I’m reading a book called Melville’s Quarrel with God. The author talks about how the Old Testament Book of Job influenced Melville as he wrote Moby-Dick. I realized I’ve never read the Book of Job, so I corrected that.
Wow, what a messed up story. In case you never read it, here’s the synopsis.
God is chatting one day with Satan (really, I’m not making this up!), and says, How about that Job? He’s so great, my most faithful servant.
Satan says, well, yeah, you made him rich, why shouldn’t he be faithful? I bet if you took away all his stuff, he’d sing a different tune.
God thinks about it and says, OK, Satan, go do your thing. But, um, you can’t actually hurt Job, OK?
Sure thing, God, Satan says. You can almost see him rubbing his hooves together, thinking, this is gonna be fun!
So Satan doesn’t just take Job’s stuff. He also kills all Job’s servants (quite a lesson Job will learn from that, huh?) and his 10 children, too. Over and over a messenger comes up to Job with a story of woe, saying, “I alone survived.”
So what does Job do with all this news? He becomes even more faithful.
Satan, his ego bruised, says, it wasn’t a fair test, because I wasn’t allowed to actually hurt him.
God thinks some more and says, OK, Satan, go ahead and hurt Job. Just don’t kill him, K?
(If you think I’m making this up, go read it yourself. It’s all there).
So now Satan covers Job in boils, makes him feel generally awful, and finally Job just wants to die.
Job’s friends come around and say, wow, Job, you must’ve really screwed up to get God this mad at you.
Job says, no, I didn’t do a thing. I don’t understand why all this is happening.
They argue a while, and finally Job is frustrated and asks flat out why God has allowed all this to happen.
Now God himself comes down to talk to (i.e. shout at) Job. Instead of answering the question, though, God just says I’m big and bad and covered in hair, so shut your pie hole, little man, ‘relse.
Job realizes he’s licked, so he just says, oh great one, and all that jazz.
God is so moved by this demonstration of spinelessness that he gives Job back all the stuff he lost – doubles it, in fact – and Job ends up with 10 new kids and lives a long, happy life the end.
What the frack to make of all this? Just skimming around I’ve found a lot of deep thought on what this mess of a story can mean, but to me it’s pretty straightforward, just as the Abraham story is straightforward, the Jonah story is straightforward, and all the rest. At least Job is a little more honest.
These stories all have at their heart the sentiment that you don’t question. Don’t try to figure it out, little puny human, you’re too pathetic to understand. Just do as God says. As the fairy godmother says in the most horrid line in all of broadway, “Don’t question, just obey.”
The other stories add “and you’ll be rewarded.” At least Job is honest enough to say you might not get rewarded. Well, not until the very end, anyhow.
Through it all God reminds me of none other than Trelane, the pseudo-Q from the original Star Trek series.
Humans are just playthings to Trelane and to God, to be flitted with and then destroyed at will. In the Star Trek episode, and certainly in many of the following Next Generation episodes with Q himself, it is quite clear that might does not make right. Too bad Job wasn’t more like Jean-Luc Picard. But such is not a sentiment you’ll find in the OT. Just like Abraham, just like Jonah, Job submits, and that’s just the way God likes it. The message couldn’t be clearer. You’d better submit, too. ‘relse.