God in the Dock, or “I’m Going to Sue God.” [Job 6-9]

Hello, Scroll Eaters! Yesterday I mentioned that most of the early part of Job will be spent “off-reading” while I give much of the background. Let’s talk about the framework of the entire book today.

Job, the book, is a legal metaphor. Job sues God for wrongful punishment. Here are some NASB quotes from Job’s mouth:
“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.” – Job 13:15
“Behold now, I have prepared my case; I know that I will be vindicated.” – Job 13:18
“If you say, ‘How shall we persecute him?’ And ‘What pretext for a case against him can we find?'” – Job 19:28
“I would present my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments.” – Job 23:4

Job’s biggest aggravation is that he feels that even if he’s been wrongly accused, who can defend him against God? I mean, seriously, if God thinks you’re guilty and punishes you, and he is both Judge and Jury and Prison Warden, what defense attorney is getting you out of that one? Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are trying to convince Job he’s done something to deserve this, and if he’ll just repent, he’ll be fine. Job adamantly maintains his innocence, and cries out for an advocate who can defend him. Again, some NASB quotes:
“For [God] is not a man as I am that I may answer Him, that we may go to court together. There is no umpire between us, who may lay his hand upon us both.” – Job 9:32-33
“Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my advocate is on high.” – Job 16:19 (Though Job has no concept of the coming Christ, he knows on some deep level that the only one who can defend him against God is God.)
“And as for me, I know that my redeemer lives, and at the last he will take his stand on the earth.” – Job 19:25 (Ditto.)

So, Job maintains his innocence and his friends argue his guilt. Ultimately, God shows up and tells the friends that Job has spoken rightly about him, and they haven’t. Job is restored to even greater riches than before, has ten more children, and Job sacrifices on behalf of his friends, intervening for them (Job 41-42). God never tells Job what happened with Satan.

Before God restores Job, however, he has a few choice words for him along the lines of “Who do you think you are challenging how I do things?”

Now, in this legal construct, if God is the judge and jury and penal administrator, and he’s also the defense attorney (though Job doesn’t know this), who is the prosecuting attorney? Meet Satan.

Now, I’m about to get controversial, but I’ve never shied away from controversy, even if I don’t exactly search it out. Here goes.

First, the word הַשָּׂטָ֖ן is transliterated as “hasatan” and is literally translated as “the adversary.” It could be rendered as “the satan.” It is not translated “Satan.” That is a transliteration as a proper name. Confused yet? Hebrew names are words. Melchizedek is “the king of righteousness.” Joel is “Jehovah is God.” “Satan” is actually not a name, but a title. The word simply means “adversary.” So Job 1:6 reads, literally, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and the adversary also came among them.”

This word הַשָּׂטָ֖ן “hasatan” is used in the Old Testament 27 times. 26 of those times it is used as a title. Only once is it used as a name (I Chronicles 21:1 HCSB). Of those 26 times it’s a title, over half of them, 14 to be exact, are in Job 1-2. When Bible translations use “Satan” the name in Job 1-2, they are “reading backwards” from the full revelation of the New Testament, assuming it’s the devil. Personally, I’m a proponent of not “interpreting for us via translation,” and appreciate it when translators translate the literal phrase. It’s here used as a title, and should be translates as such. Many scholars state that הַשָּׂטָ֖ן “hasatan” of Job 1-2 is not the devil we think of in the New Testament.

Who is he then? “Adversary” was a legal term, along with “Advocate,” so הַשָּׂטָ֖ן “hasatan” in Job is God’s prosecuting attorney. Consider the legal construct again. The prosecuting attorney brings an accusation toward Job. He may not even really believe it, as a real prosecuting attorney today might think a defendant is innocent, but his job is to prosecute. So, he accuses Job of being faithful to God only because God has built a hedge of protection around Job. Job’s wealthy, has a big family, and has good health. Take all that away, and he won’t worship you. Two accusations are brought here by the adversary. The first is obvious: he’s accusing Job of taking bribes. Much more subtle is the implication that God is giving bribes. God is being subtly accused by the adversary of buying Job off. The implication is “You’re buying his loyalty.” God’s character is put on the line. So, God gives permission for the adversary to take all that away. Job of course feels wronged, but stays faithful; he does not “curse God and die.”

I named this post “God in the Dock” because the adversary accuses God of buying off Job. I also named it “I’m going to sue God” because that’s exactly what Job wants to do.

A few more biblical references will drive the point home that הַשָּׂטָ֖ן “hasatan” is not necessarily “Satan” with a capital S. In I Samuel 29:4 HCSB, the Philistines call David “the satan” when they say, “Send that man [David] back and let him return to the place you assigned him. He must not go down with us into battle only to become our adversary during the battle. What better way could he regain his master’s favor than with the heads of our men?” In I Kings 5:4 HCSB, and enemy of Solomon’s is called הַשָּׂטָ֖ן “hasatan” – “The LORD my God has now given me rest all around; there is no enemy or crisis.” Finally, Numbers 22:22, 32 NASB, the Angel of the LORD, who is of course the Second Person of the Trinity Himself, is called הַשָּׂטָ֖ן “hasatan.” That’s right, the Person of the Trinity who will be born as Jesus is called הַשָּׂטָ֖ן “hasatan” – “But God was angry because [Balaam] was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him…. And the angel of the LORD said to him, ‘Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me.'”

See, הַשָּׂטָ֖ן “hasatan” is primarily adversary, not Satan, and in Job 1-2 it could go either way, but the legal construct makes it likely that it’s The Adversary and not Satan.

Regardless, once Job us “successful” in not denouncing God, the adversary disappears from the book. He does not appear after chapter 2! Once the case is presented, he’s gone. He’s done his job before God (if Adversary), or he’s tucked tale and run (if Satan).

We’ll look some more at Job background tomorrow. For tomorrow read Job 10-13.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

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The Oldest Book [Job 1-5]

Hello, Scroll Eaters! Welcome to Job! I’ll let you know right off that these readings are long, as you probably figured out when you tackled five chapters of Job. Part of that reason is that so much of Job is poetry, which always makes for dense reading.

I’m going to do something different through Job, as opposed to what I did in Genesis or what I will do in Exodus onward. My Genesis posts were mostly commentary. Job’s going to be bit different. Most of Job is a debate between Job and his friends, and much of it is repetitious, which is often what we see in real life. Much of what needs to be said from our perspective is in Job 1-2 and 41-42. Job is a book that almost teaches itself when we have the context down, so I’ll take a few days to unpack all the contextual stuff we need to make Job make sense. The first thing we’ll look at today is why we’re looking at Job now, right after Genesis.

Job is the oldest book in the Bible. It might be the oldest book in the world. It’s older than Genesis, though Genesis covers older material. An analog would be if I now wrote a book about JFK and compare it to a book written ten years ago about Reagan. The Reagan book is older than my book, but mine covers earlier material. Genesis covers Creation to the Flood, and then the era of the patriarchs. Job is set in the era of the patriarchs, but is in face an older book than Genesis. We know this because of the age of the Hebrew used. Languages evolve through time. Compare modern English to “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe, from 1843, which uses phrases like “you fancy me mad.” Today we’d say, “you think I’m crazy.” Even further back, say, 1611, we read English like this: “And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5  KJV). The difference in 1611 and 2011 is 400 years, and today we’d read, “‘Do not come closer,’ He said. ‘Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground'” (HCSB). That’s only 400 years difference; the Hebrew Bible covers Hebrew written from about 1800 BC to at least 430 BC, maybe later. That’s over 1200 years of change! Linguists can judge the age of a document based on how old its diction is. The oldest Hebrew: Job. The Hebrew in Job is so old it’s unique. It’s actually often called “Paleo-Hebrew.” Job was written in the time of the Patriarchs. Genesis was written, or compiled, by Moses, some 430+ years later! The difference in Job and Genesis is the same as our KJV and today! So, Job’s our oldest book, but when is it set?

Job is in the time of the patriarchs, meaning the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Most likely, it was somewhere after Babel and before Abraham. This would be ≈2200 BC to 1800 BC. How do we know this? First, like Abe, Ike, and Jake, Job’s life is long. He lived 140 years after the events of the book, but was old enough at that time to have seven sons and three daughters. Looking at contemporaries, Terah had Abraham at age seventy and, so if Job were say, fifty, then Job would have died at 190. We can estimate Job’s age from 180 to 220 fairly easily.

Another reason we know it’s of that era is that Job’s wealth is measured in the size of his flocks and servants, rather than in money as will happen later. Compare Abraham’s record of wealth in Genesis 24:34-35 NASB, “So he said, ‘I am Abraham’s servant. The LORD has greatly blessed my master, so that he has become rich; and He has given him flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and servants and maids, and camels and donkeys…,'” to Job’s in 1:3 NASB, “His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east.” Also, for the record, that last bit about the men of the east – Job is from Uz, which most likely in northern Arabia – Edom. This is a nice summary of the location question.

Another is that there’s no priesthood. Just like Abraham made altars, like to sacrifice Isaac on, and Jacob built altars, we see Job function as the spiritual leader. He makes sacrifices for his sons “just in case” in 1:5. This places it before the Levitical priesthood.

There are a few other things we could look at, but this should be sufficient to know that Job’s an old book, predating or being contemporaneous with Abraham. By contrast, the account of Abraham himself was written/edited/redacted by Moses 400 years later.

Another background issue we should look at is the structure of Job. A cursory look in an any non-paraphrased Bible will show that Job is a bit of prose on each end with a large chunk of poetry in the middle. There’s some debate, but the consensus is that the prose bookends are the older part, and were probably later separated and the poetry section inserted by an anonymous writer. If you take the poetry section out and read the prose straight through, it doesn’t flow, so the middle prose section was likely removed, expanded in poetry, and replaced.

Next, what is the book about? If you said “patience,” you are in line with popular conception, but wrong! Job is not about patience, though it’s true James uses Job as an example of patience or endurance. Job is also not about suffering. It is interesting that Job never finds out why he suffered! No explanation is given for his suffering, nor is the book an investigation into the mystery of suffering. Neither is the book about faith. Neither is it about retribution. The theological concept we’re left with is that this book is about the sovereignty of God. What is sovereignty? It’s the right of God to rule, to enact his will. The book’s question is “Is God in control?” and if so, “Is God loving and just?”

The greatest challenge the non-believing world puts to us is not proof of his existence, it is that if God is loving and just, “Why do the innocent suffer?” The crazy thing is, though this book raises the question, God does not answer it! God’s response is, “Who do you think you are?”

Let me finish today by summarizing the prologue of chapters 1-2. We get a seat of God’s council with the angles, a rundown of who Job is, his suffering, his innocence (so we know it’s not punishment), and an introduction to all of Job’s friends except Elihu. We also see that God did not directly cause the suffering, but allowed Satan to do it with his permission. There are five scenes alternating between earth and heaven. Earth first, then, Heaven, Earth, Heaven, Earth. The only person who goes back and forth is Satan.

I’ve got much more to say about this section, but we’ll wait until tomorrow.

For tomorrow read Job 6-9.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

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The Scepter and the Birthright [Genesis 47-50]

Hello, Scroll Eaters! In the last few chapters of Genesis we get a few newspaper accounts, such as Joseph’s leadership during the famine, Jacob’s death and burial, and Joseph’s death and burial. But the weight of this section lies on Jacob’s blessings (and a couple of curses). Jacob blesses Pharoah, then Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim, then his twelves sons. We’ll focus on his promises to Joseph’s sons and to Judah.

Manasseh was the older and Ephraim the younger. Like Cain and Abel/Seth, like (possibly) Ham/Shem, like Ishmael/Isaac, and like Esau/Jacob, once again we have the Genesis paradigm of the younger being bless over the elder. Jacob crosses his arms when he places his hands on their heads, and pronounces that Ephraim’s tribe will be the greater. The covenant promise of that’s passed from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob is passed to Ephraim and Manasseh 48:15-16, so they become the “sons of promise.”

Of all the brothers, Judah is giving a particularly interesting blessing in 49:10, where Jacob states, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will obey.” The “scepter” is a synecdoche, a figure of speech where one thing is substituted to stand for another, and the two things are related. For instance, when we in America hear on the news that the White House has issued a statement, we don’t mistakenly think the building started talking; we know that the President or his staff issued a statement. White House is a synecdoche for the president. Similarly, in the U.K. it’s said that the Crown does this or that. The crown is a piece of jewelry; it doesn’t do anything.

The scepter is the right of rule. Whether or not they ever had a physical scepter is not the point. Judah’s descendants will rule the nation. Think about this for a second. This is the earliest mention of an impending monarchy. Once Israel is constituted as a nation some 335 years later, they’ll have a period of 13 judges before they pick Saul as king. Now, Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin. He was replaced by David, who was of the tribe of Judah. Careful attention to the wording says the scepter will not “depart” from Judah. Once David became king, the Judaic/Davidic dynasty continued until Babylon destroyed the kingdom in 587 BC. Getting ahead of ourselves a bit, God cut a covenant with David that David would always have an heir on the throne before God. The Hebrews were very confused when Jerusalem fell. They could not yet see what we who have the completion of the promise can see looking backwards – that the Messiah was of the line of David, and therefore was also of the tribe of Judah. In Hebrew thought, the lion was symbolic of kingship, so in Revelation 5:5 Jesus is referred to as “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” He is the one that according to Jacob in 49:10 is the end of the lineage, as we read: ““The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will obey.”

Well, my dear friends, that wraps up Genesis. If you’re thinking that Exodus comes next, you’re a little premature. Job is next. Remember we’re doing this chronologically, and Job lands squarely in the time of the Patriarchs. We’ll look at the details when we get there. So, have a great weekend, and for Monday read Job 1-2.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

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The Parable of the Lost Son, B.C. [Genesis 44-46]

Hello, Scroll Eaters! Our passage today simply furthers our narrative, providing us with further evidence of Joseph’s prudence. Prudence is best defined as “redeemed shrewdness.” Being shrewd is usually considered distasteful, if not quite sinful. Prudence is usually considered savvy, slick. Joseph pulls a little trick with the silver cup in order to force Reuben to bring his father Jacob to Egypt.

So, Grand Vizier Joseph is able to reveal himself to his father Jacob years after he thought Joseph dead. I called this post “The Parable of the Lost Son, B.C.” because it is similar to the parable Jesus told in Luke 15. You know the story, so I won’t recap it here, other than the concluding line where the Father told the older brother “But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (15:32 NIV). The parallel isn’t exact, of course. Joseph wasn’t wayward, and there’s no disgruntled older brother. However, there is a father who thought his son was dead and long-lost. Now, he has him restored. This is a moment of great rejoicing for Jacob will get to live the rest of his life in luxury of two types. He’ll enjoy a privileged life since his son is Grand Vizier, and he’ll enjoy living it with his entire family.

For those who love foreshadowing, it’s nice to know they get to settle in the great cattle-land of Goshen, but it’s foreboding knowing how big they’ll get there over the next four-hundred years, till a Pharoah arises that doesn’t remember Joseph.

For Saturday, finish Genesis, reading 47-50.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

P.S. Sorry this is a day late. You know how it is.

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An Introduction to Wisdom Literature [Genesis 41-43]

Hello, Scroll Eaters! The wisdom books of the Old Testament are Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, and Song of Solomon. Certain individual Psalms are wisdom literature as well. Depending on the scholar, Lamentations and all of Psalms could count as wisdom literature.

The Law, the Histories, and the Prophets are the record of God speaking to man, whether it be giving the Law, the historical record of his interactions with man, or the prophets speaking for God. The wisdom literature, however, is about man’s relationship to God, his prayers, his day-to-day life.

Certain themes of wisdom literature are prevalent through all the books. Anyone who’s read Proverbs will know the themes of saving for the future, running from sexual immorality, and being cautiously prudent. You’re probably ahead of me here. Joseph absolutely, unequivocally runs from Potiphar’s wife, he advises Pharoah on rationing and saving the grain before the drought, and he shrewdly conceals his identity from his brothers until he can orchestrate matters for his liking.

I titled this post “An Introduction to Wisdom Literature” because Genesis 37-50 is the first instance of wisdom literature in the Bible. The section is primarily history, of course, but has prevalent wisdom themes. What’s interesting about it is that this transition to wisdom literature happens as soon as the setting shifts to Egypt. In the ancient Near East, Egypt is known for its wisdom literature. Three examples from Scripture will suffice to show this. The first is 1 Kings 4:30 (NASB), where it is assumed: “And Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.” The second is in Acts 7:9-10 also tells us God saw to it Pharoah would see Joseph’s wisdom (as opposed to say, his compassion or his intelligence). Finally, in the same chapter, Stephen tells the Pharisees, “And Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22 NASB).

So there you have it, Scroll Eaters, the wisdom of Egypt, trumped by the wisdom of God.

For tomorrow, read Genesis 44-46.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

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Meet Joseph [Genesis 38-40]

Hello, Scroll Eaters! There are dozens of things we could talk about in meeting Joseph. But the one I want to look today is a pattern that we see in the remainder of Genesis and in Daniel. God gives Joseph the ability to interpret dreams. What’s interesting is that he then put Joseph into position to interpret dreams, and specifically, the dreams of Pharoah. Daniel’s story is the same, but the dreamer is Nebuchadnezzar. Notice a few things. In both instances, a Hebrew is sent to a foreign power, interprets dreams, and becomes second-in-command to the leader of the nation. In both instances, God sends dreams to a pagan, who then has to go do a follower of the true God to get the dreams interpreted. In both instances, God is actually in the process of preserving his people from a threatening situation. With Joseph, God is about to preserve his people from a plague. With Daniel, God is preserving his people while in exile.

As a general rule, God sends dreams to pagans and they have to be interpreted by believers. Non-biblical instances include Emperor Constantine, King Clovis, and innumerable accounts of Christian missionaries being approached by Muslims, tribesman, and pantheists asking to have their vision of Christ explained.

So why, as a general rule, doesn’t God give visions to his followers? Simple. He gave us his words instead. He gave us the prophets, the authors of Scripture. Finally, he gave us his Son. The words are better than the visions.

Tomorrow we read Genesis 41-43.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

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From Rape to Genocide [Genesis 34-37]

Hello, Scroll Eaters! I’d like to apologize for not getting today’s post up on time, but I’ve been a little on the ill side. Better late than never, so here we go.

One of the best movie villains in recent history is Keyser Söze, one of the most ruthless men ever depicted on the screen. (For the record, the film is called The Usual Suspects and is rated R, and very much earns the rating.) I bring up Keyser Söze because the passage today reminds me of him.

Dinah went to town to visit friends, got raped, and the moron rapist then wanted to marry her. Seriously. Even in the era when women had no rights, the Shechem family thought they could still buy her for his wife no matter how much the dowry. It was a simple economic decision for them: “Let’s intermarry; it’s good for everyone!” They messed with the wrong family.

Dinah’s eleven brothers go along with the plan while Dinah’s stuck in the town with Shechem, and probably being “forced to perform the act of marriage” with him. On the third night, Simeon and Levi sneak into the town after everyone’s sleeping and go house to house, killing all the men. They took Dinah home, then the other nine brothers joined up and looted the town. They take the women, children, and all the livestock, and take them back to Jacob.

Jacob understood where they were coming from but realized that they were about to get some retribution as well. Sure enough, God tells them it’s time to leave this area and go to Bethel to live. My favorite part of the account is Genesis 35:5 (NASB): “As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.” I’m literally smiling as I write this, but I love how word had spread about the sons of Jacob taking out a whole town and looting it, and so every town was scared of this family – no one tried to exact revenge on them.

God will address this type of vengeance with a law in Leviticus 24:19-21. Contrary to a lot of people’s understandings about the passage, God said “an eye for an eye” in order to limit vengeance. Too bad no one told Keyser Söze. This clip is about that very thing. Fair warning: it’s PG-13 – no language, but violence. 

For tomorrow, read Genesis 38-40.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

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