3 April 2010

Job 14:1-14

"For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grows old in the earth, and its stump dies in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth branches like a young plant. But mortals die and are laid low; humans expire, and where are they?" (v.7-10)


The day between Good Friday and the day of resurrection has no name in Scripture. There is no account of it in any of the Gospels. It was a day of silence and waiting, on which nothing could happen because it was the Sabbath. So the lectionary turns to the book of Job (a poem of ancient origin, attributed to Moses by the Talmud - an ancient Jewish text - but probably completed around 500 BC) for a meditation on mortality and the questions that death raises for all human beings.

Job (who may have been an historical or a fictional figure) had suffered. Having been a rich and successful man, a series of disasters had befallen his livestock and his sons and daughters, leaving him grief-stricken and alone. But, despite cursing the day he was born (Job 3:3-4) Job refused to curse God; and despite the conventional wisdom of his 'comforters' who urged him to believe that his misfortune was punishment for his sins, Job persisted in speaking the truth as he experienced it. Rather than listening to the 'wisdom' of his friends, he identified with the wisdom of the animals who know that in God's hand is the life of every living thing (Job 12:7-14).

Chapter 14 is part of Job's lament to God about death, expressing his knowledge gained through bitter experience that mortals who die cannot live again. Even so, Job flirts, against his own better judgement with the idea that there might be a land of shadows (Sheol) in which he could hide and then be put back together (re-membered): a land in which both the righteous and the unrighteous were believed by some Jews to await the day of resurrection.

In Job's mouth is the despair and the hope against hope that human beings experience in the face of death. Faith in God does not exempt him from hard realities or hard questions, nor give him an easy hope. In the end all he can do is wait to see what God will do.

To Ponder

To what extent do you think there is a connection between the disasters that befall people and God's judgement?

What do you believe will happen to you when you die?

How does resurrection hope shape the waiting of Holy Saturday for you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jane Leach

Jane writes on ministry, pastoral supervision and pilgrimage..