First Reactions to Loss
Bill Long 1/10/05
Job 1 and Job 2; Job, his Wife, his Friends
The purpose of this study will be to examine the variety of initial responses to Job's immense loss. After the agreement between God and the Satan in Job 1, disaster befell Job's family. His children died when the roof collapsed in his eldest son's home while they were celebrating inside. His goods were spirited off by marauders. Because loss and dealing with loss will be one of the great themes of the Book of Job, it is important to start at the beginning.
1. Job's Reaction and Questions. Listen to the text, Job 1:20-22.
"20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshipped. 21 He said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.' 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing."
A. How would you describe Job's first reaction to loss? Note the five verbs in v. 20. Is a ritualistic reaction a sincere one?
B. Why do you think he responded like this? Would you have responded in a similar way or different way? How do you know?
C. If you knew that Job "fell apart" in Job 3, would your response to question A be the same?
Note: The author seems to want to show Job's fidelity to God. Is this how you read Job's first reaction?
2. Job's Wife's Response. The text is Job 2:9-10.
"9 Then his wife said to him, 'Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.' 10 But he said to her, 'You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?' In all this Job did not sin with his lips."
A. The literal word for "curse" in Hebrew is actually "bless," exactly the opposite. But "bless" has seemingly been used euphemistically for "curse" in 1:5,11; 2:5. If she says the word "bless" so that it reads, "Bless God, and die," how is she saying it?
B. Do you see Job's wife as sort of an "Eve-like" temptress here (as many scholars have read it) or an understanding and insightful wife? Why do you think so?
C. So, ultimately, what is Job's wife telling him? I have written two essays on a "feminist" reading of Job's wife. Read those essays and say whether you agree with my approach or not.
D. Does Job's response in 2:10 mirror his reaction in 1:20? How would you read the last sentence in 2:10?
3. Reaction of the Friends
Note: One of the realities of loss is that it alters your relationships with friends/family. People who formerly were "there" for you seem to fade away. Others emerge and support you. What has your experience been or what have you seen? Let's examine the first response of the friends.
"11. Now when Job's three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, each of them set out from his home--Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him. 12. When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. 13 They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great."
A. Who are the friends? If Job was the "greatest man in the East (1:3)," would you expect his friends also to be "big guys?"
B. How long do you think it took them to get there (note in 7:3 Job speaks of his "months" of emptiness)?
C. How would you characterize their first reactions?
D. What are appropriate "ice breaker" words in this instance? ['Can I fluff your pillow, Job?' 'Need some water, guy?'] Are any words appropriate? What do you think was going through their minds as they sat on the ground without speaking to him? What do you think was going through Job's mind?
D. What have you done (or how have others reacted to you in your distress) that you wish they hadn't done? Who treated you well? What did they do?
I hope you will write out your answers to some of these questions, and then discuss them with others. The Book of Job comes alive when we discuss it with others.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long