Authors: Bible Difficulties
Third, objections based on the confrontation between Yahweh and Satan recorded in the first two chapters of Job are no more soundly based than those regarding Christ's temptation by Satan in the wilderness, as recorded in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. If the Bible cannot be regarded as trustworthy in such matters as these, it is difficult to say in what respect it retains any authority or credibility as a document of divine revelation.
Fourth, the linguistic argument based on the presence of terms more characteristic of Aramaic than Hebrew is tenuous indeed. The Aramaic language was evidently known and used in North Arabia for a long period of time. The numerous first-millennium inscriptions of the North Arabian Nabateans are almost invariably written in Aramaic, and commercial relations with Aramaic-speaking peoples probably began before 2000
B.C. Jacob's father-in-law, Laban, was certainly Aramaic speaking (cf. Gen. 31:47).
Commercial contacts with the great Syrian center of Ebla were very extensive as early as 2400 B.C. (though the Eblaites themselves seem to have spoken an Amorite dialect, rather than Aramaic).
Furthermore, it should be pointed out that the extent of Aramaic influence has been somewhat overrated. A. Guillaume ("The Unity of the Book of Job,"
Annual of Leeds
, Oriental Sec. 14 [1962-63]: 26-27) has convincingly argued that there are no demonstrable Aramaisms in the speeches of Elihu (Job 32-37), which reputedly have the highest incidence of them. He contends that nearly all of them are terms existing in Arabic that happen to have cognates in Aramaic as well. He deals with no less than twenty-five examples of this, citing the Arabic originals in every case. Since the setting of the narrative is in Uz, located somewhere in North Arabia, this admixture of Arabic and Aramaic vocabulary is exactly what should be expected in the text of Job, whether it was originally composed in Hebrew (which is rather unlikely), or whether it was translated out of an earlier text written in the language prevalent in North Arabia during the pre-Mosaic period.
In view of the above-mentioned considerations, we must conclude that there are no tenable grounds for the theory of a fictional Job. The apostle James was therefore quite justified in appealing to the example of the patriarch Job in his exhortation to Christian believers to remain patient under tribulation. James 5:11 states: "You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful" (NASB, an allusion to Job's ultimate restoration to health, wealth, and happiness as the father of a large and God-fearing family). It is needless to point out that the Lord could hardly have been merciful and compassionate to a fictional character who never existed!
In Strong's Concordance we are told that the word translated "curse" in Job 1:11
and Job 2:5 is
, a word that elsewhere is translated "bless." How can the same Hebrew word mean two such opposite things?
It is true that
) normally means "bless," "greet with a blessing." It occurs very frequently throughout the Old Testament with this meaning. But in Job 1:5, 11; 2:5, 9, and possibly also in Psalm 10:3 (where it is coupled with
"despise," "reject"), it seems to have the very opposite meaning to "bless." This is explained by Brown-Driver-Briggs (
, p. 139) as follows: "Bless with the antithetical meaning
...from the greeting in departing, saying adieu to, taking leave of; but rather a blessing overdone and so really a curse as in vulgar English." In this connection, 1 Kings 21:10, 13 may also be cited.
means "say goodby to" in Genesis 24:60; 32:1; 47:10; Joshua 22:6, 2
Samuel 13:25; and 1 Kings 8:66, generally with the connotation of invoking a parting blessing on the person taking his leave. From this usage we may surmise that an insolent sinner might say goodby to God Himself, with the intention of dismissing Him from his mind and conscience, of totally abandoning Him (so Zorell,
, p. 130, and this seems as satisfactory an explanation as any). Delitzsch (Keil and Delitzsch,
, 2:51) calls this use of
an antiphrastic euphemism. He feels that in Job 2:9 it clearly means
("say goodby to") as a benedictory salutation at parting. But in his general handling of these negative usages, he prefers to render it "dismiss God from one's heart" (ibid., 2:49).
In Job 2:1-2, Satan presents himself before the Lord. Does this mean that Satan has
access to heaven and is able to go freely between heaven and earth? Also, who are
the "sons of God" referred to in v.1?
In Ephesians 2:2, Satan is spoken of as the "prince [
] of the power [or àuthority'-
] of the air" (
,the atmosphere surrounding the earth, not the outer atmosphere or "space" indicated by
). His sphere of action, even in his fallen and confined state (cf. 2 Peter 2:4), seems to be extensive enough so that he comes in contact with the archangel Michael (Jude 9) and even has communication with God over his administration of judicial authority.
Thus in Zechariah 3:1, the prophet sees a vision (admittedly symbolic) of the contemporary high priest of Israel standing before the judgment throne of God: "He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of Yahweh, with Satan standing on his right to accuse him. The angel of Yahweh said to Satan, `May Yahweh rebuke you, Satan!'"
This establishes quite clearly the fact that Satan, prior to the Cross at least, had occasional access to the court of God in situations where man's sinfulness gave him the right to interpose the claims of strict, retributive justice, or where the sincerity of believers' motives toward the Lord might be called in question. For this cause Satan is called "the Accuser" (Greek
), who accuses Christians before the Lord night and 238
day (Rev. 12:10). There is ample support from Scripture that Satan does have at least occasional and limited access before God in the presence of the angels of heaven--
referred to as "sons of God" (both in Job 1:6 and 2:1; cf. also Job 38:7-- "when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy," i.e., back in the primeval beginning, long before the creation of the human race).
Present in this scene are some unexpected features that are not easily explained. If this celestial court session is held in heaven, in what part of heaven might this have taken place? There are at least three levels according to 2 Corinthians 12:2, where Paul mentions being caught up to the
heaven to behold the glories above. Presumably the scene of Job 2 would not be the highest and holiest level, as nothing abominable or profane is granted admittance to the City of God (Rev. 21:27). But perhaps in some lower level, on occasion at least, the Lord holds sessions of His celestial council; and to such gatherings Satan may come as an uninvited guest.
The other puzzling feature about this confrontation is that God seems to treat the Prince of Evil in such a casual and relaxed manner, asking him what he has been doing recently, and whether he has observed the consistent godliness of Job. We have no way of knowing whether Satan still puts in such appearances before the judicial throne of God; but it is certainly true that he later challenged and tried to tempt the Son of God in the wilderness at the commencement of His active ministry (cf. Matt. 4; Luke 4).
Satan's doom is sure; he is destined to be bound for a thousand years during the Millennium (Rev. 20:2-3). And after the final revolt against Christ at the close of that period (vv. 7-10), Satan will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, there to undergo the endless torment of all the cursed and condemned (21:8).
The statement of Eliphaz in Job 5:13 is quoted in 1 Corinthians 3:19 as valid and
true; does this mean that the words of Job's three comforters were also inspired?
In Job 5:13 Eliphaz says of God, "He captures the wise by their own shrewdness and the advice of the cunning is quickly thwarted" (NASB). The first portion of this is quoted in 1 Corinthians 3:19: "He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness" (NASB). But if Eliphaz was right in this affirmation about God, how are we to understand the Lord's reproof to Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad as expressed in Job 42:7: "The LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, `My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has'" (NASB)? This adverse judgment calls into question the reliability of any statement made by any of the three.
While it is true that the basic position of the three "comforters" was seriously in error (that all misfortune and misery that befalls an apparently righteous believer must be the consequence of unconfessed, secret sin), nevertheless 42:7 does not go so far as to say that nothing else they ever said about God was true. On the contrary, even Job himself conceded the correctness of some of their teachings about God, for he rephrased many of 239
the statements they themselves had made and wove them into his own eloquent eulogies of God.
On the other hand, it hardly seems doubtful that some of Job's own sentiments were incorrect and subject to the rebuke of both Elihu and Yahweh Himself. In fact, Job is led by God's direct teaching to see the presumptuous folly he had shown in criticizing God for unfairness and unkindness toward him. Job even says of himself in 42:3: "Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know" (NASB). Later on, in v.6, Job adds, "Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes" (NASB). Obviously, if Job had to retract things that he had said amiss in criticism of God's treatment of him, then not everything Job himself said about God is to be received as true.
Therefore we must reply on the context in each case in order to discover which of Job's sentiments were divinely inspired and approved of, and which expressed the distortions of insight to which grief and provocation had driven him. After all, the inerrancy of Scripture assures the truthfulness accuracy of the record of what was said and done, according to the intention of the author within the context of his message. If by careful, objective exegesis it can be ascertained that the scriptural author meant to give a faithful record of what men said mistakenly or untruthfully, the inerrancy inheres in the accuracy of the report; it does not necessarily vouch for the truthfulness of what was said. No reader would imagine, for example, that what Satan said to God in Job 1 and Job 2 is to be received as truthful.
There is, however, one other significant observation to be made. Concerning Job's comforters, in all the New Testament this one statement from Eliphaz in 1 Corinthians 3:19 is the only quotation to be found from them. Nothing said by Bildad or Zophar is ever quoted, nor is any other comment from Eliphaz. Similar sentiments may be found elsewhere in the New Testament, but never any quotations--only vague allusions. (For a fuller discussion of this point, see 1 Cor. 3:19.)
Does Job 19:26 envision a resurrection body or not?
Job 19:25-27 was uttered by Job in an exalted moment of faith, as he turned away from his wretched circumstances and fastened his gaze on God: "But as for me, I know my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand on the earth [lit., `dust']; and after they [i.e., the worms] have consumed away my skin, yet from my flesh I shall behold God--whom I shall behold and my eyes shall see--I and not another, [when] my inward parts have been consumed within me." The passage is highly poetic and capable of minor variations in rendering here and there. But the most discussed matter of interpretation concerns the word-cluster
(composed of the waw-connective-- "and" or "yet," the preposition
-- "from" or "away from," and
-- "body" or "flesh," plus
The question at issue is the real significance of
: does it mean "in [my flesh]" as KJV
and NIV render it? Or does it mean "from [my flesh]" as RSV and JB have it? Or does it 240
mean "without [my flesh]" as ASV and NASB have rendered it? If Job intends here to say that his soul or spirit will behold God in the Last Day, then the
should perhaps be rendered "without." But no other passage uses
to mean "without" in connection with a verb of seeing; rather it is only used in combinations such as Job 11:15 -- "Then you will lift up your face without spot [
]"; Proverbs 1:33-- "when they are at peace without fear [
]"; Jeremiah 45:48-- "They stand without strength [
, p. 578b).
It is poor exegetical procedure to prefer a rare or unusual meaning for a word when a common and frequent meaning will agree perfectly well with the context. Therefore, it is far better to take
here in its usual sense of the point of reference from which an observation is taken, a vantage point from which the spectator may view the object of his interest. (Thus
is often used in specifying a compass direction or a relative location of one person in reference to another.)
In this case, then, it is hard to believe that the Hebrew listener would gain any other impression from
mibbesari 'ehezeh 'eloah
than "from [the vantage point of] my flesh [or
`body'] I shall behold God." Taken in this sense, the passage indicates Job's conviction that even after his body has moldered away in the grave, there will come a time in the Last Day--when his divine Redeemer stands on the soil (
) of this earth--that from the vantage point of a postresurrection body he will behold God. It is for this reason that the rendering of RSV and JB ("from") and of KJV and NIV ("in," which expresses the same idea with the preposition more agreeable to our idiom) is much to be preferred over the "without" of ASV and NASB. Construed as "from" or "in," this passage strongly suggests an awareness of the bodily resurrection that awaits all redeemed believers in the Resurrection.