(to return to Table of Contents, click here)
90. An Interlude on Legal and Military Strategy
Job will not actually bring his case against God in this chapter, though the questions he raises in Job 10 indicate the direction he would take against God. It will not be until several chapters later that he will assemble his case (13:18), dare to approach God (Chapter 23) and even go so far as to sign his complaint (31:35). Yet is is useful here to consider the forms of legal or military strategy, most familiar to us, that he might well use.
From the perspective of a litigator, the three most important things for you are to identify the weakness of the opponent’s case, the strength of your own and the nature of your witnesses. A litigator has to assume that evidence, rather than judicial whimsicality, will rule the day. As to witnesses, one needs them to state the truth, from something that has been observed, in a matter-of-fact fashion. One of the ways to look at Job’s early conversation with his friends is his desire to discover if they would be valuable witness material in the case he is assembling. He quickly discerns that they, if anything, will be witnesses for God rather than for him. Might as well discard them as witnesses but still listen to them to see if they provide some words or even an approach that Job might find helpful against God.
Job also needs to assess the strongest point of his case. It will center on the disproportionality of his suffering to any bad act he has committed. He is devoted to the basic theology of the friends or, alternatively said, the standard theology of Israel. Obedience brings blessing; disobedience brings pain and punishment. He will argue that his situation, which in the theology of Israel is supposed to reflect an extreme act of disobedience, doesn’t match that theology. He has asked his friends to show him how he has gone astray (6:24); they apparently weren’t able to do so. Job’s “case,” then centers on his innocence and blamelessness in this instance.
But a lawsuit also has to exploit the defendant’s (i.e., God’s) vulnerability. One might claim that God by definition can have no vulnerabilities, but that isn’t the way that one thinks as one puts together a lawsuit against God. Despite the opponent’s power and resources, your job as litigator is to come up with a strategy to neutralize those seeming advantages or even to get them to work to your benefit. So, the litigator will ask, ‘Where is the chink in the divine armor? What has been said or done by the defendant in this or other instances that would make the defendant vulnerable?’ As the Book of Job unfolds we will see that God’s vulnerability, in Job’s mind, will be God’s assumption that one who is suffering really has no other options than meekly to come to God, the source of the suffering, and confess one’s sin or need for God. God’s vulnerability will be to think that God holds all the cards, or controls all the options, in the lawsuit.
Job will not be able to secure any witnesses on his behalf from his three friends. He will need to go it alone, yet perhaps this idea of going alone without witnesses against God is behind Job’s most interesting theological development in Job 16—Job finds that he does have a witness, a witness in heaven (16:19). In addition, I will argue that Job uses something Elihu will say in Job 36 to strengthen his self-understanding at a crucial time. Thus, even though Job faces seemingly insuperable hurdles in bringing a case against God, he will be able to find a method not only to develop a case, but to prosecute it with great skill.