Friday, July 24, 2009

Job and Rene Girard

Some tentative thoughts on Job:

Rene Girard has pointed out that there is no mention of the calamities that befall Job in any of the dialogues. In all of the conversations between Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, no mention is made of the great events of chapters 1-2.

I might suggest that there are a couple of possible allusions to the calamities (8:4, 15:34, perhaps others), but the point is still striking. If Job is primarily contesting those events why doesn't he bring them up?

So it seems reasonable to go back to chapter 3 where the complaint begins and ask, "What is Job actually complaining about?" Job's initial response to his wife is to insist upon receiving the evil from the hand of God. Then Job sits in silence and mourning with Eliphaz and company for seven days and seven nights.

As we read through Job's initial complaint in chapter 3, we see great distress and pain which fits with what has already occurred, but Job also seems to be looking around him and into the future: "I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, for trouble comes" (3:26). His trouble isn't primarily behind him; it's all around him and it's still coming.

My question: What if Job's complaint is primarily (but not exclusively) about the three friends? This is Girard's general claim as I understand him, but his exegetical theatrics allow him to dismiss the prologue and epilogue as extraneous material, making this an easier conclusion to draw.

But it is true: Job doesn't bring up the calamities of chapters 1 and 2. He doesn't complain about them. But he most certainly does complain about his friends, their accusations, and God's failure to intervene. What if the justice that Job cries out for is entirely (or almost entirely) centered on the "schemes" of his friends (e.g. 21:27) and their subtle (and not so subtle) political maneuvering to grasp the kingdom from him?

What if Job's plea for a judgment, for a day in court with Yahweh is primarily to appeal (not the calamities) but the accusations brought forward by his three friends and his right to the throne?

Job accepts the calamities from the hand of God, but when the three friends arrive he sees what they are up to. He sees the greed in their eyes, and as a king, he refuses to go down without a fight. He must defend his office, his righteousness as king from these power-hungry aggressors.

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