prophetic tradition deals with two major themes: God's demand that man
live justly, and man's struggle to comprehend the roots of evil and suffering.
Abraham's challenge to God to save the righteous from destruction is echoed
in the book of Job. Probably written about the same time as the work of
the Second Isaiah, this book dramatizes the meaning of suffering, not of
a society, but of a person. Ezekiel had already attempted to develop a
logical exposition of the principle that each man suffers only for his
own sins. But the author of Job finds this rationale entirely too pat.
Nor does he believe that the concept of exemplary suffering has much meaning
for the individual.
The outline of the framework of the book is simple and clear. Job is overwhelmed by almost every kind of calamity and disaster: the loss of children, possessions, property, health-all represented (in the next to bottom panel) by the raging lion-like beast. Job is portrayed as being thrust into the depths of grief, with his arms clutching his dead child. His is the face which looks up from the base of the window. Out of Job's trunk stem the heads of his four friends who attempt to comfort and reason with him. They present him with every conceivable explanation for his misfortune. He will accept none. The fact is that he has arrogantly believed that God owed him his many blessings in return for his piety. He, like his friends, has attempted to tie God into a neat package of human logic.
But God will not permit Himself to be reduced to a human concept. He will not consent to being used for man's purposes. He is the Creator. The author speaks of God as challenging Job to "adorn yourself with grandeur and majesty," [Job 40:10] as though man could ever hope to compete with God. Man has not even learned how to save himself. If he would try, let him (Hebrew: ) "look on everyone that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place." [40:12] Man must painfully, slowly, with humility, become aware of the difficulty of giving order and meaning to life and being.
comprehension, logic, categories, are not the purpose of life. The purpose
of life is life itself: the trunk grows into two great hands, radiant with
light, surrounded by the whirlwind out of which God speaks; the hands hold
a flower which cradles a baby-the first-born of Job's new family. In a
larger sense, then, each new baby is not only the fruit of love and faith,
but the answer of life to its own most difficult questions and the healing
balm for our bitterest suffering.