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Friday, June 26, 2009

The Death of Job's Children

Job had 10 children (Job 1:2). When Satan challenged God’s assertion of Job’s righteousness, he asked God for permission to harm Job’s loved ones and take Job’s possessions (vs. 10-11). God acquiesced, and Satan used human conflict (vs. 15, 17) and natural disaster (vs. 16, 18-19) to destroy all that Job had, and kill all whom Job loved, save his wife.

My biggest fear is that something would harm one of my children, let alone both of them. I know people who have lost children. It is completely devastating. Yet, from the text of the story of Job, the death of his children functions more as an element of movement, than a cause for mourning. Job must move from prosperity to pain so we can get to the meat of the story and find out if Satan was right. The death of 10 “young people” (vs. 19), as well as their spouses and servants, is a tool for the use of the storyteller. The event gets us to the point where Job has to react, and his reaction is the story.

The narrator never comments on the sorrow of such an awful human loss. Satan is utterly indifferent. Satan does not care a whit for Job’s children or for Job. Satan wants to prove God wrong. God also comes across coldly. We love reading “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they” (Matthew 6:25-26)?

These words of Jesus clearly state that God values us, loves us, and provides for us. Genesis chapters 1 & 2 declare humans made in the image of God; humans and humans alone are special in God’s kingdom.

And yet, in Job 1-2, humans (Job’s children and servants) are mere fodder for the wager. God seems more intent on proving Satan wrong than valuing Job’s children. In fact, God appears to be completely indifferent to the fate of Job’s children; and, God is not at all sympathetic to Job’s grief. What gives?

First, this is a good example of why we strive to consider the entire testimony of the Bible and not just isolated verses. When we read the New Testament we have to remember the Old, because the New is built on the Old. When we read the Old Testament, we have to remember the New because our interpretation of the Old is determined by the teaching of Jesus and Paul and the other New Testaments voices. With other passages as a corrective, we remember we can trust God to watch over us and care about us.

Second, death is not always the worst thing to happen to someone. We don’t see the Job story from the perspective of Job’s children. Their view is never considered. From their vantage point, maybe something is gained by their deaths. I don’t know. I look into the New Testament and see Stephen willingly face death for the sake of the Gospel (Acts 7). Jesus embraced death to save humanity.

This step of trying to step into the shoes of the peripheral characters does not put God in better light. God doesn’t look good in Job 1 & 2. But, lest we commit Job’s sins, let me hasten to add, we cannot understand God’s perspective. We cannot know the divine mind and I accept that. What I wish is that we had some dialogue or some knowledge of the thoughts of one or two of Job’s children. It might help us understand the morality of the story.

In seeing that we don’t have that, I am eternally grateful we have passages like Genesis 1 & 2 and Matthew 6 to remind us that God does value us and does care. These passages don’t provide relief to the seemingly capricious theology and theocentric morality of Job. But they remind us that God is good.

21 comments:

  1. It is interesting that the wife was spared. Perhaps to nag Job? "Curse God and die" was her response to the tragedy.

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  2. Oh I hope she wasn't spared just to nag. I hope it was so she and Job could have "another" family.

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    1. 'Another family' still doesn't replace the loss of those 10 children. I have a friend who's lost 2 son's....she really struggles with this story, because she knows that even if she has 2 more children - they don't 'replace' the terrible loss.

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    2. 'Another family' still doesn't replace the loss of those 10 children. I have a friend who's lost 2 son's....she really struggles with this story, because she knows that even if she has 2 more children - they don't 'replace' the terrible loss.

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    3. You are right. The story of Job is complex at every turn, including the end, the second family. One of my friends, believes it is actually a hint that the first family was resurrected. I don't about that reading. But I appreciate your friend's struggles with Job. I think one of the points of the story and why it was kept in the Bible is that struggle with God is preferable to silent acquiescence. God would prefer we rage against him from our places of pain. God would prefer that honesty. I believe God can heal your friend's broken heart, but even healing would not make up for the loss of children. It would enable her to move on in life and to have joy in spite of her pain.

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    4. the thought disgusts me. JOB and his happiness and beautiful new daughters who have names disgust me.just as my innocent sons life meant nothing to the murdering stranger god favored i prayed for protection and peace god said NO MICHELE...death and saddness is your lot unplug him and shut up.

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    5. the thought disgusts me. JOB and his happiness and beautiful new daughters who have names disgust me.just as my innocent sons life meant nothing to the murdering stranger god favored i prayed for protection and peace god said NO MICHELE...death and saddness is your lot unplug him and shut up.

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  3. Yes they did have another family. But God had not told Satan not to harm her, so I as wondering why he didn't.

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  4. She performed a satanic role - she tried to separate Job from God.

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    1. Perhaps she was overcome with grief for her murdered nameless children. I KNOW HOW SHE FELT I hope you will also.

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    2. Perhaps she was overcome with grief for her murdered nameless children. I KNOW HOW SHE FELT I hope you will also.

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    3. You know how much hurts. And you want others to hurt that way too?

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  5. The following verse struck me this morning in light of the various postings in this blog so far.

    NRV translation
    Jeremiah 9:23- 24
    The Lord says, "Do not let a wise man brag about how wise he is. Do not let a strong man boast about how strong he is. .. He should brag that he has understanding and knows me. I want him to know that I am the Lord. No matter what I do on earth, I am always kind, fair, and right. And I take delight in that."

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  6. Thanks for sharing that verse, Lynn. I think one of the things reader can learn in Job, and especially reading Job along side the Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes is that wisdom is elusive. No one should claim to be wise. We pursue wisdom. If a "wise man" calls himself wise, he has forfeited his wisdom. For that reason then, no matter what view we posit on the Bible, Job or any other book, we ought to opine in humility and with respect for those who have views other than ours.

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  7. Perhaps she is a loving wife and wants Job to die to end his suffering. It should be noted that she also is suffering having lost all the same things Job lost. It is perhaps ironic that she asks Job to do just what hasatan predicted he would do (curse God).

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    1. she cared for her children job did not.

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    2. she cared for her children job did not.

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  8. Job did care for his children. In verse 2:20 after hearing so much bad news about his property did arose and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worship. This was an act of mourning.
    He was silent until his children are killed.
    see Gen:37:34 and Isaiah 15:2

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  9. I believe all scripture is God breathed & that Job has wonderful teaching...but I have a lot of trouble with Job's family being killed...to prove faithfulness...especially for us now in light of the new covenant & who we are in Him...We now call Him Daddy Father & He is a good God...with many scripture referring to his love & mercy & kindness & protection of us....Do people forget that Job is in the poetry section of the Bible & that Job is probably the oldest book in the bible written even way before the the law, even before the formation of Israel...To take certain parts of Job, like God can kill families to prove your faithfulness "literally"...Just does not fit into who God is for us now in new covenant understanding......."Come to Jesus", but don't forget He can take your family out to prove your faithfulness "Come On"...is that the God we serve & promote in our evangelical endeavours !

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    1. I do think Job is poetry or extended parable. I agree with that. Even so, even in the story world, the children die, and that almost seems to be an ancillary. I think this story comes out of a time in Israel's history when the people of God were overrun by invaders (Assyrians or Babylonians). As they found themselves subject to mightier armies, and as innocent Israelites (children) died, I think the Job story posed the question. God, why are our children, Jewish children, allowed to die at the hands of Gentiles? God why are you allowing this. I think that type of questions lies behind the Job story. I think the entire account of Job intends to ask more questions than it answers. Upon reading Job, one should feel unsettled; as unsettled as one feels in the face of real life tragedies.

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    2. I believe that Job's sons were raised from the dead and the 3 daughters were transformed. In Job 1:2"there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters, vs 19 states that the house fell on the young men and they are dead, it did not specify the daughters. Job 42:13 states that "He had also seven sons and three daughters further explaining the transformation of the daughters. Scripture makes a point NOT to state that there were again born unto Job 7 sons and 3 daughters. As for Job's wife, they were rightfully matched. Her faith was right under her husband's faith. She faithfully stood with him through all of the severe testing but when she saw her husband sitting upon an ash heap scraping his boils and asking to
      die asking to die, she finally spoke through her loss and pain. You never hear of God rebuking her for it. God rewarded their faith with a most wonderful double restoration of material goods and the children with a double life. Please remember Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing but the honor of kings is to search out a matter. Jesus is the King of Kings and we are the knigs.

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