Job’s Wheel of Fortune III: The End of the Beginning(Continued from Job II)

Job’s Wheel of Fortune III: The End of the Beginning (Continued from Job II)
Type: Oil
Dimensions: Width/Height (in inches) 48/60
Year: 2006

Impressed by Job’s incredible forbearance and acceptance of these calamitous misfortunes, and the absence of malice towards G-d, the next time God meets with his children and Satan, he tells Satan in effect, “See, what did I tell you? Is there anyone on this earth like Job who holds onto his purity despite all that I have done to him? And to think you convinced me to move against him, to destroy him for absolutely no reason!” God takes complete responsibility for Job’s misfortunes despite the fact that Satan took care of the details.

Satan is unimpressed. “So what? Skin for skin, all that a man has, he will give for his life. Stretch forth your hand, touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely blaspheme you to your face”. God picks up the gauntlet once again, certain that Job will pass this test too, and instructs Satan, “Go ahead, he is in your hands. But remember spare his life”.

Satan proceeds to inflict Job with boils from the sole of his foot to the top of his head. The disease is apparently elephantiasis, a painful form of leprosy. Leprosy has long been symbolic of divine punishment for sin. Portrayed in the center of this painting is a tortured Job, growing greyer and whiter with each passing panel, looking upward to G-d beseeching him for explanations, with boils covering him from head to toe. His hair and beard have grown in, out and disheveled from the previous panel. His clothing is mostly gone, and he is sitting on a heap of ashes. Beneath his feet to his right is a broken urn, symbolic of Job being a broken vessel. To the left of his feet is a potsherd, a shard of the broken vessel which Job uses to scratch himself with, because he is always itching from his skin affliction. Written on his red garment is the letter “Vav”, the third letter of his name, which reads “Eyuv” when all four panels are put together. On the bottom right of his garment are the four letters of his name rearranged to spell “AYVB”, or “Aye Av?” “Where is father (in heaven)?” the theme of this panel.

Portrayed on the bottom right of the painting is Job’s wife‘s reaction to the situation. She asks him, with an accusatory finger pointing in his direction, “why don’t you blaspheme God and die?” This is exactly the reaction which Satan wants to evoke from Job. But at this point Job will have none of that kind of talk. He rebukes her and says “Should we only take the good from G-d and not the bad?” This dialogue is written on and above Job’s wife.

The next approximately forty chapters proceed with Socratic dialogues with three friends who come to comfort him; Eliphaz Hatemani, , Bildad Hashuchi, and Tzophar Hanaami, followed by a rebuke from a mysterious younger man, Elihu ben Berachel, Habuzi from the family Ram, and a dialogue with G-d himself who appears from a whirlwind. A substantial portion of each individual’s dialogue, including God’s, is delivered in the form of sharply zinging Socratic, though not quite, Talmudic questions.

In these forty chapters, Job takes a major stand for himself and insists that his punishment does not fit the crime. Indeed there is no crime. Job insists he is pure, innocent and without blemish. God essentially is not fair. Eliphaz, Bildad and Tzophar each sequentially take turns comforting/rebuking Job trying to convince him, that despite what he thinks, he must have done something wrong, for otherwise how could he explain the situation? Eliphaz and Bildad each get three turns, and Tzophar gets two turns. Job responds to each of them. It is impossible to do the book of Job justice without somehow giving voice to the forty chapters of the most eloquent soaring and poignant poetry found in the entire Tanach. This dialogue can not be captured visually. Thus what I have done is to write representative snippets of dialogue between Job and these individuals beside them.

Eliphaz is standing on a mountain top to the left of Job pointing an accusatory finger, and Bildad is standing on a lower mountain top on the left also raising a similarly accusatory finger. Their dialogue is recorded on the mountain beneath Eliphaz, and is written in blue. Job’s is written in red. Tzophar with a pointing accusatory finger is standing on the heap of ashes to the bottom left of Job. His dialogue is recorded on the green mountain to his left with similar color coding.

Even though these three friends take turns of dialoging with Job, I have arranged their multiple dialogues compacted next to each character to get the gestalt content of their arguments and feelings.

Below is Eliphaz vs Job (three rounds);

Eliphaz: Remember, who ever perished being innocent, and where were the righteous deserted? Is a man more just than G-d?
Job: For the arrows of Shaddai are within me. Their poison drinks up my soul. Teach me and I will be silent. Explain to me, how have I erred?

Eliphaz: Your mouth utters your inequity. You have chosen the language of the crafty!
Job: My face is red from crying, and upon my eyelids is the shadow of death. There is no injustice in my hands, and my prayers are pure.

Eliphaz: Is not your evil great, and are not your sins without end?
Job: (If I were to find G-d) I would show him what justice is, and my mouth would be filled with arguments.

Below is Bildad vs. Job (three rounds);

Bildad: Does G-d pervert judgment? Does God prevent justice?
Job: How can man be just with G-d? Remember that you (God) fashioned me out of clay, and that I will return to the dust. Have you not poured me out like milk and curdled me like cheese?

Bildad: Why do you consider us like animals, and consider us vile in your sight?
Job: God stripped me of my glory and has taken the crown from my head. My bone cleaves to my skin and flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth. After they destroy my skin, from my flesh will I apprehend God.

Bildad: How can man be justified with G-d? How can the child of a woman be pure?
Job: While my soul is within me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils I will cleave to my righteousness and will not let go. My heart will not reproach me as long as I live. And unto man he said the FEAR of God is wisdom (Chochma), and the avoidance of evil is understanding (Binah).

For when I looked for good, evil came, when I waited for light, darkness descended. (If I sinned in any way) let thistles grow instead of wheat, let cockle grow instead of barley. The words of Job are ended.

Below is Tzophar vs. Job (two rounds);

Tzophar: You have said “my doctrine is pure, and I have been clean in your eyes”. But if you gave God the opportunity to speak he would open his lips to speak to you, and he would tell you secrets of wisdom. Know that God exacts from you less than what you deserve.
Job: Who does not know with all this that the hand of G-d did all this? How many sins and iniquities have I performed? Inform me what my sins and transgressions are. Why do you hide your face (God) and consider me your enemy?

Tzophar: Though evil is sweet in his mouth, he hides it under his tongue.
Job: Shall anyone teach God knowledge? God who judges the most high?

It is evident that Job’s three friends are neither comforting Job, nor successfully rebuking him. All Job wants now is to die, so that his suffering will end. He curses the day he was born. He lost all his children, his wealth, his health and his dignity. Furthermore he has been deserted by all his living extended family, by friends and by G-d. Whereas before, the most honored men acknowledged him, now street urchins laugh at the sight of him.

Elihu now enters the scene. Who is Elihu ben Berachel? Look at the meaning of his name. Elihu means “he is myGod”. “Berachel” means” “God be blessed”. He comes from the family “Ram”, meaning the family “most high”. It appears that this man is the human (divine?) representation of the sons of God. In fact he functions as the master of ceremonies who introduces God to Job. Once he is finished rebuking Job, God appears from a whirlwind. There is no dialogue between Elihu and Job, although there is dialogue between God and Job. Elihu is standing on a mountain top to the right of Job. On this mountain top are written these words;

Elihu was angry at Job because Job justified his life above God. He was also angry at his three friends (Just as we will soon read, God is) because they could not find an answer to Job, yet they made him out as evil. Why do you strive against him (God), for he does not account for his actions? God speaks once, the second time he is not perceived. Who is a man like Job who drinks scorn like water? God will not preserve the life of an evil man, he will grant the poor justice. Listen to this Job, stand and contemplate the wonders of G-d.

Behind Elihu is the further contracted divine presence. No longer is the divine represented by a bright sun. The divine is now a dark moon. There are no hands of God, large or small. There are craters, the crevices into which the hands of God have retracted into. There is compete darkness, hester panim, before the light can reemerge. The background night sky is dark.

After Elihu finishes berating Job, out of nowhere, from a whirlwind God appears before Job, Deus ex machina, in a theophany. Represented above Job’s head is a tornado from which emerge cosmic colorful spirals representing the explosive light of God.

Written on the spirals are God’s words:

“Who is this that darkens advice using words without knowledge? Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if you have ever known Bina (understanding)? (Where were you) when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God rejoiced? Who shut up the seas with doors when the waters gushed out like from a womb? Have you ever commanded the morning? Have you instructed the dawn upon its place? Do you know the laws of heaven? Can you rule the earth? Have you sent out lightening, and they went out and said here I am? Have you deprived light from evil men, and their raised arms have you broken? Will you annul my judgment? Will you make me evil so that you appear just? Do you have an arm like god (and a loud voice like him?)

Job’s answer written in yellow on both left and right sides of the dark arched skyline is: “Truly I have spoken without understanding. There are far greater things than me that I don’t understand. For my ears heard you, and now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I hate myself and I repent on dust and ashes”.

These are the words that are music to God’s ears. Essentially Job’s three friends and Elihu have been telling Job more or less the same thing. But when God hammers it in and visually appears before Job, he sees the light literally, confesses his ignorance and repents for evil deeds he must have done but knows not. God says so, so it must be. Job’s reward for his act of contrition is portrayed in the next panel, Job IV.