Job and the Theodicy Problem, part 4
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Job and the Theodicy Problem, part 4

In previous essays, I reviewed how Job, a blameless and righteous man, suffered the greatest of calamities, raising questions about God’s might and God’s goodness. Job demanded an explanation from God, and in today’s essay we’ll explore God’s response.
God, speaking “out of the whirlwind,” declares, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (38:4) In a long speech, God declares God’s creative power and power over nature. Importantly, God does not address Job’s challenge to God’s justice; rather, God asserts God’s mightiness. Job cannot deny God’s power. God demands, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.” Job responds, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer thee? I lay my hand on my mouth” (40:2-4).
Job acknowledges that he is small and weak, and he does not respond to God’s challenge that he contend with God. However, God hasn’t answered Job’s challenge to God’s justice, either. This failure on God’s part is smoothed over in nearly all translations, which depict Job admitting error and recanting. In God: A Biography, Jack Miles notes how modern translations appear to have changed the meaning of Job’s crucial response in 42:1-6. In particular, Miles notes that the Hebrew is ambiguous where Job appears to recant, saying “therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” In particular, he asserts, the word “myself” is not supported by the original Hebrew text. He continues that translations describing Job’s “repentance” reflects Christian expectations that someone who has challenged God will ultimately express self-abasement and contrition, and seek repentance, but the translations are of dubious accuracy.

I find the notion of Job’s repentance troubling, and I am relieved to find that other interpretations are possible, or even preferable. Job did not sin, and he did not deserve punishment. This story, then, sides with the victim. Does God side with victims? This question, I think, goes to the core of the question of whether God is good. I will explore this question next essay. 

Go on to: Job and the Theodicy Problem, part 5
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