In the Book of Job God judges all the commentators at the end — Job (who is angry at God) and Job’s friends who have all been seeking to justify God.
Sure enough. God praises Job and condemns Job’s friends.
There is a lesson in that.
One I think that we miss.
What else do you think we miss from Job?
Job’s Friends try to tell him how to mourn.
His wife competes with him in mourning.
And then later generations don’t like the end and they change it, adding on a “solution” that isn’t one (Job gets more stuff than he lost —which doesn’t bring the dead back).
There is a lot to unpack.
Which I do every year for Father’s Day.
Job was Heavenly Father’s friend. He praised, questioned, discussed, and yes, even argued with God; no different than we do with our close earthly friends.
What he didn’t do was misrepresent God’s character. He knew but couldn’t understand the “why” of his situation at the time; and possibly he never did know what was going on behind the scene in the spiritual realm: the accusations of Satan that started it all.
God did say: Job has not misrepresented me. And for me, that is the greatest “sin” one can commit: misrepresenting God’s character. Why? Because of the damage that is done to others. Ultimately what one understands God’s character to be and how He runs the universe tells us wether we are His friend.
I despise the way the story of Job is taught. Too often, the trials are discussed and then the final comment is “and God gave everything back to Job and more”.
When someone has all their children die, sometimes they are able to have more children, but those new children are not replacements for those who died.
I find the entire story of Job problematic.
The thing I find most upsetting is what about the people who died, They didn’t get their lives restored to them to live. It’s like Job is the only person who matters… children, servants.. they don’t count.
It’s one of the few Sunday School lessons I stayed out in the foyer on the old curriculum the last time it came round. I just couldn’t stomach it any more.
The problem seems to be literalism and the assumption of historicity imposed on a poetic/philosophical literary genre sandwiched between bits of a fictional prose story inconsistent with what the Church teaches about God and his children and inconsistent with current cultural assumptions, though perhaps not with those of its writers. Unfortunately most of our SS lessons make the historicity assumption and are entirely clueless about these matters. To many there is no more reason to assume historicity in the Book of Job than there is in the parables of Jesus. Consider, among others, Michael Austin’s “Re-Reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem”. Greg Kofford Books, 2014
Loved the irreverent picture! 🙂
@Wondering, I appreciate your thoughts on reevaluating our approach to biblical literalism. I have lived in a number of wards in the US and even overseas and I don’t think that a non-literal approach would have been welcome in very many if any of them (and definitely not in the one where I currently reside, which has a good percentage of highly educated members). We should be hearing more non-literal approaches at general conference. But I fear that the church is somewhat locked into requiring a literalism approach as the Book of Mormon makes reference to biblical events such as the building of the tower of Babel. Until we confront issues of Book of Mormon historicity it will be difficult to widely adopt non-literal approaches to biblical studies.
I do wonder if the pressure we place on members to “believe” what archaeologists, biologists, geologists, and linguists conclude is impossible (tower of Babel, worldwide flood with all animal species surviving on one ark, 6,000-year-old earth, Adam and Eve as literal ancestors, etc) makes us more vulnerable to dangerous conspiracy theories such as QAnon. We should be embracing the rational minds we possess (and which could be seen as God-given) rather than encouraging belief in the unbelievable. Church members are among the groups most likely to believe the recent US presidential election was stolen, a belief that has been invalidated by multiple court judges including some judges that supported Trump; the belief in this or other falsehoods could lead to the unraveling of our democracy. Our theological decisions have consequences and we need to be evaluating them with deep care.
@MW, Yes, I’ve encountered that, but one does not need to go full-bore on non-literal approaches to biblical studies in order to take a non-literal approach to the Book of Job. It does not even clearly purport to be historical. “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job…” is akin to “Once upon a time…” And no one can reasonably read the lengthy, poetic speeches that comprise most of the book as reports of actual, historical conversations. It is so clearly a literary/philosophical work at most retelling and embellishing a story that may or may not have some historical basis that there is no reason to assume the framing story is not at most a literary embellishment — historical fiction, if one insists on any historical basis at all. How would the writer know about an alleged discussion and agreement between God and “Satan” anyway unless the story were dictated by God (or Satan)?! And what’s to prevent either of them from telling a fictional story such as a parable?
The strongest objection I’ve encountered to the position that Job is a fictional character was a claim that D&C 121:10 (“Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job.”) loses meaning if Job was not historical. I responded with the question whether the objector had ever learned a lesson from or been emotionally involved with a fictional character in a book, play or movie.
Good luck. But please don’t find it necessary to deal with non-literal approaches both BoM and biblical studies generally in order to deal that way with the Book of Job.
“But please don’t find it necessary to deal with non-literal approaches both BoM and biblical studies generally in order to deal that way with the Book of Job.”
I don’t find it necessary to deal with non-literal approaches generally in order to deal with the Book of Job. But I do find it necessary in order to deal with the findings in so many scientific fields. We don’t need to be encouraging people to believe things that, once they gain greater academic understandings, they find to be clearly untrue. Henry Eyring, father to Henry B. Eyring, wrote a great deal on the subject.
A metaphorical approach to scripture can yield, as you point out, many valuable lessons. We undermine our efforts to teach these lessons when we approach scripture literally when it clearly does not stand up to a literal interpretation.
I’m quite happy to take a non-literal approach. Indeed I haven’t viewed it as literal for some years. But that doesn’t actually improve the story. Whether it is real or not, the attitude towards the minor characters is no less problematic in my view.
I agree, Hedgehog. For me, interpreting the stories non-literally gives me the space to conclude that some of the stories are too problematic and I can thus reject the stories that teach lessons I cannot subscribe to.
Yes, Hedgehog, but that may depend on how you read the book — with current cultural religious assumptions or with ancient cultural assumptions about progeny as property, but even more whether you read it with irony in mind. E.g., Austin sees the lengthy poem as a blistering critique of the prose frame story including the ending. He points out that if we read the book as “the story of a great trial followed by an even greater reward … this means admitting that the satan was right all along.” That problem is avoided by reading the prologue and epilogue as one version of the Job story and the poem as an ironic commentary on that version. The ending is then part of what is criticized. “[T]he frame narrative that had circulated around the Ancient Near East for centuries—does little to portray human beings as free moral agents” who can choose their reactions to circumstances even if they cannot choose their circumstances. “For that, we must wait for the poem.” On that reading, you are right to deplore the ancient world’s attitude toward the minor characters, but not to attribute that to God or to the meaning of the book. On Austin’s reading the message is not to agree with the satan that people only live morally and praise God because they are rewarded for it with stuff and children. One can’t even significantly praise the “patience of Job” (meaning patience in waiting for his reward) because he complains almost constantly about God and is not patient in suffering. Instead, the critique of the framing story is the lesson of the book. There is no improving the framing story. That story is just wrong — not only literally, but morally. But that story’s superficial moral — be patient in suffering because God will give you stuff in the end never mind the cost to others — is not the lesson of the book. The lesson of the book is not that the satan is right that people only choose God or the right because they will eventually get paid for it and certainly not because they get paid at others’ expense..