Last week we got in our first copies of Tremper Longman III’s commentary on the book of Job. It is the final installment in the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms series. Each commentary segment ends with a “Theological Implications” section. Here’s a sample.
“But was God unjust? Some modern readers of the book believe so and characterize God as a despot or at least as a divine bully. After all, we know that Job did not deserve his suffering, in the sense that his pain was not a consequence of his own personal sin. But to say that God is unjust requires us to believe that God owes Job a good life since he has been good and that it is unfair for God to take away Job’s wealth, health, and family.
But this is not the biblical view of God and human beings. Reading Job in the light of Gen. 1-3, we can say that God created humanity to enjoy the blessing of life forever. Adam and Eve are pictured as living in Eden, a place whose very name means ‘luxury’ or ‘delight.’ Their rebellion led to their punishment, and forever afterward human beings deserve death and not life. Job’s earlier life was not something he earned, but rather it was an act of divine grace. The message of the book of Job is not that life is fair, but that God is wise and sovereign and perfectly just. For this reason, God will eventually reprimand Job for accusing him of injustice (‘Would you invalidate my justice? Would you condemn me so you might be righteous?’ 40:8), and Job will ultimately repent (42:1-6).
Zuckerman approaches this question from a different direction. He cites Isa. 45:9 (translating, ‘Woe to him who would lodge a complaint against his Maker: a pot with the potter! Does the clay say to its maker, ‘What are you doing? This work of yours has no handles?’”) and goes on to say,
The poet has his protagonist [Job] affirm that if God refuses to respond to Job’s legal accusation, or intimidates Job with His divine power, then God has broken the rules of adjudication and thus must be seen as a lawless Deity. But this ignores the most fundamental rule of law in the Ancient Near East: that God is the Law; for without divine authority the law ceases to exist. Job claims that God has violated juridical procedure, but in fact, as Second Isaiah could tell Job, this is impossible: God cannot violate Himself, nor can mankind claim the protection of any system of law separate from God’s authority.
The whole idea of God as unjust is preposterous since God himself defines justice.” (182-83)
Longman is quoting from Job the Silent: A Study in Historical Counterpoint, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991 (p. 113)
Job is from Baker Academic. It is a hardcover with 496 pages and sells for $44.99.