Saturday 09 October 2021

Bible Book:

‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?... Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand... I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.’ (vs 3, 5, 6)

Job 42:1-6 Saturday 9 October 2021

Psalm 100


Job has wanted to argue his case directly before the Almighty. When God finally gives him the chance to do so he does not know what to say (40:1-5). In chapter 42 he is given a further opportunity. This time his response takes the form of a confession. God has accused him of darkening counsel by words "without knowledge"(38:2). Job takes this very phrase into himself and plays it back. Before Yahweh all human language collapses but when God’s words are absorbed within there is a new ‘seeing’.

 In verse 6 Job confesses "I despise [loathe] myself." This translation from the Hebrew is not necessarily correct for the word ‘myself’ is not in the text. It is suggested it should be interpreted as ‘I loathe my words’. This then relates to the final sentence in today's passage that talks of "in dust and ashes". Ashes are very present in the book of Job's opening demonstrations of mourning (2:8, 12). The only other biblical reference to ‘dust and ashes’ is in the story of Abraham beseeching God to save the city of Sodom (Genesis 18:27). Job is not engaging here in an act of self-abasement by repenting in dust and ashes but rather, like Abraham, is fully conscious of being dust and ashes.

 The usual interpretation of this confession is that God’s dramatic appearance is so awesome and majestic that Job is squashed. In fact the opposite is true. It is an affirmation of Job’s boldness of faith as the epilogue of the book of Job (42: 7-16) spells out. To be dust and ashes in God’s presence and to demand that Yahweh listens is to be like Abraham whose prayers prevailed and made God change God's mind.

 The message of the book of Job is that we are made in the image of God, set within God's creation as stewards to observe it, understand it, preserve it and enjoy it. In the face of injustice we should never be silent but argue with God and with any other person who fatefully accepts that disaster and ruin are the norm.


To Ponder:

  • When did you last have an argument with God? Who won?
  • What do we see happening to God’s created world? What are we to do about it?



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