This is a paper I presented at our monthly circuit meeting. We are studying the book of Job this year. We have an exegetical presentation and then one based on a book compiled by Nahum Glatzer The Dimensions of Job. Fantastic book, great insights. What fascinated me in regard to the Jewish essays was how close they got to Christ, but refused to see Him. But we are better informed nonetheless.
In Lutheranism we seem quite content to dwell in paradoxes and often it is the explication of such paradoxes as Law/Gospel, two natures of Christ, and the Trinity that forms our confession and differentiates it from other confessions that seek to eliminate any and all paradoxes. As a result, we often think we own the both/and understanding of God’s revelation in Holy Scripture. The Book of Job, however, forces all readers, regardless of religious or non-religious affiliation, to deal with the paradox of a righteous and just God allowing or even inflicting suffering upon an innocent believer. It is with this particular paradox that Jewish interpreters have struggled just as much as Christians have.
Many of the hermeneutical principles Christian exegetes make use of have been handed down or borrowed from Jewish exegetes. This is seen in the Jewish midrash and peshat. The midrashim would focus on minute details of text like word order, repetitions, and minor differences between parallel passages. The focal point of the midrashim though was the community. How does this particular text affect the contemporary Jewish community? 
The Jewish method of exegesis called peshat on the other hand dealt more with interpreting the biblical text according to its own context, not according to the needs of the community.  Peshat really took center stage in polemical debates with Christians, and Christians borrowed heavily their methods of grammar, lexicography, and linguistic studies. All of that to say that Jewish exegetes, as well as Christians, seem to have pulled out all the stops in trying to deal with the difficulties one encounters in dealing with the story of Job. For example, is Job a depiction of an actual person, or is it a parable? Or is the story more universal? Does Job represent the people of Israel and all believers in YHWH?
A quick glance at Glatzer’s essays and their titles shows this struggle. Job is compared to Abraham, Solomon (Kohelet), Ezekiel, Isaiah, Israel, Jonah, and the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. It is as if Jewish exegetes were searching the Scriptures for someone or anyone that could give them a clue as to who Job was and how his affliction could be explained. Was Job a type of Abraham? Or was Abraham a type of Job? Was Job a picture of the struggles of the nation of Israel as some exegetes believed were depicted by the Suffering Servant?
Reading the introduction on Judaic Interpretation reveals that Jewish exegetes struggled primarily with who Job was for them. In the classical Talmudic tradition Job is the epitome of piousness. They gloss over Job’s rebelliousness and questioning God with the only reprimand being that if Job had stood more firmly he would be included in prayers addressed to YHWH as the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job.
The medieval tradition begins with the same assumption that Job is to be represented as a pious person and they used “exegetical skill” to reduce the rebelliousness that Job shows.  Glatzer summarizes, “These and other (but not all) medieval Hebrew commentators desired to preserve the traditional image of a pious Job.” And:
“Despite the common core of traditions, the postbiblical Jewish interpreters enjoyed a measure of freedom in approaching the subject of Job. Yet rarely did they allow themselves to look at the book itself and to explore its original meaning. The personality and intellectual circumstances of the exegete, modified by the heritage of his faith, determined his position in commenting on Job.”
In regard the introductory material Glatzer presents, I find it interesting that Job is the center of both traditional and medieval Jewish exegesis. The paradox of the faithfulness of Job and his rebellion and questioning of YHWH is what the exegetes latched onto. They dealt with the paradox by glossing over Job’s rebellion and questioning; spinning Job to be the paragon of faithfulness. I find it fascinating that the actions of YHWH are never mentioned or considered. The paradox of the righteous, just God versus the seemingly evil-instigating God is never dealt with. They seem to ignore the paradox YHWH presents in the story.
By Glatzer’s presentation it appears the disconnect between YHWH’s attributes and actions are not questioned until the modern era. Some of the essays presented deal with this very paradox of God’s actions in Job, particularly the essay by Martin Buber, A God Who Hides His Face.
Buber begins his essay by setting up the dichotomy between dogma and experience. The experience of Job seems to contradict all dogmatic categories of how YHWH relates to His people. In fact, the experience of Job appears to create a new dogma. And for something to be dogmatic it must be able to be applied universally. Therefore, according to Buber, the complaints of Job about YHWH transcend the complaint of the individual. It becomes the complaint of Israel/God’s people. “Behind this ‘I’, made so personal here, there still stands the ‘I’ of Israel.” In other words, the schizophrenia of YHWH in Job is of concern to all mankind, not just Job.
The source of that seeming schizophrenia is the why of suffering. As Buber explains, it is not the why of someone asking about the nature of things, it is a specific why addressed to God and His actions. “Job does not ask, ‘Why does God permit me to suffer these things?’, but ‘Why does God make me suffer these things?’” As Buber asks, “How are these sufferings compatible with his godhead?” Buber then offers four views of God’s relationship to man’s sufferings.
The first viewpoint is from the opening dialogue of Job. The scene is set with the Adversary petitioning God to entice Job, to see if Job will remain ‘gratuitously’ faithful, that is remain faithful without seeking reward, or will he break faith with God. Buber sees in the opening dialogue God ‘gratuitously’ causing Job’s suffering, that is causing suffering for no reason, and this behavior by God is really questionable because we know the motive, “which is not one befitting a deity. “ However, in the dialogue Job is depicted as the model heavenly citizen despite the careless God. These roles completely reverse in the rest of the book. Job begins to question and rebel against what God has done and God acts like God should.
The second viewpoint is that of Job’s friends. The friends are the dogmaticians mentioned above. The ones who have codified God’s behavior and see Job’s suffering as divine cause and effect. In other words, Job has somehow sinned against God and is now paying for it.
The third view of God is that of Job in his complaint and protest. The God who reveals is one who also hides, ‘hiding His face.’ He is a God who is seen and unseen at the same time. This is revealed in the fact that Job who believes in justice, and that it is willed by God, sees God acting contrary to that justice. “The truth of being just and the reality caused by the unjust acts of God are irreconcilable.” Buber the goes on to explain,
“In spite of this, Job’s faith in justice is not broken down. But he is no longer able to have a single faith in God and in justice. His faith in justice is no longer covered by God’s righteousness. He believes now in justice in spite of believing in God, and he believes in God in spite of believing in justice. But he cannot forego his claim that they will again be united somewhere, sometime, although he has no idea how this will be achieved. This is in fact meant by his claim of his right, the claim of the solution.”
And somehow that solution must come. For Job knows justice demands that there be suffering for no reason, in other words, there must be cause and effect, sin and consequence. Yet Job feels isolated from God and cannot understand how God can violate that rule. How can God effect suffering for no cause? Who says Lutherans own the show when it comes to paradoxes?
It is here that Buber makes a brilliant observation:
“Job struggles against the remoteness of God, against the deity who rages and is silent, rages and ‘hides His face,” that is to say, against the deity who has changed for him from a nearby person into a sinister power. And even if He draw near to him again only in death, he will again ‘see’ God (19:26) as His ‘witness’ (16:19) against God Himself, he will see Him as the avenger of His blood (19:25) which must not be covered by the earth until it is avenged (16:18) by God on God. The absurd duality of a truth known to man and a reality sent by God must be swallowed up somewhere, sometime, in a unity of God’s presence. How will it take place? Job does not know this, nor does he understand it; he only believes in it. We may certainly say that Job ‘appeals from God to God.’”
The final viewpoint of God’s relationship to man’s suffering is seen in God’s final speeches to Job. These speeches are not just God revealing His mysterious character and that man will never understand Him and His ways. It does more than teach that God can do with us whatever He wants. Rather they show that justice is at the heart of everything, not a recompensing and compensating justice, but a giving justice. A communion between creator and creature, in which justice means God giving to Job/mankind Himself as the answer to the sufferer who cries out in despair.
The book of Job, perhaps more than any other book in Holy Writ, really throws the believer for a loop. One cannot honestly deal with this text without being disturbed by it. Perhaps the only other passages in Scripture that reveal an almost dualistic god as depicted in Job and causes us concern, are the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart and YHWH’s order to completely kill the Canaanites in Joshua.
But despite the fact that Buber is Jewish, I think Buber’s essay takes on the paradoxical actions of God in the book of Job, and comes the closest to giving us a clue as to the answer for why this happened. The answer is in YHWH Himself. Essentially, YHWH will have to answer to YHWH for what YHWH has done.
 Hauser. Alan J. & Watson, Duane F. (2003). A History of Biblical Interpretation (p.12). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub.
 Glatzer, Nahum N., (1969). The Dimensions of Job (p.18). Eugene, Oregon:Wipf and Stock Publishers.