Chapter 18: Job
Job:1:5: And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
Job was evidently a firm believer in sympathetic magic. He believed that by killing animals and burning their remains, his sons would be absolved of any sins they may have committed!
What is especially interesting about this is that Job didn't know specifically who had sinned, and was unaware of the nature of the sins (or even if any sins had in fact been committed). It is also interesting to note that his sons did not participate in the propitiation of their own sins. This removes the usual rationalizations for sacrificial atonement. We cannot say that the sinner was demonstrating his repentance by willingly parting with something of value (an animal). Nor can we say that participating in the ritual allowed the sinners to act out their remorse and society's forgiveness and re-acceptance of them.
All we are left with, then, is the idea that God really enjoyed watching people kill animals and that he delighted in sniffing the burning remains. He enjoyed these pleasures so much, in fact, that he was willing to overlook other people's sins, even if they were in no way connected with the killing and burning of the animal!
To me, it is quite obvious that "cursing God in your heart" is not a sin at all; no one is hurt by it. Whereas killing an animal just to burn its body is obviously a sin because it takes away a sentient being's life for no good reason.
So far, the book of Job has established that Job was a superstitious man with little respect for life, and that he feared a god who was also sadly lacking in respect for life.
Job:1:6: Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.
There are at least two problems with this verse.
First of all, this says that God had "sons" (plural). Yet, elsewhere in the Bible, the claim is made that Jesus was the only begotten son of God:
Jn:1:18: No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
Secondly, this speaks of a day when "the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD." If God is everywhere, and sees everything, how could his sons have not been before him prior to this day? Elsewhere in the Bible we are told that there is no place one can hide from God's sight, because he is everywhere:
Ps:139:7: Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
Ps:139:8: If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
Job:1:7: And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
If God is all-knowing, why would he request information from Satan? Knowing all, God would already have known precisely where Satan had come from.
Job:1:8: And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
Job:1:9: Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
Job:1:10: Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
Job:1:11: But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
Job:1:12: And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
This is a critically important passage. Jehovah's Witnesses claim that this mirrors the true state of the world today: God has allowed Satan to do his worst to humankind as a test to see if we will still "fear God". Other Christian religions explain away the presence of evil in the world by similar arguments.
But if it were true that God allows Satan to visit evil upon humankind, then why would God have specifically granted Satan permission to do this in the case of Job? If God had already granted such permission in regards to all of humankind, then no special arrangement would have been needed for Job.
More importantly, would such an arrangement be sensible, just, or ethical?
Was it sensible? God agreed to allow Satan to test Job. The test would determine whether Job feared God simply because God had enriched and protected him. But it does not logically follow that just because someone enriches and protects me that I will fear him or her.
When I was a child my mother protected me and enriched my life. But I didn't fear her. Fear stems from the thought that you are in danger of being harmed by someone or something. My mother is a loving, kind, and gentle woman. Although she was physically capable of hurting me, the thought that she would hurt me never entered my mind. So, the fact that Job feared God indicates that the God of the Bible was not perceived by Job as the "loving heavenly father" that some have mistaken him for.
Since God was allowing Satan to harm Job, it would make more sense for Job to fear Satan, not God. If Job thought that his misfortunes were being dealt by the hand of God, then such misfortunes would naturally lead him to fear God even more. Therefore the test was not sensible.
Was it just? When I was in grade-school, one of my classmates decided to test me. He started being mean to me. After several incidents I asked him why he was behaving that way towards me. He said, "I was testing you to see if you'd still be my friend if I was mean to you… you failed." I was crushed at the time, and felt that I had failed as a friend. What kind of a person was I? It dealt a heavy blow to my self-esteem.
But I have since re-evaluated that conclusion through more mature eyes. I have come to the conclusion that the test was not fair. He had been posing as someone other than himself (a mean person) and I did not want to be friends with that person. But the fact that he would stoop to using me as an unwilling "test subject" in his secret experiment revealed that he was not the person I originally thought he was. I had been used and betrayed. Such is not the basis for friendship. To have a friend you must be a friend.
So too, if God started being cruel to Job (or allowing someone else to harm him -- which amounts to the same thing), then God was not being just. A God that would behave in such an unfair and heavy-handed manner would not be worthy of one's devotion.
Was it ethical? If your father invited the local school bully over to your house every afternoon to beat you up, kill your pets, and murder your friends in front of you while he watched, would it be fair to expect you to continue holding your father in high regard?
In every civilized society, such a father would be sent to prison. Why? Because his actions would be illegal and immoral.
A God who acted this way would no longer be a "loving heavenly father." Such a God would be an immoral, self-absorbed fiend.
Finally, why would anyone view fear as a desirable response to invoke in others? Even if those "others" were considered "inferior" beings?
When a stranger meets a stray dog on the street, nine times out of ten the stranger will attempt to help the dog by approaching and saying, "don't be afraid, I won't hurt you." Then the stranger will attempt to soothe the dog and look at its tags in order to determine where it lives. That is what any empathetic person would do.
No empathetic person desires to inspire fear in others. Fear is an emotion I dread, and so my sense of empathy prevents me from attempting to instill it in others. In fact it leads me to try and prevent or alleviate fear in others.
Yet we are to believe that the "God of love" desired Job to fear him, and to continue to fear him no matter what awful things he allowed Satan to do to him. Could such a God be called ethical? Not when such actions violate every principle of empathy.
Job:1:13: And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
Job:1:14: And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:
Job:1:15: And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
Job:1:16: While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
Job:1:17: While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
Job:1:18: While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
Job:1:19: And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
Job:1:20: Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
Job:1:21: And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
Job:1:22: In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
Job:2:3: And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.
We learn several important things from the above verses. First of all, we learn that Satan can "move" God to do evil "without cause"! This would make Satan a higher authority than God!
Second, we learn that God controls the forces of nature, and can purposely direct them to destroy innocent people and animals.
Third, although the Bible claims that the above is true, it implies that to speak such an admission would be foolish! Job "blessed the name of the LORD" and "worshipped" him for having killed his children! The Bible commends this, and states that it would've been foolish for Job to have charged God (the admitted instigator of these atrocities) with the crimes!
Job:2:4: And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.
Job:2:5: But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.
Job:2:6: And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.
Job:2:7: So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.
Job:2:8: And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.
Job:2:9: Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.
Job:2:10: But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.
Job believed that God was capable of doing both good and evil, and that people had to accept both from his hand without complaining.
Any person in authority is capable of doing good or evil, but that does not mean that we should accept evil without complaint. That would simply be cowardice.
My boss (like anyone else) is capable of doing evil to me. But if he were the type of person who regularly meted out evil, I would not act the part of a sycophant. I would not respect him (much less worship him). I would not tell my wife that I must accept the good with the bad. I would start looking for another job.
Job believed that God had killed his children, and had inflicted him with a disease. Perhaps Job believed (as many Christians do today) that God must have some good reason (a "Divine Plan") for instigating such disasters. But in this case we don't have to wonder what God had in mind. The Bible tells us: it was just to settle an argument God had with Satan.
What if I were to kill your children and infect you with a horrid disease in order to settle an argument I had with someone. What would your reaction be? Would you worship me and bless my name?
Job:3:17: There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.
Job was speaking about death in the above verse. You'll note that he says that the wicked cease from their troubles in death. This could not be true if they are to burn in a hell of torment after death.
One of Job's friends then sought to console him by telling him that God only punishes the wicked:
Job:4:7: Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?
Job:4:8: Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.
Job:4:9: By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.
Of course, this is nonsense. In reality, the innocent often suffer, and the wicked often go unpunished.
Job then speaks in his defense, and tells his friend that his words are not very comforting. Interestingly, he also states:
Job:7:9: As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.
So much for the hope of a resurrection. In contradiction to this, Jesus is reputed to have claimed that the dead will indeed arise out of their graves:
Jn:5:28: Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
Jn:5:29: And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Another of Job's friends then spoke:
Job:8:3: Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice?
Job:8:4: If thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away for their transgression;
Job:8:5: If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty;
Job:8:6: If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.
This friend concluded that Job's children must've sinned, otherwise it would've been unjust for God to have killed them (he evidently didn't know about Job's sacrificing of the animals to cover this contingency). Further, he felt that Job merely needed to "seek God" and his affliction would be over.
This friend reminds me of many Christians I have known. They can look directly at a situation and not see it as it is, but only see it through preconceived notions. This friend took his idea of a just God and applied it to the situation. Since God was just, the children he killed must've sinned (which, as we've seen, was not the cause of their death according to the Bible). If Job was being sore afflicted, then Job must've sinned by failing to "seek God". We know that this is also false, because the book of Job tells us that he continued to bless and worship God despite his afflictions. No doubt the friend also knew this, but his religious viewpoint clouded his perception of reality.
Job spoke again in his defense:
Job:9:22: This is one thing, therefore I said it, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.
Job:9:23: If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent.
Job:9:24: The earth is given into the hand of the wicked: he covereth the faces of the judges thereof; if not, where, and who is he?
Can you imagine a "God of love" laughing at the trial of an innocent person who is scourged? Can you imagine the "God of justice" purposely blinding the eyes of judges?
Job:9:32: For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.
Job:9:33: Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.
Job:9:34: Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me:
Job:9:35: Then would I speak, and not fear him; but it is not so with me.
Job admitted that if it were not for his over-riding fear of God, he could certainly lay his case before him and prove that God was acting unjustly. I agree with Job that if the death of his children and his disease were caused by his God, then his God was unjust.
Another of Job's "friends" next spoke:
Job:11:5: But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee;
Job:11:6: And that he would shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is! Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.
This speech also reminds me of some Christians who claim that we are all "worthless sinners" worthy of eternal torment, who are only saved by the grace of God. But, according to the Bible, this friend was also in error. God had repeatedly boasted about how perfect Job was, and how he eschewed all evil. Job's afflictions were not due to any evil on Job's part; they stemmed from an argument God was trying to settle with Satan!
Once again Job took issue with his friend's words, and added:
Job:14:1: Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.
Job:14:2: He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.
So much for the idea of being "immortal" souls: Job said that we do not continue after death.
Job:14:5: Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass;
Job believed that God has set a date for each of us to die!
Job:14:7: For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.
Job:14:8: Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground;
Job:14:9: Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.
Job:14:10: But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?
Job:14:11: As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up:
Job:14:12: So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.
Once again, Job expressed his disbelief in an afterlife and in the resurrection of the dead.
Job:25:4: How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?
Here, women are denigrated by the Biblical question: since men are born from women (that most unclean thing!) how could men ever be clean?
Job:30:21: Thou art become cruel to me: with thy strong hand thou opposest thyself against me.
Finally, a character in the Bible told the truth about the Bible's God, namely that he was "cruel".
It's a wonder at this point in the story that Satan did not appear before God and claim the victory.
In the midst of recounting all of his charitable acts and righteous deeds, Job confessed the motivation behind his actions:
Job:31:23: For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure.
So, Job acted out of fear for his life at the hands of his "loving God". That was his motivation for doing good. Not very altruistic, if you ask me.
Job:32:2: Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God.
Job had asked God to tell him why he had allowed such disasters to befall him. Elihu -- who was angry at Job for having told the truth -- claimed that God would answer Job through him:
Job:33:4: The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.
Job:33:5: If thou canst answer me, set thy words in order before me, stand up.
Job:33:6: Behold, I am according to thy wish in God's stead: I also am formed out of the clay.
The gist of God's/Elihu's answer was this:
Job:33:12: Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man.
Job:33:13: Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.
In other words: God is much more powerful than we are, and he will do exactly as he pleases, without having to answer for his actions.
We could liken this to human affairs. If one man is much stronger than his fellows, or wields authority over them, then he can certainly abuse that power as he sees fit. We have seen this time and again throughout history in the case of corrupt emperors, kings, popes, priests, policemen, and schoolyard bullies. But are we to believe that the actions of such people are "godly"? Would a perfect God of love and justice act this way? Would you want to worship a being that used his authority to harm and kill people, and who was not accountable to anyone for such actions?
Job:34:10: Therefore hearken unto me, ye men of understanding: far be it from God, that he should do wickedness; and from the Almighty, that he should commit iniquity.
Job:34:11: For the work of a man shall he render unto him, and cause every man to find according to his ways.
Job:34:12: Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment.
Elihu claimed that God would not do anything wicked. According to another part of the Bible, however, God does indeed do evil, and in fact is responsible for every evil act done in a city:
Isa:45:7: I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
Amos:3:6: Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?
Elihu's point seemed to be that whatever God does, no matter how much it might initially appear evil to us, it cannot be evil because God cannot do evil! This is circular reasoning at its finest.
Job:34:18: Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked? and to princes, Ye are ungodly?
Job:34:19: How much less to him that accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor? for they all are the work of his hands.
Just because you have the power and authority to treat people as you please without being accountable to anyone, it does not follow that acting in such ways is not evil. Throughout history courageous people have fought to depose such earthly tyrants. Though one might argue that it is not possible to depose God, only a sniveling coward would stoop to worshipping such a fiend. Only a sycophant would call such a monster a "loving heavenly father".
Job:36:6: He preserveth not the life of the wicked: but giveth right to the poor.
Job:36:7: He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous: but with kings are they on the throne; yea, he doth establish them for ever, and they are exalted.
Job:36:11: If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.
Job:36:13: But the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath: they cry not when he bindeth them.
Job:36:14: They die in youth, and their life is among the unclean.
Job:36:15: He delivereth the poor in his affliction, and openeth their ears in oppression.
I think the only way a sane individual could believe these statements is if they had led a very sheltered life. Who does not know a "true believer" who has suffered? Who has not heard of innocent Christian children dying of leukemia and other dreadful diseases? Who has not seen hypocrites live to a ripe old age? The realities of life contradict these naïve statements from the Bible.
Job:37:11: Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud:
Job:37:12: And it is turned round about by his counsels: that they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth.
Job:37:13: He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy.
Some Christians believe that God is not directly responsible for natural disasters. But, if the above verses are true, it would mean that our "loving heavenly father" is responsible for all of the deaths caused by flooding and other such "natural disasters".
Job:37:18: Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?
How odd that God, the creator, (supposedly speaking through Elihu) could utter such untruths about the sky (which is not "strong" and not anything like a molten looking glass).
Job:38:31: Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?
Job:38:32: Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?
Here, God validated the superstition known as astrology: the idea that the position of the constellations and the stars influence events on earth! Christians should think about that when they claim that astrology is of the devil.
Job:39:9: Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?
Job:39:10: Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?
Job:39:11: Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him?
Job:39:12: Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?
Here, God spoke of the "unicorn" -- a mythical beast -- as if it were real. Had the creator forgotten that he never created such a creature? Had he been lured into believing that such inventions of the human mind were in fact real things that he had created? Or is it more likely that the anonymous writer of the book of Job simply made the whole thing up?
Job:40:8: Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?
Job:40:9: Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?
"I'm bigger than you, so shut up and don't question whatever I feel like doing to you." This is what the wisdom of the Bible tells us is God's answer to the evil which befalls good people. Is it a satisfying answer for you?
Finally, Job got a chance to cower before God and employ some flattery and self-abasement:
Job:42:2: I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.
Job:42:3: Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.
Job:42:4: Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
Job:42:5: I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.
Job:42:6: Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
This evidently pleased God (always a sucker for servile boot-licking, especially when done up in sackcloth and ashes). So pleased was he, in fact, that he decided to reward Job:
Job:42:12: So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses.
Job:42:13: He had also seven sons and three daughters.
Does this somehow make it all okay? God allowed Satan to kill Job's three daughters, seven sons, and the thousands of animals he called his. But later on, Job had three other daughters, seven other sons, and twice as many animals as he had started out with. Now I ask you, in all honesty, does that justify what God did?
If someone were to kill your children, would that action cease to be a crime as soon as you had other children? Are individuals replaceable and interchangeable? Is that one of the great lessons of this "holy" book?
When my father abandoned his family to marry another woman, my mother asked him: "What about the kids?" He replied, "Kids are kids. My new wife has kids too." This has always struck me as one of the most self-centered, heartless things I have ever heard. We are to believe, though, that God thinks this way too. He gave Job new children to replace the original ones. From God's and Job's point of view, this was evidently just fine. But what about the point of view of the original children? What about the lives of those thousands of animals? Who cares? Certainly not the God of the Bible.
We are not told what Satan thought of all of this, nor what the outcome was of the "bet" he had made with God (which was introduced as the theme of the book, and the cause of all of Job's misery). Thus the story lacks an ending and fails even the most basic requirements of the simplest narrative. How it irks me when people claim that the Bible is the greatest literature of all time, or speak of it in the same breath as the works of Shakespeare! One might as well compare a grocery list to the bard's work.
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