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not be our only mythic reference in the Jewish and Christian scriptures,
for the later includes many texts and places them all within a complex,
creative tension—within a spacious spiritual legacy no single state-
ment, however sophisticated, could ever capture. That diversity of state-
ment, which arises from within a long and varied history, makes avail-
able a range of spiritual resources for people who live within varying
historical moments of their own, so that the topic of Job, for example,
might become more relevant to us today than Genesis as we face our
own unique challenges. We who are the heirs of this tradition, whether
religious or secular, may thus draw on this often neglected rendition of
God to understand the face the world may take in the coming decades
and in this way to sustain something more than a pragmatic relation to
the infinite.
he story of Job is very simple: he is a just man, yet disaster strikes his
family and property and he is stricken with boils. Why did God do these
things to him? If there is some link between God's rule over the creation
and his respect for just action, then Job should not suffer. Yet clearly he
does. His friends sit with him and talk to him endlessly, coming up with
one explanation or another for his condition, exposing the vanity of all
human chater. In the end, God himself appears to Job in a whirlwind
and addresses him, asking who he is to challenge what God does. Was
Job present when God laid the foundations of the earth or set bounds
for the sea? Can he tame Behemoth or lead Leviathan with a fishhook?
Job responds, “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my
eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes”
(42:5-6). Struck with awe at divine might, he gives up any claim to being
rewarded for his right action, humbles himself, and repents.
Job is the great biblical text that splits apart the wildness and terror
of the creation from any notion of divine justice. God is so powerful, so
stunning in what he achieves, that he need not pay any atention to human
concerns. We could regard this God as a kind of divine bully, a character
very fond of throwing his weight around. Or we could adopt a humbler
version of this interpretation, deciding out of an excess of piety not to
contradict God in any respect whatsoever, even if we have no idea how to
understand him. his later stance seems to be orthodox, of course, but
its hasty submission hides an unstated resentment against the bully and
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