Tuesday, February 16, 2010

164: Replacement Children, Better Than the First Set & Job: In Review

Job 40-42
The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. - Job 42:12-13

The section starts today with God continuing to try to impress Job. He lists a few more animals that he can beat the crap out of (who cares?), and how big a fish he can reel in. So just because someone is stronger they are better? I guess I'm an inferior specimen of human.

Job replies to God, I'll just repeat what he says:
I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.

You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?'
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.'

My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.

Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.
Really Job? You just spent an entire book's worth of text describing how God is a dick. He talked you out of that one pretty easy. "Hey Job, I just killed your family, but look at all these animals I can kill". I'm glad God didn't have a logical rebuttal, something terrible might have happened... Like the bible making sense.

God isn't done talking yet. He tells Job's friends that he's mad at them for not "speaking about [him] what is right". You're mad at the people that were trying to defend you and totally not mad at the guy that just tore you apart for this entire book? Why?!

Wait a minute, I thought the original point of all this whole story is that God was proving a point to Satan. Did God prove his point? Obviously not, Job stopped worshiping God (or at least started calling him a dick on a regular basis). Does God care? Does God even mention that he's failed to impress Satan? Apparently not.

Job ends up getting back twice of all the things he lost. There's only a small problem with this; His original children are still dead! Now, I've never had children, but I suspect that when one of them dies you can't just get a new one and feel better. You can barely even do that with a dog.

The bible never mentions whether Job is actually happy.

Job: In Review
I'm already hearing cries of "this book is a metaphor!" My bible seems to be missing the "This book is a metaphor" label. Maybe it just got ripped out. I see no reason to immediately call this book a metaphor (any more than the other books) just because it says something crazy or something that people don't like.

Another point: Even if this is a metaphor, it still must be trying to convey a message. What is that message? God can kill people for no reason and you should forgive him? I guess I'm not sure what labeling the book a metaphor gets you out of. Even if this didn't happen it's still a shitty story about the nature of God.

In the end, this may have been the most entertaining book, but it was also the most terrible. God either personally killed Job's family (metaphorically or not), or allowed them to be killed. He then preceded to have no remorse, he didn't even say "oops, sorry". In fact, he came to Job and said that he should bow down and worship him. What did God do in this book that deserved worship?

Let's pretend we somehow get great evidence for God and we all believe he exists. Are we going to worship this God? Maybe out of fear but not out of love. A God that will randomly kill my family and not care is not a God I want to worship. I don't think I want a replacement family at this point.

*News*
A middle school science teacher from North Carolina may (probably will be) fired for comments left on her Facebook page.

First things first. Why the hell would you leave your Facebook profile public as a middle school teacher? You have to figure your kids are going to be bored enough with their middle school lives that they're going to try to snoop your Facebook. Especially when you put stupid things on your profile.

Stupid thing one: She said that her students leaving a bible on her desk was a "hate crime". Really? A naive 13 year old trying to save your soul is a hate crime? Even if it was done as a practical joke/out of spite, at worst it was a crime of ignorance.

Stupid thing two: She commented on how she was going to shame her students over the incident. That's really the best course of action? Way to be a role model. I realize teaching subjects like evolution in a North Carolina classroom must not be the most pleasant of experiences, but man up (or woman up *dodges feminist wrath*). Whatever your ideology is, you definitely can't "shame" your students (or anyone) into agreeing with you.

Stupid thing three: She complained how her students spread rumors that she was a "Jesus hater". Aww, poor baby. Maybe if you didn't want middle school drama you shouldn't have signed up to teach middle school. You're really hurt by thirteen year old's making fun of you? Who's the adult here?

Stupid thing four: She said she "... can't believe the cruelty and ignorance of people sometimes". They're thirteen! Thirteen year old's are ignorant and, for the most part, cruel. That's just how it is. Did you not know this when signing up to teach middle school?

There are a few other things that weren't on her Facebook. There was apparently an incident in class where a post card of Jesus was dropped off at her desk. She immediately decided the best course of action was to throw it away in front of her class. I wonder where that silly "Jesus hater" rumor got started.

In a separate incident, she was teaching evolution and some students asked what God's role in creation was. She sent them to the office. Why wouldn't you answer that question instead of immediately being pissed?

There are a couple of morals to this story. 1. For the love of God, set your Facebook profile to private. 2. Don't say nasty shit about your middle school students and you don't have to worry about their parents finding out.

[Disclaimer: I'm taking this article at face value. I can't vouch for the truth of all the statements. I will happily withdraw some or all of my criticisms of this teacher if these allegations turn out to be false or exaggerated.]

(via The Tribune)

10 comments:

  1. Job's not a metaphor, it's a fable or a parable. It's a story with a message. And it's a message that a lot of modern readers don't understand because we read the damn book with modern eyes instead of the eyes of the audience that the ancient writer was writing to.

    Job is not an argument about whether God exists or whether or not you should worship him. The author[*] of Job just assumed it was true that gods existed and that they should be worshiped - you can't really blame him for that seeing as how there weren't a lot of alternative explanations available at the time. Job is an argument against the Pat Robertsons of his time - the folks who insisted that if bad things were happening to a person, it was because that person was being punished by God for not following God's Law. The author of Job thought this was nonsense - and articulated it pretty well in the words of God I think. Job makes it clear that when bad things happen to people it's not because of anything they did - it's because God can make bad things happen to good people if he feels like it, and good things happen to bad people if he feels like it. He's powerful, and you're not, so shut up and stop blaming the victim for their misfortune.

    I agree that terrible things happen in the book, but that's because the author was tackling a real world problem - the problem of why bad things happen to good people. The answer he gives isn't one that most Christians would like (which is why people who claim to read the Bible literally like to find every possible way to read the Book of Job EXCEPT the literal one), but it's the answer that most atheists would come to. The universe just doesn't care about you - stuff happens and you can't talk the universe into giving a crap about you by performing sacrifices, shouting prayers, and making sure that you've done your ritual cleansings the right way. The universe just doesn't care about crap like that.

    [*] Job actually has at least two authors, and possibly more. The reason why the ending feels like it doesn't answer anything is because the ending and the beginning are tacked on to a much older poem. The verses in the middle are the original Job, and the stuff at the beginning and the end are unsuccessful attempts by a later author to shift blame off of God and onto Satan. Probably because he didn't like the implications of what the original author of Job was saying. IIRC, some scholars think that the poem section actually had multiple authors as well and that the original Job was a much shorter book.

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  2. Wow this is all very interesting. Thx Bryan for taking time and sum up the bible, saves me a lot of time! And thx Jer for this very complete info. on the actual writing of the book of job.

    keep up the great work.

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  3. >(which is why people who claim to read the
    >Bible literally like to find every possible
    >way to read the Book of Job EXCEPT the literal one),

    (Brent is not around so I'm probably asking this to the void)
    soo... what's the christian view of Job? How do they manage to square their omnimax god with this petulant prick?

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  4. Okay I am back… :)

    Job, as one of the first books that is considered “wisdom” literature [as opposed to “history” (Joshua-Kings/Chronicles/Ezra/Nehmiah) or “law” (The Pentateuch)] has a very tight literary structure…

    1-2 Prose prologue introducing the characters and plot

    3-31 Poetic Wisdom dialogue between Job and his three friends. There are three cycles of these friends. However, the third cycle leaves out the third friend (Zophar) which is filled instead with an extended speech by Elihu. Similar literary patterns can be discerned in the creation story and in the Exodus plagues.

    32-37 Poetic Monologue by Elihu

    38-42:6 Poetic Monologue by Yahweh

    42:7-17 Prose Epilogue

    While many attempt to see the book of Job as dealing with the question, “Why do the righteous suffer?” it is strange then that the book never answers that question. However, the broader question that the book is answering seems to be “Where is wisdom found?”

    Job 28
    12“But where can wisdom be found?
    Where does understanding dwell?
    13Man does not comprehend its worth;
    it cannot be found in the land of the living.
    12“But where can wisdom be found?
    Where does understanding dwell?
    13Man does not comprehend its worth;
    it cannot be found in the land of the living…..

    23God understands the way to it [wisdom]
    and he alone knows where it dwells,
    24 for he views the ends of the earth
    and sees everything under the heavens.
    25When he established the force of the wind
    and measured out the waters,
    26when he made a decree for the rain
    and a path for the thunderstorm,
    27then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
    he confirmed it and tested it.
    28And he said to man,
    ‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
    and to shun evil is understanding.’

    One of my seminary students (Brad Franklin) recently wrote a paper on Job and below will be a summary/paraphrase of his comment with which I concur.

    Job's story is in total about where wisdom can be found. The story doesn't explain why good people suffer. The story is merely the means through which Yahweh offers a grand, sweeping display in word and in deed of the fact that wisdom is found in Him alone. Job's friends profess this, but they themselves presume to be wise. Job professes this, but then doesn’t apply it in his suffering situation. Elihu sees glimpses of this and speaks of it. Yahweh demonstrates it.

    Yahweh purposefully doesn't always answer the questions Job (or we!) pose. He answers the questions we most need answered. He answers the questions of men by describing His sovereign and wise rule over all! He answers our question by stating that He is the source of wisdom. He demonstrates his wisdom by how he created and looks over the entire earth (28:24). We can't look over all the earth. We cannot be wise compared to Yahweh. Our only response can and should be to humbly fear the LORD which is the beginning of wisdom for man. (as is echoed in all the wisdom literature)

    Thus in all the longwinded dialogue among Job and his three friends, wisdom was not found among men! The story climaxes with God asking rhetorical questions which no human could possibly know. Thereby God, shuts down the notion of wisdom originating with man. Job’s response of shutting his mouth points to the way of wisdom. The first step towards being wise is seeing the Creator God, Yahweh for who He is, closing our mouths.

    Job 40:4-5
    4“Behold, I am insignificant;
    what can I reply to You?
    I lay my hand on my mouth.
    5 “Once I have spoken, and I will not answer;
    Even twice, and I will add nothing more.”

    ….Then Job, begins “understand” and be “wise.”

    Job 42:2-3
    2 “I know that You can do all things,
    And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
    3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
    “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
    Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”

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  5. Hi Brent, glad to see you
    Thanks, I think. But you haven't really answered my question, have you?
    Plus, I'd love to hear how you decide that this book is not to be taken literally...

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  6. Gaga,
    What precisely are you asking regarding "literal." I take the narrative of Job at face value. Ezekiel 14:14,20 mentions the person of Job. I don't think the story is a metaphor nor have I come across prominent strand of Christianity that takes it in some metaphorical or allegorical way.

    There is debate as to whether Job was a historical figure or not. But regardless of the historicity of the account, the narrative does show a sovereign God in control of all things. The Scriptures are consistent in this portrayal of the creator God. He does as He pleases according to His will and His purposes.

    Now, gaga, correct me if I am wrong, but as you refer to God in the narrative of Job as a “petulant prick,” are you not putting yourself in the category of Job and his friends in thinking you know better? In other words, do you have a wisdom about you that is superior? This is what I think is a major point the narrative is illustrating about mankind as I mentioned above. Even with all of mankind’s modern achievements, each man is one heartbeat/breath away from death. He cannot control his own life nor does he know if he will have another heartbeat or breath in the next moment. Yet mankind “knows” the universe and how God ought to act. To those sentiments, is God’s response to Job: “Where were you, when I created the world? Tell me if you know these things.” :)

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  7. Brent, since we are privy of the details about why god has chosen to smite Job and we agree to look at those details literally, we can make an assessment of his character.
    Whether god's knowledge surpasses ours or not becomes irrelevant. We don't need omniscience in this case. We know what's going on, it's right there on the text: he smites job because of a bet with some lesser being. Prick fits the bill.

    Once asked for clarifications all he does is ramble on how cooler he is than Job. Petulant.

    The only way you have left to rescue him is to espouse the concept of might makes right. You can go down that road of you wish. Just remember that mighty and right are compatible with prick.

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  8. Since the discussion is good, and since it is the end of the Book of Job, and since I have just been exposed to some new (for me) information, I thought I would weigh in with this (most of this is borrowed from someone else):

    Since we are talking about the narrative of this book, and on a grander scale the narrative of the character of God, it is interesting to note the order involved. In the Hebrew Bible, there is a slight difference --> teachings, prophets, writings. This can be compared to the Old Testament --> teachings, writings, prophets (I'm being a little bit loose hear, please bear with me).

    Some would say that the Hebrew Bible lends itself to a description of God that follows more from action to speech to silence. The Book of Job is situated in the place that moves from speech (there are many a speech in Job after all, right?) to silence.

    And thusly, even though God does kind of get the last word in Job, Job kind of silences God all the same with the questions that are unanswered.
    God isn't going to justify or explain away his prickishness. But at the same time God becomes more silent, more distant to the Hebrew people after this point (in the H.B. at least).

    The Hebrew people start getting to a point where the responsibility is on them. God's got his own sh!t to do, and human beings have to get on with looking after themselves, or maybe better worded, each other.

    This can be a little tricky to get a handle on, but as Brent suggested, "The first step towards being wise is seeing the Creator God, Yahweh for who he is, closing our mouths." The thing is, however, we've called him on it too, as did Job.

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  9. "He demonstrates his wisdom by how he created and looks over the entire earth (28:24)"

    How does the ability to create shit and look over a whole planet equate to wisdom??

    -Timmi

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  10. Hey Tim,

    That's not a bad question, actually. But, we're the ones that are supposed to try to be wise. As always, G-d can do and be whatever G-d feels like.

    This does remind me of a video where God is compared to a 12-year old boy with Asperger's:

    [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqqdCRxHsBU]

    From Eugene Mirman. First minute is just setup, after that he gets to it.

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