By Nahum N. Glatzer
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Extra resources for Dimensions of Job: A Study and Selected Readings
There must have been people who believed themselves to be living in decency and faithfulness and yet whose lives were utterly disrupted. If they could say that previous acts by those over whom they had no control had caused current suﬀering, they somehow might explain the trauma and accept it. That is just the way life is. An alternate explanation is that we ourselves are the cause, for we all sin, in ways large and small, and this view was also common among ancient Israelites. And indeed, all these possibilities exist at once.
They focus on their rights (in Job’s case) or their knowledge (in the case of the “comforters”) or their power (in the case of God). Eliphaz, moreover, describes a personal, experiential event, a visionary episode in which he viscerally felt a spiritual force: To me a word was brought in stealth and my ear received an inkling from it. In disquieting thoughts from visions of the night when the god-sent deep sleep falls upon humans dread summoned me and trembling. It ﬁlled my bones with dread. A spirit swept by my face and the hair of my ﬂesh bristled.
One has sympathy for those who suﬀer, but without laying upon them blame, recrimination, or guilt in the absence of evidence that somehow they deserve their distress. ” The prophets, however, wrestling with questions of theodicy, are disturbed to think that the one God may be punishing innocent victims, an idea that is anathema to them. For the people, suﬀering is an unexplained problem, whereas for the prophets it is a moral dilemma. How can God punish those who have not sinned? indb 27 5/20/15 9:05 AM 28 Sour Grapes, Suffering, and Coping A close look at the proverb in its literary contexts points to each prophet’s orientation toward this piece of folk wisdom.