Bibliotheca Sacra 138 (550)(Apr. 1981) 139-57.

               Copyright © 1981 by Dallas Theological Seminary.  Cited with permission.

 

 

                         The Structure and Purpose

                                 of the Book of Job

 

                                         Gregory W. Parsons

 

      It is common knowledge that the Book of Job is universally

admired as a literary masterpiece in world literature. Although

most of the superlatives have been exhausted to describe its

literary excellence, it seems to defy more than a superficial

analysis.1 There has been little agreement with regard to the

purpose and message of the book. This article will seek to deline-

ate the literary structure of the Book of Job in order to determine

the major purpose of the book. The goal is to demonstrate how

tthe author of Job utilized certain key themes in developing the

purpose and message of the book.

 

                                      Literary Structure

          The unity of the Book of Job will be assumed in the analysis

of its literary structure. It is believed that each component of

the book has a necessary place in the overall design and argument

of Job.2

          Job is a complex literary work in which there has been a

skillful wedding of poetry and prose and a masterful mixture of

several literary genres.3 The basic structure of Job consists of a

prose framework (the prologue in chapters 1 and 2, and the

epilogue in 42:7-17) which encloses an intricate poetic body.4

The prologue very concisely narrates how God's servant Job

lost his family and his wealth in a rapid-fire succession of cata-

strophic events. Then it relates that when Job's health was re-

moved his wife urged him to curse God and die. Job's three

 

                                                139

 



140                       Bibliotheca Sacra--April-June 1981

friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, arrived to comfort Job who

remained firm in his devotion to God in the midst of his intense

suffering. The reader is taken behind the scenes and informed

that the reason for these events is that God was permitting Satan

to afflict Job in order to test the motivation for Job's piety. This is

done by rapidly alternating between the earthly setting and the

heavenly court.

          The poetic body (3:1-42:6) begins with a personal lament by

Job (chap. 3) in which he curses the day of his birth. This

introductory soliloquy corresponds to the final soliloquy by Job

(chaps. 29-31), and particularly to chapter 31 (his oath of inno-

cence) which includes a self-curse: These two soliloquies enclose

three cycles of disputations (Streitgesprache) between Job and

his three friends. A cycle consists of speeches by the three friends

(Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, in that order) which are inter-

spersed by a reply of Job to each speech.

          This pattern is followed for the first two cycles of speeches

(chapters 4-14 and 15-21) but breaks down in the third cycle

(when Zophar fails to speak following Job's response to Bildad

(chap. 26).5 Rather than subjectively attempting to restore the

Iallegedly jumbled text, one should recognize that this alteration

of structure contributes to the development of the argument of

the book. There are two basic lines of interaction which run

through Job--Job's crying out to God and Job's disputations

with his three friends. The absence of the third speech of Zophar

is consistent with the fact that each of the speeches of the three

friends is progressively shorter in each cycle and that Job's re-

sponses to each of the friends (which also are progressively short-

er) are longer than the corresponding speech of the friends. This

seems to signify Job's verbal victory over Zophar and the other

two friends.6 It is also indicative of the bankruptcy and futility of

dialogue when both Job and the three friends assume the re-

tribution dogma7 (which for the friends implies Job's guilt and

for Job implies God's injustice). Consequently, this structural

design marks a very gradual swing toward a focus on Job's

relationship and interaction with God in contrast to the earlier

primary interaction between Job and his friends.8

          This swing toward an emphasis on Job's dispute with God

continues in chapters 27-31. Following a possible pause in

which Job waited in vain for Zophar's third response,9 Job

concluded his words to the friends in chapter 27 by collectively

addressing them10 and declaring that they had failed to convince



                   The Structure and Purpose of the Book of Job                 141

him that he was a sinner who deserved his calamity.11 Chapter

28, a wisdom hymn, may be a kind of interlude which marks the

transition between the two major parts of the poetic body--the

q previous dialogue between Job and his friends, and the forth-

coming long discourses by Job (chaps. 29-31), Elihu (chaps. 32-

37), and God (chaps. 38-41) which are almost monologues.12

Chapters 29-31 are comprised of Job's soliloquies13 in which he

longs for his past blessed state of prosperity (chap. 29) and

laments his present state of misery because of God's afflictions

(chap. 30, which includes an aside to God in direct speech--

vv. 21-23). The concluding chapter (31) consists of Job's

loath of innocence (common in ancient Near Eastern juridical

cases) in the form of a negative confession complete with self-

imprecations.14 Job concludes the chapter with a legal indict-

ment against God to present his charges in writing (31:35-37).

The result is a pregnant expectation of God's response.

          However, the Elihu speeches (chaps. 32-37), which seem-

ingly interrupt the argument of the book,15 actually set the

rstage for the Yahweh speeches. Elihu appears as a type of

mediator (an impartial witness) who speaks on behalf of God

(36:2)16 by rebuking the three friends (cf. 32:3, 6-14; 34:2-15; cf.

35:4) and by suggesting that Job needed to repent of his pride

which developed because of his suffering (cf. 33:17; 35:12-16).

He recommended that Job should exalt God's works which are

evident in nature (36:24-37:18) and fear Him who comes in

golden splendor out of the north (37:22-24).17 These basic

ideas of Elihu are either assumed or developed by the Lord in

His speeches.

          The climax to the Book of Job appears in the symmetrical

Yahweh speeches (38:1-42:6)--the two divine speeches with

Job's two responses--which are the culmination of the skillfully

designed poetic body of the book.18  This pericope is comprised of

two divine speeches (each of which is also divided into two prin-

cipal parts) and two human responses. The precise symmetrical

arrangement is illustrated in a comparison of the two "rounds" of

divine-human interaction (see the following chart).

          Thus except for the summary challenge in 40:2 for Job to

respond (introduced by a transitional editorial remark), these two

rounds are perfectly symmetrical in basic structure. That no

summary challenge was needed at the end of the Lord's second

speech is indicative that Job's second response (42:1-6) was a

willing one in contrast to his initial reluctant reply (40:3-5).



142                       Bibliotheca Sacra--April-June 1981

 

                                                First Round             Second Round

                                                (38: 1-40:5)            (40:6--42:6)

Divine Speech                           38:1-40:2               40:6--41:34

          Introductory

          editorial note                   38:1                       40:6

          Thematic challenge          38:2-3                    40:7-14

          Main body                      38:4-38                  40:15-24

          (in two principal              (Inanimate creation) (Behemoth)

          parts)                                       38:39-39:30            41:1-34

                                                (Animate creation) (Leviathan)

          (Transitional

          editorial note)                  40:1                       --

          Summary challenge          40:2                       --

Human Response                      40:3-5                    42:1-6

          Introductory

          editorial note                   40:3                       42:1

          Reply per se                    40:4-5                    42:2-6

 

          The epilogue (42:7-17) in prose is basically a counterbalance

to the prologue. In the prologue Job offered intercessory sacri-

fices for his family; in the epilogue he offered an intercessory

prayer for his three friends. In the former God commended Job as

being of blameless character; in the latter God gave a qualified

commendation of Job's words in contrast to the three friends.

The prologue narrates the removal of Job's family, prosperity,

and health, whereas the epilogue relates the restoration of Job's

family and health and a doubling of his former wealth.

          However, both Satan and Job's wife (who are prominent in

the prologue as agents of evil who try to get Job to curse God)19

are intentionally omitted in the epilogue. This deliberate omis-

sion emphasizes a major teaching of the book, namely, that man's

relationship to God is not a "give-and-get" bargain nor a business

contract of mutual benefit.20

 

                                      Purpose of the Book

 

STATEMENT OF THE PURPOSE

          It is this writer's belief that the purpose of the Book of Job is

to show that the proper relationship between God and man is

based solely on the sovereign grace of God and man's response

of faith and submissive trust.



            The Structure and Purpose of the Book of Job                 143

 

This involves (in a negative fashion) the refutation of "re-

tribution theology" (a dogmatic employment of the concept of

divine retribution so that there was an automatic connection

between deed and state of being) and its corollary that man's

relationship to God is a business contract of mutual claims that

is binding in court. This statement of purpose involves the

assumption that the relationship between God and man is the

basic problem of the book.21 Although there are several sub-

themes which have been cited by scholars as the main theme,22 it

is the belief of this writer that only the basis of the proper

relationship between God and man sufficiently encompasses

these subthemes and qualifies, therefore, as the central focus of

the book.

          This problem is articulated in the prologue where Satan

challenges the basis for Job's piety by claiming that he served God

only for profit (i.e., because he prospers--see 1:9-11;

2:4-5).23 Satan's challenge is reinforced by the fact that Job's wife

urged Job to curse God and die (2:9). That Job refused to curse

God (2: 10) was graphic testimony that his worship was genuine

and that Satan's allegation was false.24

          Thus Job's suffering as an innocent party was not the main

focus but was introduced only as a means of isolating and

intensifying the question of the proper basis of man's relation-

ship to God.25

 

KEY THEMES

          Certain key themes are employed by the author to serve the

purpose of the book and to assist in developing its argument.

Perhaps the most important theme is the doctrine of divine

retribution which pervades the Book of Job. Other main motifs

which are utilized include the concept of a "mediator" and the

persistent employment of creation and of legal metaphors. These

major motifs relate to the purpose of the Book of Job.26 (The

concept of a "mediator" will be mentioned in conjunction with

legal metaphors since it seems to be employed in such a context.)

The dogma of divine retribution. The principle of divine

retribution, which is operative in some portions of the Old

Testament,27 and which lay at the core of ancient Near Eastern

religions,28 became a dogma for Job's friends. Because the valid-

ity of this principle (namely, that Yahweh the righteous Judge

rewards the righteous with prosperity and punishes the wicked

with calamity) had become an unquestioned dogma with no



144                       Bibliotheca Sacra--April-June 1981

 

exceptions, it was automatically assumed that all suffering was

caused by sin.

          Eliphaz and Bildad asserted that since God, who is an

impartial judge, did not punish the upright man nor preserve the

evildoer, Job's suffering was a sign of hidden sin (see 4:7-11;

5:8-16; 8:3, 11-22; cf. 18:5-21). Thus it seemed evident to the

three friends that Job was a sinner who needed to repent of his

sins and to become piously obedient so that God would bless him

again (see 22:4-11, 21-30, for Eliphaz's words and 11:13-20 for

Zophar's similar sentiment). Bildad also stated that Job's chil-

dren were killed as punishment for their sins (8:4). Both Eliphaz

(15:17-35) and Zophar (20:4-29) argued from experience and the

traditional wisdom of old29 that Job's initial prosperity was

explained by the accepted idea that the wicked enjoy only

temporary prosperity and bliss before God metes out retributive

judgment.

          Because of the friends' unquestioned acceptance of the dog-

ma of divine retribution, they were championing the view that the

basis of the relationship between God and man was "God's

impartial, retributive justice and man's pious fear of God.”30 As

man related to God in obedient piety, so God would bless him. As

in Satan's challenge of Job's motive for serving God, the de-

marcation between piety and prosperity became blurred.31

Job patiently denied the accusation of the three friends that

he was guilty of sin for which he was being recompensed; he

openly questioned the validity of the dogma of divine retribution

because of the prosperity of the wicked (21:31 ).32 Yet it is ironic

that because Job accused God of injustice in order to maintain

his own righteousness (see 40:8)--operating on the assumption

that God was punishing him for sin, though unjustly--he was

unconsciously retaining the dogma of divine retribution.33 Be-

cause of this, Job could not harmonize his suffering with God's

being an impartial judge. Rather, Job conceived of God as being

an arbitrary and capricious Sovereign who abused His power

(9:15-24; 12:13-25) and who maliciously treated innocent Job as

a personal enemy (13:24-27; 16:7-17; 19:7-12). As a consequence

of his suffering, Job viewed man's relationship to God as being

based on God's sovereign caprice; therefore man could hope for

happiness only by adhering to an ethical rightness superior to

God's whereby he could demand vindication (Job 31; cf. 35:2b).34

Although Elihu was closer to the truth than the three friends

because he seems to have sensed that Job was guilty of pride



                   The Structure and Purpose of the Book of Job                 145

 

(33:17; cf. 35:12 and 36:9)35 and emphasized suffering as mainly

remedial in purpose (cf. 33:16-30; 36:8-12),36 he also was wrong

in assuming that Job was guilty of sin before his suffering

(34:37) in order to defend God's justice.37 The explanation for this

reasoning was Elihu's failure to divorce himself from the dogma

of divine retribution (see 34:11,25-27; cf. 34:33; 36:17; 37:13).

However, Elihu was right in pointing out the fallacious nature of

Job's position which implied that God owed man something for

his righteousness (35:3-8).38

          Although a major thrust of the Lord's speeches (38:1-40:2;

40:6-41:34) was to polemicize against all potential rivals to His

lordship over the cosmos,39 there is also a subtle refutation of the

dogma of divine retribution, Although granting that the control

Iof chaotic forces of evil (which in some instances is inherent in

the design of the universe--38:12-15) is somewhat consistent

with the principle of divine retribution,40 God demonstrates that

the universe is not always geared to this principle. Rain, which

not infrequently appears in the Bible as a vehicle of reward and

punishment (cf. Job 37:13 [NIV] and 5:10), is inherently de-

signed to fall on the desert where it has no relevance for man

(38:26).41  In Job 41: 11 (3)42 the Lord may be refuting Job's

apparent contention that God's relationship to man was a juri-

dical relationship in which God was obligated to repay him.43

          The epilogue, which records the restoration of Job and a

twofold recompense of his prosperity (42:10, 12-17), seems, at

first glance, to confirm the doctrine of divine retribution,

However, in actuality this restoration was not a reward or pay-

ment but a free gift based solely on God's sovereign grace.44  This

is clear from the import of the Lord's speeches and from the fact

that Job's original prosperity was not directly related to his

piety.45

          The Book of Job shows that only by dispensing with the

traditional dogma of divine retribution was it possible to recon-

cile Job's innocence with God's permitting him to suffer.46 The

refutation of this dogma aids in the demolition of its corollary

(which undergirds ancient Near Eastern religions) that man's

relationship to God is based on a juridical claim, Consequently, it

complements the purpose of Job which is to demonstrate the

only proper basis for the relationship between God and man.

Creation motif. During Job's lament in which he cursed the

day of his birth and deplored its creation (i,e., wishing that he

had never been born [3:1-10] or that he had died at birth



146                      Bibliotheca Sacra--April-June 1981

 

[3:11-19]), he summons the agents of chaos to annihilate that

created day in order that he might live in peace (3:8-10). Job

seems to have employed an anti-creation motif in which he

wishes for the reversal of creation.47 This motif was apparently

utilized to emphasize the depths of his despair and the intensity

of his anguish as a result of his abrupt transition from a life of

bliss to a mere agonizing existence. Because life and creation had

become hopeless and inexplicable to him, he preferred to aban-

don the created order to the confines of Sheol (nonexistence)

(cf. 7:15-16, 21 ).48

          Forrest has cogently argued that the reason Job desired

nonexistence was his lack of perception of his own relationship

to God or to the universe (i.e., Job's belonging within the uni-

verse). Thus Forrest has suggested that since creation must

"somehow be explicable to him to be worthy of credence (i.e.,

illustrative of the divine-human relationship in a comprehensi-

ble manner so that Job would want to live in the universe),"

creation provides the scenario for Job's basic inquiries into the

nature of God's relationship to man.49 The evidence from the text

seems to support this hypothesis,

          Job said that the wondrous acts of God in nature are inex-

plicable to him. He could not perceive God's nature50 in these

sovereign works (see 9:10-12; cf, 26:14 and perhaps chap, 28).

Rather, God's sovereign control of nature (creation) appeared to -.

indicate an arbitrary abuse of power and wisdom (9:12, 14-24;

12:13-25; cf. 30:18-23).51  At the same time, Job appeals to nature

to be a witness for him of the obvious injustices of God against

him (12:7-10; 16:18-19) and of his own ethical purity (see 31:8,

12, 38-40).52

          This latter tactic of Job was diametrically opposed to the

friends' appeal to creation to support their theory of retributive

justice as the basis of God's relationship to man (Eliphaz in

4:9-11; Zophar in 20:27-29; and Bildad in 22: 15-18 [cf. vv.

19-20]; cf. also 5:8-16), Eliphaz advised that if Job would sub-

mit under God's corrective punishment, even the wild animals

(as chaotic forces opposed to man) would be at peace with him

(5:23).

          Elihu's speeches include a lengthy section on God's;

sovereign and benevolent dealings in nature (36:26-37:24).53

Elihu cited these acts of God as proof that God's sovereign

power and justice are beyond man's comprehension. (Thus

he apparently empathized with Job's failure to perceive God's



                   The Structure and Purpose of the Book of Job                 147

 

nature in creation.  Although Elihu acknowledged that God used

nature for His retributive purposes (37:13, NIV) and that nature is

sometimes in chaotic opposition to man (37:6-7), he argued that

the proper response of man to the sovereign (though inexplicably

just) God is reverential trust (37:23-24). In this advice to Job

from creation, Elihu prepared the way for the Lord's speeches.

The Lord's speeches (which are saturated with the creation

motif) demonstrate that God's sovereign cosmic power was not

the retributive justice (as the friends had argued) nor the

"uncontrolled caprice" (as Job had perceived it) of an impersonal

cosmos, but rather the majestic omnipotence and mysterious

creative genius of a personal and gracious God.54 The absence

of a reference to the creation of man is part of a polemic against

Job (and man in general) which has as one purpose to show that

God was not obligated to Job's defiant demand for vindication

because of his ethical righteousness (cf. 41:11 [3].55 God could

not be manipulated or coerced like the impotent and immanent

gods of the ancient Near East.

          Because of Job's perception of this and of God's active partic-

ipation in creation, Job responded in repentance and trust (42:2-

3, 5-6).56 Thus it is clear that the Book of Job teaches that the

basis of the relationship between God and man is not one of

mutual benefit or of a juridical obligation which binds God;

rather, it is to be based on the Lord's sovereign "creative, life-

affirming, joyous grace and of man's open, joyous trust"57 in Him.

          Legal metaphors. The Book of Job extensively employs legal

terms and metaphors in the process of its dialogue concerning

the disputed innocence of Job before God. That the dialogue is

saturated with judicial terminology is quite consistent with the

prominent role Job had previously played in the legal affairs of his

town (29:7-17).58 The use of legal metaphor also plays a part in

illustrating the proper basis for man's relationship to God.

Scholnick's valuable study of the legal terminology in the

Book of Job has demonstrated that the terms hcAzA,, j`kazA, rheFA, and hqAnA

(which can be employed in the Old Testament in the sphere of

worship--"pure, clean"--or in the sphere of the court--

"innocent, free of legal claim") are employed in Job almost exclu-

sively in a forensic context to explore the question of Job's legal

status, both before God and in his community.59 Other legal

terms employed include rwAyA (1:1,8; 2:3; 8:6; 23:7), qdc (which is

used by each speaker, e.g., 6:29; 8:6; 9:15, 20; 11:2; 22:3; 35:2,

7-8; 40:8) and MymitA (1:1, 8; 2:3; 27:5; 31:6).60



148                       Bibliotheca Sacra--April-June 1981

 

          Perhaps the most significant single legal term used is the

root byr which is used eleven times in Job (seven times as a verb

--9:3; 10:2; 13:8, 19; 23:6; 33:13; 40:2; and four times as a noun

--13:6; 29:16; 31:13, 35). As a verb in the Old Testament,

it means "to make a complaint or accusation (by engaging in

hostile unilateral speech activity) against an aggrieving party."

As a noun, it denotes "a complaint or accusation by an aggrieved

party against one held responsible for a grievance.”61 Although

the word byr in the Old Testament sometimes describes a dispute

outside court, it is used in Job solely in a legal sense as a

metaphor to portray a "lawsuit" between Job and God.62

          This idea of a man going to court with God is unprecedented

in the Old Testament.63 Thus at first Job was somewhat dubious

that he could raise litigation with God (9:3; cf. 9: 16) since he

views God as a sovereign and unjust judge who has abused His

authority (9: 19-24, 28; 23:7). But Job insists that God make His

charges as a legal opponent rather than His verdict as an unjust

judge (10:2).64 Job's legal plight before God, who is simultaneous-

ly his legal adversary65 and his judge, accentuates the urgency

(and yet the hopelessness) of Job's cry for a neutral party to hear

his case.56

          The concept of a mediator (or neutral party) is introduced in

Job 9:33 where Job wished for an impartial HaykiOm to arbitrate a

settlement between God and himself.67 This arbitrator was prob-

ably the ancient Near Eastern judge whose "verdict" was probably

no more than a "settlement proposal" which could be accepted or

rejected by the parties involved.68 Job's appeal for an impartial

trial is continued in 13:7-12 where he accused the three friends

of being partial witnesses on God's behalf who argue His case for

Him.69 The theme of a mediator (or arbitrator) is continued in

16:18-21. Job expressed confidence that surely someone in

heaven was his witness or advocate (v. 19, which uses dfe followed

by its Aramaic equivalent dheWA).70 The context (especially v. 21)

supports the NIV translation of ycaylim; (v. 20) as "intercessor": "My

intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on

behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.

          Similar to Job's plea for an impartial "go-between" (9:33)

and his confidence of a heavenly witness o~ intercessor (16: 18-

21) is his confident assertion that his lxeGo was alive (19:25).

Because of the acknowledged complex difficulties and the diverse

interpretations of Job 19:25-27,72 it is impossible to speak



                   The Structure and Purpose of the Book of Job                 149

 

dogmatically about verse 25. However, because of the widespread

usage of the legal metaphor in Job, it seems likely that Job spoke

metaphorical of the  lxeGo as one who was “helper in a lawsuit to

see that justice was done to his protege"73 (cf. Ps. 119:154;

Prov. 23:11; Jer. 50:34; Lam. 3:58). Job's thinking seems to have

progressed somewhat from the thought of a mere impartial arbi-

trator (9:33) to a legal advocate who could present his case and

vindicate him as innocent before God (cf. 16:18-21). Conse-

quently it appears unlikely that Job conceived of his "kinsman

redeemer" (or legal advocate) as being God Himself. Rather, by

using the legal metaphor Job expressed his conviction that he

would be vindicated as innocent (which in an earthly lawsuit

might require a vindicator or legal advocate).

          The point in Job 19:25 is that just as there is a vindicator in an

          earthly lawsuit, so in Job's dispute with God there must also be one

          who intercedes for him, but it does not make clear who this vindica-

          tor might be. Accordingly, what we have here is an inexact state-

          ment: Job wishes to express the conviction that he must be acquit-

          ted in the end, and he clothes this thought in the figurative

          language of the lawsuit: someone must vindicate him to prove his

          innocence.74

          However, in light of Job's legal plight in which God is both

judge and legal opponent, Job realized that his hope for an

impartial judge was futile. Thus Job could only wish for someone

to hear him (31:35). (Possibly the concept of an impartial judge

[or arbiter) is continued here.)75

          Elihu, who stated that he would be an impartial witness

(32:21-22),76 suggested that if there were an angel, a Cylime (a

mediator or intercessor), available to Job to plead for God's

clemency, actually this "mediator would be on God's side, inter-

preting God's will and leading Job to repentance rather than

defending his integrity (33:23-30).77

          The legal metaphor often employed heretofore in the Book of

Job rarely appears in the Lord's speeches (38: 1-42:6). This rare

usage of legal metaphor (cf. 40:2, 8 and perhaps 38:3 which is

identical to 40:7, and the absence of legal metaphor in Job's

responses) which may be used ironically (in contrast to the fre-

quent usage earlier in the book) is significant.

          Although impossible to prove, it seems likely that the Lord

employed the verb rzaxA "gird up [the loins)" in a forensic sense in

38:3 (and 40:7) in order to heighten the irony of his twofold

interrogation of Job.78 A main function of the Lord's speeches is



150                       Bibliotheca Sacra--April-June 1981

 

to show the absurdity of Job's attempt to manipulate God by a

"lawsuit," which assumed that his relationship to God is a juri-

dical one. Consequently the Lord virtually ignored Job's allega-

tions of His injustice (except for 40:8).79

          In 40:2 the Lord summarized His interrogation of Job con-

cerning the universe by ironically asking Job, "Can he who con-

tends with the Almighty correct (or instruct) him? Let him who

accuses God answer all this'" (author's translation). Yahweh

ironically challenged Job to teach (or correct) Him in the matters

of the universe to prove that he was equal to God and thus

capable of arguing with God in court.80

          In 40:8-14 God demonstrated the fallacy of Job's impugning

His justice in order to vindicate himself. The Lord's usage of FPAw;mi

(in the context of divine kingship over the universe, 40:8-10; cf.

Elihu's usage in 34: 17 and 37:23) serves as a corrective to the

misunderstanding of justice (FPAw;mi) by Job and his friends. The

friends viewed fPAw;mi as God's retributive judgment on guilty Job

(8:3-4; cf. Elihu's usage in34: 11-12,23-30); Job considered FPAwmi

as litigation in court to prove his innocence (9: 19,32; 14:3; 19:7)

or the processing of a case (13: 18; 23:4; 31: 13).81 Both under-

standings were faulty because of an improper perception of the

relationship between God and man.

          This improper perception is refuted in the Book of Job. By

the incongruity of the legal metaphor in which the Lord func-

tions both as Job's judge and legal adversary and by the Lord's

ignoring Job's plea for vindication (or even a trial),82 the Book of

Job "reveals the bankruptcy of conceiving the man-God rela-

tionship along the lines of legal justice.”83 Thus it is the legal

metaphor "which most forcefully communicates the thesis of the \

Book of Job that religious piety is not amenable to the quid pro

quo principle of divine retribution."84

 

                                      Conclusion

          The basic literary structure of the Book of Job (a prose

framework--prologue and epilogue--which encloses the intri-

cate poetic body) is a part of the almost architectonic symmetry of

the book which is also evident in the poetic body. Three cycles of

disputations between Job and his three friends are enclosed by

two soliloquies of Job (chaps. 3 and 29-31). However, the fact

that the symmetry is lacking at the end of the third cycle of

speeches (where Zophar did not speak) focuses the reader's



          The Structure and Purpose of the Book of Job                 151

 

attention on the futility of dialogue between Job and his friends

and aids in focusing on the interaction between Job and God. It

also accentuates the need to resolve the main problem of the book

(which was articulated in the prologue, 1:9-11; 2:4-5), namely,

the basis of the proper relationship between God and man.

          Thus the main purpose of Job is to show that the proper

relationship between God and man is based solely on the

sovereign grace of God and man's response of faith and submis-

sive trust. This involves (in a negative fashion) the refutation of

the retribution dogma and its corollary that man's relationship to

God is a business contract binding in court. Three key themes

(the dogma of divine retribution, the creation motif, and legal

metaphors) were expertly employed in the development of this

purpose.

                                      Notes

 

1 See Henry L. Rowold, "The Theology of Creation in the Yahweh Speeches as a

Solution to the Problem Posed by the Book of Job" (Th.D. diss., Concordia Seminary

in Exile, 1977),p. 1.

2 In order to do accurate exegesis of the Old Testament, it is necessary that one

examine the extant text in its final canonical form with emphasis on synchronic

analysis as opposed to diachronic analysis. The latter dissects the text in an attempt

to hypothesize about the original form of the text and its transmission but never

seems to put things back together again (Allen Paul Ross, "The Table of Nations in

Genesis" [Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1977], pp. 14-17). One definite

contribution of "structural analysis" has been its stress on dealing with the text as it

is rather than preoccupation with a "dehusking' process to eliminate "what does not

fit" (Robert Polzin, "The Framework of the Book of Job:' Interpretation 28 [ 1974]:

182-83). Cf. Robert Polzin, Biblical Structuralism: Method and Subjectivity in the

Study of Ancient Texts, Semeia Supplements (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977),

for the nature of structuralism.

            This "dehusking" procedure has been often employed (in varying degrees) on

the Book of Job. The outer "folktale" is separated from the inner speeches because it

contains "a patient Job.. whereas the dialogue displays an Impatient Job." The

speeches of Elihu are discarded as a later insertion because they seem to contribute

nothing to the argument and appear to anticipate much in the Yahweh speeches.

The hymn of wisdom (chap. 28) is isolated as a foreign insertion into Job's speeches

(chaps. 27-31). The literary scalpel then slices off, at least, the Behemoth and

Leviathan pericopes (40:15-41:26) from the Yahweh speeches because they seem

unnecessary and are "obviously" inferior to the rest of the speeches. Others have

even eliminated the Yahweh speeches altogether as irrelevant. It is ironic that with

regard to the Book of Job (itself a study in irony), which teaches the mysterious

nature of God's ways. man attempts to judge this divine book by subjective human

standards. To fall into this trap is to miss one of the main teachings of the book.

3 As Andersen has noted, the Book of Job is an amazing mixture of almost every

kind of literature which is found in the Old Testament (Francis I. Andersen, Job: An

Introduction and Commentary [Downers Grove. IL: InterVarsityPress, 1976], p. 33).

Besides the main genres -the lawsuit. the lament. and the controversy dialogue or

dispute (see this author's forthcoming article in the July-September 1981 issue of



152                       Bibliotheca Sacra--April-June 1981

 

Bibliotheca Sacra)--many riddles, hymns, curses, and proverbs can be isolated

within the various speeches of the book. )

4 For two Egyptian parallels to this arrangement, see Berlin papyrus 3024 and

"The Protests of the Eloquent Peasant" in James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near

Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton: Princeton University

Press, 1967), pp. 405-10.

5 Many different speculative attempts have been made to juggle the speeches of the

final cycle or to attribute portions of chapter 27 (Job's reply in the extant canonical

book) to Zophar. This has been attempted because portions of chapter 27 (esp. vv.

13-23) seem to be more consistent with Zophar's arguments than Job's. For a

concise defense of retaining all of chapter 27 as Job's speech, see Roy B. Zuck, Job,

Everyman's Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), pp. 119, 121.

6 The only exceptions to the rule that both the friends' and Job's speeches are

progressively shorter are the second speech of Zophar (chap. 20) and the third

response of Job to Eliphaz (chaps. 23 and 24). See the similar conclusion of Zuck

(Job,pp. 30.121). Cf. also Encyclopaedia Britannica, s.v. "Job,"by Andrew Bruce

Davidson and Crawford Howell Toy (reprinted in The Voice of the Whirlwind: The

Bookof Job, ed. Ralph E. Hone [San Francisco: Chandler Publishing, 1960,p. 93).

Note also the remarks by Elihu concerning the failure of the argumentation of the

three friends (Job 32:3).

7 This dogma will be discussed later in this article.

8 This is not to say that Job's focus of attention was always on his friends. He

was constantly either crying out to God for response (cf. 10:2-22) or making

accusations against Him (16:7-17; 19:7-12; 24:1-12) but was constantly being

sidetracked by the dogmatic and virtually unsympathetic speeches of the friends.

From the first cycle of the dialogue onward, Job often directly addressed God (see .

7: 12-21; 16:7-8; 17:3-4; and 30:20-23). Good argues that this indicates the hope-

lessness of appealing to God (Edwin M. Good, Irony in the Old Testament

[Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 19651, pp. 231-32). This appears at first

glance to contradict the author's own sensing of a change to a focus on Job's

relationship to God. However, Job often talks about God in the third person as an

enemy, etc., in these sections, which indicates the impersonal nature of God to

him. After chapter 27, Job ignored the friends completely (except indirectly in

29:25) and looked to God (though indirectly) in his soliloquy.

9 Zuck, Job, p. 119. )

10 The plural personal pronoun "you" is employed in verses 5, II, and 12 and the

plural verb in verse 12 (Zuck, Job, p. 119).

11 Moller argues that in 27:2-12 Job summarized his own basic arguments of

the three cycles of speeches which he juxtaposed with the utterly nonsensical )

argument of the friends which he satirized in 27: 13-23 (Hans Moller, Sinn und

Aufbau des Buches Hiob [Berlin: EvangelischeVerlagsanstalt, 19551, pp. 61-63).

12 Andersen suggests that this interlude was written by the anonymous author

of the Book of Job (Job, pp. 222-29). However, it is possible to understand this

wisdom poem as Job's words which summed up the typical wisdom teaching he

had heard all his life (to fear God and depart from evil- see 28:28, i.e., to trust

and obey Yahweh because He alone has the wisdom by which the world was

created and is to be governed; cf. 42:5) (Robert Laurin, "The Theological Structure ,

I of Job," Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 84 [19721;86-89).

This would sum up Job's stance before God (cf. 1:1,8; 2:3) in contrast to the

friends' assertion that he must repent of his sins and fear God (cf. 4:6-11;

11:13-20; 15:4-5; 22:4-30). The last verse of chapter 28 (v. 28) may also serve as a

fitting link to Job 29-31 wherein Job gave evidence that he had feared God

(namely, his past virtues -chap. 29) and had departed from evil (his oath of

innocence -chap. 31) (Zuck, Job. pp. 126-27).



                        The Structure and Purpose of the Book of Job                 153

 

13 These correspond to the initial soliloquy by Job (chap. 3).

14 Although this oath was common in ancient Near Eastern court cases, the

emphatic nature of Job's oath is indicated by its length and its rare self-

imprecation (Michael Brennan Dick, "The Legal Metaphor in Job 31," Catholic

Biblical Quarterly 41 [1979]:42, 47). This is strikingly similar to the Egyptian

"Protestation of Innocence" in chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead (Pritchard,

Ancient Near Eastern Texts, pp. 34-36). Because Job denied some of the charges

made by Eliphaz against him (cf. 31:16-22 with 22:6-11), it is evident that he

was saying to God that he was innocent of the charges brought against him

by his friends.

15 These speeches have almost universally been rejected as a later insertion into

the book because the flow of the book is smoother without them, because Elihu is

not mentioned in the prologue or epilogue, and because of the alleged differences

in literary style and vocabulary. See William Ewart Staples, The Speeches of

Elihu: A Study of Job XXXII-XXXVII, (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1924),

pp. 12-24. However, the present author holds that the Elihu speeches are a

necessary complement to the Yahweh speeches. The speeches of Elihu, who served

as a self-styled mediator in God's behalf, are assumed by Yahweh in His speeches;

thus Elihu was not condemned since his arguments were essentially correct. For

an excellent summary of the objections to the authenticity of the Elihu speeches

followed by a rebuttal, see John Peter Lange, ed., A Commentary on the Holy

Scriptures, 25 vols., vol. 8: The Book of Job, by Tayler Lewis and Otto Zockler,

trans. L. J. Evans (New York: Scribner, Armstrong & Co., 1874), pp. 268-73; and

H. D. Beeby, "Elihu--Job's Mediator?", Southeast Asia Journal of Theology 7

(October 1965):47-50. Also it seems providentially significant that three of the four

manuscript fragments of Job which are extant from Qumran are portions of the

Elihu speeches -namely two manuscripts from chapter 36 (4Q Joba and 4Q

Jobb) yet unpublished (see Christoph Burchard, Bibliographie zu den Hand-

schriften von Toten Meer, 2 vols. [Berlin: Alfred Topelmann, 1965], 2:327) and a

tiny portion of 33:18-20 from Cave 2 (published by M. Baillet, J. T. Milik, and

Roland de Vaux, Les "Petites Grottes" de Qumran, 2 vols., DJD [Oxford: At the

Clarendon Press, 1962],2:13 [#15], cf. 1:71).

16 This theme, which is prevalent in Job, provides a connecting link to the

previous dialogue and at the same time is proleptic of Yahweh's theophany.

17 Zuck, Job, pp. 141-42.

18 Because the double exchange between God and Job is similar to the double

exchange between God and Satan in the prologue, Andersen has suggested an

unorthodox division of the Book of Job: introduction (1:1-5), speeches (1:6-42:6)

and conclusion (42:7-17) (Job, pp. 20, 49). The speeches would be divided as

follows: the interviews of Yahweh with Satan (1 :6-2: 13), the dialogue of Job with

his friends (3: 1-37:24), and the two interviews of Yahweh with Job (38:1-42:6).

19 See 1:9-12; 2:4-6, 9-10. Cf. Wilhelm Vischer, "God's Truth and Man's Lie,"

Interpretation 15 (1961):132.

20 Zuck, Job, pp. 15, 19, 189-90. This biblical concept, which is in direct

contrast to the ancient Near Eastern concept of man's relationship to God, will be

developed further in the next section of this article.

21 Others who have recognized this as the main problem of the Book of Job

.include Rowold ("Theology of Creation," pp. II, 19); John W. Wevers (The Way of

the Righteous: Psalms and the Books of Wisdom [Philadelphia: Westminster

Press, 1961], p. 75. "The basic problem of Job. . . is the relation of finite man to

an infinite God" [italics his]); and Robert William Edward Forrest who says that

the main issue is "what, if any, is the nature of the divine-human relationship and

thow may a man live in this universe" ("The Creation Motif in the Book of Job"

[Ph.D. diss., McMaster University, 1975], p. 20). Cf. also Good, Irony in the Old



154                       Bibliotheca Sacra--April-June 1981

 

Testament, pp. 197-98; Zuck, who writes that "one of the grand purposes in the

book" is "to deal with motive behind worship, to demonstrate that it is possible to

View life as other than a give-and-get bargain with God" (Job, p. 189); and Alfred

von Rohr Sauer, "Salvation by Grace: The Heart of Job's Theology," Concordia

Theological Monthly 37 (May 1966):259-70.

22 These suggestions include the significance of the suffering of the innocent,

the right behavior in suffering, the refutation of the principle of divine retribution,

and the meaning of faith. Rowold gives a sampling of scholars who have held to

these options as the main theme of Job ("Theology of Creation," p., 18). He notes

that these subthemes have hindered the recognition of the real central problem.

23 Ibid., p. 20.

24 Zuck, Job, p. 189.

25 That this is true is demonstrated by the fact that the main problem of the

book was posed before suffering entered the scene and was resolved (see 38: 1-

42:6) before Job's suffering was removed (Rowold, "Theology of Creation," pp. 20,

29, n. 22).

26 Though these are not the only motifs used, they seem to be the most signifi- ,

cant ones.

27 This principle occurs particularly in Deuteronomy and many of the prophets.

28 See the present writer's work, "A Biblical Theology of Job 38:1-42:6," (Th.D.

diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1980), chapter 1.

29 Cf. Job 8:8-10, where Bildad also appealed to tradition to support his argu-

ment.

30 Rowold, "Theology of Creation," p. 22.

31 Ibid.

32 In 21: 19 Job objects to the friends' argument that God stores up punishment

for a wicked man's sons by questioning why God does not recompense the wicked

themselves.

33 In Job 31:2-3 he assumes God punishes the wicked; in 19:11 and 16:9 Job's

assumption that God was angry with him implies that Job subconsciously felt

that God was punishing him for some unknown sin of which Job was unaware. He

wished that God would reveal this to him (10:2). This is consistent with Elihu's

interpretation of Job's position as believing that God owed him something (or was

obligated to him) because of his righteousness (35:3: cf. Elihu's quotation in

34:9). He refuted Job's position by appealing to God's transcendence (35:4-8; cf.

Eliphaz's similar understanding in 22:2-3, 12).

34 Rowold, "Theology of Creation," pp. 23, 27. Two possible translations of this

verse are given in the NIV and its margin. Job's hope of vindication because of his

valid legal claim of righteousness assumes that he considered his relationship to

God as a judiciary one in which God was obligated to repay him.

35 Zuck, Job, p. 149. The divine analysis was that Job was guilty of hubris (after

his suffering began) in his challenge of God's justice. He unconsciously became a

rival to God's position as ruler of the cosmos.

36 However, this angle of disciplinary suffering was also approached once by

Eliphaz (see 5: 17-27). That Elihu's argument had much truth seems to be implied

by Yahweh's absence of rebuke of Elihu in contrast to the three friends.

37 Zuck, Job, pp. 148-49, 152.

38 See note 33.

39 This is the purpose stated in a negative fashion. See the author's, "A Biblical

Theology of Job 38: 1-42:6," chapter 3.

40 However, this may be an ironic statement which shows that the wicked are

indeed not broken but only controlled. Tsevat argues that this passage teaches

that no provision for retribution nor its manifestation is found in the order of the

world. He says that although "the dawn of every day provides an occasion to



                   The Structure and Purpose of the Book of Job                 155

 

punish the wicked, ...this possibility is not in practice realized and is therefore

not in the plan of the world" (Matitiahu Tsevat, "The Meaning of the Book of Job,"

Hebrew Union College Annual 37 [1966]:99).

41 Ibid., p. 100. However, perhaps the main function is found in its implication

man is not the center of the universe. This is part of the polemic against man

(who is not even mentioned with respect to his creation).

42 The enumeration of verses in parts of Job 40 and all of chapter 41 of the

Hebrew Bible differs from that in English Bibles. In this article the English verse

numbers will be cited with the Hebrew counterpart in parentheses (when noted).

43 See Job 35:3 and supra, note 33. The NIV translates 41: 11 as follows: "Who

has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.”

44 Rowold, "Theology of Creation," p. 29, n. 22.

45 See note 25.

46 According to Tsevat, Job demonstrates the impossibility of the coexistence of

the three ideas of an accessible God who turns His face to man (G), Job as an

innocent man (J), and the philosophy of retributive justice (R). The friends

eliminated J, and Job practically gives up G in order to maintain J. Only by giving

up R can the other two be reconciled ("The Meaning of the Book of Job,"

pp.372-73).

47 Job seems to castigate light (3:20), the first act of creation (Gen. 1 :3-4), and r

wished that it would become darkness (3:4-5, 9). Also he disparaged the goodness

of life (3:20), which was extolled in Gen. 1:27-31; 2:7, wishing that he had

perished at birth (3: 11-19) so that he would have tranquillity in the grave (Forrest,

"The Creation Motif in the Book of Job," pp. 71-73). Fishbane's argument that Job

3:3-13 is a systematic bouleversement, or reversal. of the cosmic acts of creation

lin Genesis 1: 1-2:4a by the use of magic spells and incantations is intriguing but

lacks much evidence to support it (Michael Fishbane, "Jeremiah IV 23-26 and Job

III 3-13: A Recovered Use of the Creation Pattern," Vetus Testamentum 21

[1971): 153-54). It is probable that if Job had gone this far, he would have taken

his wife's advice and perished or committed suicide (Forrest, "The Creation Motifin

the Book of Job," pp. 68-69). However, in contrast to the "Dialogue of Pessimism"

(Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, pp. 437-38, 600-601) and to the Egyptian

Papyrus 3024, it is doubtful that Job ever considered suicide.

48 Forrest, "The Creation Motif in the Book of Job," pp. 67, 74-75. 188-89. This

is apparently the reason Job also identified himself with the forces of chaos (see

7:12).

49 Ibid., pp. 56, 67, 185; cf, p. 188. This is also a major reason the creation motif

is employed in the Yahweh speeches. Job failed to see the significance of this

doctrine for actual life situations.

50 Job admitted his inability to understand God's power and knowledge espe-

cially as manifested in creation. Apparently he could not truly appreciate God's role

in creation because of the overtones of arbitrariness (ibid., p. 82).

51 Because of God's sovereign comprehensive power which includes even Sheol,

Job had to abandon his wish for safety in Sheol as mere fancy (cf. 26:5-14).

52 This may be explainable in light of the ancient Near Eastern concept of the

unity of the natural cosmos with the moral cosmos and the cosmos as a whole. See

the author's "A Biblical Theology of Job 38:1-42:6," chapter 1.

53 Zuck, Job, pp. 158-62.

54 Rowold, "Theology of Creation," pp. 168, 171. I

55 Ibid" p. 168. I

56 Job was shown the inconsistency of his theoretical knowledge of God's

sovereignty and his haughty actions against God. The root cause was Job's faulty

perception of Yahweh's sovereignty cf. notes 33 and 45).

57 Rowold, "Theology of Creation, p. 183.



156                       Bibliotheca Sacra--April-June 1981

 

58 Sylvia Huberman Scholnick, "Lawsuit Drama in the Book of Job.. (Ph.D. f

diss., Brandeis University, 1975), pp. vi, 103-04. i

59 These four terms are employed in the speeches of all characters except God.

Few exceptions occur to this forensic usage: j`kazA in the context of sanitation in 9:30

and in an "astrological" context in 15: 15 and 25:5, and rheFA in a metallurgical

context (28:19) and in an "astrological" sense in 37:21 (ibid.. pp. 3-4). In some

cases it is man in general whose lack of legal innocence before God is mentioned

(e.g., 25:4), but this is ultimately done to explore Job's innocence or guilt.

60 Ibid., p. 3.

61 See ibid" pp, 109-10, and cf. James Limburg, "The Root byri and the Prophe-

tic Lawsuit Speeches," Journal of Biblical Literature 88 (1969):291-304, esp.

293-96, 301.

62 In all but two instances Job is the speaker, Also in two instances Job

describes his previous judicial activity in the city gate (29: 16 and 31: 13).

Scholnick's suggestion that Job is a "lawsuit drama" is not comprehensive

enough to explain the multifaceted genres employed in Job. Scholnick overlooks

the possibility that the Yahweh speeches may discontinue the legal metaphor, See

the author's forthcoming article in the July-September 1981 issue of Bibliotheca

Sacra.

63 However, a servant could litigate against his master (Job 31: 13) or a subject

against his king (1 Sam. 24:8-22). See Scholnick, "Lawsuit Drama," p. 132. This

unprecedented act perfectly illustrates Job's audacity and hubris for which he

must repent.

64 See Scholnick, "Lawsuit Drama," pp, 133, 136, and Dick, "The Legal

Metaphor," p. 50,

65 In Job 31:35 God is called Job's byr wyx (literally, "man of complaint"), a

technical term for a legal adversary (see Judg, 12:2; Isa. 41:11; Jer. 15:10) (Lim-

burg, "The Root byri," p. 298); cf. Scholnick, "Lawsuit Drama," p. 149.

66 See Dick, "The Legal Metaphor," p. 50.

67 The NIV has suggested this nuance of the word.

68 Dick, "The Legal Metaphor," p. 46. Veenker gives a summary of scholars who

favor this as the function of the ancient Near Eastern judge and of those who

question it (Ronald A, Veenker, "An Old Babylonian Legal Procedure for Appeal,"

Hebrew Union College Annual, 45 [1974]:4, n. 14).

The concept of an intermediary figure to advocate his case before God is

reminiscent of one role of the personal god in the ancient Near East. For thorough

documentation of this intermediary role of the personal god in Mesopotamia,

Asia Minor, and Syria-Palestine, see Hermann Vorlander, Mein Gott: Die

Vorstellungen vom personlichen Gott im Alten Orient und im Alten Testament,

Alter Orient und Altes Testament (Neukirchen-Vluyn: NeukirchenerVerlag, 1975),

pp. 87-90, 132-34, 162-63. Although it is impossible to prove, it maybe that this

concept could have surfaced in Job's mind for an instant. However, Job's

monotheistic conviction (cf. 31 :26-28) would have prevented him from seriously

considering such a possibility (Marvin H. Pope, Job: Introduction, Translation

and Notes, 3d ed., The Anchor Bible [Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1973], ;

p.76).

69 Scholnick argues that Job summoned the friends to act as judges and

witnesses, a role which apparently was not clearly differentiated ("Lawsuit

Drama," p. 138). In Job 31 :21 Job himself spoke of his having previous legal help

in his city court.

70 Cf. the NIV, and see Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, Hebrew and

English Lexicon oJ the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 962.

71 Job 16:20-21, NIV. Less likely (but possible) is the understanding of ycaylim;; as



                   The Structure and Purpose of the Book of Job                 157

 

"scoffer" or "one who mocks" Job. Cf. NASB and the NIV margin. For the nuance

"mediator" or "intercessor," see Job 33:23.

72 For an introduction to some of the difficulties, see the recent helpful work of

William Modawell Kruidenier, "The Interpretation and Theological Contribution of .

Job 19:25-27" (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1978), esp. pp. 2-10.

73 Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, s. v, "lxaGA," by Helmer Ringgren,

2.352.

74 Ibid., p. 355. It might be argued that verses 26-27, which mention Job's

seeing God, indicate that the lxeGo Job expected was God. But since the legal

 

advocate or vindicator (lxeGo) as previously sought for (9:33 and 16: 18-21) was to be

an impartial middle party between Job and God. the lxeGo need not be (indeed

probably is not) synonymous with God. Although it is unlikely that Job conceived

of God per se as his lxeGo, this is not to say, in the final analysis, that God was not his

lxeGo (in Job 42:7 Job was vindicated to some extent). Also, in light of the New

Testament (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:25; 8:6; 9: 15; 12:24), Zuck is undoubtedly correct

in stating that Job's "longed-for Arbiter (9:33), Witness-Advocate (16:19)" and

"living Redeemer-Vindicator" (19:25) was the person "whom we know as Jesus

Christ, the Son of God" (Job, p. 92). However, one must be carefullest he should

be guilty of imposing the New Testament back onto the Old Testament by saying

dogmatically that Job knew who his lxeGo was.

75In light of Job's oath of innocence in chapter 31 (a common juridicial proce-

dure in the ancient Near East), Dick has suggested that the participle is the

equivalent of HayikOm (9:33), the arbitration-judge. Second Samuel 15:3-4 may

indicate that this person "was an official appointed by the king to mediate legal

disputes" (Dick, "The Legal Metaphor," pp. 47-48). The forensic usage of the

cognates of fmawA to designate the activity of a judge (as documented by Scholnick,

"Lawsuit Drama," pp. 188-89) seems to confirm this.

76 Because Elihu was apparently a mere bystander from the beginning (or a

silent observer who came on the scene a little later than the friends), he qualified

to be more neutral and objective in the dispute than either Job or his friends.

Thus Elihu appears to serve as a type of arbiter who recommends a settlement.

The fact that he was not actually a part of the dispute may explain why he was not

rebuked (nor mentioned) by God in the epilogue nor mentioned earlier in the

book. Beeby suggests that Elihu was Job's "covenant mediator" necessary for Job,

a non-Israelite, to know God face-to-face (“'Elihu--Job's Mediator," pp. 42, 48).

77 Norman Habel, "Only the Jackal Is My Friend," Interpretation 31 (1977):235.

It is ironic that Job himself played the role of an intercessor in 42:8-9 when he

prayed for his three friends at the Lord's beckoning.

78 It is possible that belt-wrestling as an ordeal in court (as found in a Nuzu

tablet in which it was proscribed by the judges) lay behind the usage of '1~ as a

legal metaphor (Cyrus H. Gordon, "Belt-Wrestling in the Bible World," Hebrew

Union College Annual 23 [1950-51]: 131-36, esp. 134-36). Contrast Zuck, Job, p.

165, n. 6. The present author considers forensic overtones probable for '!~

because of the ironic usage of the legal metaphor in 40:2 and because of the

function of the Yahweh speeches in showing that man's relationship to God is not

a juridical one.

79 Zuck, Job, p. 163.

80  HaykiOm ("the one who accuses or argues") is probably a "pun on Job 9:33 which

prepares the way for the Lord's suggestion that Job had tried to be his own

"mediator" or "redeemer" (esp. 40: 14).

81 Scholnick, "Lawsuit Drama," p. 265.


157b                     Bibliotheca Sacra--April-June 1981

 

82 This is heightened by the infrequent (and ironic) usage of legal terminology

in the Yahweh speeches (see nn. 79 and 80, and cf. nn. 59 and 62).

83 Dick, "The Legal Metaphor," p. 50.

84 Ibid. See also Job 41: 11 (NIV).

 

 

 

This material is cited with gracious permission from:

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            Dallas, TX   75204          

www.dts.edu

 

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu