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73. Job 7:21

21 Why do you not pardon my transgression
    and take away my iniquity?
For now I shall lie in the earth;
    you will seek me, but I shall not be.”

 

But God has to intervene pretty quickly, because of the rest of 7:21. “Now I will settle down into the dust; you will seek me diligently, but I will not be.” Job has expressed his wish to die. Now he is prepared to settle into that dust of death, but he can’t help but get in a last dig against God. Job will be ready to die, and will die. But then God will want to be with Job or converse with him, the same idea Job explores with more eloquence in Chapter 14. God will have to “search diligently” (shachar, 12x) for Job.  The verb shachar only appears a dozen times, five of which are in Proverbs. We often think of Proverbs as the wisdom book dispensing comfortable instruction to the next generation, but we often miss the fire or passion of the book, a passion that is captured in shachar. “Those who seek me (wisdom) diligently will find me. . .” (8:17) is one of the more reassuring promises of Scripture. One of its two appearances in the Psalms is the memorable first verse of Psalm 63:1, “You are my God; I will seek you earnestly (shachar).”   

 

Job knows God well enough to know, or he is living in enough of a fantasy world to suggest, that God will one day really want to reestablish a relationship with Job. God will have to “search diligently” for Job. The only problem is that “I shall not be” (7:21). It will be too late, God. 'You will try to find me, but you won’t be able to do so. Nah-nah. . .' Job will have the last word by his silence. In fact, this is just desserts. Just as the friends had the upper hand with Job when they were in silence in 2:11-13, so Job now will have the upper hand with God when Job is finally silenced. Creatures seek diligently; therefore God will be willing to search diligently. Creatures learn to search diligently because they learned that behavior from God.  

 

Job will get the last word, then, through his silence. Buried, insensate, smiling internally as he plunges into oblivion, Job will die in satisfaction even though he will die without fellowship with God. One may look at this as twisted reasoning or logic, but it reflects the reality of Job’s pain. Job realizes his friends will probably be of little help. If God remains silent, then God will be of little help too. Just wrap yourself in your death shroud, and happily sink into oblivion. 

 

Perhaps stung by Job’s directness, the next speaker Bildad will use the word shachar to try to neutralize Job’s use of it in 7:20. “Go ahead and ‘search diligently’ for God,” Bildad will say (8:5). But now we are getting ahead of ourselves, and we have to let Bildad start from the beginning.  

 

If we were to summarize Job 6-7, we might say that after expressing his desire that God would just crush him by finishing the job God has so cruelly begun, Job then has a twofold complaint in Job 6-7. On the one hand he complains against his friends—that they are deceitful as a seasonal stream in a desert land. On the other hand he complains against God’s oppressive closeness. Rather than looking at the divine presence as a comfort, Job sees it as tantamount to abuse and maltreatment. His desire is for God to turn the divine visage from Job so that he can, at least, swallow his spittle. But God seems to have other designs. God makes Job the divine target. Job has not yet formulated his complaint into a demand or legal claim. He has not yet said with clarity and certainty that “the hand of the Lord has done this” (12:9). Job is still in a reactive mode—reacting to the the unhelpful friends and the oppressive God. Further speeches by Bildad and Zophar will change that. . .