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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

The Book of Job the Impatient

FAR MORE PROFOUND IS THE CANONICAL BOOK of Job, which has literally relegated “Job the Patient” to a sort of appendix and replaced this speech with what is universally acknowledged to be the most profound part of the book of Job. This largest and most important part of the book of Job is a symposium carried on by Job and his three friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—in 3.2–26.14 . This symposium in poetic form is joined to the prose tale in which God wins His wager with the Adversary by the account, also in prose ( 2.11–13 ) of Job's three friends paying a combination condolence call and hospital visit to Job upon hearing of the calamities that befell him. It is pointed out in 2.13 that the three friends remained silent for seven days and seven nights until it was Job who broke the silence with his soliloquy in 3.3–26 in which, bereft of his children and himself afflicted with a debilitating illness, he wishes that he had never been born or even conceived and prays that he might at least die. This speech upsets Job's friends, who begin to suggest to him that Job brought his suffering upon himself (so Eliphaz in 4.7 ; so also Zophar 11.14 ) and that Job's children died as punishment for their own sins (Bildad in 8.4 )—exactly the opposite of what we were told in chs 1–2 . Throughout the condolence call turned into symposium, Job continually argues that his suffering is undeserved. The friends become progressively more hostile in their accusations, suggesting that his suffering is deserved. In addition, he repeatedly challenges God to put an end to his undeserved suffering (ch 7; 9.25–10.22; 13.17–14.22; 16.18–17.16; ch 23; 26.5–14 ). The symposium carried on between Job and his friends is launched by Eliphaz's response to Job's lament in ch 3 , and the symposium (chs 4–26 ) is followed by Job's soliloquy (chs 29–31 ), the last ch of which is Job's oath proclaiming his innocence. When in the epilogue of the canonical book of Job God says to Job's three friends, “You have not spoken the truth about Me as did My servant Job” ( 42.8 ), God is in effect agreeing with Job's contention, among others, “He destroys theblameless and the guilty” ( 9.22 ). The LORD's lengthy discourse on the power of the mythical monster Leviathan in 40.25–41.26 (see esp. 41.2 : “There is no one so fierce as to rouse him; Who then can stand up to Me [who made him]?”) echoes and vindicates Job's own observation in Job 9.13 :

God does not restrain His anger; Under Him Rahab's helpers sink down. How then can I answer Him, Or choose my arguments against Him?

One of the ideas that sets the poem of Job apart from the Book of Job the Patient and from other ancient Near Eastern poems about righteous sufferers is the book's detailed pronouncement by the LORD that people who behave as badly as Job's friends need to apologize to both Job and to the LORD and to be retrained by an expert in the field, Job himself (ch 29 ).

[MAYER GRUBER]

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