Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Job's Friends

A couple of months ago, my dad and I got into a good-natured email argument about Job. Most of the book of Job, we agree with. Our point of disagreement is about Elephaz, Zofar, and Bildad.

Those are three of Job's friends, and at first, they're great. They just come and sit with Job for a week, in silence.

But then, they open their mouths.

Dad says, they're trying to understand. This is what friends do. They sit around, and talk, discuss, trying to figure out why this is happening.

I say -- they're being asshats. Trying to find out the reason "why," sure, because like most humans, they want an assurance that it can't happen to them. It happened to Job because he's a sinner. But they're not sinners, so they're safe. (I don't know if this is still true, but back when I was in college, I remember reading that if you were a woman raped, you wouldn't want women in the jury box. Because they would be searching for something that you did wrong. Because then they could say, "I would never do that. So it'll never happen to me.)

Anyway, I contended that his friends were being asshats, pushing until Job finally loses it. Which proves, I wrote, that you can survive death, destruction and boils, but what will finally break you will be your friends being asshats.

Let me state emphatically and unequivocally that my friends are NOT asshats.

We argued back and forth. I imagine there's a little bit of truth in each of our views.

I'm not leading up to anything. No one has been an asshat to me, though I will admit to already being tired of those who are not close to me attempting to explain why we may be facing a relapse. They mean well, all of them. But I'm weary of their thoughts.


Mystical Seeker said...

I'm with you. I think they were asshats.

Ms. Theologian said...

Yes, asshats.

shaktinah said...

Make that four: asshats. *nods*

And if you want to argue with your dad some more, you can point out that at the end of the story, God is mad at Job's friends and says that only Job has spoken truth about Him. He then makes Job's friends give him some of their wealth in exchange for God's forgiveness on Job's behalf. That's how Job starts to get some of what he lost back. Seems to me pretty clear that God thought Job's friends were asshats too.

ogre said...

If one reads literally... yeah, they're asshats. (What did you do to cause that to happen?)

But let's remember that this is far more likely a morality play than a history. I mean... God tortures Job to prove to Satan what God, as God, should know as an absolute, and not feel any need to prove... to the Devil.

What we have then is a couple Major League asshats to start with....

The friends play a role, but they're as much cardboard figures as anyone else in the story. They're present to be... wrong. To add to Job's troubles (with friends like these...)--and to be "fined" in the end for being wrong, and asshats.

But then, we also have Job, who suffers all... and then is accepting of the recompense. God was just settling a bet with Satan, thanks Job, here are a new wife and new kids... the significance of the human ties aren't there; those people are entirely stick figures and/or chattels, for the purpose of the story.

shaktinah, it's not the God thinks they were asshats, it's that they were wrong in not believing and trusting in God. So when the reckoning is done, they get dinged, Job gets rewarded, and all the cardboard goes away for recycling.

It's a pretty blunt parable; trust in God, no matter what... and in the end you'll be rewarded. If you don't you'll get punished (not for being an asshat, but for not trusting in God).

I've yet to mine any theology out of Job that doesn't feel icky to me.

I'm delighted that LE's not had Bildad-friend telling her it's her fault. Shit happens, the universe composts, it's messy... and grubs get eaten by the chickens when you turn the pile. Life sucks--but it beats the alternative, which is why we fight for it so hard. Or so I see it.

I'm not close enough to LE (my loss) to qualify as friend--but in the event that someone does, LE, I want you to know that my self-appointed role in life is misanthroposophagy, and if there's a people hater that needs being et... even if it plays hob with my digestion... (can I just bite off the head?) ;-)

Every 7th Day said...

I knew you'd find a way to bring asshat to the masses.

Brava, sistah.

I'm still cussing a blue streak about LW's impending surgery,so I have no thoughtful theological commentary.

I highly recommend onion rings, however.