Job and demotic

Word of the day from the vocabulary app I have been enjoying is demotic: of or for the common people.  A demotic saying or expression is casual, colloquial, and used by the masses.  It comes from the Greek word demotikos.

I’ve always enjoyed reading the story of Job from the Bible.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I started reading Wandering in the Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering by Eleonore Stump.  It is a deeply profound book, but also quite long (about 500 pages).  Her chapter on the biblical character of Job is brilliant.

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For the purposes of this post, I will assume you have some basic knowledge about the story of Job.  A common reading of the book of Job supposes that the book will give us help with the problem of suffering.  Part of this common reading is to understand that God allows an innocent person to suffer terribly.  In the midst of that suffering, Job acknowledges God’s power but complains about God’s apparent lack of goodness.  When God shows up, he only talks about his power and fails to address Job’s charge.

I am going to share some interesting insights/observations from Stump in her chapter about Job:

  • In the story we see God as a person, in personal and parental relationships with the people he created, sharing what he has created with them and making them glad by doing so.
  • In God’s speech to Job, he talks to the sea as if it were an exuberant child of his.  God brings the sea into conformity to his will by talking to the sea and explaining what it can and cannot do.  God speaks the same way about other created inanimate things.
  • God’s speech to Job makes clear his great care for the animals and his connection to them.  The animals are portrayed as responding to God’s attention by interacting with him.
  • In the divine speeches, there is a suggestion that God operates on the principle that applies to good parents – that, other things being equal, the outweighing benefit that justifies a parent in allowing some suffering to an innocent child of hers has to benefit the child primarily.  The suffering of an innocent will only be because an outweighing good can be produced for that person that is otherwise unavailable to him.
  • Job’s personal complaint includes a charge of betrayal of trust.  A face-to-face encounter can make all the difference – the sight of God’s face is an explanation of Job’s suffering.  Stump promises to take up this topic later in the book.
  • The divine speeches challenge Job and yet God rebukes Job’s friends and defends Job and his questioning of God.  How can this incongruity be resolved?  Maybe something about Job’s giving voice to the accusations is good even if the accusations of God are not true.
  • God is conveying to Job God’s love for him.  Job’s face-to-face experience with God goes “past” goodness to love.
  • “So, until prosperity and goodness are pulled apart, it may not be a determinate matter whether Job loves the good for its own sake, or whether what he loves is mingled good and wealth.” (p.207)
  • After Job’s suffering, he takes his stand with God.  His love of God is only for God’s sake, not for the sake of wealth or other desirable effects.  Job becomes the sort of person whose story a culture strives to hand on, to help shape the ideals of the next generation.  Under extremely difficult circumstances, Job maintained uncorrupted moral uprightness and personal commitment to God and he became a much better person.

These few insights from this chapter on the study of the Biblical character of Job, do not do Stump’s chapter on him justice.  If you haven’t read the book of Job from the Bible, I encourage you to check it out.

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