Wednesday, December 19, 2007

JOB and real wisdom

Noting the Hebrew poetry, the parallelisms, the structure, and the content, Victor Hugo said that the book of Job is the greatest literary work ever penned. Because of its place and purpose in the canon, some scholars have argued that it is merely fiction. Regardless, the story is compelling, the characters are unique, and the lessons learned are vital.

The cycle of the three dialogues in chapters 4-27 gets shorter each time, so as to show man impotent to attain true wisdom on his own. Job’s pathetic comforters run out of things to say. They are, along with Job, scratching their heads over three issues: the suffering of the righteous, the justice of God, and where wisdom is found.

Gordon Fee has observed that

the question of where wisdom is found is answered not only in terms of God alone, but also by silencing all human voices that would insist that God must explain himself to them…. The brilliance of this book lies in the fact that although it looks as though it were a theodicy [human beings putting God on trial, insisting on explanations for his actions], it turns out to be a theology [God putting human beings on trial as to whether or not they will trust him not only when they receive no immediate benefits, but also when he does not give them the explanations they demand].

In the end, the book of Job moves from the view of God “as an omnipotent yet amoral being to God as One who is both omnipotent and mysteriously benevolent” [C. Hassell Bullock]. With this understanding, Job’s response in chapter 42 shows he is beginning to grasp true wisdom. He is repentant and humble. He knows that “You can do all things and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” [Jb 42.2].

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