The And Job Added For His Discourse ( Mashal ) Essay

The And Job Added For His Discourse ( Mashal ) Essay

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“And Job added to his discourse (mashal)” (29:1). This same rhetoric introduced Job’s words in
chapter 27. Up to that point, Job had just “answered” each of the friends’ admonitions. In both
chapters 27 and 29, Job headed in new directions. In 27, Job ventured wholesale into the
paradigm of the friends, perhaps particularly Zophar, with regard to the fate of evil persons.
Here, picking up the verbal gauntlet again, he began to build the foundation for the radical
move that would close his words. Neither of these was a previously trodden path. Perhaps that
is why the narrator framed his words in terms of a mashal, setting up a likeness - this new
venture alongside that better-known one.
Sidebar - The Hebrew word mashal is used to establish a likeness (30:19). Customarily, it is
translated “parable.” Perhaps Job was constrained to think in terms of comparisons and
contrasts since he had not been on either of these playing fields before. To argue through
Zophar’s lenses might have seemed strange. To cobble together a self-defense and subsequent
set of oaths against himself was something far removed from anything he had experienced in
the city gate.
Chapters 29-31 represent a dramatic turning point for Job. To understand him, we need to
remind ourselves of previous developments. Chapter 29 sounds as if Job was boasting about
himself, but that is a superficial reading of his words. In fact, he revisited his own better days to
counter the false accusations that Eliphaz had cruelly lobbed at him (chapter 22). Job’s
declarations and the deeply pained descriptions of chapter 30 form the basis for the oaths
against himself (chapter 31) that served as his final last-ditch means to summon God.
Above all, Job mourned his lost relationships, bo...

... middle of paper ...

number his steps (31:1-4). Jesus echoed that same challenge in the Sermon on the Mount: “…I
say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed
adultery with her in his heart” (Mat 5:28). The divine Judge would know.
Following that introduction, Job launched into his claims to innocence by enumerating possible
sins that he may have committed. He had just taken God to task for not responding in kind to
his good deeds – a measure for measure justice so central to Israelite understanding of God
(30:24-26). Now, in a judicial tour de force, he demanded that God dole out measure-formeasure
punitive justice if Job had engaged in sin. Although he did not name God, that was
implicit; if God was God, He had to respond. For each possible sin, he specifically called down
upon himself the ill consequences that a transgressor would deserve.

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