Why did Job demand an explanation from God?


#1

Hello.

I’ve looked through the various threads about Job here, but none of them seems to address what I’m wondering about. If there is such a thread and I didn’t find it, please direct me to it.

Job thought that the hardships that came upon him were undeserved, and he demanded God to give him an explanation.

To me, that’s strange on Job’s part. I would think that since it is God’s to give and God’s to take, man is in no position to demand explanations from God; in fact, that in a case of hardship, to demand explanations from God would be an act of pride, a capital sin, a refusal to submit to God’s will.

If Job wasn’t guilty of such pride, then on what justified grounds did he demand an explanation from God?

Did he think that God and he were some kind of friends?

Or that God was something like his boss, but nevertheless a boss that is truly concerned about the well-being of his employee, and that the employee is justified to request an explanation from his boss when he deems himself in some way wronged by the boss?

Because it’s only in those circumstances that I can imagine that someone would be justified to seek an explanation from others.

Or?

Thank you.


#2

Job was an archetype for the rest of us.

(I am not getting into whether he was a real person or not, I believe he was, but on this instance it doesn’t matter.)

It is natural and human to seek answers to the “STUFF” that happens in our life. That is why scientists study the body. That is why weather patterns, geology, plant parasites, etc, are scrutinized so carefully.

It is only natural to extend the same interrogation to God, for those who believe. Judaism has a long and honored tradition of questioning God.

“Shut up and be humble!” is a modern Christian answer to questions in our life, but that is a more recent, and somewhat forced response. It also does not really work.

ICXC NIKA


#3

In my opinion, Job tried to fit our infinite God into his tiny little equation of

doing (A+B)=(Experiencing Gods favor)

The implication was God being controlled by my mans actions. We do not merit anything from God through our actions. We must always be wary of the danger of diminishing God by bounding the infinite and unknowable within our understanding. If the bar for belief is being able to fully understand God and all his teachings, then success leaves us with a very small and finite God. It is easy to fall into the trap of diminishing God’s mystery in this way… as Job did so, and finally questioned God as to why this was not so. God responded:

“Where wast thou when I laid up the foundations of the earth? tell me if thou hast understanding."
Job 38:4


#4

It is human to ask the question “why”. One can still believe and ask why. The two are not mutually exclusive.


#5

God is our Father:
I ask Him things all the time,
As my kids ask me


#6

You should examine what Job’s friends say, and then what God says to them.

God was pretty harsh to the people who assumed Job must have done something wrong, and that Job should not ask at all.

God did then tell Job that He had reasons He wasn’t going to explain and that Job couldn’t understand, but first He told off Job’s friends. Whereas God gave Job the compliment of answering at length.

It’s an interesting book. There’s always something new in it.


#7

Well said. I’ve read the Book of Job several times via the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours. I’m always struck by the severity and multitude of his sufferings. I imagine myself in his place and am dumbfounded that he endured so well. As for his questions to God I think it’s understandable and what I love so much is that God answers back. And His answers are so beautiful.

For those critical of Job you may want to go back and really read about what happened to him. I sincerely doubt that anyone who suffered what Job did wouldn’t question God.

God bless you.


#8

Perhaps he assumed God would be loving, fair, and logical.
So when God was doing something that seemed unfair, purposely hurtful, and didn’t make sense…it would be natural for him to wonder why. Especially because Job was a good man who did not deserve this kind of treatment.

Wouldn’t you wonder why if it was you?
People are tortured every day all over the world, and they ask out loud: WHY, GOD?

Perhaps Job wanted to know if he had done something wrong so that he could learn and not do it again.

We hear all the time that we should ask and we shall receive, and that we should talk to God out loud if we want help with something or want to know something.

So that, simply, was what Job was doing.

Why would that be strange?
It would be the most natural question in the world, on most people’s lips.

God never quite answers him tho, does He?
Does He tell him why his first set of children all had to die and will not be returned to him?

.


#9

“Judaism has a long and honored tradition of questioning G-d.” Indeed! Even Abraham and Moses wrestled with G-d. And a famous rabbi of yore accused G-d of major sins (while mankind is guilty of comparatively minor sins) on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.


#10

Questioning; it’s a good thing!

One should question their G-ds often, especially when the God’s actions are…questionable :slight_smile:

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#11

There is in fact this play by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel called The Trial of God. It’s about the two survivors of a pogrom initiated against a (fictional) 17th century Jewish community - Berish the innkeeper and his daughter (who suffered a mental breakdown) - putting God into trial for His silence during the pogrom (which killed all of the Jews in town except for the innkeeper and his daughter) and throughout Jewish history, with three wandering minstrels who visited the town acting as judges and Berish as prosecutor. Acting as defendant for God is a mysterious stranger named Sam, who we eventually learn is the Devil in disguise (Samael).

The play was inspired by an actual ‘trial’ that Wiesel witnessed when he was at Auschwitz:

By the time he was fifteen, Elie Wiesel was in Auschwitz, a Nazi death camp. A teacher of Talmud befriended him by insisting that whenever they were together they would study Talmud - Talmud without pens or pencils, Talmud without paper, Talmud without books. It would be their act of religious defiance.
One night the teacher took Wiesel back to his own barracks, and there, with the young boy as the only witness, three great Jewish scholars - masters of Talmud, Halakhah, and Jewish judisprudence - put God on trial, creating, in that eerie place, ‘a rabbinic court of law to indict the Almighty’. The trial lasted several nights. Witnesses were heard, evidence was gathered, conclusions were drawn, all of which issued finally in a unanimous verdict: the Lord God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, was found guilty of crimes against creation and humankind. And then, after what Wiesel describes as an “infinity of silence,” the Talmudic scholar looked at the sky and said “It’s time for evening prayers,” and the members of the tribunal recited Maariv, the evening service.

One of Elie Wiesel’s teachers once said to him: “only the Jew knows that he may oppose God as long as he does so in defense of His creation.”


#12

Yes, I’m familiar with this mock trial. What questions it raises about G-d and mankind’s relationship to Him! Thanks for the reference, patrick.


#13

Guess what? Job’s three friends - Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar - basically exhibit the ‘you reap what you sow’ worldview (retributive justice: good is rewarded, bad is punished) that you can see in say, Deuteronomy. (The boils that Job gets, are in fact, precisely what Deuteronomy 28:15 and 35 says will be the punishment for disobedience, word for word.) Since Job is suffering, they reason that Job must have committed a sin against God. But Job suffers not because he had disobeyed God; God singled him out precisely because he was so good. In Deuteronomy, the boils are punishment for unrighteous behavior; but in Job, Job’s exceptional goodness made him a target.

So here’s the irony of the book: Job’s three friends - the ones who essentially defended God and the black-and-white Deuteronomic moral universe against Job’s accusation - are the ones whom God gets angry with, while Job was praised by God! “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” The one who accused God and argued with Him has spoken rightly; the ones who defended God have not. (Notice that God doesn’t condemn the fifth character, Elihu, who also contradicted the three friends’ black-and-white morality by saying that God can also make the righteous suffer for their benefit.)

I think this is one of the beauties of the Bible: it’s rich. It isn’t always ‘consistent’, it’s polyvocal, and it doesn’t give you a straight answer. You might notice that God doesn’t give Job a direct answer: He basically just tells him that He is God and Job is but a man, but He neither explains to Job the reason for his suffering nor defends His justice. He leaves Job’s questions unanswered; in fact, you might say Job is blessed for maintaining his questions against all answers.


#14

Quoting from Timonthy Beal’s The Rise and Fall of the Bible (p. 167). Beal here is interviewing Wiesel about the play:

“In this play, the only one willing to ‘do theodicy’, that is to justify God … is revealed as Satan in the final terrible moments. Does this suggest,” I asked, “that to justify God in such a situation … is in some sense ‘satanic’ or evil?”
“Satan knew the answer,” Wiesel replied. “He has all the answers. Actually Satan speaks like a fanatic. In this play I wanted to show the danger of fanaticism. The fanatic thinks he is justifying God. Never think that you are justifying God. To ask questions of God’s justice is all right.” There’s a difference, he insisted, between asking theodicy questions about God’s justice, or lack thereof, and answering them.
“Think of the Hebrew word for question, she’elah,” he continued. “There is 'el (God) in she’elah. God is in the question. But to give the answer? Keep asking the question.”
Is this not also the lesson of the book of Job? Job’s friends are trying to answer for God against Job’s accusation, but they are ultimately scolded because they did not “speak rightly” to or about God. Job, after all, is the only one who has insisted on maintaining his questions against all answers.
“God seems to be saying to the friends, ‘who are you to answer for me? Who do you think you are?! Who asked you?!’ And God takes the side of Job. God does not tell him the truth, but God does take Job’s side over against the friends. In a way, God at the end of Job is saying, ‘look who I have to defend me!’ How pathetic are these defendants! And in The Trial of God, it is not Beresh’s friends but Satan alone who will be God’s champion. Imagine, at the end of The Trial of God, God saying, ‘look who is my defendant!’ As in Job, this shows the pathos of God, the tragedy of God. And so all the questions are there - even God’s.”


#15

No.

/…/
So that, simply, was what Job was doing.

Why would that be strange?

Job demanding an explanation from God suggests that God and Job were on rather close or even cordial terms to begin with; that Job trusted God, relied on God – which of course he did, pius and righteous as he was.

It just seems to me that people must feel really close to God to ask anything of Him.

To me, it would be natural that the more hardship one experiences, the less likely one would be to turn to God for explanations much less demand anything from God.

As I read about the Israelites in the OT, I am continually amazed that they kept whining and complaining and demanding things from God.

People (even sinners) loving God - this seems mysterious to me.


#16

We are all sinners. This isn’t something to beat oneself up about - guilt is bad. It is fact.
God is Love, everything else is transient and illusory in its capacity to truly satisfy us.
We suffer in this world. Christ is with us in our suffering. Only He truly consoles and offers us eternal life in Him, in Love.


#17

This sounds so interesting. I’m ordering it right now…

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#18

Ahhhh.
You shed different light on your question here. I understand better what you are asking and why.
I agree with you here except I take it one step further.
For people who go through terrible hardships–which would be most people–I imagine that beyond not asking God questions or demanding anything from God or not loving God or feeling close to God…I don’t understand why they would still* believe* in a God’s existence.

Take the discussion that Patrick and MB were talking about…the “trial” at the camp. If a group of scholars found God guilty of crimes against humanity and creation…so…what…is this God? Does God do this? Is God guilty of this? Or maybe, nothing is as they thought…

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#19

As if bowing one’s head, looking down, and keeping quiet (=external manifestations of humility) in the face of hardship opens the door to atheism.

For comparison, I posted a reference to an Eastern monotheism on another thread. A considerably different approach.

Take the discussion that Patrick and MB were talking about…the “trial” at the camp. If a group of scholars found God guilty of crimes against humanity and creation…so…what…is this God? Does God do this? Is God guilty of this? Or maybe, nothing is as they thought…

As far as I understood, after WWII, the Jewish people separated into basically two major camps: 1. those who lost faith in God, and 2. those who believe in God even more.

I’m not beating myself up. I find it absolutely interesting that people love God.

I can well understand that one respects God, gives God credit for all that one has.

But loving God, to have a cordial relationship with God, calling God “Father” - this is a whole other category than giving God respect and credit.

It seems to me that Job must have had more than just respect for God.


#20

Even our questioning can accomplish God’s will as He brings those with open hearts into a new relationship with Himself - not necessarily one of understanding the “why” for God is ultimately incomprehensible to us, but of trust and reliance in His power and goodness leading to greater faith no matter what happens.


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