish of the sea will declare it to you.  9 Who among all these does not know That the hand of Jehovah has done this?  

The rest of the chapter is Job’s diatribe that God plays havoc with what he’s created, for who knows what reason? Maybe just for his own amusement. I’m not sure those final verses . . . 

He makes counselors go barefoot, And he makes fools of judges. He loosens the bonds imposed by kings, And he binds a belt around their waist. He makes priests walk barefoot, And he overthrows those who are firmly established in power; He deprives trusted advisers of speech And takes away the sensibleness of old men; He pours out contempt upon nobles, And he makes powerful ones weak; He reveals deep things from the darkness, And he brings deep darkness into the light; He makes nations grow great in order to destroy them; He enlarges nations, that he may lead them into exile. He takes away the understanding of the leaders of the people And makes them wander in trackless wastelands. They grope in darkness, where there is no light; He makes them wander about like drunken men. (17-25)

. . . should be read as though Job, in his distress, nonetheless rises to the occasion to deliver an impromptu talk in praise of God, praising him for thwarting the plans of the wicked. Nah, in happier times, yes, but not now. Now, in the midst of unrelenting anguish following unspeakable tragedy, is he not bewailing that God thwarts them all? Good or bad—it makes no difference to him. ‘Is not wisdom and understanding found in the aged?’ (vs 12) Well, nobody is older than He. “With him there are wisdom and mightiness; He has counsel and understanding.” And to what end does he put these qualities? To set up his creatures like dominoes, then nudge the end one to see the entire row topple!

Remember, we’ve opened the door in recent years to Job venting some ‘wild talk.’ (6:3) Is he not doing it here? 

From chapter 10, the previous week’s reading: “You have given me life and loyal love; You have guarded my spirit with your care.” A good sentiment. But the next verse is less good. “But you secretly intended to do these things. I know that these things are from you.” (vs 12-13) Translation? He set me up for a fall!

I think Job felt this way because that’s how felt in my own perfect prolonged storm of calamitous events—less severe than Job’s in most respects, but as severe in others. If you didn’t know of the heavenly events described in the book’s first two chapters, which Job didn’t, is that not exactly what one might think in his shoes?

And long ago I read somewhere that ‘scholars’—the critical kind, no doubt, think the first two chapters of Job were cobbled on later, that they are not original. Someday I’ll look to see whether they provide any justification for this view beyond that it reads too ‘fundamentalist’ for them, and that it solves the problem, whereas they prefer windy back-and-forth that flatters the intellect but doesn’t solve the problem unsolved, thereby leaving them to spin it any way they like. “I would never say that higher education is valueless,” says a sister who has benefited from her degree, “but it does have a way of taking things that are simple and making them complicated.”

*(Indeed, the ‘educated’ think there are two Jobs; one is the first two and last chapters, the other all the rest. I think the appeal is to put one in position to understand neither, yet continue to flatter the intellect. In the case of the unattached first, you get to isolate it and thus reassure your educated friends that you, too, are not so stupid as to believe in a literal devil. In the case of the unattached 2nd, you get to spin wordy treatises on the wordy speeches, unconcerned about whether they go anywhere.)

Sort of like when Ted Putsch, my impetuous Bible student from Tom Irregardless and Me, who hasn’t yet learned tact and should be locked up for six months until he does, leans into my full-of-himself return visit, Bernard Strawman, with, “Look, it couldn’t be simpler! Or is that the problem with you?!”

 

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Job 8: Bildad is the Clergy? A Blast from the Past

A publication that well-fits a certain time and place, and the needs of people at that time, may read very oddly in another. Now that we are in the Book of Job in the weekly Bible reading, an example is found in multiple links to a 1966 Watchtower series. I mean, how do you spell ‘dated’? 

Sometimes I repackage exchanges on social media for later inclusion in this blog. But by the time the run date has arrived, they are dated, some of them, or at least too niche for inclusion. I shelve a lot of them. Even though I’ve changed names, assigning words to people like Wayne Whitepebble, Vic Vomodog, or even Dr. Max “Ace” Inhibitor; it’s still not enough to gussy them up.

Did I pick up that naming technique from HQ? For, here in 1966 (it would never be done today), the clergy of Christendom become Bildad and Zophar, and the anointed Bethel brothers themselves are “Job-like.”

The 1966 article quotes a sneering Jesuit passage about a recent convention:

“It [the assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses] was an impressive demonstration of the hold that primitive—and perverted—religion exercises on simple minds in a hour of humanity’s confusion. It was an illustration also of the compelling power of a few ideas strongly held.”

Oh, man, how I’d love to shove back at that one. But it wouldn’t come from the Jesuits today. They have moved on towards “inclusion.” It might come from the secular anti-cultists, but not likely any subset of the Catholics.

Of course, if the latter have moved on, part of the reason is that Witnesses don’t attack [expose] them as they did in the World Wars and aftermath era, an era that extended into 1966, as judged by the article, though it was fading by then. All Witnesses ever wanted was a level playing field—so that people should not be so under the grip of clergy that they were afraid to entertain new ideas. That being achieved long ago, why kick the old lady (Babylon the Great) when she’s down? We kicked her when she was up! Hardly any point to it, now. Whatever account she must render is with God, not with us.

The scrappy 66 Watchtower reply is determined to incorporate Job 8—Bildad’s words, as directed at Job. It reads: 

“It is well known that many of the “man of lawlessness” class of clergy are pillars and champions of orthodoxy, holding tenaciously to early, Babylonish wisdom of the “former generations” and from the “fathers,” like Bildad of old. (Job 8:8)”

You almost can’t decipher that today. But with that introduction, the brothers print the reply they made to those Jesuits:

“In substituting ancient paganisms or modern philosophies for the truths contained in the Bible, Christendom’s religions match backsliding Israel who professed to be Jehovah’s people: ‘The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people shows no understanding.’ (Isa. 1:3, AT) They put themselves in position for stinging condemnation, which they cry out against [us] as intolerant. But does not God himself here say they have less sense than the ox and the ass?”

Ha! Yeah—It’s ‘you guys are like oxen and asses!’ How’s THAT for diplomacy?

The 1966 article continues: 

“These masters of tradition, sectarian traditionalists, charge that the religion of Jehovah’s witnesses is “primitive” and “perverted,” yet the whole focal point of the Witnesses’ Bible-based religion centers on upholding Jehovah’s Sovereign Godship. (Job 8:3) Yes, they brand the “sons” or associates of the anointed ones as being “sinners” (‘simpleminded’) who have “revolted” (‘perverted religion’) against traditions of the apostate sects, in a time of world confusion, a confusion largely brought about by the clergy themselves.—Job 8:4, 9, 10.”

That last line is a beaut: Is that 1966 world the Jesuits refer to “in a time of world confusion?” ‘Well, whose fault is that?’ the Bethel brothers hurl back in their faces. They were supposed to be teaching the Word of God. They shoved it aside so as to be abreast of the latest in human philosophy, oblivious that much of it incorporated “every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men.” (Ephesians 4:14)

These are fighting words. It’s hard to imagine them being written today, just 60 years later. Times change. The “confusion largely brought about by the clergy themselves” has become so great that large swaths of people have abandoned religion entirely. So great is the disillusionment today, they often become atheists. Some of them, in league with our own ‘apostates,’ team up with the secular agnostics and make far more trouble for us that the religionists—though most individual Witnesses are caught in a time warp and still blame Babylon the Great for it all. 

What goes on in the Brooklyn brothers’ heads to attribute these words of Bildad to the clergy: “Will God pervert justice, Or will the Almighty pervert righteousness?  4 If your sons sinned against him, He let them be punished for their revolt.” (3-4)

Is it that the clergy would say, ‘Look—we are the guys in charge! We’ve been around longer than you. You think God would pervert justice or righteousness? If we tell you something is so, it is!’ Maybe that’s the application, but it’s not real clear to me. Maybe it played clear then. And I have no idea what is the application of verse 4.

When they tie in 8-10, well, they’re nice verses and all, but I don’t know how they apply, either. “Ask, please, the former generation, And pay attention to the things their fathers found out.  9 For we were born only yesterday, and we know nothing, Because our days on earth are a shadow.  10 Will they not instruct you And tell you what they know?

Later, that 1966 article cites another group, not the Jesuits, but this time a bunch of Protestants, saying something snotty about the New World Translation. The Bethel brothers paste their ears back too, even with snark. What a scrappy bunch they were back then! 

I wondered during the congregation’s consideration of that portion of Job whether anyone would cite that article, linked to in several verses, to be commended for their 60-year-old retrieval. But nobody did. 

 

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Johnny Cash and Job: Free From the Chain Gang: Commentary on Job 7

On the one hand, Johnny Cash was freed from the chain gang of prison because he died:

I got rid of the shackles that bound me / And the guards that were always around me / There were tears on the mail mother sent me in jail / But I'm free from the chain gang now.

On the other hand, isn’t ‘chain gang’ his metaphor for a too-hard life? So it is that one can compare Job and the Cash song. Compare Job’s metaphor for a too-hard life:

“Is not the life of mortal man on earth like compulsory labor . . . Like a slave, he longs for the shadow , , , I have been assigned months of futility And nights of misery have been counted out for me.” (Job 7:1-3)

The second stanza of Cash’s version, actually a cover for an earlier artist, is:

Back home I was known and respected / Then one day I was wrongly suspected / So they put me in chains in a cold freezing rain / But I'm free from the chain gang now.

That fits Job as well. He was ‘known and respected’ one day, ‘wrongly suspected’ the next:

Satan answered Jehovah: “Is it for nothing that Job has feared God? Have you not put up a protective hedge around him and his house and everything he has? . . .  But, for a change, stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your very face.” (Job 1:9-11)

Job passed that test, only to be ‘wrongly suspected’ once again:

“Skin for skin. A man will give everything that he has for his life. But, for a change, stretch out your hand and strike his bone and flesh, and he will surely curse you to your very face.” (Job 2:4-5)

And so, “they put [Job] in chains in a cold freezing rain,” and finally made him long for an end to his chain gang life:

“Remember that my life is wind, That my eye will never again see happiness. . . . I loathe my life; I do not want to go on living. (Job 7:7,17)

Job did go on living. Cash didn’t. There may be common ground but the two were not the same. Cash’s outrageous conduct nearly ended his career. But after a lull, toward the end of his life, he teamed up with a new producer and released records markedly different from anything prior, hauntingly beautiful, purely acoustic, and nearly all themed the death that soon awaited him and all of humankind—with many fixated on repentance, salvation, and God. And well might he have repented from a life marred with womanizing and substance abuse.

Only then does Cash remake his earlier cover of the same Chain Gang song that does appear to be only a song of prison. Only then does it seem to occur to him that it can also serve as a metaphor for life. He doesn’t change any lines, but he doubles down on some and drops others.

When my friend who had years ago lost his wife to cancer heard Cash’s rendering of ‘On the Evening Train’—on the same album—he instantly broke into tears and shut off the CD player. This particular song features no repentance, nor marked need for it, but only the crushing loneliness of suddenly losing one’s closest companion, coupled with a plea for courage until future resurrection. 

IMG_1127The song is  from the Cash album, American V: A Hundred Highways—same as where Free From the Chain Gang is. It is among my favorite albums. All of Cash’s later works are.

Job wasn’t a womanizer or substance abuser, like Cash had been (though also not a musician). He doesn’t have serious sins to repent of. He knew it well, though under relentless accusation from his three ‘guards,’—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, he said to those guards (and to God, as though He were another):

Will you not look away from me And leave me alone long enough to swallow my saliva? If I have sinned, how could I harm you, the Observer of mankind? Why have you made me your target? (7:19-20)

Job did not know the test he was running, let alone its purpose or the outcome it would supply to benefit all future generations. His course under the most intense suffering answered those taunts of Satan.  He would display that man can keep integrity under the most adverse of circumstances. Answer, supplied, Jehovah chewed out the three  ‘guards,’ sent them packing, then went about restoring God’s life.

For both Cash and Job, it was a rugged trial:

All the years I was known by a number / How I kept my mind is a wonder.

And (prison version only, but it works): And the bare prison cell that was one step from Hell / But I'm free from the chain gang now.

Though it is realized differently with the two men—one womanizer and substance abuser, one blameless and upright, Johnny Cash’s final verse applies to them both: Johnny dies and is subject to future earthly resurrection. Job goes on to have family, wealth and health restored; then he dies and becomes subject to future earthly resurrection; both to commence after the doomed experiment in human self-rule has come to its end:

Like a bird in a tree I got my liberty / And I'm free from the chain gang now.

(I recommend going back to click the links—listen to the two songs.)

Other posts on Job: click here and here.

 

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Question: Why Are Job’s Three Comforters “Afraid?”

Question: Why are the three comforters who pay Job a visit “afraid?”

As in: “For this is how you have become to me; You have seen the terror of my calamity, and you are afraid.” (Job 6:21)

Of course, we don’t know for sure that they were. It is what Job says of them after they traipse in from afar, put on a fantastic dust-throwing show, then watch him like vultures for 7 days before opening their mouths:

“Three companions of Job heard about all the calamities that had come upon him, and each came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. So they agreed to meet together to go and sympathize with Job and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. They began to weep loudly and to rip their garments apart, and they threw dust into the air and onto their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.” (2:11-13)

But my money’s on Job—even though Eliphaz also makes the cut for words quoted in the New Testament. It is his “He catches the wise in their own cunning” (5:13) that is repeated verbatim at 1 Corinthians 3:19) So he can’t be a rotter through and through to have lines taken up by Paul. More on this later. Meantime, why is my money on Job and his assessment that these ones who look on his calamity are “afraid.” How is it they are afraid?

Isn’t it because they know, deep down, that what happened to Job could just as easily happen to them? Job, who reaches the point of cursing the day he was born, Job who says: “For what I have dreaded has come upon me . . . I have had no peace, no quiet, no rest” (3:25-26) —they know it could just as easily happen to them. They dread it, too.

That’s why they have to carry on with more and more assertion that God is punishing Job for past sins, even though nobody can point to any. It’s all a facade, though they don’t know it themselves. They have to maintain the facade, for they cannot bear the alternative—that they might be living fine and easy as you please one moment, doing nothing wrong, and then one day Job-like calamity falls upon them. They cannot bear to think it. So they must maintain Job is being punished for something or other. 

When Job protests that he has not done anything wrong, at least not egregiously so, they double down, all of them do, building upon one another’s remarks, ultimately becoming truly vicious. Sometimes counselors do that—they double down. You hope they won’t; you hope when their words are resisted, they will at least consider that they may have missed the mark. Alas, there is a certain type of counselor that doesn’t like to be contradicted. That type doubles down. 

So it is with these blunderbuss counselors of Job. They’re not bad guys, probably. Never mind my last post when I said they were—what was I smoking? No, they seem to have meant well—initially. They didn’t have to come visit Job at all, and yet they did. But Job’s calamity strikes unexpected terror into their own hearts, so they pursue a path that safeguards them, regardless of the effect it has on poor Job.

 

Other posts on Job here and here.

 

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Eliphaz to Job: (Chapter 4) How to Best Render His Words?

Here are Jehovah’s Witnesses covering Job for the next several weeks at their midweek meetings. Oh, yeah—that’s what I’m talking about!

A Book that comes to grips with God’s looking upon suffering:

What not to say during your next visit to the hospital:

 

Eliphaz to Job, upon hearing the latter cursing the day of his birth:

“If someone tries to speak to you, will you become impatient? For who can hold back from speaking? True, you have corrected many, And you used to strengthen the weak hands. Your words would raise up anyone stumbling, And you would strengthen those whose knees were buckling.” (Job 4:2-4)

Are these words said sarcastically, as in: ‘You say you have seen many through their calamity?’ It seems so in view of what follows:

“But now it has happened to you, and you are overwhelmed; It touches you, and you are dismayed.” (vs 5)

This is not what you say to someone who has lost all his children, his home, all his possessions, and his health  in quick succession. This is not what you call a fine bedside manner. It makes one doubt the sincerity of his previous words at 2-4

Eliphaz continues:

“Does your reverence for God not give you confidence? Does your way of integrity not give you hope? (vs 6) Remember, please: What innocent person has ever perished? When have the upright ever been destroyed? What I have seen is that those who plow what is harmful And those who sow trouble will reap the same.” (vs 7-8)

Does the NWT miss the nuance of verse 6? The verse is rendered as though Eliphaz is trying to strengthen Job, which is not consistent with what he says elsewhere—arguably before and certainly after, with his “What I have seen is that those who plow what is harmful and those who sow trouble will reap the same.” Translation: Job is reaping what he has sowed. Does he have problems? They’re his own fault.

It gets worse:

“By the breath of God they [miscreants like Job] perish, And through a blast of his anger they come to an end. The lion roars, and a young lion growls, But even the teeth of strong lions are broken. A lion perishes for lack of prey, And the cubs of a lion are scattered. (vs 9-11)

Translation: ‘You finally ran out of prey, didn’t you Job? And now, you toothless lion, you are called to account.’

So does the NWT-2013 say it best at verse 6? With every line, Eliphaz tears Job down. He builds him up at 6? No.

The King James Version’s rendering of verse 6 is more consistent: “Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways?”

To be sure, better punctuation (which is just a matter of translator privilege) would improve it: “Is not this thy fear: thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways?” Italicize ‘this’ and replace the first comma with a colon. What thereby presents is a verse that sets the stage for what follows, as the NWT’s rendering does not. What thereby presents is a verse suggesting Job must surely fear that God has seen right through him and knows that his ‘uprightness’ is but a sham: “Is not that your real fear?” he knifes his down-on-his-luck ‘friend.’

Now, how do other translations render verse 6? Do any favorites emerge? Through Biblegateway.org and Studylight.org one can compare dozens of different translations;

Alas, they all line up the NWT way. Even the KJV does, since it doesn’t punctuate it the way I like. Ah, well—they’re probably right. Who am I to stand against every single rendering? ‘Oh, sure!’ my wife might say, ‘Tommy’s right and everybody else is wrong!’ Nope—I’m not going to step into that one. I withdraw my suggestion.

(I don’t really.) Because, my version of verse 6, combined with applying a sarcastic twist to verses 3 and 4,  fits the surrounding narrative, and the others do not—or at least, mine fits it better.

On the other hand, my version all but paints Eliphaz as a Terminator, determined to wreak havoc on the man from the get-go. He does turn out that way, but maybe he started with good intentions and is only undermined by his sanctimonious ‘theology’ which holds that if you suffer, it must be divine retribution.

 

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