Providence & Justice
Rabbi Israel Chait
Student’s edited notes from taped lectures
Job now commences a new line of reasoning. What do these first three verses mean?
“Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower, and is cut down: he flees also as a shadow, and continues not. And do You open Your eyes upon such an one, and bring me into judgment with Thee?” (14:1-3)
Job means that since man must sin at youth, how can God judge him for those things? Job mentioned this idea earlier in chapter 13:26 when he said, “For Thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.” Job desires that God judge him as a human being: “punishing me because of the sins of his youth is not right.” In verses 4 and 5, Job voices man’s physical limitations (“number of months”) and therefore he must be judged as a being with these limitations. Meaning, he cannot be held responsible for actions that are humanly inevitable. These actions were not in his power at the time.
Job rules-out Tzofar’s argument on both accounts. First, he explains why he discounts Divine will: looking at the nature of things unveils stark inconsistencies. Secondly, there cannot be ‘compensation’ because this means that something evil happens, and then receives payment for that evil. Although he is repaid, this would mean that God was lax when the evil occurred. Job concludes that there must be some justice, but he complains that the justice is not so just, if he receives punishment for what he committed in his youth.
In chapter 14, verses 20-22 what is Job’s complaint?
“You prevail forever against him, and he passes: You change his countenance, and send him away. His sons come to honor, and he knows it not; and they are brought low, but he perceives it not of them. But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn.”
Here, Job gives the example of a tree that is cut down, but the water replenishes it. He then goes on to state that when man is laid low, he does not rise again. Job is clearly stating the destructions that exist. But there are two kinds: 1) temporary: a tree, and 2) permanent: man.
Maimonides that states that God’s justice is different than that of man, and man must abide by God’s justice. God does not abide by man’s justice. There are laws of justice but they are God’s laws. And about anything which belongs to God, namely, His system of justice, we cannot ask why it is this way because we would in essence be asking about God’s nature. This is just like asking, “Who created God?” We cannot ask this question because His nature is that He exists. The same applies to the question of God’s justice: His very nature dictates this form of justice.