bible blog 1414

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


JOB 34

Elishu said,

When God does nothing,
can any person or nation
    find fault with him?
30 But still, he punishes rulers
    who abuse their people.[a]

31 Job, you should tell God
that you are guilty
    and promise to do better.
32 Then ask him to point out
what you did wrong,
    so you won’t do it again.
33 Do you make the rules,
    or does God?
You have to decide—
I can’t do it for you;
    now make up your mind.
34 Job, anyone with good sense
    can easily see
35 that you are speaking nonsense
    and lack good judgment.
36 So I pray for you to suffer
as much as possible
    for talking like a sinner.
37 You have rebelled against God,
time after time,
    and have even insulted us.

The author is very good at the voice of outraged piety. This particular charmer actually wants Job to suffer more because he has rebelled against God ( bad) and also insulted his so-called friends.(worse). Elishu makes some fairly specious points: sometimes it may appear that unjust rulers have been punished, as he claims; but equally often it appears that others have not. But he also makes one point which looks sound: do you make the rules or does God? 

Let’s unpick that one a little. Firstly, the Jewish Torah says that God will favour those who do good and punsih those who do evil. In Jewsih eyes this is God’s rule, and Job complains that God has broken it. Job is more than happy to acknowldege that God makes the rules. His complaint is that he doesn’t keep them!moses

But there’s another level of undestanding required. Even if lawgivers state that they have received a privileged revelation from God and wave tablets of stone said to be written by God’s hand, most people will know that these are products of the human imagination. Of course they may be the fruit of many imaginations which purport to have been given directly by God, but wise people wiil see them as human nonetheless. Human beings invent their Gods even when they say that God is beyond their best thought. One aspect of imagining a certain sort of God is to  imagine his/her rules for human life. So although pious people may say that God makes the rules, the truth is that human beings make the Gods and their rules. Interestingly, many religions accept this analysis for other Gods but not their own.

Job is protesting that the way pious Israelites imagine God is inadequate and he appeals over their heads to the God he imagines as perfectly just -well, perfectly just towards people like Job.

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