Job's Oppression (6:1-13)
Bill Long 1/14/05
In this lesson we will look at Job's first reaction after his comprehensive speech of anguish in chapter 3. There, you recall, he expressed his wish never to have been born. But that thought was an occasion for him to take a mental journey to a desirable place for him (Sheol) and ask some questions before returning to the numbing reality of his pain. Now, in chapter 6, he begins to delineate aspects of that pain. He is like a skillful surgeon of the soul as he probes various layers of psychic or emotional tissue in order to try to find the source of his inner pain.
I feel privileged to study Job 6 because now I feel I am being brought into the very thought process of Job as he deals with distress. When we look at the first 13 verses carefully, we make a number of discoveries about Job and ourselves.
"1 Then Job answered: 2 O that my vexation were weighed, and all my calamity laid in the balances! 3 For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea; therefore my words have been rash. 4 For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me."
A. The first theme we see is the the "heaviness" or "oppression" that now "weighs" upon Job. Do you use the language of "heaviness" to describe distress? Can it be a helpful image? A debilitating one?
B. Job uses an interesting mixed metaphor in v. 3 which serves as an illustration or explanation of the verse. Here is what I mean. The Bible usually speaks of the numerousness of the sands of the sea, not their heaviness. By having Job mix a metaphor, I think the author is skillfully giving an example of how Job's words have been "rash" or, in another translation "wild." Is Job admitting his words from ch. 3 are therefore wrong? How does this thought agree/disagree with 6:24? with 6:10?
C. For the first time in the book, Job now thinks he has a cause of his distress. What is it? Note that he speaks of God in the third person and doesn't even say it is God who is responsible but the "arrows of God." In order to get to God as the ultimate responsible agent, Job has to go through several logical steps. Trace Job's logic. What are some other explanations of his distress he could have given? Job has therefore "jumped" to a conclusion without stating his intermediate thinking steps to us. Are you one who tends to leap to conclusions about causes of distress? Do you seek a personal/divine cause of distress or do you tend to seek scientific or impersonal causes?
D. Another reason it is a privilege to probe Job's mind is that he uses vigorous images to describe his pain. Here he talks about the arrows of God. How is his pain like poisoned arrows? Why not use other biblical images to describe his pain..like the waters that come up to the neck? the pit in which he is thrown? the net in which he is trapped?
E. Describe the full scope of the "terrors" that are arrayed against Job in 6:4.
"8 O that I might have my request, and that God would grant my desire; 9 that it would please God to crush me, that he would let loose his hand and cut me off! 10 This would be my consolation; I would even exult in unrelenting pain; for I have not denied the words of the Holy One. 11 What is my strength, that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should be patient? 12 Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? 13 In truth I have no help in me, and any resource is driven from me."
A. The image of oppression or of weight continues in Job's "request" of v. 8. Note here the first instance of Job's reversal of biblical images or teachings. In Ps. 27:4 the Psalmist says, "One think I asked of the Lord...to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life." What, in contrast, is the "one thing" Job desires? Why use "crush" when there are lots of other good verbs?
B. The meaning of v. 10 is that Job's consolation is his obedience, so that even when enduring great pain he takes satisfaction in his uprightness. Are you put off by Job's appeal to his own fidelity? Or, do you think he may be right?
C. The image of strength and weakness now pervades the rest of the section (11-13). Describe the fear you feel when you do not have strength to face up to the basic tasks of life.
D. Do you think Job believes that his life is "over?" Have you ever rushed to that conclusion? One translation of v. 11 is "Why be patient, when doomed to such an end?" (JB) What would a patient Job look like in this situation? How does this fit in with James' comment (5:11) regarding the "patience" of Job?
E. The verb in v. 13 is particularly vivid. Our translation has "driven from me" and that is a good one. But the verb is really a very strong word best translated as "expel" or "impel" or "thrust." Job, therefore is saying that his resources have been "expelled" or "thrust away" from him. Does that image have any resonance with you?
Job gives us three windows into the workings of his mind in these verses. First, he is a man who leaps to conclusions, even though he may have worked out the intermediate steps of logic. Be ready to ask yourself, "How is Job's mind working on this one?" Second, he begins to reverse images or verses from other parts of the Bible (especially Psalms) to show the desperateness of his situation. Third, the author of Job draws on an array of vivid visual terms that capture Job's anguish. It is best to linger over these images, letting the full import of them sink into us. We say that a picture is worth 1000 words. What if the word is the picture? How much is that worth?
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long