09 March, 2007

Job's Hidden Burden

An excellent article by Kyle Tucker, WCF:
In a casual reading of the book of Job, we are drawn to the personal loss of the man, Job. He lost his livestock, his servants, his children and his health. What we perhaps don’t realize is that this personal tragedy was more that likely a regional disaster of epic proportions and thus carried with it an additional and highly significant stigma.

Job lived in the town of Uz. In fact, before his tragedy unfolds, he was a respected elder in the city (Job 29:7,8). The town must have had extensive arable land surrounding it to support Job and his fantastic wealth. Job “owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred she-donkeys, and many servants besides.” (Job 1:3 NJB) As we recall the story of Lot and Abram separating because of their large amounts of cattle, it is a reasonable assumption that Job was clearly in a class by himself in Uz. He was more than likely not only the chief resident of the city in terms of authority, but also the chief economic engine of the area employing, directly or indirectly, a large portion of the town. The adversary himself recognizes Job’s economic impact when he says to Yahweh concerning Job that “his flocks throng the countryside.” (v. 10)

What sort of manpower would be required to handle some 11,000+ animals? We can only speculate. Abraham had 318 servants (Gen. 18:18). It would seem improbable that Job would be able to handle his considerable household, the households of his children and his large array of livestock with only 318 people. It is possible that Job’s hired hands and servants could well have numbered over a thousand individuals.

The reason we bring this up is the almost incidental reference to the servants in the destruction of Job’s property.

• The Sabaeans swept down on them and carried them off, and put the servants to the sword: I alone have escaped to tell you. (v. 15)
• "The fire of God", he said, "has fallen from heaven and burnt the sheep and shepherds to ashes: I alone have escaped to tell you." (v. 16)
• "The Chaldaeans," he said, "three bands of them, have raided the camels and made off with them, and put the servants to the sword: I alone have escaped to tell you."
• "Your sons and daughters", he said, "were eating and drinking at their eldest brother's house, when suddenly from the desert a gale sprang up, and it battered all four corners of the house which fell in on the young people. They are dead: I alone have escaped to tell you."

Buried in this record are the deaths of hundreds – perhaps thousands of people. These very well may have been the relatives of most, if not all, of those remaining in Uz. This can give us greater insight into Job’s suffering. The people of the city gave Job no comfort. In fact, they seem to go out of their way to make him suffer more. Are these people just intolerably cruel? Perhaps. On the other hand, the surviving townspeople probably had to endured the loss of family and friends in Job’s undoing. Notice their extreme reaction:

"He has alienated my brothers from me, my relatives take care to avoid me, my intimate friends have gone away and the guests in my house have forgotten me. My slave-girls regard me as an intruder, a stranger as far as they are concerned. My servant does not answer when I call him, I am obliged to beg favours from him! My breath is unbearable to my wife, my stench to my own brothers. Even the children look down on me, whenever I stand up, they start jeering at me. All my dearest friends recoil from me in horror: those I loved best have turned against me." (Job 19:13-19 NJB)

"Children of scoundrels, worse, nameless people, the very outcasts of society! And these are the ones who now make up songs about me and use me as a byword! Filled with disgust, they keep their distance, on seeing me, they spit without restraint. And since God has loosened my bow-string and afflicted me, they too throw off the bridle in my presence. Their brats surge forward on my right, to see when I am having a little peace, and advance on me with threatening strides. They cut off all means of escape seizing the chance to destroy me, and no one stops them." (Job 30:8-13 NJB)

Why wouldn’t they if they blamed him for the loss of hundreds of people, the deaths of loved ones and the economic ruin of the region? His comforting friends imagined the same thing. Imagine Osama bin Laden trying to take up residence in New York City. Job carried along this immense weight in addition to his other burdens.

All of these things happened to a righteous man of whom the Lord testifies “There is no one like him on the earth: a sound and honest man who fears God and shuns evil." Let us remember the exhortation brought out by the apostle James:

"For your example, brothers, in patiently putting up with persecution, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord's name; remember it is those who had perseverance that we say are the blessed ones. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and understood the Lord's purpose, realising that the Lord is kind and compassionate." (James 5:10-11)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason - Do you have any comment on "The lost tomb of Jesus" documentary?

March 12, 2007 9:32 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Nothing that hasn't been said already :) If Jesus' bones indeed have been found, then the belief that Jesus rose from the dead is incorrect. If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, then we have no way for our sins to be forgiven, the old law is still in place, we have no hope for salvation (since this would be restricted to the Jews and the Jews alone) and the Bible is a useless book.

March 12, 2007 9:47 AM  

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