Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Job's Resemblance of God

Ellen Davis closes her essay "Job and Jacob" noting that Job's maturation over the course of the book specifically has to do with an understanding of the concept of "blameless" as "capacity for obsession with the blessing of God." This idea of "obsession" is itself a kind of insatiable hunger. But this hunger in turn corresponds to God's own gratuity. God overflows with blessings for the hungry. And blessed are the hungry for they shall be filled.

According to Davis, Job grows up into this understanding. Through Yahweh's speeches to him, Job comes to appreciate God's overflowing nature. And this overflowing nature simultaneously insists upon God's goodness and freedom. But this "answer" doesn't leave Job unchanged. Rather, Job having seen God with his eyes becomes more like Him. He becomes more like His gratuitous, overflowing God in the double return of his possessions, but he continues this imitation of God in his generosity toward his children, even giving his daughters inheritances, relatively unheard of in the ancient world. Job is even gracious in his prayers, asking the Lord to forgive his three enemy-friends.

Receiving the blessings and bestowing them upon his children is the acceptance of great risk for him and for his family. Job knows that these blessings may also be ripped from him like the previous blessings. He knows that God's overflow is wild and untamed and free. And Job images this same kind of freedom, abandon, and gratuity. Job grows up to "at last resemble the God to whom he surrenders." Davis particularly notes that this reckless abandon of Job, including an inheritance bestowed on his daughters, contrasts with his former anxiety regarding his children. If previously he was a little too cautious, too fearful, offering sacrifices for possible sins in the hearts of his children, his piety now includes prayer for forgiveness for his enemies and has grown up into a generous abandon toward his children.

Without minimizing Job's initial piety toward his children, we might still recognize a maturity moving from only a negative piety (forgiveness for possible sins) to a more robust piety that includes both the negative (prayer for forgiveness) and positive (bestowing inheritances).

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