If it’s possible to have a favorite Biblical entity, mine is definitely Job. To me, Job is a particularly virtuous Everyman. He is living his life, loving G’d, and just a generally happy guy. Next thing he knows, the G’d he loves and trusts enters into a wager with none other than Satan. The wager? That even when Satan torments Job, Job will not renounce the L’rd.
The book of Job [Kethuvim Job 1.1-42.17] begins:
“There was a man in the land of Uz named Job. That man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him; his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred she-asses, and a very large household. That man was wealthier than anyone in the East.”
Job withstands any number of catastrophes and losses while being true to G’d. Finally, G’d allows Satan to physically afflict Job. While Job is physically suffering, his friends come to sit in silence with him for seven days. It is then that Job speaks the words I find most moving [Job 30.20-3.22]:
“I cry out to You, but You do not answer me; I wait, but You do [not] consider me. You have become cruel to me; With Your powerful hand You harass me. You lift me up and mount me on the wind; You make my courage melt.”
To be in that place, that place where “I cry out to you, but You do not answer me; I wait, but You do [not] consider me,” is to be in a place of bewilderment. How has this happened? What could we possibly have done to be so mistreated. As is the case with anyone, all Job wants is an explanation. Is he being punished because he was not truly “blameless and upright”? What does he have to do to get a hearing – to gain some sense of why his fortunes have changed so dramatically. His friends offer their own reasons but G’d pronounces them ignorant and in need of forgiveness.
Job’s answer will be what he can garner from G’d’s words to him from out of the tempest [Job 37.24-39.30]. G’d tells him what it is like to be the L’rd. One part in particular resonates with me [Job 38.4-38.7]:
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Speak if you have understanding. Do you know who fixed its dimensions or who measured it with a line? Onto what were its bases sunk? Who set its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the divine beings shouted for joy?”
Of course Job knowns none of this, or of the other things G’d says. Job is finally left to reply [Job 42.0-42.6]:
“I know that You can do everything, That nothing you propose is impossible for You. Who is this who obscures counsel without knowledge? Indeed, I spoke without understanding Of things beyond me, which I did not know. Hear now, and I will speak; I will ask, and You will inform me. I had heard You with my ears, But now I see You with my eyes; Therefore, I recant and relent, Being but dust and ashes.”
“I had heard You with my ears, But now I see You with my eyes…”
For me, the story of Job lies in this statement as Job gains a fuller understanding of G’d and the power available to G’d
“Therefore, I recant and relent, Being but dust and ashes.”
As well as a truer vision of man’s place in the Universe.