7 February 2015

Job 42:1-17

“‘I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” (v. 5)

Psalm: Psalm 104:24-35


One of the unresolved puzzles about the book of Job is how the beginning and end of the book (in prose) relate to the rest, which is poetry. It seems that a popular tale about a righteous man who is tested by adversity but remains faithful to God has been used as a framework for a profound set of verse reflections on the meaning of suffering. In today's passage we have the end of the reflections followed by the narrative end of the story. To our eyes they do not fit very well.

In the story ending (verses 7 to 17) Job's friends are rebuked for being critical of Job, and Job is restored to prosperity - and more: double the numbers of livestock (compare Job 1:3) and twice the expected years of life (compare Psalm 90:10). Perhaps a link with the earlier part of the chapter can be seen at the end of verse 7: Job has spoken rightly in submitting to God in verses 1 to 6.

The opening six verses of our reading conclude Job's dialogue with God from chapters 38-41. Note the inverted commas in the first part of verse 3 (Job 38:2) and in verse 4 (Job 38:3), which echo God's words earlier in the dialogue. They are followed each time by Job's humble reply. He confesses that God is a mystery he cannot fathom, but now he sees more clearly than in his earlier, more self-confident days. 

To Ponder

  • Do we speak too confidently about God, failing to preserve a sense of mystery? If so, how might we maintain that sense of mystery?
  • Can we do more to resolve the problem of suffering than accept it and trust that God understands it, and us, better than we do? If so, what could that be?
  • What light might the suffering of Jesus shed on our understanding of the problem of suffering?


Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England..