Dividing Job II: Time
In Honor of Dean David Kenagy
We have already seen two ways profitably to divide or outline Job. First is a literary division, which focuses primarily on the different genres represented (prose and poetry), with subdivisions for the speeches of various characters. Second is an idea-centered division, as in the previous essay, where two hinge points of idea-development in the book are isolated (Job 14; Job 28). A third possibility is to do a temporal division. This method takes seriously the notion that pain has to "sink in" before its weight is fully felt. Each of the following "scenes" can be "frozen" and speculated on at length.
1. T-1. (T stands for "time"). Job 1:1-1:12 This is the foreground of the story, the time of blessedness. It is also the time of heavenly collusion against Job. Fruitful to consider in this period are the pre-distress values of Job, the nature of The Satan, the character of God who responds to the challenge.
2. T-2. Job 1:13-2:10. This is the disaster scene, when everything, literally, comes crashing down. It also includes Job's statements holding fast to his piety in the midst of the huge loss. Questions that arise are the nature of the disaster (and disasters in general), whether we can say anything insightful about Job's wife, our analysis of Job's faithful response.
3. T-3. Job 2:11-13. This is the great "waiting time," the time between disaster and speech. It requires several months at least (cf. 7:3--"months of emptiness") because the friends need to be notified; they must make arrangements for care of their concerns; they need to travel to Job and sit with him. We are invited to speculate here how much of the rest of Job might have been developed in Job's silence and aloneness, before anyone really spoke.
4. T-4. Job 3:1-41:34. Here is the "big section," where six characters speak (Job, the three friends, Elihu and God. One might include a seventh, Wisdom--Job 28). This section has divisions and subdivisions, which I have treated in the Basic Essays. Hundreds of questions arise here. More likely thousands. Could even be tens of thousands.
5. T-5. Job 42:1-9. This is one of the most tightly packed sections in all of literature of which I am aware. It includes Job's "new seeing" of God; Job's "confession;" God's "admission" of a mistake; "reconciliation" among the friends. These are only the major themes. It is not too much to say that each verse invites an extended commentary.
6. T-6. Job 42:10-17. The return to the "ideal" world of 1:1-12. But, it is a return with a twist. Job's gets double his goods in return, and a new family, with only the names of the girls given, but questions linger. Was this Job's "reward" for patient waiting? What is to prevent the Satan from pushing the "reset" button and then starting this horrific video all over again? Is the Book of Job really a criticism of the retributive justice theology of the wisdom tradition?
However you divide it, the Book of Job, if you let it, slices through all our values and conceptions about God and life.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long