Philippe Guillaume - Michael Schunck, «Job’s Intercession: Antidote to Divine Folly», Vol. 88 (2007) 457-472
This paper pinpoints how divine folly and human intercession mentioned in Job 42,8 are key concepts to unravel the meaning of the Book of Job. The Epilogue does not restore Job in his former position. Job is not healed but receives a new role as intercessor on behalf of his friends and by extension on behalf of everyone less perfect than he is. Understanding misfortune as the consequence of inescapable bouts of divine folly is the Joban way to account for humanity’s inability to comprehend the divinity.
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Jobâ€™s Intercession: Antidote to Divine Folly
The Book of Job closes with the heroâ€™s restoration. Job recovers his
family, fortune and social position, but this happy end used to be
considered of little theological value as it seems to contradict the
points painstakingly made through the preceding dialogues (1). It is our
contention that the Epilogue is the key to the entire book. The present
essay demonstrates how Job 42,8 resolves the tensions developed in
the narrative and elevates Job to the position of intercessor to soothe
the effects of divine folly.
1. Jobâ€™s Partial Restoration
With twice as many heads in his new herds (compare Job 1,3 and
42,12), twice as many sons (2), surrounded by family and acquain-
tances, Job could consider himself a happy man. Yet, the title of a
recent monograph on Job 42 places the adjective â€˜happyâ€™ between
inverted commas, suggesting that Jobâ€™s happy end does not see the
protagonist restored to the status quo ante but rather emerging scarred
and transformed (3).
Job 42,12 reports that â€œYHWH blessed Jobâ€™s after more than his
beforeâ€, yet his loathsome sores are never said to have healed. Since
YHWH agreed with the satan that striking Job in the flesh was the
ultimate test (Job 2,7), the failure to mention Jobâ€™s healing gives the
lie to Eliphazâ€™s claim that Shaddai both wounds and heals (Job 5,18).
Jobâ€™s healing may be included in the blanket expression â€œThe Lord
(1) See D.J.A. CLINES, â€œDeconstructing the Book of Jobâ€, The Bible as
Rhetoric (ed. M. WARNER) (London 1990) 65-80.
(2) hn[bÃ§ is a dual form of seven: E. DHORME, A Commentary on the Book of
Job (London 1967) 651-652; A. GUILLAUME, Studies in the Book of Job (Leiden
1968) 140; HALOT, 1401. The non-doubling of the number of daughters reflects
their legal status. While the fruits of a womanâ€™s labour benefited her husband, the
marriage usually did not sever her ties to her agnatic group who remained the one
who had to pay compensation for any misdeeds the woman may commit even
after her marriage: F.H. STEWARD, â€œCustomary Law among the Bedouin of the
Middle East and North Africaâ€, Nomadic Societies in the Middle East and North
Africa (ed. D. CHATTY) (HdO 81; Leiden 2006) 259.
(3) K.N. NGWA, The Hermeneutics of the â€˜Happyâ€™ Ending in Job 42:7-17
(BZAW 354; Berlin 2005).