Michael V. Fox, «God's Answer and Job's Response», Vol. 94 (2013) 1-23
The current understanding of the Book of Job, put forth by M. Tsevat in 1966 and widely accepted, is that YHWH implicitly denies the existence of divine justice. Retribution is not part of reality, but only a delusion. The present article argues that the book teaches the need for fidelity in the face of divine injustice. The Theophany shows a God whose care for the world of nature hints at his care for humans. The reader, unlike Job, knows that Job's suffering is important to God, as establishing the possibility of true human loyalty.
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4 MICHAEL V. FOX
understandingâ€ (38,4). Job must silently admit what no one could
deny, that he was not there. â€œWho laid down its measurements â€” for
you know â€” or who stretched a line upon it?â€ (38,5). This is not a
hard question. The answer is obviously â€œYou, Godâ€. There is nothing
degrading in a human not being God or not being present at creation,
and Job is keenly aware of his frail humanness. The parenthetical
â€œfor you knowâ€ is not sarcastic. God is reminding Job that he knows
quite well the identity of the architect and builder of the universe.
This principle will be illustrated lavishly in the next four chapters.
Nor are the other questions stumpers. â€œUpon what are its [sc. the
worldâ€™s] sockets sunk?â€ (38,6a) Job has already given the answer:
â€œupon nothingnessâ€ (26,7). The only function of this question can be
to evoke awe at the way the foundation pillars of the earth can rest
on the void. The following circumstantial clause, â€œwhen the morning
stars cried out and all the gods shoutedâ€ (38,7) has nothing to con-
tribute to a question meant to stump or intimidate. Rather, it is part
of painting a glorious and joyful scene. Note that this circumstantial
clause assumes Jobâ€™s knowledge of the angelsâ€™ rejoicing.
Next God asks, â€œWho enclosed the sea in doors, when it gushed
forth from the wombâ€ (38,8) 12? The sea is not here the mythical
enemy Yamm (as Job regards it in 9,8) but a baby, unruly but con-
trollable. Godâ€™s swaddling the infant sea (38,9) introduces a note of
tenderness into what was traditionally pictured as a violent act. God
asserts control, not by battle â€” which would be the appropriate image
if the main point were YHWHâ€™s might â€” but by paternal discipline,
putting the rowdy child behind doors and setting limits to his roving
by an admonition: â€œThus far you may come but no farther, and here I
stop your proud wavesâ€ (38,11) 13. This passage sets the tone for the
rest of the Theophany: God creates an orderly, elegant world, one he
takes pride in and cares for, all without much violence. If it be objected
that this picture is irrelevant to humans because they are not men-
tioned, consider what an uncontrolled sea would do to them.
Reading $s ym . Thus D.J.A. CLINES, Job 38-42 (WBC; Nashville, TN
2009) 16. See Clinesâ€™s commentary for surveys and discussions of this emen-
dation and others proposed in this essay.
Emendation is necessary. The best emendation, requiring mainly a re-
ordering of consonants, is $ylg !wag tybva hpw. Other reasonable emenda-
tions produce the same basic sense: the shore is the seaâ€™s limit (see CLINES,
Job 38-42, 16-18).
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