Conjuring Hope III
Job 16:18-22--Hope Takes Hold
Central to my thesis on Job's hope is that it develops over time. What was less than a wisp of hope in 9:33 and what was a hope entertained before being dashed in 14:18-22 will flower into bold and defiant confidence in Job 16. What is the psychological reality that enables this to happen? One factor is that Job knows he has nothing to lose. Everything has been taken from him; so he will "take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hand (13:14)" and approach God. In Job 16 he approaches God with defiance and expects a witness to appear and testify for him.
The language of 16:18 ought not to be missed: "O earth, do not cover my blood; let my outcry find no resting place." Job imagines he will soon die. Physical and psychic pain so wracks his body that he cannot endure much longer. If he can no longer attack God through a lawsuit or through virulent words, at least his blood will cry to the heavens for vengeance. Like the blood of Abel, which cried to the Lord for vindication, Job's blood will do the same (cf. Gen 4:10). Who can't admire Job's spirit, his chutzpah, his utter confidence that he has been maltreated and that he simply is not going to let the matter rest? Ever.
The Witness in Heaven
Then comes the expression of hope. "Even now, in fact, my witness is in heaven, and he that vouches for me is on high (16:19)." Note that the use of "witness" brings us back to the legal arena of Job 9 and 13. Job may have made his case (13:18) and even despaired over whether God would treat him fairly in court, but now he "invents" an "imaginary companion" to help him trump God!*
*[My new book, A Hard-Fought Hope: Journeying with Job Through Mystery (Nashville, TN: Upper Room Books, 2004), devotes part of a chapter to Job's invention of an "imaginary companion" in 16:19. I review the literature on "pretend friends" or "imaginary companions" and conclude that this scholarship is helpful to understand the psychological role that the witness plays for Job in this passage.]
The witness is "in heaven," and presumably knows the legal system and can "stand up" for Job. Job 19:20 is nearly untranslatable, but a rendering that is defensible would be, "my interpreter [the witness?] is my companion (as I) pour out my tears before God." So, the picture envisioned is that this witness will not only "testify" for Job but will stand next to him as Job continues to weep his troubles.
What is significant about this companion is that he will not disappear; he will not fade into non-existence. Even if the mountains erode and wear away, the heavenly witness keeps testifying for Job. Finally, Job has an interpreter/companion/witness who will stay with him and speak for him. Can he be far away from believing that a redeemer lives?
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long