Job Rhetorical Reading of Book

The two notions are not comprised in one definition, contrary to what is thought by all those who are confused, and there is nothing in common between the two except the name alone.

The author relates this view to the realization that the goal of human existence is the attainment of the knowledge of God. It is through this knowledge that the secular and social world becomes to a great extent insignificant, which also refers to the suffering of the secular as an illusion.

When Job comes to know God “by the way of [philosophical] speculation” (that is, through the divine speeches), he ceases to be troubled by the loss of his health, wealth, and children -things that he had only “imagined” to be sources of happiness — and experiences “true happiness, which is knowledge of the deity.”

There are of course strong objections to this type of interpretation of the text — a fact that will be taken into account in the analysis of the social context of the Book of Job. This brings to light the more conventional ideal of social justice. “Does a heightened awareness of Gods presence really suffice to compensate Job for the death of his children?

This is turn is related to literature that questions the portrayal of God in this text; for example, the view of Martin Buber who states that the “portrayal of the deity there is incongruous and unreal, manifesting an erroneous theology that will be corrected later on.”

There are also references to interpretations of the character of Job as “a sexist, paranoid plutocrat”

Another work that was particularly useful in understanding the rhetorical structure of the Book of Job was Habels work The Book of Job: A Commentary (1985). In this work he refers to the three movement plot structure. This is an aspect that will be explored at length as it provides insight into both the socials and spiritual dimensions of the text.

The argument put forward by Lamb (1995) was also taken into account in the initial research for this proposal. In this insightful work Lamb noted that Job is seen as a figure associated with “a recurrent cultural antinomy that emerges in fields as diverse as monumental sculpture and voyages of discovery, as well as in politics and literature, whenever the interpretation and the point of first-person testimonies are at stake.” More importantly Lamb states that “This antinomy is always recognizable in its basic form as a conflict between the law & #8230; and those elements of a personal history, usually painful, for which there is no prescription or parallel.” In other words, this antimony in the Book of Job is one that can be expressed in terms of the (apparent) incompatibly of the social and the spiritual forms of justice.

These were many of the sources that provide valuable insight into the issues at stake in a rhetorical interpretation of Jobs moral dilemma. Among these is an article entitled The Book of Job – Suffering and Gods Sovereignty. This study refers to the historical background to the text and Judaic theological preconceptions. “In studying this story, you must understand that the original writer and original readers, monotheistic Hebrews, viewed God as unquestionably righteous.”

This is a perspective that is borne in mind in the textual analysis. Central to this discussion will be the focus on chapters 29-31, with an emphasis on the rhetoric that flows through these chapters and how they relate to the larger issues and themes.

4. Brief Preliminary Discussion

A central theme that dominates this work is described as ” the eternal problem of unmerited suffering and it is named after its central character, Job, who attempts to understand the sufferings that engulf him.”

The book of Job is divided into a number of sections. These include a prologue and an epilogue and the section that will most concern this thesis, the poetic disputation.

In essence Job is an innocent man who becomes repudiated and scorned by his society. At the same time the text it is about Gods revelation to Job. Job laments the time when his contact with his God was positive and when he was in Gods factor.

“when my path was drenched with cream and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil. (29: Line 6)

The proposed analysis of the rhetoric in the text reveals a subtle depth to the book. This refers in the first instance to the exploration of mans relationship to God. It is also a commentary on the social dimensions of existence.

One could argue that the moral dilemma that Job finds himself in is a result of the social and secular worlds failure to understand the complexity of Gods sense of justice.

This can be seen for example in the loss of social prestige and standing in society that Job experiences.

When I went to the gate of the city and took my seat in the public square, the young men saw me and stepped aside and the old men rose to their feet;

the chief men refrained from speaking and covered their mouths with their hands;

( 29: Lines 7-9)

As the analysis of these chapters progress we become aware of the social injustice that has been done to Job. He is also confused to a great extent by this reaction from the society as he has been a model citizen and has also received a positive and even admiring response from the society because of his kindness and care for others.

Whoever heard me spoke well of me, and those who saw me commended me, because I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist them. ( 29: Lines 11- 12)

This is contrasted in the rhetoric with the present situation in which he finds himself. For example, we read at the start of chapter 30;

But now they mock me, men younger than I,

whose fathers I would have disdained to put with my sheep dogs. (30: line 1)

From one point-of-view the knowledge of divine law and justice circumscribes and overcomes the vicissitudes of all earthly existence. Contrary to this stance is the view that critiques the actions of God and the harsh way that Job is treated, which leads to questions about divine justice. While divine justice may be critiqued there is also injustice on a social level. Jobs friends condemn him instead of supporting him in his dilemma. As noted above, those who were beneath him socially, treat him with disdain and disrespect, “Now that God has unstrung my bow and afflicted me,” ( 30: lines 11). As one commentator notes:

As the afflictions haunt our hero, everybody, from the highest rank to the lowest cast, begins to avoid and shun him. Plagued by a horrible disease and bad breath, his wife also finds him repulsive. Even his servants treat him as a stranger. & #8230;Gods favorite servant has become a pariah rejected by the whole community.

Some critics have noted that the people that surround Job represent or symbolize the order and structure of society. They represent a perception of justice as a secular phenomenon as opposed to the mysterious and ineffable divine order of Justice.

They hold on to the belief that God rewards the righteous by giving him wealth and power, alternatively punishing the sinner by taking away his riches and making him an outcast. God is an ally of the strong. He selects the upright and blameless and segregates the offender.

It is this order of moral justice as perceived by society which is upset by Satan, with the compliance of God. This immediately sets up a rhetorical tension between the social and normative view of justice and the seemingly unfair justice dispensed by God to his loyal servant Job. This is a tension that is especially evident in the passages of the text that are in question in this thesis. In terms of the analysis if the chapters in question, this rhetorical tension is clearly displayed in the following lines, which show the contradiction between the caring God and the God who now allows his servant to be unjustly punished.

In his great power God becomes like clothing to me[e]; he binds me like the neck of my garment.

He throws me into the mud, and I am reduced to dust and ashes. ( 30: lines 18-19).

The following lines clearly communicate the moral and spiritual dilemma that Job experiences.

Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man when he cries for help in his distress.

Have I not wept for those in trouble?

Has not my soul grieved for the poor? ( 30: lines 24-25).


Yet when I hoped for good, evil came;

when I looked for light, then came darkness..

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