Job is an interesting
and difficult book in the Bible. Its origins are unknown
and speculation is vast. Perhaps it was written in the
5th Century BCE. As a strong narrative tale of a successful
rural patriarch, the story has aspects of wisdom, law,
and lament woven into it. The literary forms shift around
dramatically into descriptive, narrative, dialog, and
monolog. Both prose and poetry are included. Job's piety
is chosen to be tested by the deity in a challenge made
with satan or member of a sort of a law court.
Job is not anyone's actual history. The book explores
suffering, relationships to the divine, family, friends,
and creation. Job is a very well-to-do man of the Middle
East. He is righteous. Yet Job has no awareness of the
lives of many around him. He has limited knowledge of
differing social classes, lives of women, children, the
sick nor the natural world of all of God's creation.
Job has focused his piety
on himself and his domain. His social circle enhances
his own lifestyle. Job's wife and friends offer advice,
yet he refutes them and suffers in loss of wealth and
health. Yet, the tale is Job's experience, including the
theophany which occurs after Job curses, not God, but
the day of his birth. In lament style the woes are many,
yet God is addressed and the relationship changes the
encounter. God does speak to Job from the whirlwind. Job
eventually has a deeper, richer faith and he changes.
His life is restored, yet enlarged to include those who
he previously ignored.
For today's lives in 2009,
Job may have a fresh meaning. Many are experiencing job
loss, poverty, and loss of health or retirement income
which folks thought they had planned to avert. As stress
and home losses accompany job loss, the irony of the name,
JOB, and work, job, may give some
of us pause to reexamine Job's story.
the earth itself is changing and the well-to-do with our
lifestyle of fossil fuel dependency are increasing the
speed of its warming and pollution. The United Nations'
Millennium Development Goals are all related to all of
Perhaps we all need to
remember or learn anew the value of close relationships
to the divine, family, friends, global relationships,
and community. We need to realize than many suffer all
the time far more than most of us. We may need
to remember the entire globe, this fragile earth our island
home (Eucharistic Prayer C), solar system, creation, the
cosmos, and our small parts in them. This story reminds
one of Native American stories of human encounters with
the divine in which all the questions are not answered,
but clues are given for great pondering and discernment.
We are all ashes and ultimately we return to ashes, perhaps
as someone else's lunch. Where is compassion?