"Well, Job, we are getting near the end of our talks together, and I must say that I really feel that I am at a better place by far than when we began a few months ago. I think the biggest "breakthrough" only came in the last few days, where I finally abandoned my quest or interest in trying to use your story of "restoration" as normative for mine. I will use your language often in the description of pain or distress, and study it very closely, memorize it, internalize it and make it part of my daily thought pattern, but the reason for doing so will not be because your life MUST be a pattern for my own but that you might provide helpful language for understanding and describing the myriad pressures on the mind and heart. That is, I think I want eventually to memorize your vigorous descriptions of God's assault on you in ch.16 or ch.19, for example, or your cynical response to God's overwhelming power and oppressive closeness to you in ch.7, but I do so only to have a fuller stock of images and words to describe my own and others' distress. Thus, Job, you give me a vocabulary of the psyche. Just like we might have music of the spirit or tunes for the night, so there is a vocabulary of darkness that can be mastered and refined as we get to know and identify our feelings more fully. THAT is why I love your language, Job.
So, when I turn to a consideration of your "restoration" in 42:10-17, then, I see that there really is very little "freighted" language here. Oh, there are interesting ideas or questions that flow from the text. For example, I may want to inquire why your siblings only appear to comfort you once everything has been restored to you. Where were they in your distress? Or, I might want to ask why your servants weren't restored when the text describes everything else that was returned to you. But, I don't see the language of the heart's anguish or even the heart's joy, for that matter.
I think there are three or four interesting things that happen in these last 8 verses, Job. First, your daughters' names are given and they have an inheritance along with their brothers. Second, I suppose it is also interesting that the ending appears at all. It does seem, doesn't it, that it was added by someone who wanted to try to "clean up" the book by showing that the wisdom tradition is vindicated in the end? Otherwise, after reading 42:7-9, a reader might get the impression that the Wisdom theology was weighed in the balance and found wanting. Third, then, the issue interests me, Job, of whether your were as pious after your restoration as before. And, did you get back your judgship or your position of honor in the community? Finally, Job, I have always wondered whether the ending of the book may be like the movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, where the same day is repeated over and over again. That is, if the Satan had approached God late in your life or, say, in the life of your daughter Keren-happuch, after your death, would God have said to the Satan, "Do you see my servant Keren-happuch?" And would the Satan have started the whole ball rolling again, this time with the next generation?
Maybe I can take the rest of this essay and the remaining two (which would make a total of 66 conversational essays), and go through some of these issues, Job. Let's begin with the lack of religious or ethical language in the last 8 verses. There really is a strong contrast between your religious life in 1:1-5 and the lack of any mention of it in 42:10-17. You were blameless and upright, and you feared God and turned away from evil in 1:1. What did you do after restoration, Job? Was 42:9 the last time you prayed? (and that time was at God's command). Did you sacrifice for the second group of 10 children? Did you fear God and turn away from evil? Or, more likely, once you have faced the horror that took almost everything away from you in chs. 1 and 2, all religious life is relativized. You know that religious observance didn't save you from great distress early in the book--therefore lack of observance won't assure that distress comes upon you. Once your heart has been burned so deeply by the experiences you had, Job, I believe that you almost become a self-sufficient man. That is, you may take things from the hand of God, and still acknowledge them to be from God's hand, but you just cannot bring yourself to worship again; there is just too much dissonance in the act of worship itself. For every time a Psalm of praise is recited, you, if you join in the recitation at all, can only repeat it with a catch in your throat or by passing over many of the words in silence. For how could you recite with any kind of belief the following words: 'Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who heals all your diseases....(Ps. 103:1ff.) Right. You couldn't say that at all, could you Job? It just would not have been possible to say those words. Your voice would trail off and your eyes would become distant and misty, and all you would remember is the wind that swept across the desert and made your eldest's son's house collapse.
So, worship could not be meaningful for you anymore. But how about the ethical life? And, were you restored to your judgship, too? All the text says is that your material goods were "restored" (and you got 10 replacement kids). Would you have wanted to get your seat on the Supreme Court of Uz back again? I don't think so. I think that you would have felt that that life was a different life; a different era. It probably seemed like it was a million years ago. It is like the 1980s appear to me now. I lived a very vigorous life in Portland, OR, becoming a visible person in a number of areas. One of the things that I spent most time on was the Board of Directors of Portland Community College. For five years I poured my soul into the place. But now, 15 years after I resigned from the Board (to move to KS), I have no desire to re-enter school board politics or issues. I did that. I was happy for having done that. I don't need or want to do it again.
That's how I imagine it was for you, Job. You didn't really want to be judge again. So much had happened to you in the intervening time that it created a wall between today and that time, and you felt that that past time was gone and over. It was almost as if it was a dream.
So, I am answering some of my final questions, Job. Let's now turn to some others...