Related Verses: Job 13
Leading Question: To what extent does Job establish a firm link between the believer’s hope and the resurrection and future life?
In the lesson for December 17, the study guide takes us to the famous “resurrection” passage in Job (Job 19:25): “I know that my Redeemer lives….” Once one knows the truth of the resurrection hope, it has ever been the tendency for believers to read that hope back into those passages where there is actually only a gentle intimation of the resurrection hope. But we will discuss that matter more fully in two weeks time.
Here we need to point out that it was possible for Old Testament people to live in hope, even though the resurrection was still only a shadowy future hope. Still, a future hope lurks everywhere in Old Testament thinking.
In contrast to the “nature” religion of the Canaanite where everything was cyclical and natural and there was no future goal, the Israelite view of history was linear and goal-oriented. Not only did the Israelites look forward to a deliverer, the Messiah, they also looked forward to a world where no one would hurt or destroy. In that connection, the New Earth scene from Isaiah 11:6-9 presents a wonderful ideal hope:
Isaiah 11:6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
But in the book of Job, the ending is still the classic Old Testament view: “And Job died, old and full of days” (Job 42:17, NRSV). The Greek translation, produced at a time when the resurrection hope was more palpable – Daniel 12:2 contributed to the hope – adds the resurrection hope to the end of Job: “And he will live again with those whom the Lord raises up.”
It has been noted by many scholars that the book of Job seems to reflect something like the Abrahamic era. There, too, the patriarch lives on through his children. A future hope for the individual is not yet clear. In the words of Genesis 25:8, “Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.” Once one gets to the New Testament era, that has all changed and Paul celebrates the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 as if that was the only thing that made this life worth living: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19, NIV).
Job was not there yet. But he had such a deep abiding faith in God that he knew God would provide all that he needed.
Question: If Job 13:15 can be translated as being more affirming of unshakable faith: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (KJV) or as being more confrontational: “He will kill me, I have no hope” (NRSV), which is more likely to be heard from the mouth of Job?
Note: Of the 51 English translations available at Biblegateway.com, 33 are more directly affirming of hope, 18 are more confrontational, even defiant. In both cases Job confirms his intention to continue believing, but the “minority” view is definitely more confrontational. The evangelical translations tend to be more affirming; the so-called “mainstream” ones are more confrontational. My personal preference is for the more confrontational version. The impulse among evangelical readers is to soft-pedal skepticism and defiance over against God. Indeed, that seems to have been such an unavoidable stance for the rabbis that some of them declared that Job did in fact curse God after all. That’s why he had a double reward in this life because he would have no reward in the world to come!
In general, evangelical versions often skirt the issues in the Old Testament skeptical tradition (Job, Ecclesiastes). One of the more striking examples of avoidance comes from the evangelical cult expert, Walter Martin, who volunteered his opinion on the book of Ecclesiastes as part of his refutation of the Adventist use of Ecclesiastes 9:5 to support the Adventist understanding of soul sleep:
“It is almost universally agreed among Biblical scholars that Ecclesiastes portrays Solomon’s apostasy and is therefore virtually worthless for determining doctrine. It sketches man’s ‘life under the sun’ and reveals the hopelessness of the soul apart from God. The conclusion of the Book alone mirrors the true revelation of God (chap. 12).” – Walter Martin, The Truth About Seventh-day Adventists, 1960, p. 127, note #11
Question: Does Job’s defiant defense of his innocence before God give modern believers permission to do the same?
The following words from Job 13 certainly make Job’s point clear: “I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless person would dare come before him!” (Job 13:15-16, NIV).
Whether or not one is willing to confront God like that probably depends on temperament and upbringing. In 1980-81 when we are at Marienhoehe Seminary in Darmstadt, Germany for a teacher exchange, the Sabbath School lessons were also on Job. A number of students returned from visiting in local German churches declaring that many of the saints were quite unhappy that we were spending an entire quarter on Job. Why? “Because no one should talk to God the way Satan talked to God!”
I would simply say that the Bible gives us permission to ask our questions, even if they appear to be somewhat defiant. But there is nothing that says that everyone must talk that way. We can each relate to him in ways that preserves his honor and glory.
Note: Job’s defiance deepens even further in 13:17-28:
13:17 Listen carefully to what I say;
let my words ring in your ears.
18 Now that I have prepared my case,
I know I will be vindicated.
19 Can anyone bring charges against me?
If so, I will be silent and die.
20 “Only grant me these two things, God,
and then I will not hide from you:
21 Withdraw your hand far from me,
and stop frightening me with your terrors.
22 Then summon me and I will answer,
or let me speak, and you reply to me.
23 How many wrongs and sins have I committed?
Show me my offense and my sin.
24 Why do you hide your face
and consider me your enemy?
25 Will you torment a windblown leaf?
Will you chase after dry chaff?
26 For you write down bitter things against me
and make me reap the sins of my youth.
27 You fasten my feet in shackles;
you keep close watch on all my paths
by putting marks on the soles of my feet.
28 “So man wastes away like something rotten,
like a garment eaten by moths.
Most likely this defiant tone is what set off his friends. In the end, however, God tells the friends that Job has spoken the truth about God. If they will request prayer from Job on their behalf, God will grant them forgiveness: “I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:8, NIV).