BACKGROUND NOTES (& OTHER NEAT INFO)
THE BOOK OF JOB (pronounced ‘jobe’).
Takes a long hard look at the tough question of why bad things happen to good people. This book is such a timeless work because
it doesn’t pretend to provide an easy answer to this question, and uses some of most soaringly lyrical language in the
Bible in its exploration. This Old Testament book leads off the books of Wisdom literature in the Bible, which include Job,
Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon.
The whole thing is well worth a read-through, of course. But perhaps enough of the richness of the book comes out in the following
Chp 1. Sets up the situation where Job is a prosperous, God-fearing man; Satan makes a wager with God about how to break
down the good man’s piety; Job’s family and herds are killed (he gets them back at the end!).
Chp 2. When the above doesn’t work on Job, Satan afflicts Job’s body with boils; Job’s wife isn’t
much help; neither are his 4 friends who arrive on the scene ‘to comfort and console.’
Chp 3. Job starts questioning why all this has happened to him and feeling pretty sorry for himself; his friends begin many
chapters of unhelpful advice.
Chp 19. Job is desperate for an advocate to plead his case before God.
Chps 29 – 31. Job’s poignant summarizing speech about the human situation (specifically his).
Chps 38 – 42: 8. God speaks to Job out of a whirlwind. Several chapters of uncommonly eloquent poetry on the nature
Chp 42: 9 – 17. Describes the restoration of Job’s fortunes. Children and livestock are returned to him in abundance
and he lives to a ripe old age.
Canadian writer and former UCC moderator Lois Wilson offers an interesting review of the female characters in the Book of
Job in her own book, Stories Seldom Told. Wilson makes the case that when Job’s wife urges him to ‘Curse God
and die,’ Job’s faith changes from a passive one to a healthier, active questioning one (SST, p. 138). The new
dynamism in his faith sets the stage for his deliverance. Wilson also points out that when Job’s daughters return home,
he gives them beautiful names and property — “both unusual acts in biblical history (p. 139).” These unusual
acts come from Job’s new clearer vision following his ordeal.
TWO KINDS OF TRIAL.
This book is chock full of references to courtroom style trial proceedings. Right from Chp.1, the Satan character is introduced
as one of the ‘heavenly beings’ , and his name is derived from the Hebrew word for ‘accuser’ or ‘adversary.’
(See footnotes to Job, Chp.1 in the New Oxford Annotated Bible.)
The word ‘Redeemer’ in a key verse at Job 19:25 has legal undertones, also coming from the Hebrew tradition and
meaning something like ‘vindicator’ or ‘mediator.’ (Also from footnotes, NOAB.
The huge amount of language related to legal trials in this book emphasizes Job’s eureka moment when he realizes that
what he has really undergone is in fact a testing kind of trial. This shift happens in Chp. 38 when God finally speaks to
Job “out of the whirlwind.” Or as Canadian scholar Northrop Frye puts it in his book Words with Power, “
the judge himself comes down from the bench (WWP, p. 311).”
Job’s awareness (and the reader’s!) of this different rubric is crucial. Frye further explains: “Job is
not allowed to look back at the chain of causation in the past, which would be a matter of relying on the wrong kind of memory.
He has reached the end of his narrative in his present situation and must now look up and down. What he sees is the good creation
in its original unspoiled form: at one pole there is the intelligible harmony when the morning stars sang together; at the
other is the leviathan who is king over all the children of pride (41:43).
SO WHY DOES BAD STUFF HAPPEN TO JOB?
Let’s turn again to Frye. In his book The Great Code , Frye makes this suggestion: “The case against Job is simply
that he lives in a world in which a good deal of power is held by Satan. Job, like the Good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable,
comes from [a country outside Israel.] ... Job lives in enemy territory, in the embrace of heathen and Satanic power which
is symbolically in the belly of the leviathan, the endless extent of time and space (GC, p. 195).”
CELEBRATION OF ACTIVE FAITH.
Lois Wilson in the quote cited above flagged us to this. Frye develops this idea further (WWP, p. 311): “What is finally
restored at the end of the story, however, is a society... and Job is not restored until he prays for [his friends] (42:10).”
Frye goes on to explain that Job has arrived at a place where “the Biblical perspective of divine initiative and human
response passes into its opposite, where the initiative is human, and where a divine response, symbolized by the answer to
Job, is guaranteed (WWP, p. 313).”
JOB IMMORTALIZED BY GF HANDEL.
German composer and European gadfly George Frederick Handel inscribed indelibly on the modern mind Job’s line, ‘I
know that my Redeemer lives.’ This is the title of a well-loved aria in Handel’s Messiah. This line also appears
on Handel’s memorial in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey in London, England. To hear a 90-second mp3 sample
of this aria, click here. Then scroll down to Disk 2, Track 18. Enjoy!
TIMELESS IMAGES BY WILLIAM BLAKE.
British poet and painter William Blake produced a book of colour engravings inspired by the Book of Job. To see these (in
black & white or colour!), click here. Enjoy them too!
ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT, LET'S GET SPECIFIC.
N. Frye wrote a seminal book on Blake in 1947 called Fearful Symmetry. In this book, Frye traces the influence of
the Bible on Blake, as well as the influence of Blake on the English speaking world around 1800. Blake's iluminated plates
on the book of Job are an integral part of the poet's oeuvre. Here's a telling footnote on one of Blake's Job plates in Frye's
"...Job is not restored to his former state of pastoral innocence, but raised to the unfallen world which that state reflected,
a world in which his "emanations" are united to him, and in which the tragedies that befell him are portrayed as works of
art existing "in the shadows of Possibility." These pictures are on the walls of Job's mind, for the room he is in is identical
with his own body. That does not make them subjective, for Job is no longer subject: he is one with God, not the Creator of
the natural leviathan shown in our first illustration, but the creative Word of God who tames it."
Here's a direct link to the Vision of Job, plate 20, in black and white with handlettering.
Here's the link to the same plate in colour.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Has it ever happen to you that you felt something bad or unfair happened to you and it was distinctly not your fault?
2. Are we very impressed with God when things like this happen to us?
3. How do we deal with situations where God feels remote? Who do we talk to? How do we get through it?
4. What does ‘passive faith’ mean to you? [Something like trusting in God to the point of being a doormat...].
What does ‘active faith’ mean to you.
5. What are some examples of how our actions may demonstrate an active faith. [Situations requiring forgiveness. Interacting
with ‘outsiders’ that we may be a little afraid of.]
IN REAL TIME WITH THE CHILDREN IN YOUR WORKSHOPS COVER THESE TWO POINTS:
1. REVIEW THE STORY WITH THE CHILDREN. HAVE THEM SUMMARIZE TO DEMONSTRATE TO ALL HOW MUCH MORE THEY REMEMBER FROM PAST WEEKS.
2. EXPLAIN HOW YOUR ACTIVITY CONNECTS TO THE STORY.
Arts -- flat plasticine sculpture.
Take a look at this painting by William Blake of God speaking to Job from the whirlwind. See if the children can render this kind of scene distinguishing the voice of God from the wind thru through textures in
Activity: Plasticine sculpture on boxboard of God speaking from the whirlwind.
Materials: Plasticine (or other clay will do), all one colour or various, boxboard squares (heavier than paper anyway) for
the kids to carry the sculptures home on.
See how the children's interpretations will vary, some reflecting the shock Job might feel at finally hearing from God, and
some showing Job's relief at finally getting an answer.
**It's totally fine for them to just create a scene from the story -- could include Job, friends, God, behemoth, leviathan,
Job's daughters, a party, whatever!
Kitchen -- Job's Family's Back and Ready to Party Buffet.
When God restored Job's family, they "broke bread with him." They also brought jewelry and money. I mean, come on, I think
you'd be pretty happy te be back together again, and there would be more than bread.
Encourage your class to have a Job Restoration Party. Idea: plates of tacho chips with melted cheese and toppings, plates
of cut veg and dip, and of course cake. The children can help either with grating and cutting, or will filling dip bowls and
putting out napkins and cutlery. Invite your congregation to share in Job's celebration.
Computer -- KidPix or Let's Talk.
Activities: demonstrate ideas of what it would be like to hear God talking to Job.
Material: Kid Pix or Let's Talk.
In Kid Pix, have the kids draw a scene that includes God speaking to Job from the whirlwind. Discuss whether Job would be
startled or happy to finally hear from God. Use the voice function in Kid Pix to give an idea of how God might sound.
In Let's Talk. Neil has an idea for using this program on the Sunday Software site, scripture cross reference link. He susggest
creating a mock instant message type conversation between God and Job to get into the story.
Puppet play -- "Off of the ash heap"
For this skit, Job's so-called human friends have disappear. And good riddance. His only friends are a few kindly rats on
the ash heap who are concerned about their new friend, and are curious to see how it will all pan out.
Activity: puppet play.
Materials: puppets for Job, God, rats, daughters, family, friends. These can be made from felt, foam or construction paper.
Click here for the script for the puppet play.
Review of Activities from Job 1
Arts -- ceramic tile
Drama -- play with costumes. (Click here for script for older children and here for script for younger children.
Kitchen -- party dessert pizza
Computer -- various activities.