Sunday, June 16, 2013

Between the devil and the deep blue sea

Burrell offers only a cursory survey of God’s speech in Job 38–41 and does not interact with recent studies that utilize ancient Near Eastern materials to understand how God constructed His argument. These include, among others, J. C. L. Gibson, “On Evil in the Book of Job,” in Ascribe to the Lord, JSOT Supplement, ed. L. Eslinger and G. Taylor (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1988); Tryggve N. D. Mettinger, In Search of God: The Meaning and Message of the Everlasting Names (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), 175–200 (a chapter entitled “Job and His God”); Robert S. Fyall, Now My Eyes Have Seen You: Images of Creation and Evil in the Book of Job, New Studies in Biblical Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002); and André LaCocque, “The Deconstruction of Job’s Fundamentalism,” Journal of Biblical Literature 126 (2007). These authors demonstrate that the key to understanding God’s argument is the symbolism of Behemoth and Leviathan, which in their ancient Near Eastern context represent the sinister forces of chaos, death, and evil. If this is so, then God does address the issue of Job’s suffering in a very pointed way by reminding him that the chaos in the world originates with the Enemy—an enemy that God alone can and will subdue. Granted, there are unanswered questions about the origin and persistence of evil; so one must acknowledge that the Book of Job does not offer a fully developed theodicy. Yet it does offer an explanation for Job’s suffering—he was caught in the crossfire of a cosmic struggle between God and the forces of evil (symbolized by Leviathan but behind which lurks the Adversary of the prologue).

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