"So, as Paul Harvey used to say, 'Now you know the rest of the story.' But, I guess that is premature, isn't it, Job? Now we want to know the rest of the story, the rest of 42:7. The world didn't freeze and God didn't stop speaking when he said "My wrath is kindled," despite the last essay, where I contended that your mind created the scenario described. But God finishes the sentence. That is one thing about God. In contrast to most of the other characters in your book, Job, God finishes all his sentences. He must have studied before the 1960s because God not only knows how to speak in complete sentences but he also speaks with a sonority and majesty that Cicero would have admired. Possibly God took Latin. Amo, amas, amat. Whoops. That doesn't seem to be a word that God knows in this book, is it? What would have been the first conjugation verb that God used to study Latin? Despiso, despisas, despisat? I bet God never read Ovid.
Well, I am getting off the track again, so let's return to the point. FOOOOCUS, Bill. Here is the rest of that sentence in 42:7. God says that his anger is kindled at Eliphaz and his "two friends because...." Wait a second. I can't yet get to the rest of the sentence. That is my problem with you, Job. Almost every word makes me stop and say, "What does THAT mean?" God is angry. Dealt with that. But now God is angry at the three friends. Ok. Not unusual. God is angry at Job, at Rahab, so why not be mad at the friends too? But, why doesn't he put in Elihu? Why isn't God mad at Elihu, too? Oh, I know the sniveling little scholarly answer, the answer given by those who have Ph. D.s in Old Testament but haven't yet learned how to use their mind or, at least, how to connect their mind with their emotions. They say, "Well, hum, the final prose section of Job was added at a different time than the 'Elihu material' (i.e., 32-37) and hence this is a mark that the editor imperfectly edited the work." They would say this, or some such drivel. But, in fact, what we are interpreting is ONE book, not four little novels, plays, dialogues or stories that circulated independently of each other for hundreds of years, only to be brought together by an exilic author who made some mistakes when he connected things. So, we take the text as it faces us, and try to interpret it as we have it. Don't you think that is the best way to treat you, Job? Doesn't it most recognize your integrity to conclude that the book which bears your name also has some literary integrity as it comes down to us?
So, that is my point. We take the book as we have it, and it says that God is only angry at three of the friends. And, it doesn't mean that the editor in some way has "forgotten" that he stuck in 32-37. So, it must mean, Job, that God isn't angry at Elihu. Or, at least he is more angry at the three friends than at Elihu. And, as we will learn in the rest of the verse, he isn't angry at you. My. Let's pause and look at this pretty picture. Maybe the reason that God isn't angry at Elihu is that he actually spoke something right. I don't know about this at this juncture, Job, but I think that Elihu was probably the one who really was able to open your life to seeing God in a new way. The way I am beginning to see your book, Job, is that at the end of ch.31 you are as adamant as, well, adamant. You haven't softened your complaint in the least. You still feel that God has treated you unjustly. You will hold onto this belief until the end. That is what you believe in 31. How else can we interpret your words, "Here is my signature! let the Almighty answer me!" (31:35)? You have, like a good lawyer, signed the complaint as the last act before you send it off to the opposing party.
You are so hard and determined at the end of 31, Job. Nothing can move you. You have just sworn an oath of innocence on a stack of Bibles reaching from the tip of Everest to the Pacific floor. You know you are right as much as you know that pain wracks your body and torment possesses your mind. And then, Elihu enters, in ch. 32. Oh, the person who wrote this section of the book, whoever it was, was very very clever, Job. The author gives the impression that Elihu is a windy boob, himself as angry as God is. For example, just read 32:1-33:7--it takes Elihu 30 verses just to get 'warmed up' to say what he wants to say. But really, Elihu is a genius. He is the Colombo of the Book of Job. He seems to bumble and not know what he is doing, but then he has a flashing insight in the middle of ch. 36, doesn't he? He suggests, Job, that you ought to look at your distress from a different angle. Though it takes Elihu about 80 verses finally to get to what he wants to say, he delivers the punch line in 36:15--"He delivers the afflicted by their affliction, and opens their ears by adversity."
That verse, if there is any that I could point to in the entire book, is what transforms your mind, I believe, Job. I could be entirely off base, so correct me if I am wrong. Hearing no objection, as they say in law, I proceed. I think that when you let Elihu's word in that verse sink into you mind, you realized that Elihu wasn't so much judging you, as the rest of the friends did, as he is providing an alternative explanation for your distress that honors you, takes the distress seriously, and doesn't dump on God. That is a new one, isn't it? You had become so burrowed into your way of thinking, so convinced that it had to be God's injustice or nothing at all, that you had imprisoned yourself in your insight. Your brilliance had prevented you, Job, from seeing the world from another angle, didn't it? That is, the interpretation you placed on your pain was a univocal one, a single interpretation, whereas Elihu wanted to argue for a different interpretation. Elihu, then, was the first deconstructer (I actually like deconstruer better) in history-- because he believed in multivalent texts. And what did Elihu actually believe? He says it in the next verse, and it is so important that I will indent it yet further:
"He also allured you out of distress into a broad place where there is no constraint , and what was set on your talbe was full of fatness" (36:16).
But, I am afraid to say, Job, that we are out of time for today, and I will have to pick up on Elihu and 42:7 when we return. Indeed, with this much meaning packed into almost every word of your book, Job, how do people who want to understand you have time to live?