The Cycle of Not-Much-to-Say [Job 18-21]

Hello, Scroll Eaters! Okay, so, the three friends believe God is punishing Job for some sin and Job says he’s innocent, and they debate.

After Job’s cathartic meltdown in chapter 3, the friends start telling Job what do to (for the record, that’s not always the best “help” you can give a struggling friend; sometimes you just be there – the ministry of presence). What I’d like to do today is give you the structure and outline of the dialog section. Not counting Job’s opening monologue in chapter 3, it breaks down into three cycles of conversation.

Each cycle follows the pattern of the three friends speaking in order of age, alternating with Job. So, it goes Eliphaz, Job, Bildad, Job, Zophar, Job. Each cycle is a little shorter than the one previous to it. It’s as if the three friends run out of steam as they get more and more frustrated with Job’s bullheaded claim to innocence. They never really develop their arguments. The idea in the ancient Near-Eastern debate is not the same tradition we Westerners think of as debate. We come from a Greek and Roman tradition of argumentation by points and logic. The ancient Near-Eastern idea did have points and logic, but was more concerned with the repetition of the same idea in different ways. The idea was to out-think your opponent. We can summarize it by saying that this debate had two objectives. The first is to restate your viewpoint creatively and clearly (in other words, if you don’t reach them, try again). The second objective is to be the last one talking. It’s not about rebuttals, it’s about outlasting your opponent. Again, the idea is that if you believe your point you’ll stick to it and no one can shut you up. No one can change your mind. So, if you keep talking, you win. (After all, we can and will talk forever about that which we know nothing about!) As a whole, the three cycles teach the ineffectiveness of argument alone – it has a place, but love is the more excellent way.

Here are the three cycles and their outlines.

1st Cycle:               Chapters
Eliphaz                    4-5
Job                           6-7
Bildad                      8
Job                           9-10
Zophar                    11
Job                           12-14

2nd Cycle                Chapters
Eliphaz                    15
Job                           16-17
Bildad                      18
Job                           19
Zophar                    20
Job                           21

3rd Cycle                Chapters
Eliphaz                    22
Job                           23-24
Bildad                      25
Job                           26-27
Zophar                    Does not speak
Job                          No reply needed.

For tomorrow, Scroll Eaters, we read Job 22-24.

The Lord bless you and keep you

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This entry was posted in Bible, Bible 2011, Bible Reading, Bible Reading Plan, Christian, Christianity, Ketubim, Ketuvim, Old Testament, Religion, Theology, Wisdom Literature, Writings and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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