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Changing Imago Dei In The Book Of Job Essay, Research Paper
The book of Job is one of the most prolific and unique books of the bible. It is a mix of narrative and poetry, and is distinctive in the fact that it deals with the individual’s (Job’s) relationship to God, as oppose to that of the group’s. It is these differences along with the somewhat radical picture of God that is presented which makes Job quite different than the rest of the bible, and often so interesting. One of the fundamental themes that arises in Job is the different imago-deis, or images of the Godhead that are presented throughout the book. Job is subjected to terrible trials of faith that force him to question the traditional image of God that had been so familiar to his culture and to himself. It is through these trials and this journey that Job is eventually able to break through to a new imago dei.
When the book of Job begins, Job couldn’t ask for anything more, or be any happier. He was living a pious life with a generous collection of material possessions and a large loving family. God saw Job as an ideal servant. It was only when Satan hypothesized to God that the sole reason why Job was so obedient to God was because he was living so well that He allowed Satan to test this theory; under the condition that he didn’t kill Job. Satan destroyed all that Job owned, and even killed his sons and daughters. Job was quite distraught over this, but didn’t curse God as Satan had predicted. Satan then said that if Job’s personal health were put at risk, then Job would certainly blaspheme against God. God again conceded to a test, making the same condition of not killing Job. Satan then covered Job’s body with sores and blisters. Job was overwhelmed by these tests; he couldn’t believe that God would allow so much to happen to him, when he had been such a good servant to God in the past. Three of Job’s friends had heard about the hardships that he was going through, and so they came to visit him. It was after seven days of silently suffering that Job finally succumbed, and cursed the day he was born. Job was truly distraught by his plight, and in turn conversed with his visitors about why he was being chastised. It was through these discourses with his three friends: Eiphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite that they revealed their particular imago dei. Their shared vision was one that was common to the times. Job progressed through three cycles of dialogue with his friends in an attempt at rectifying his relationship with God. Each of the comforters, however, saw things quite differently than Job. They all were still viewing God with a narrow vision of who he was, trying to place specific boundaries on what God could and could not do. Their major flaw was the ‘human’ vision that they had of God. They expected that if humanity behaved a certain way, then it was only natural that God should react accordingly. If Job was being punished, then they figured he must have done something wrong. The whole time that Job was arguing with them, he was relating from a completely different position. In his estimation, he had done nothing wrong to merit the suffering that God had bestowed upon him. He couldn’t figure out why he was being persecuted so. It was Job’s individual experience that allowed him to question the traditional imago dei that had been bestowed upon him by the three comforters and his society.
It was from this experience that a new and different imago dei appeared to Job. No longer did the idea of a perfectly fair and just God (in the human sense) apply; Job’s experiences had taught him differently. His new experience was of a God who seemed not to discriminate amongst his creation, a God who ruled with no particular concern for punishing the evil and venerating the righteous. Job was quite flawed in his methods of addressing this seeming injustice. He misbelieved that he was somehow entitled to certain treatment because he thought himself to be so virtuous.
It was this idea coupled with the erroneous imago dei of the comforters that caused the young Elihu to offer Job and the comforters his unique take on the whole situation. He had been patently waiting for the elder parties to finish offering Job their wisdom, but had a totally different idea of his own. Finally after three rounds of dialogue with no gain with the comforters, he was able to speak. Elihu thought both parties to be incorrect in their images of God. He instead proposed a third interpretation of God. In Elihu’s vision, he saw a God far more powerful and complex than humans could ever comprehend. He felt there are very finite human limitations to understanding and knowledge, and God falls much beyond them.
Immediately after Elihu’s revelation, God appeared to Job as a whirlwind in a storm. He finally confronted Job in person, as Job had been hoping the whole time. He spoke to Job and explained his awesome power. Just by hearing God speak about his tremendous authority, Job instantly realized the grave mistake he had committed. He had, for a moment, forgotten that God cannot even begin to be classified and categorized by his elementary human parameters. It was ultimately through this breakthrough with God that Job developed a richer vision of whom God really is, by finally being able to get beyond the antiquated, traditional view of God that had been so prevalent in his culture and amongst his contemporaries. Job got over his stubbornness and pride, and was ultimately able to realize that he was in no position to expect anything from God. God did everything for a reason, and just because Job didn’t necessarily understand it, by no means meant that it was wrong. Although Job had been a good servant, he too had sinned, and his pride and sense of self-importance had gotten the best of him. His inflation was countered with the prolonged alienation that he suffered at the hands of God.
The journey that Job underwent was clearly indicative of the same realization that many humans have to go through. It is a common fallacy to believe that God can be equated and judged as humans are; that the same scale used by humanity is appropriate for our divine creator. And as erroneous as this may be, it is an honest mistake. Humans possess such a painfully limited breadth of knowledge; compared to an omniscient, omnipotent creator, we know absolutely nothing. It was this notion that God wanted Job to realize, and for this reason that God was so vindictive with the pompous. More than anything, God wanted his creation to be humble and to respect His authority.
The Portable Jung, Harcourt and Associates, New York, 1973.
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