Job 17 – Sarcasm, or Righteous Anger?

“God has made me a byword to everyone,
    a man in whose face people spit.
My eyes have grown dim with grief;
    my whole frame is but a shadow.
The upright are appalled at this;
    the innocent are aroused against the ungodly.
Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways,
    and those with clean hands will grow stronger.
(Read the rest of the chapter, here.)

Guess what – someone has made a play out of Job, accurately titled….The Book of Job.  This is probably only exciting to Bible and literature nerds like me.  But over and over again I have thought how much this play reminds me of early English morality plays. (Remember reading Everyman in high school?  That’s a morality play.  Like I said, total nerd over here.)  Perhaps it’s truly the other way around, with morality plays being modeled after stories like Job…which may have been influenced by (or have influenced) Greek choral plays…but I won’t go down that rabbit-hole.

The reason I bring it up is because I think that so much more could be gained from Job if it was spoken.  It’s whole meaning might change based on how the actor chose to portray a certain section – such as this section here.  The general consensus is that Job is getting more and more sarcastic: he asks God for a pledge, knowing that it will not be forthcoming.  Then Job blatantly mocks his friends, telling them their minds are closed to understanding” and quoting a retorting parable back at them, in answer to all of theirs from earlier.  This section, vv. 6-9, is supposedly uttered with dripping sarcasm, and then Job goes on to get all morbid and talk about how the grave is his only hope.

I think this is a very accurate understanding of it, but part of me can’t help but wonder – again because Job is such a self-conscious piece of writing – if Job is actually getting more emboldened. From a dramatic standpoint, this could make sense.  We, the reader/audience, know Job is righteous, thus he is reacting in a way we would want him to.  Perhaps his friends false comfort and piety has had an unintended “reverse psychology” effect on Job, rousing in him a sense of purpose he didn’t have before.  Maybe, if his friends hadn’t come along, he would have cursed God and died, as his wife suggested he do way back in chapter two.  Instead of wallowing in agony and self-pity, Job feels driven to proclaim his innocence.  In that light, perhaps he isn’t asking God for a pledge with a tone of sarcasm, but truly asking (maybe even demanding) that pledge.  Demanding something of God seems impudent, to say the least, but it has been made clear the Job is, in God’s own words (twice!), “blameless and upright.”  So if anyone could demand something of God, it would be Job.  And then perhaps vv. 6-9 are not spoken in sarcasm, but yelled out in defiance at his friends, because they are actually true.  He gets worked up even further, challenging them in v. 10, “But come on, all of you, try again! I will not find a wise man among you!”  Perhaps the only sarcastic part of this speech is the last part, where Job talks about his only hope being the grave.  His is a righteous anger now, and he knows that God will bring him justice.

Perhaps. Or perhaps not.  It would be interesting to see the two versions – a sarcastic vs. a righteously angry Job – and see how the play, or indeed the whole story, of Job would change.  Just a thought.

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