The agency of Job and Odysseus is controlled by God and the gods. Neither Job nor Odysseus have agency when the gods are against them. The relationship between the divine and human agency is a well-established one in both the ancient Hebrew and ancient Greek cultures. Many acts that could be attributed to human agency are often credited to gods, especially human errors or misdeeds. Humans try to forfeit a good deal of their agency to the gods willingly. Nevertheless the gods have no reservations about revoking agency from humans. Neither Job nor Odysseus had agency when a god was against them.
Job has no agency, no participation in God’s decision to make him the object of a wager. God does not give him the option to decline and he is presented with no opportunity in which he might refuse God outright. He has no control over the duration or intensity of his suffering. He is completely at the mercy of God.
There is nothing to give an indication of how much agency Job had before the wager. However the arguments Job makes in chapter three through thirty-seven suggest some agency, especially in his questioning of God: “Does it seem good to thee to oppress, to despise the work of thy hands and favor the designs of the wicked? Are thy days as the days of man, or thy years as man’s years, that thou dost seek out my iniquity and search for my sin, although thou knowest that I am not guilty, and there is none to deliver out of thy hand?'; (Job, chapter 10, verses 3, 5-7). We will assume Job has as much agency as one could who was “blameless and upright, one who feared God, and turned away from evil'; (Job, chapter 1, verse 1).
The events that destroy Job’s property and children seem to be agency limiting by their very nature. To Job, the entire chain of incidents must have appeared as a string of unfortunate coincidences. There was no element of predictability, no chance for Job to prepare for or thwart Satan’s plan. Job was blindsided. His agency was restricted by his limited knowledge of what was happening around him. The events Satan chose as a means to obliterate Job’s possessions and his children, were random and uncontrollable for Job. There was no room for any expression of agency on his part. Job&am...
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...erience a loss of agency because of a god.
There is one significant difference that stands out between Job and Odysseus. That is the reason for their loss of agency and suffering. The reason in for Odysseus’ torment is obvious: he blinded Poseidon’s son. How anyone could not expect some form of vengeance, and sometimes I get the feeling Odysseus is caught unaware by Poseidon, is a mystery to me. The rationale behind Job’s reduction in agency is much less clear and is never addressed by God, who was an accessory to the whole affair by knowingly allowing it to take place. The comforters suggest possible explanations, unhidden sin or a lesson from God, but neither suggestions are confirmed or denied. The reason God accepted Satan’s wager remains a playground for speculation.
When the plans of the gods, or God, are against them, neither Odysseus nor Job have control over the direction their lives take. They can only contemplate why it is happening and wait for it to end. Of course, once peace is made with the gods, agency is restored and Job and Odysseus return to the lives waiting and watching, for it is the divine that controls their agency.
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