bible blog 1412

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionay daily readings along with a headlin from world news:

JOB 19

Job said,

Ladies in White organise against political imprisonment in Cuba

Ladies in White organise against political imprisonment in Cuba

I wish that my words
could be written down
24     or chiseled into rock.
25 I know that my Savior lives,
and at the end
    he will stand on this earth.
26 My flesh may be destroyed,
yet from this body
    I will see God.
27 Yes, I will see him for myself,
    and I long for that moment

Here we have a famous passage which has been interpreted (and translated!) by Christian scholars to fit their theology. Even the CEV translators can’t resist this temptation. By using the word Saviour with a capital S they permit the Christian reader to think of Jesus. And indeed this passage has been seen as a) a prophecy of Jesus and b) a prophecy of the resurrection. The word translated “Saviour” is the Hebrew Go-el which means the member of a family who ransoms another member from slavery (you could become a slave through debt) or who marries the widow of a dead brother and “raises children for him” or avenges a wrong. The function of the go-el is to secure the freedom or fruitfulness of someone enslaved or dead. By extension it comes to mean a defender of someone in danger or disgrace. It is used of God’s liberation of Israel from Egypt. 

Who does Job expect to be his liberator/ vindicator? It seems clear that the answer is God, who will take a stand beside Job, against his detractors. 

upon the earth

he will stand upon the earth

When will this happen? The words “at the end” are often assumed to refer to a time after Job’s death, but I think it’s more natural to understand them as referring to the end of Job’s process of suffering. Yes, his skin is destroyed by sores, but still from his human flesh (Hebrew: bashar) he will see the God who will declare him to be in the right and free him from sorrow. The preposition “from” seems strange but perhaps emphasises Job’s flesh and blood as the viewpoint from which he will see God.

That’s a much less “Christian” interpretation than has been common, but it is supported by the course of the drama itself: Job does see God from his ruined flesh and God does vindicate him and free him, albeit the “vindication” is more problematical than Job can imagine in advance.

The strength of Christian faith is its hope of vindication/liberation in the resurrection life.

The strength of Jewish faith is its hoipe of vindication/liberation in this world. If one person or generation is not vindicated their hope is transferred to the next generation, but it is not surrendered.

The problem with Christian faith is letting resurrection hope make light of suffering and injustice in this world.

The problem with Jewish faith is letting hope for this world turn into justification of violence in pursuit of justice.

This is a huge issue, but as far as my interpretation of Job is concerned, I think he’s talking about this life. Battered and bruised as he is, he trusts that God will ultimatey take his side and not that of his detractors. Above all, he will be permitted to see God.

For David Haines, the threatened prisoner of Islamic State, the question is, “Who can be his vindicator/ liberator now?” If he is a person of Christian  faith, the hope of resurrection life may strengthen him, but it is not a substitute for our duty to prevent his death.

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