Exegesis on Job 42:1-17

In the passage of Job 42:1-6 there appears to be an interpretation of a divine speech to be supported by Job’s response. There also occurs to be a conclusion about Job’s debate with God as Job acts humbly in acknowledging his presumption about God. God, however, acts displeased by Job and his friends because of Job’s friends presumptions about God as they didn’t speak about God in the “right” way. When Job gets confronted by God, he surrenders, yet acts without sorrow. One may question the response that Job had towards God in verses 1-6 as he acted in a peculiar unexpected manner.
In most reactions towards God there comes a reaction of fear; however Job seemed calm with his reactions towards God. Job doesn’t have a proper response to God in verse 4 he says that “I will question you, and you will declare me. ” In the form criticism of the text the verses 1-6 are being presented as a form of prayer to the Lord. Job never says that he was wrong to question God’s justice. Job feigns submission and accepts that he will never get a straight answer from God.
Source criticism is being used as the verses in three and four, Job quotes the Lord’s words which were also used previously in Job 38:2-3 and uses them to make his surrender appear to be in defence to God’s power. Job’s true attitude however is revealed in verse six “therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes. ” In the NRSV translation of this verse reflects the traditional view that Job is confessing to his sin in challenging God’s justice. In most Bible translations and commentators there is a twist in verse 6 to make Job’s speech an acknowledgement of sin in challenging God.

There is textual criticism being presented in comparison to the original Hebrew text, though, the Hebrew text allows for a variety of translations; most of which render Job’s words as anything but a confession. The verb “I despise myself” (Hebrew: ’emas) is not a reflexive form. Its other occurrences are all rendered as a simple verb “I hate/ regret”. The second Hebrew verb, nikhamti, has been translated as “repent” but other uses of the verb argue for a meaning of “rue/regret”, usually the word is not associated with sin, but with a change of mind or with finding comfort.
Thus, a more accurate rendering of the verse might read: “I reject and regret dust and ashes. ” Or in alternative, clearer translations which have been suggested, such as: “Therefore I retract and change my mind, being but dust and ashes”, or “I yield, and am comforted, being but dust and ashes”. Job is therefore not sorry for confronting God. Instead he seems to be accepting that God will never give him what he wants: an apology. However, how could anyone expect an apology from a supreme power as divine as God?
Job has had a life-transforming visitation with God (Job 42:5): the god whom Job worshipped, based on what he had heard of him, has now made himself known through a face-to-face encounter. Job had earlier expressed his belief that he would see God at the future resurrection (19:25-27); that expectation was brought forward in an unexpected way. One can thus imagine the scene as Job having presented his case for why he should not be suffering, God then responds to Job by asking, “What exactly is it that you think you know? (38:1-41:34), and Job then expresses his satisfaction “with the humble knowledge that his sufferings were all part of the purposes of God… even if he could not understand those purposes with his finite mind”.
It is simply incredible to realise that Job was proved correct in his righteousness and assessment of the situation (42:7-8); thus, he offers no admission of wrongdoing, despite the more traditional exegesis of this passage. Instead, God challenges the bad theology and counsel of Job’s friends and requires their confession to and submission before Job.
Job’s prayer for them brings forgiveness from God (:9). This is a complete reversal of our expectations for this story of suffering. In verse seven, God admits that Job was correct in accusations against the deity. The Lord tells Eliphaz that he and the other two friends have incurred God’s anger and that they were wrong in what they said about God to Job. One wonders if God’s anger derives not from the friends’ statements about God but, rather, from their failure to minister to Job in his time of need.
There original intentions were admirable they came to console and comfort (2:11) Job. Unfortunately they let their fears, instead of compassion guide their actions. The friends’ first response was their silence. Whatever their sin to avoid divine punishment they must make an offering and have Job pray on their behalf. Only Job can save them now. Towards God’s response to his human accusers (Job’s friends), God acts in an offended manner as he wasn’t being spoken to in the “right” way. There comes the question: Is God’s response intended to be punitive or restorative?
As God sort to punish the friends of Job, he gave them a chance to repent and feel remorse for their actions. God was teaching them a lesson that God must be obeyed and respected. However if God sort to act out in a punishing manner then what them men had falsely spoken about God, would then be true. In this aspect is the reason why God had punished the men in such an approach to see these men’s obedience towards God, God gave them a chance for repentance. Therefore in this characteristic God is being both restorative and punitive; for each sin doesn’t go unpunished.
The men were asked to present “seven bulls and seven rams” in this concept the number seven is being used a significant amount of times in the bible. There is the rhetorical feature of the passage that what is the significance of the number seven? And what would happen if any other number was being used? These questions arise the implications of the bible and also the narrative criticism of the type of character God was, the constant use of the number seven could reveal that perhaps seven is God’s “lucky number. ”
On one hand, the phrase, “good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people”, is completely disproved and disqualified. On the other hand, Job is not ‘blasted’ for questioning God; he is corrected for his presumption and arrogance in asking such questions. Our suffering does indeed lead us to question our situation, but the story of Job promotes composure in suffering as in celebration. Job is blessed after praying for his friends’ forgiveness, not after his own surrender. This could simply be a matter of timing or it could be a consequence.
There is rhetorical criticism shown as to whether Job would have been blessed to the same degree if he had not prayed for the forgiveness of his friends? While we cannot answer this question, it does suggest a standard set by this passage for the care provided by Christians to pray for each other with consideration in faith. There is blessing in serving the spiritual needs of others. Job’s fortunes and position are restored. He is first restored to his spiritual authority (Job: 10a). Then, his prosperity is restored doubly (Job: 10b).
Then, his status is restored as his ‘fair-weather’ family and friends acknowledge him with gifts (Job: 11). In addition, Job’s financial means are increased beyond his starting fortune (Job: 12). In a response to narrative criticism there is a response to cultural aspects of the text, in taking the passage to a literal sense, as the regard and provision for his daughters is beyond expectation; interesting for the comparative value of girls to boys (Job: 13-15). In this peculiar event of Job’s daughters receiving inheritance, it reflects a cultural break through in the historical patriarchal context of the bible.
This total scenario provides a wonderful closure to Job’s story, reflecting cultural norms rather than spiritual norms. There is a question that can we expect the same kind of material blessing if we’re righteous? One possible answer is, “no”, because we cannot possibly imagine the same level of righteousness for ourselves, that we could ever display such brash confidence before God. The conclusion to Job’s story is one of the most troubling aspects of the text. Job receives even more blessings than before. God appears to be atoning for mistreating Job.
Despite this happy ending the reader begins to wonder if the rewards given to Job could make up for what he has lost. In verse 11, the text states that Job’s family and friends came to comfort him. Where was this community earlier? They are described as bringing him gifts of money and jewellery. Perhaps this is how Job achieved the status of wealth again; as a result of compassion and charity. Whatever the source, Job’s material possessions (e. g. sheep, camels, oxen and donkeys) are described as twice as much as he had before his tragic demise.
His children, however, number the same: seven sons and three daughters. The difference is how the children are described. Whereas at the beginning of the story more attention was given to the sons, here the daughters receive the most attention. Their names are given, each having a symbolic meaning. The name of the first, Jeremiah, is difficult to render in English but may be related to “day” or “dove. ” Keziah, the name of the second daughter, means “cassia,” a perfume. The third one’s name, Keren-happuch, translates as a “container of Khol,” which was an eye cosmetic.
They are declared to be of incomparable beauty. Job gives his daughters an inheritance equal to that of their brothers. The mention of this action would suggest that it is unusual because in patriarchal cultures, only the sons receive inheritance, and the daughters depended on a male relative or husband for survival. Perhaps Job’s suffering has made him more sensitive to the plight of the powerless, especially women. The harmony of Job’s life has been resorted, and he lives another 140 years, long enough to see four new generations of his family.
The end of Job’s life is described succinctly; “he died old and full of days” (verse 17). Nevertheless the story of Job is reassuring to note that God was aware of Job’s righteousness and boasted about it. Even though Job was allowed to suffer at the hands of God’s enemies, God cared for Job and helped him to appreciate better the condition of the world in which Job lived. Perhaps here is the source of Job’s prosperity, that he had a wise understanding of his position in the world and a healthy appreciation for the difficulties that could befall him at any time.
Job maintained his composure in the face of his suffering and maintained his trust in the God who is far beyond all understanding. Suffering is a mystery. To reduce suffering to the simple formula, “do good and good things will happen to you; do bad and you will suffer”, is to ignore the complexity of the human condition. We will apply human standards to God, in order to understand him better. Yet, God cannot be so easily understood, or manipulated. However it raises the rhetorical criticism of God’s character and whether God can even make himself feel pain and suffering that he inflicts (God made us to feel pain) on human beings?
God did not intend for his creation to suffer; yet, our rebellion against him places under the influence of all kinds of evil. The relational meaning of the passage is used to express the implicational measures that are associated with the suffering one undergoes and the consequences that are faced when one undermines God’s righteousness. The final irony of the book of Job is that the author has used a traditional story about a holy man, a non-Israelite named Job, to explore the mystery of suffering in a very untraditional manner, suffering by his enemies.
The ending of the passage ends with Job’s renewed blessing, one may suggest that the ending of the new blessing of Job is the perfect ending. As a literal critic would say that it was the perfect ending to the story as “Job died old and full of days” suggesting that he was happy and fulfilled at the time of his death. However, one may question the character of Job in whether he deserved such blessing by God, as he was questioning God in the beginning of the passage.

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