Job’s wheel of fortune IV: Wealth of Wisdom(Continued from Job III)

Job’s wheel of fortune IV: Wealth of Wisdom(Continued from Job III)
Type: Oil
Dimensions: Width/Height (in inches) 48/60
Year: 2006

Not only is God thoroughly impressed with Job’s remorseful confession, like Elihu who spoke to Job immediately before him, he is simultaneously angry with Job’s three friends “who have not spoken” of God “correctly as Job has”. Therefore God tells Eliphaz to go to Job with his two friends and offer up burnt offerings, “so that Job will pray for you”, and for Job’s sake, “I will not do something terrible to you and your two friends”. After they did as they were told, God changed Job’s fortune after he prayed for his friends. Elihu was not similarly instructed proving that Elihu was exempt because he was part of the celestial contingent.

God proceeds to reward Job with twice as much as he had before. Portrayed in this painting is an older, wiser Job with a longer, whiter beard and a much receded hairline. The fourth letter of his name, Bet, is written on the red portion of his wealthy garment. Beneath the Bet are the letters of his name rearranged to spell BVAY, pronounced BoEE, or “come to me”, God’s invitation to return back to his bosom after Job’s redemption, the theme of this panel. He is portrayed beside his wife (first or second?) who is looking upward to God in amazed wonder. Job’s hand is underneath her chin, elevating her face to ensure that she too sees and beholds the might and awe of God. Job’s expression is that of a man who’s been around the block a couple of times. He is filled with neither despair nor ecstasy. He is truly wizened by his experiences, and somewhat detached and distant, filled with the knowledge of the mechanistic workings of the universe. This is wisdom which he would have been just as happy to live without.

Growing inside Mrs. Job’s belly are ten children, seven boys and three girls. The girls are the fetuses on the second row from the bottom with longer hair and eye shadow. The girls grew up to be the fairest in the land, and like the daughters of Tslophchad in the Torah, Job has given them an inheritance alongside their brothers. The names of the daughters, written on their bodies, in this painting, but not the sons are given. The names of the daughters are precisely what God gave Job. The name of the first daughter is Yemima, or days. Job was given many more days and lived to be one hundred and forty. Based on God’s doubling his fortunes, we can assume that the ordinary lifespan at this time was seventy, and Job’s was doubled. He also lived to see the fourth generation of descendants; one generation more than Jacob lived to see. The name of the second daughter is Keziah. Kezia means a ring of figs or dates. The fig tree is symbolic of peace and prosperity, and the source of honey in the land of milk and honey. In this painting Job and his wife are portrayed against the background of palm and fig trees, symbolizing the dawn of a new day with blossoming growing luxuriant flora. Job will now be able to sit peacefully beneath his fig tree in the shade and enjoy its honey. The name of his third daughter is Keren Hapooch, or reversal of fortune, which is exactly what God did for Job.

On the upper right of the painting, once again we see an expanding divine presence. The arms of the Sephirot are bursting forth from the moon craters seen in the previous panel. The central eye of God is wide open. There is hester panim no more. The extended hands now have their digits, once again spread in priestly benediction. Chesed and Malkut are closest to Job, and are enlarged. Din (evil justice/Satan) is furthest away and smaller in perspective. In addition to restoring Job’s children, a new grand home has been constructed which is bigger and better than the previous one. Umbilical cords are sprouting from the ends of some hands reconstituting and doubling the livestock of camels, sheep, oxen and donkeys, so that there are twice as many as what he originally had. Nipples are sprouting from the Tiferet Sephira to suckle all the newborns. Once again fish are happily swimming in the water, symbolic of reconstituted fertility and life. Written on Job’s manor is the last sentence of the book, “and Job died old and full of days”.

So what is the moral lesson to be learned from this story? What is the answer to the question implicitly or explicitly posed by this book which is “Tzadik verah lo, rushuh vetove lo”, why do the righteous suffer and evil doers prosper? If one were cynical, one could draw conclusions from this book that are not pretty. It is clear from the beginning of the book that God acknowledged Job as pure and good without a trace of evil. He had Chachma (he feared God) and Binuh (he avoided evil). There were no others like him. So why should a righteous man like Job suffer? Because when God feels like wagering a bet with Satan, and wants to prove a point, because he is the all knowing, all powerful Supreme Being that he is, he is entitled to make the righteous suffer, even undeservedly. God even says so himself to Satan, after Job proves himself in Job II. “You made me hurt him for no reason”. And if that suffering righteous human being has the audacity to complain, to question God, and to insist that he is pure, even when God himself has asserted his purity, he will be chastised and told that God is great, that God laid the foundation of the universe without him, that man is a flea, and has no right to complain. As Elihu stated, God needs no justification for any action. But if Job acknowledges sin, which even God did not initially acknowledge, that person will be rewarded materially. He will become even wealthier with even more beautiful and successful children. The non cynical answer is that indeed the question posed is unanswerable. Our meager intelligences can not begin to fathom the mind of God, nor are we capable of critiquing divine justice. If it happened it must be Just.

In the book of Job there is no life after death, there is only Sheol, as mentioned by Jacob in Genesis; a dark place, a nether world of nothingness. Hence the Jewish concept of suffering in this world, and reaping rewards in the world to come, is absent here. It appears that righteousness is rewarded on this earth with material rewards i.e. health and wealth, and evil is punished with poverty and sickness. This is the normal order of the universe i.e. good things will only happen to good people and bad things will only happen to bad people. If the reverse is true, it is either because only almighty God can understand this, or because we’re all rats in a maze being tested by the celestial behavioral psychologists, God and Satan.

This view of reward and punishment goes against the thread of Justice woven into the entire Tanach, and in fact all of Jewish literature and thought throughout the millennia. The entire corpus of Jewish ethos maintains that good deeds will be rewarded, and bad deeds will be punished, whether in this life or the next. One can say that ultimately Job is fantastically rewarded for his super human devotion and perseverance (not patience). But does doubling his wealth, and replacing his dead children, eliminate his temporary extreme suffering? Will his new children really replace his old children? Will his mourning over his children ever cease in his lifetime? Is the murder of his beloved innocent children, whose only crime was to be Job’s children, justifiable so that a divine egotistical point can be made? This book truly stands outside the realm of Judaic thought in this and many other senses. It must be for this reason that many scholars have concluded that the Book of Job is the most difficult in Tanach.

Is Job good or evil? Jewish scholars are divided on this issue. The majority conclude that he is one of the most righteous men to have lived, even more righteous than Abraham who was similarly tested but even more so. The difference however is that Abraham was tested via a two way conversation, between God and man, not a three way conversation between God, man and Satan. Job’s righteousness is asserted because, throughout everything, he maintained his faith. Even though he maintained he was pure for forty chapters (in agreement with God in Jobs I, II and IV, yet in disagreement with God in Job III), he caves and asks for forgiveness on dust and ashes, evoking the covenant of God with Abraham. A minority opinion holds that Job was evil because in Job III he questions God’s justice. This opinion sides with his three friends, and contradicts God’s final opinion in Job IV, that Job’s friends were wrong and that Job is indeed righteous. Differences in scholarly opinion shouldn’t be surprising in that God himself is constantly changing his opinion about Job; one of the many paradoxes in this work.

What does this book say about how a compassionate God can allow evil to flourish? What does it say about the hester panim, the hiding of God’s face, not due to the sins of man but due to a wager with another celestial being? Following the tradition of this book we will leave this Socratic question open and unanswered.

It is clear from all this, why it is said that the Book of Job is the most difficult piece in Tanach. It is also understandable why the majority of scholars might conclude that Job is not Jewish. I would contend that it is not Job who is not Jewish, who’s suffering is undeniably Jewish, but rather it is God in this work who is not acting Jewish. Interpreting this text literally, he may be more in line with the God of Homer than the God of Abraham and Moses. Putting a kabalistic spin to the text, at the very least, makes him somewhat, but not completely, in line with the God of Isaac Luria.