On Job, the not-so-patient

Ilya Repin: Job and his Friends

Job and his friends, by Ilya Repin (1869). . .


The Old Testament Daily Office Readings – the DORs – started with the Book of Job on Thursday, August 21, and those readings continue until Thursday, September 18.    (It’s a really long book, mostly filled with whining and complaining, by Job and his friends as seen above.)

But first a word about the patience of Job.   Wiktionary says that phrase indicates a person who has a great amount of patience, and refers to this book of the Bible, “where Job demonstrated faith and patience with God while suffering many severe trials.”  See patience of Job – Wiktionary, which added the expression seems to have started in James 5:11:

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered.  You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.  The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

(New International Version.)    But according to Isaac Asimov, Job really wasn’t all that patient.

Asimov first indicated that when the book was first written, Job was known as the hero of a well-known legend, about a wealthy sheik who lived east of Canaan, on the border of a desert.  This legendary Job was a “good man of superhuman patience” who suffered great misfortune without ever losing his faith in God.   Asimov also noted the appearance of Satan – indicating a “Persian influence” – and added that in the story Satan had (and has) the important role of testing human beings, to see if their faith in God was “staunch, or merely superficial.”

Be that as it may, Asimov indicated the “meat of the book” came in the series of question-and-answer speeches involving ethical and theological questions, many outside the realm of Bible study (including some interesting “astronomical references”).  He then noted:

In these speeches, Job is anything but patient and uncomplaining, and seriously questions the justice of God.  Nevertheless, this has not, for some reason, altered the common conception of Job as a patient, uncomplaining man. (E.A.)

Then too, Job is a good example of a Bible book that should be both approached with great caution and not be taken too literally.  For example, consider the following excerpts from Job 3:1-26, from the Daily Office Reading for Saturday, August 23:

Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth…   “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb..?   For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest…   Or why was I not hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?   There the wicked cease from turmoil, and there the weary are at rest.   Captives also enjoy their ease; they no longer hear the slave driver’s shout.   The small and the great are there, and the slaves are freed from their owners…   Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave?”

To say the least, such sentiments could definitely be “taken out of context.”

First Job cursed the day he was born and asked God why he didn’t die at birth, “as I came from the womb” or like a stillborn child.  He added that had he died, “I would be lying down in peace,” in a better place where “the wicked cease from turmoil” and the weary are at rest.  He then asked God why He gives life to those who long for death and who are “filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave?”

For just that reason, guys like John R. W. Stott took issue with literalists who say the Bible should viewed as “inerrant per se.”  Instead – he said – the Bible should be viewed as inerrant “in all that it affirms.”  As applied to this case, Stott would say that the “plain meaning” of the text of Job should not be seen as affirming suicide, as would appear at first glance.

But since we’re running out of space and time, Stott’s views will be explored in a future post.


The upper image is courtesy of Job and His Friends – Ilya Repin – WikiArt.org.  See also Ilya Repin – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, on “the most renowned Russian artist of the 19th century, when his position in the world of art was comparable to that of Leo Tolstoy in literature. . .    His method was the reverse of impressionism.  He produced works slowly and carefully.  They were the result of close and detailed study.  With some of his paintings, he made one hundred or more preliminary sketches.  He was never satisfied with his works, and often painted multiple versions, years apart.”

As to Isaac Asimov on Job, see Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981), beginning on page 474, up to the “not-so-patient” quote on page 480.  The “interesting astronomical references” include “Arcturas, Orion, and Pleiades.” (Job 9:9)

For other references on the role of Satan – as Accuser or Slanderer – in the “great scheme of things,” see On “St. Michael and All Angels” and/or On the readings for May 25.

James is the book of the Bible right after the Letter to the Hebrews and right before First Peter, “traditionally attributed to James the Just.”   See Epistle of James – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The full Daily Office Readings can be seen at The Lectionary – Satucket.com.

The lower image is courtesy of Understanding the Bible by John R.W. Stott — Reviews, ….  See also John Stott – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which added that Stott was an Anglican cleric whom Time magazine ranked among the 100 most influential people in the world.  To view some of Stott’s 126 available books, see Amazon.com: John R. W. Stott: Books, Biography, Blog, ….

Then too, “requiring every word of the Bible to be inerrant” brings to mind what Jesus said in Matthew 23:4, as He chastised the scribes and Pharisees.  The Easy-to-Read translation says in pertinent part that such people “make strict rules that are hard for people to obey.  They try to force others to obey all their rules.  But they themselves will not try to follow any of those rules.”


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