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Book of Job

Category: Books sutras and myths

The Book of Job (Hebrew: אִיוֹב Iyov) is a book in the Ketuvim section of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh).  Ketuvim (Biblical Hebrew: כְּתוּבִים‎ Kəṯûḇîm, "writings") is the third and final section of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), after Torah (instruction) and Nevi'im (prophets). In English translations of the Hebrew Bible, this section is usually titled "Writings".  It is the first poetic book in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.

History

The original story on which the Biblical Book of Job is based is ancient.  Archaeologists have uncovered quite a few written tales from the ancient Near East that could be the origin of the story. Such stories dating from as early as 4,500 years ago have been found in ancient Egyptian, Akkadian and Sumerian.

Ezekiel (about 622 to 570 BCE) mentions Job together with Noah and Daniel as men of ancient renown (Ezekiel 14:14). This means that for Ezekiel, Job was one of those mythological characters that people told stories about throughout the Near East, and Job was probably not Jewish and may well not have been even an Arab.  Just as a story of a Noah-like character appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh, and a mythical Daniel is known from the ancient Semitic city of Ugarit, Job might even have been black - perhaps an Ethiopian.

An Aramaic translation of the Book of Job was discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls and it may be this version that found its way into the Bible.  The problem is that this version has clearly been manipulated at later dates and its meaning as a consequence has been entirely perverted.

HAARETZ – Elon Gilad
It is possible that in the very cosmopolitan world of the Persian period - sometime between 550 to 350 BCE - a Jew, living anywhere from Egypt to Palestine and Babylonia, whose mother tongue was Aramaic, - took one of these oral legends and wrote it in Hebrew. Who exactly he was we cannot know, but considering he wrote a book, he was probably a scribe.

The main difficulty is that the Epilogue in particular looks like it was added on as an afterthought, and that a ‘happy ever after’ ending was appended, simply because the scribe[s] writing the book did not understand the underlying allegory and message.

Simplistic interpretation

At its most straightforward level, theologians state that the book [as it is now] is an allegory aimed at explaining the problem of theodicy.  The German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz coined the term "theodicy" in 1710 in his work Théodicée.  Theodicy is an attempt to answer the question of why a ‘good’ God ‘permits’ the manifestation of evil.  

This level of interpretation has a tendency to be based on the assumption that good and evil are absolutes and are somehow or other controlled by God.  The arguments are extremely simplistic at this level – why should someone who is ‘good’ and here the definition is often extremely simplistic, have to bear events and trials which he regards as ‘bad’.  Good is variously defined in terms of worshiping God, or giving charity, or doing ‘good works’ or – better – not doing any harm.

‘Evil’ in its simplest and most naïve interpretation usually involves loss of money or land, and then onto loss of family or health or loved ones and friends.  None of which are of the slightest concern to ‘God’, since these are all extremely materialistic and mundane concerns.  Even the notion of ‘evil’ has its difficulties as often one man’s loss is another man’s gain.

This level of interpretation is the least helpful, as it tends to prolong the erroneous belief that somehow the Creator ‘looks after us’ and that the creation was for us.  It is a self-centred selfish view and any attempt to interpret the message of the Book of Job along these lines is likely to fail miserably.   As such we must look for a far more esoteric and spiritual interpretation.

As allegory, the esoteric explanation

The plan for the evolution of the universe is known as the Great Work in esoteric and mystic thought.  The Ultimate Intelligence [God] and the Intelligence hierarchy devised and are in charge of its roll out, and in this a vast team of spirit beings are involved – the Intelligence hierarchy. Furthermore so are human beings and other creatures, as pawns and other pieces in the overall Game, unwitting players in the theatre that is evolutionary change. 

The Intelligences may write the script, but those of us in the ‘physical’ world, have to act that script out on the stage of life.

Some people have roles so minor that they barely notice they have been ‘helped’ to effect a task in the plan.  Others with a much more challenging destiny are well aware that their role is a major one, and simply go with the flow of apparent changes trying to make sure they are ‘doing the right thing’ and not fluffing their lines, or coming onto the stage at the wrong time.  They pray, they leave themselves open to guidance, and they are helped.

By definition, a major player is on the spiritual path, and before he or she is given anything of any seriousness or consequence, that person is tested – and sometimes tested to almost breaking point.

Job was, by definition, a major player, and his testing was extreme.  He loses his family and his health.  But in suffering and accepting these events, Job was being tested to ensure that he accepted each event as being a necessary part of the plan, did not rail against such treatment as being ‘unfair’ or ’wrong’, and furthermore understood that this was a sign that he had an important role to play in ‘God’s work’.

Allegorically, the role of punisher, tempter or persecutor is taken here – as in a number of the books of the Bible  - by ‘Satan’.  But ‘Satan’ as a role is following instructions [in the Book of Job, he is following God’s instructions].  Satan in the story is a part of the team, a necessary part of the overall plan.  Satan is ‘doing God’s will’ as much as Jesus was.  And this is key – in order to effect change so called ‘good’ and so called ‘evil’ are both used and both are ‘right’. 

There is a plan, and as it is rolled out there will be some who lose and some who gain, some who suffer and some who don’t, and none of it may seem logical or fair, to the many who suffer or see an apparently ‘evil’ person gain, but only the big picture ever gives us the rationale for it – and practically no one is ever blessed enough to see the big picture. 

Thus when those who attempt to explain Job say it was a test of faith – in this they are right.  Because accepting that all this can happen and that whatever happens is actually ‘good’ and ‘to plan’ requires faith.

THE LORD'S PRAYER.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Of sacrifice and destiny

23 Why is light given to a man whose way is hid,
and whom God hath hedged in?
24 For my sighing cometh before I eat,
and my roarings are poured out like the waters.
25 For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me,
and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.
26 I was not in safety, neither had I rest,
neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.

Job knew he was a significant player in what was to follow and had clearly known it for some time, his role and destiny were long ago decided before he was born [whom God hath hedged in]and he had been dreading it [For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me ].  He knew nothing of how this would pan out [a man whose way is hid],but despite the fact he appeared to have a very happy secure life before his role proper started to be played, he knew full well this was a temporary reprieve, a calm before the storm [I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came].

Such is the nature of sacrifice and the majority of the prophets and Jesus himself lived this way.

Job’s comforters

One of the most annoying things concerning the interpretations placed upon the Book of Job, is that the three men who comment upon his position have now been grouped under the heading of ‘Job’s comforters’, where this has come to mean ‘A person who, in trying to offer help or advice, says something that simply adds to the distress’

Eliphaz the Temanite

The first to speak is Eliphaz the Temanite.  Teman or te'-man (תימן) means "on the right," i.e. "south" – it is symbolic.  Hebrew: אֱלִיפָז‎ ’Ělîp̄āz, "El is pure gold".  He finishes by saying:

17 Shall mortal man be more just than God?
shall a man be more pure than his maker?
18 Behold, he put no trust in his servants;
and his angels he charged with folly:
19 how much less in them that dwell in houses of clay,
whose foundation is in the dust,
which are crushed before the moth?
20 They are destroyed from morning to evening:
they perish for ever without any regarding it.
21 Doth not their excellency which is in them go away?
they die, even without wisdom.

In other words, we really are pawns in this majestic game of evolution.  Mortal man ultimately knows nothing and to think he somehow knows better than God, can judge what is good or bad, is a vanity to end all vanities.   Eliphaz is describing the need for extreme humility, men come and they go and they are not ‘special’.  In fact they are entirely disposable.

This thinking of course, is counter to all that the clergy attempt to preach to the average congregation – that God is their Father, and looks after them and will somehow reward the ‘righteous’ – whatever that may mean. 

Eliphaz is saying almost the exact opposite and his words were intended to be taken seriously – golden words.  And he is right.

Job, however, is not convinced by Eliphaz’s words and continues to believe he has done something wrong -  ‘sinned’, taken the wrong path, somehow done the wrong thing and he wishes he were dead as a consequence

I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee,
O thou preserver of men?
why hast thou set me as a mark against thee,
so that I am a burden to myself?
And why dost thou not pardon my transgression,
and take away mine iniquity?
for now shall I sleep in the dust;
and thou shalt seek me in the morning,
but I shall not be.

Bildad the Shuhite

Bildad the Shuhite was a descendant of Shuah, son of Abraham and Keturah (Genesis 25:1 - 25:2).  Bildad’s attempt to comfort Job is based on the idea that his sons and daughters weren’t exactly an asset and that maybe they were actually getting in the way of his progress.  Hard words, but as we learnt at the beginning they are also true words, Job spent quite a lot of time making amends and excuses for their behaviour:

And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.

It is somewhat clear from the description that the servants did all the work – the destruction of his livestock – sheep, camels, asses, oxen, and so on was accompanied by the deaths of his servants, not his family.  They meanwhile were “eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house”, whereas no doubt if they had actually been with their father’s livestock, they might have been able to defend them.  He had spoilt children and over-indulged them and to a large extent they got their come-uppance when the house fell in on them:

Behold, this is the joy of his way,
and out of the earth shall others grow.
Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man,
neither will he help the evil doers:

The deaths of his lazy sons and daughters is of immense importance when one discusses the concept of ‘good’ and ‘evil’.  To Job, the deaths were naturally a catastrophe, his kith and kin all wiped out, along with his livelihood and his servants.  But one of the lessons of this is that the idea of God as some Father figure, there to take care of us, is entirely false and that we are responsible and must take responsibility for our own actions.

Furthermore his family were a hindrance to his progress, both spiritually and as a key part of the Great Work.  He was having to do what they should have done, and he was having to employ servants to do the job his sons and daughters should have done.  He was over burdened with extra responsibilities – obligations – because they didn’t fulfil theirs and one of the major activities that we need to perform in order to help us reach our destiny is to Suppress our obligations.

Bildad was simply saying – ‘look your family went on endlessly about their rights and what you owed them, and instead of saying, rights come with responsibilities, you let them get away with it, took on the burden they should have shouldered and as a consequence forgot your destiny.  They were removed so that you focused your eyes on the ball again’.  But Job kept on thinking it was he who had done wrong:

If I be wicked, woe unto me;
and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head.
I am full of confusion;
therefore see thou mine affliction; for it increaseth.
Thou huntest me as a fierce lion:
and again thou shewest thyself marvellous upon me.

Zophar the Naamathite

Naamathite (na'-a-ma-thit) is the Gentile name  and Old Testament designation given to Zophar, who came from the city of Naamah, in Canaan.  There is a note of utter exasperation in his short speech, all three of Job’s helpers seem to be losing patience with Job’s pre-occupation with his own woes.

But oh that God would speak,
and open his lips against thee;
and that He would shew thee the secrets of wisdom,
that they are double to that which is!
Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth

Job then acknowledges that his three helpers are seers or wise ones, but still holds out, ego thrashing about, unwilling to listen or back down:

No doubt but ye are the people,
and wisdom shall die with you.
But I have understanding as well as you;
I am not inferior to you

Defiant to the end.  He says he recognises the power of God and indeed his ignorance of the way the plan works, he almost gets into a bargaining mode with God:

21 Withdraw Thine hand far from me:
and let not Thy dread make me afraid.
22 Then call Thou, and I will answer:
or let me speak, and answer Thou me.

And then frustratingly he’s back into insisting his problems must be related to his ‘sins’

23 How many are mine iniquities and sins?
make me to know my transgression and my sin.
24 Wherefore hidest Thou thy face,
and holdest me for Thine enemy?
25 Wilt Thou break a leaf driven to and fro?
and wilt Thou pursue the dry stubble?

The conversation then continues with two more rounds of arguments.  We have not included these as observations, as they are easily looked up on Biblegateway:
Second cycle

o   Eliphaz (15) and Job (Job 16–17)

o   Bildad (18) and Job (Job 19)

o   Zophar (20) and Job (Job 21)

Third cycle

o   Eliphaz (22) and Job (Job 23–24)

o   Bildad (25) and Job (Job 26–27)

Each time, one or other of the Seers attempts to show Job that righteousness for righteousness sake is not what is wanted.  What is wanted is for him to follow instructions:

 Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous?
or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?

This is an almost impossible concept for most to grasp – including Job, who rails against the whole idea of ‘righteousness’ being anything but right! 

A message for our time

The message in Job is that we are here to follow the plan - the Great Work - and the plan may seem cruel, even destructive at times, I am sure the dinosaurs were none too happy when it was decided to make them extinct, but our free will was not given to us in order that we show disobedience.  We are not here in the theatre of life to ad lib lines or change the story line.  Off the stage we can do what we want [free will], but once on the stage we must be word perfect.

The  moral code of ‘not hurting’ is purely a moral one and there are good sound logical reasons not to hurt each other and our fellow creatures, but these reasons have little to do with the Great Work. 

If the Ultimate Intelligence [God] has decided in his plan to wipe out all the people in Australia via a flood and then a terrible famine, sending food parcels is actually against the plan. 

Job’s three helpers attempted to make him see that there are things that happen because we have free will [and we make a lot of mistakes in exercising it], but we do not have free will when it comes to our role in life.  Acknowledging that we have Roles [via the Great Work] and Responsibilities [via Free will] is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago.

Is not God in the height of heaven?
and behold the height of the stars, how high they are!
13 And thou sayest, How doth God know?
can he judge through the dark cloud?
14 Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not;
and he walketh in the circuit of heaven.
15 Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden?
16 Which were cut down out of time,
whose foundation was overflown with a flood:
17 which said unto God, Depart from us:

And what are the followers of Scientism saying today?

Depart from us, You don’t exist, we know best, we can control insects using insecticides, we can control plants using herbicides, we can kill pests using pesticides, we can slash and burn and grow genetically engineered crops that we have designed.

And the words Eliphaz uses are still relevant today

Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace:
thereby good shall come unto thee.
22 Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth,
and lay up his words in thine heart.
23 If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up,
.............29 When men are cast down,
then thou shalt say, There is lifting up;
and he shall save the humble person.
30 He shall deliver the island of the innocent:
and it is delivered by the pureness of thine hands.

Observations

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