The Book of Job

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The Book of Job

by – Kshetrapal Sharma, Vol.III, Issue.XXIV, January 2017

About the Author:

Kshestrapal Sharma used to work as the Joint Director, ESIC, in New Delhi. He has retired from his post now and dedicates his time to study and write. He has published a great number of articles in Hindi and English newspapers as well as magazines.


The Book of Job

The Book of Job, is very important mythical story contained in the Old Testament, 18th book of the Bible in 42 chapters, the book of Job resists any particular dating. Scholars have suggested dates as early as 1400 B.C. and as late as 300 B.C. However, no evidence exists to arrive at any confident conclusions. The “timeless” quality of the book has always been recognized and renders the dating questions secondary. This is a story about a man named Job in the land of Uz. On the opening, it is described that he had an enormous amount of wealth and 3 daughters and 4 sons, a very good livestock, above all he was a righteous person devoted to God.

On this quality of Job, God and Satan contest and God permits Satan to test the integrity of Job in all possible ways except taking his life., as a result of that contest misfortunes befall one by one on Job, his wealth, family are destroyed, so much so that he himself appears to be overpowered by the arguments of the friends and his wife too, to curse the God for all these misfortunes, but his perseverance holds him and he, at last, overcame the ordeal and he is “hero” of the book.

It is important in the sense that all questions discussed are those that concern to and are discussed in our everyday life. For example, our cosmos, the cloud and the life around us, the deeds governing our Fate and infinite power of God, and the triviality of human life.

Prominent among them which drives us to think otherwise is, when bad things happen to good people. It is didactic in nature and minutely scrutinizing the theory of Karma with no convincing answer from any corner as to why bad things happen to good people? and good things happen to bad people? Shani is son of the Sun, and he hovers around with Rahu and Ketu, the destroyers. The story of Ganesh ji is worth remembering, he lost one dent (daant) to Parashuram ji as he hobnobbed with sahasabahu. I recall here the poem “The night of Scorpion” by Nissim Ezekiel and Mark Twain story, The Fate.

These are the subtle ways of God, and any quest of human being is considered as transgressions to it. We can feel the manifestation of divine presence only through the design in nature. chaos is not there in it. So let us do our best to safeguard this design of nature.

Milton’s sonnet, On His Blindness reminds the similar predicament when he considers it God’s way to prove Milton’s greatness. Yet, when isolated and embittered by his blindness, he is disturbed by some intriguing questions such as why God made him blind; why God did not make him feel the urge to write his masterpiece when he had vision and when he was in the prime of his youth; and why God exacted “daylabour, light denied.” He humbly murmurs these complaints, not against, but to God. but Job did not do so even in utter penury and nothingness. one such question is what shall we gain if we speak truth, will the nectar (amrut) we shall get? we will definitely not gain any such thing but if we do not do so the very foundation of faith in society shall crumble down, nobody will believe anybody. so people are warned against 7 deadly sins, in Hindu scriptures these are 6 (sat ripu). These abstract vices form shapes in real life such as Iago (of Hamlet) Shakuni (of Mahabharat), etc. These are incarnations of vices. understanding that the curse of sin brings frustration to the whole creation

If one does bad deeds then his soul is degraded, and by doing good deeds to self and others, the soul is elevated, this is the difference of a karmkandi (for selfish purposes) and karmyogi (selfless, doing good to oneself and others too) Despite this, if someone chooses a wrong way, then he is doomed and responsible for his own peril. In our most respected book Gita this is highlighted in Shlok 5 chapter 6. (उद्धरेदात्मात्मानं…….रिपुरात्मान:)

“One should exercise discrimination and thereby realise that attachment to sense objects is the cause of bondage and non-attachment to sense objects leads to liberation. So it is mandatory that infatuation with sense objects is renounced. By diligent effort, one must elevate their consciousness and become free from the trans-migratory existence of samsara or the continuous cycle of birth and death. One should not debase oneself clinging to the lower nature like the animals. Lord Krishna emphasises the changing nature of the mind. When the mind is freed from attachments one becomes lucid and clear and the mind is like one’s best benefactor. When the mind is disturbed by attachments it becomes distracted and distorted and the mind becomes one’s worst malefactor.

One doing a wrong without knowing the background and forced by circumstances is excusable, but doing it again and again, repeatedly, as a habit, is Sin. To redeem a sin, requires confession and then penance to purge the soul of its burden., through hard work. A person committing sin tries to cover it so the others may not know it, one after the other, these wrong doings are multiplied instead of immediate correction of thereof, and thus they are trapped in a cobweb when the things go all of a sudden out of hand. it is well established fact that when human agencies fail, divine agencies work. Natural process may not be spontaneous as Newton’s or other science laws. and importantly some Biblical truths had come under heavy scanner (moving sun, own image etc.) during Victorian period. That we can hear up to certain decibel sounds not greater or lower than them, the distance from this side to sun is lacs of miles away but a ray from him comes to us in a second.

Sin (falsehood, greed, lust etc.) torments the peace for always and breaks down the personality.

Cardinal principle is that no innocent will ever be punished., be it either natural law, divine law or the law made by men.

Job’s punishment is the result of a contest between God and Satan contrasts with Job’s confusion and his friends’ lecturing, as they try to understand why Job is being punished. The basis of the friends’ argument is that misfortune only follows from evil deeds which they think he had committed Job till last pleaded innocence. Bildad instructs Job, “if you are pure and upright, / surely then [God] will rouse himself / for you” and he later realises Job to be a “blameless person”. The language in these passages is ironic, since, so far not known to Job or Job’s friends, God and Satan do in fact view Job as “blameless and upright.” This contrast shows the folly of the three friends who ignore Job’s pain while purporting to encourage him. The interaction also shows the folly of trying to understand God’s ways. The three friends and Job have a serious theological conversation about a situation that actually is simply a game between God and Satan. The fault of Job and his friends lies in trying to explain the nature of God with only the limited information available to human knowledge, as God himself notes when he roars from the whirlwind, “Who is this that darkness counsel / by words without / knowledge?”.

The various oscillating ideas of negative and positive vibes, such as Marlow’s Dr Faustus, are nothing but allurements to distract us from a good path to utter frustration, inferiority and indignation thus to be condemned.

Job ultimately passes the test of trials and tribulations and is saved from baleful influences of Satan. He is the hero of book of Job.

The dominant theme of Job is the difficulty of understanding why an all-powerful God allows good people to suffer. Job wants to find a way to justify God’s actions, but he cannot understand why there are evil people who “harm the childless woman, / and do no good to the widow,” only to be rewarded with long, successful lives. Job’s friends, including Elihu, say that God distributes outcomes to each person as his or her actions deserve. As a result of this belief, they insist that Job has committed some wrongdoing to merit his punishment. God himself declines to present a rational explanation for the unfair distribution of blessings among men. He boasts to Job, “Have you comprehended the / expanse of the earth? / Declare, if you know all this”. God suggests that people should not discuss divine justice since God’s power is so great that humans cannot possibly justify his ways.

One of the chief virtues of the poetry in Job is its rhetoric. The book’s rhetorical language seeks to produce an effect in the listener rather than communicate a literal idea. God’s onslaught of rhetorical questions to Job, asking if Job can perform the same things he can do, overwhelms both Job and the reader with the sense of God’s extensive power as well as his pride. Sarcasm is also a frequent rhetorical tool for Job and his friends in their conversation. After Bildad lectures to Job about human wisdom, Job sneers, “How you have helped one / who has no power! / How you have assisted the arm / that has no strength!”. Job is saying that he already knows what Bildad has just explained about wisdom. The self-deprecating tone and sarcastic response are rare elements in ancient verse. Such irony not only heightens the playfulness of the text but suggests the characters are actively responding to each other, thus connecting their seemingly diverse speeches together. The poetry in Job is a true dialogue, for the characters develop ideas and unique personalities throughout the course of their responses.

Antagonized by self-assured friends who misunderstand and further his pain, Job must face the questions of suffering alone. As the saga continues, Job loses his confidence in God and demands a hearing before him. God responds not by answering Job’s questions, but posing certain questions to Job that restores Job’s faith. This restoration is followed by great blessing as God exhibits His love and compassion.

Wisdom is ultimately found in God alone. Human wisdom cannot on its own fathom the ways of God. God is not obligated to fallen humanity to explain all things. However, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of the path to true wisdom. Ultimately, the book of Job calls the people of God to trust God even in the most trying of situations.

The moral is professed as always, “the obedience to the will of God makes men happy and disobedience miserable”.

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