Job: Part VII
Good & Evil
Rabbi Israel Chait
Student’s edited notes from taped lectures
Tzofar says as follows:
“Know therefore that God has exacted from you less than what your sins deserved.” (11:6)
This can be taken two ways: 1) that by God exacting less, God is acting mercifully and not exacting strict justice. He is acting for man’s sake as opposed to what the plan of creation calls for. 2) (More in line with the tenor of his words) “Job, you really deserve nothing. You have no claim against God. Whatever God exacts is less than what you deserve because you have no claim against God.” However, if Tzofar were trying to demonstrate God’s justice, why would he opine that “exacting less” is justice? It would show just the contrary: God did not display justice! Therefore we explain this verse to refer to Tzofar’s commentary on Job’s status, and not referring to how God works. Meaning Tzofar is condemning Job by saying he should have received more punishment - not that God did not fulfill His plan. Tzofar is telling Job, “you are judging this situation from your own view of justice. Therefore, any theory you suggest will minimize what you truly deserve.
In 15:1-7, Eliphaz says that if Job had not done away with fear of God, he would see matters clearly. (We see this is his argument from verse 4). He maintains that since Job did away with fear of God that is why he cannot see that he sinned. (This was Eliphaz’s previous argument.) But if Job would fear God, he would understand where he sinned. Eliphaz’s argument can be equated to someone who is told first by a child, and then by a great genius that he sinned. His response to the child would be one of amusement, whereas if a genius would tell him he sinned, he would search diligently to detect his flaw. Here too, Eliphaz maintains that Job would see his error by doing a thorough investigation, had he maintained his fear of God.
“What do you know, that we know not? What do you understand, which is not in us?” (15: 9) Eliphaz means to say that Job cannot assume his experiences afford him any more knowledge than it affords him. For experiences of pain per say are not the source of knowledge. It is the fact that Job is having a certain amount of pain that affords knowledge, and not the experience. Therefore, Eliphaz is saying that Job could convey what he was experiencing so Eliphaz cold be put on the same plane of knowledge as Job, and then work out the situation. Having seen Job and hearing his complaints, Eliphaz maintains that he is stubborn and does not have a disproof of God. “You have a sin and do not want to surrender to God”, said Eliphaz. From 14:26 and on, Eliphaz states his view that Job’s sin is one that was not overt. So Job must search it out. And since this is what is required, and Job failed to do so, his suffering is understood.
“With his wealth he goes against God” (14:27)
But he won’t be successful against God. Further in this chapter Eliphaz is describing the life of the “Rasha” – the evil person; viz.,
“21; a dreadful sound is in his ears. 22; he is waited for by the sword. 23; the day of darkness is ready at hand;
In verses 28-35 his whole thrust is that there must be a point where the Rasha breaks, and has a sudden downfall. Sure, the Rasha has a rise, but from his glorious heights, comes his great surge downwards. Why is this so?
The reason the Rasha is successful to begin with, is because at first, he abandons all peripheral distractions from his quest, and this is something at which he succeeds. But the motivation of the Rasha is something that cannot last. An example can be taken from Hitler, may his name and remembrance be wiped out: his flaw was his “superman” emotion. He would push aside fear in order to maintain this image. However, when he came to a situation where rationally he should retreat, he could not, because emotionally, this opposed his superman emotion. This is where lies the break and fall of the Rasha.
This is what Eliphaz is telling Job at the end of chapter 15: “Since you put all your energies into the wickedness, hence, you will suffer a great downfall because it is impossible for the wicked to prosper.” This second argument of Eliphaz is directed squarely at the person at Job, whereas the first argument conveyed abstract ideas. In 15:25 Eliphaz is referring to the “Rasha” as one whose emotions do not allow him to see reality.
16:1-6: Job states that they cannot understand his pain. His friends’ view that Job could possibly tell them everything so they may debate on equal footing with Job, is false. He then criticizes them for not strengthening him. He says that he is terrified of the physical problems, saying that they “filled him wrinkles.” Then he continues to talk about the psychological problems. In 16:10, “they have gaped…they have smitten…they have gathered against me.” Job means to say that a just person must have enemies. The reason being that people who are unjust are not going to be happy to hear his just words; they will rejoice when he falls. So the psychological pain is being the subject of mockery. Job was a counselor and advisor in a big city, and a person in his position will naturally have enemies. From 16:11 until the end of this chapter, Job seems to openly state that the only possibility in his situation is that God should admit that there are some imperfections. In 16:17 he says, “There is no injustice in my hands.” He means that he does not deserve his situation.
In chapter 17, Job states two thoughts: his three friends do not have wisdom and they are afraid to join hands with him. Job desires someone who will argue with him. In 17:8 he states what a wise man is, and he degrades the three of them. From 17:11 and on, he speaks about there being no possible hope for him in life. What Job means by calling the grave his father and the worm his mother and sister is that the grave is his new home.
“Consider and afterwards we will speak.” Here, Bildad accuses Job of acting emotionally. “Shall the earth be forsaken?”… “The rock moved out of its place?” He means that Job is being self-centered, viz. “Will the world (earth & the rock) change for you?” Bildad is of a different view than Eliphaz. Eliphaz says that God metes out justice directly. Bildad maintains it is compensation. The question is how to understand the “wicked” described by Bildad?
The common denominator of the three is that God is just. But the purpose of Bildad’s monologue about the wicked was to tell Job to return before it is too late. If we look at Job’s answer, we can see how this view is supported. One more point in 18: it says he is cast in a net by his own feet (meaning that due to the acts of the Rasha, he falls and it says the “trap shall take him by the heel”. But this latter statement does not propose that it is the doing of the Rasha.) This theory of compensation (maintained by Bildad) works in two ways, while the Rasha creates his own downfall. This is under normal circumstances. However, sometimes the Rasha will be successful. In this case, God will knock him down and give him what he deserves. Bildad emphasizes the downfall of the Rasha so as to effectuate Job’s repentance.
In verses 3 and 4, Job ridiculed his friends for not functioning objectively. They were supposed to accept Job’s facts as true, and help him if they could, with advice on how to address his predicament. But they did not accept Job’s words as truth, and distorted his claim of innocence, saying that he really sinned. They were changing the facts. That is why Job says, “and even if I did sin, it remains with me.” Meaning, he really did not sin, however, the friends should have accepted that as fact. They are not functioning as Job had expected. They could not listen to the possibility of Job’s question; they had to change the facts.
Job’s view is that nothing takes place in this world
without it being the will of God.
(19:19) Job expresses the pain he suffers from his friends, who were part of his own clique, as they mocked him. He lost his friends. In 19:23 Job states that his words should be written down. Why? He is stating how sure he is of his objectivity.
Tzofar presents an argument that the wicked suffer. Then in chapter 21 Job states that they do not. Is this an argument in facts? I truth, both are correct. Tzofar is right that the Rasha falls. But Job states that it is not due to God intervening, that the Rasha falls. Job breaks down that part of the argument, which Tzofar wishes to use to show that there is a Divine system. Job maintains the fall of the Rasha to be his own undoing. But when the wicked make good in this life, where is the justice? Job refutes Tzofar’s argument. In 21:22 “Shall any teach God knowledge?” Job means to mock Tzofar because Tzofar is saying that the Rasha does not succeed, and there is a system of justice. Job retorts and says how can it be that God knows all (21:22) and yet, the righteous suffer? Hence, there must not be a system of providence.
Job accepted Hashgacha Klaliyot (general Providence) but not Hashgacha Pratiyot (Providence for individuals). Otherwise, there is a system and it is corrupt; since Job felt a providential system over individuals should have shielded him, he being wholly righteous. Either way, Tzofar is wrong according to Job’s view. Verse 22 is a rhetorical question: “Will one teach God knowledge?” Then Job states “And He, on high matters [alone] does He judge.” Meaning God is involved in the higher spheres, but not in everyday particulars. This is also what King David said, “What is man that You [God] shall be mindful of him?” God is too lofty to be involved in man’s affairs.
Job’s opinion of God not recognizing man is not at all incorrect. We see that King David maintained this view. If one does not question this, his ego is corrupt. This is not to say that there is no answer to this question, for we know that God takes notice of man, but a person should initially agree with King David’s sentiment.
Verses 23-26: The reason why Job carries the parallel here to post mortem is because he is searching for some justice…even after death. But he finds none, viz. “and they both lay down in the dust.” Job does not find a better situation for the wealthy after death. (The wealthy here is the Rasha and the poor is the righteous.) They are equal in life, and there is no difference after death. There are those who will tell you that certain righteous people are not eaten by the worms. This story is evidence to the emotion that Job is trying to counter. (The escape of being eaten by worms makes no sense in terms of a reward.)
Job maintains that if there are one or two incidents where a righteous person escapes, you cannot build your faith on this, because this also happens to the Rasha. This is the last part of his argument in verse 21. The reason why Job tells Tzofar to ask the wayfarers is because they can give an opinion concerning world events, and not merely in an isolated case. Certainly, one can find a case to support a purported faith system, but objectivity demands we examine the general rule. Job also exclaims, “who can tell the Rasha to his face his loss in life?” Meaning, how can you tell the Rasha he is not succeeding, when in fact he is? Since he is successful, he is convinced that nothing wrong will happen. Even in religious circles, people see successful peers and say that God must be favoring his actions. But the simple breakdown to this argument is the successful, wicked individuals. One cannot suggest that God is looking down upon them with a smile. People feel that when they are successful at something, it is an omen that they are acting properly. Conversely, if one receives punishment, one thinks he ought to check his actions. Truthfully, one should examine his path in life rationally. One should not change a trait if it is proper, for the sake of changing one’s ways.
Another break down to this argument is to show not only how the wicked are saved, but how the righteous are punished: can one say that since Rabbi Yochanan lost ten sons, that he questioned his path in life? Job was saying to his friends that they are bent on an emotion that the righteous will always prosper. But this is not how it works in reality and the only reason why someone thinks this way, is due to an emotional wish for things to work this way. It is a superstition.
In verse 21:32 Job says that when a Rasha is dead, he will be in a nice grave and the “clods of the valley shall be sweet to him.” Job means, this so-called truth by which all swear (in the end the Rasha will get his punishment and he’ll be remembered for bad) is not true. But in Proverbs, King Solomon states, “The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, and the name of the wicked will rot.” This opposes Job’s opinion.
In truth, there are two types of Rasha: 1) Proverbs refers to a person who acts unjustly towards others and with others. So during this Rasha’s lifetime, his friends will praise what he is doing because they are gaining from him. But after he dies, those who review his actions will see he is a Rasha: the reason being they can no longer gain from him. And the opposite is the case with the righteous: during his life, some will hate him because they know he is doing right and they see the wrong in themselves. But when the righteous person dies and he no longer oppresses the emotions of others, they can look at his acts objectively and see he was just. In Job we discuss the second Rasha: 2) a person who does not outwardly espouse evil, but underneath he is evil and escapes unscathed. During his life he is not looked upon outwardly as a Rasha. So Job says, “if you tell me there is a system of justice, this Rasha should not get away with evil, and if he does, there is no system.” So this second Rasha never acquired a defamed reputation like the first, hence, no bad memories. But Job felt that there should be some evidence of downfall for this second type…but there is not. Every argument is present here!
Eliphaz states all the sins of Job, while Job says he is innocent. We stated earlier that Job told Eliphaz that he did help the poor, and Eliphaz denied it. Eliphaz continues to deny Job’s words. Furthermore, what does “will you benefit God with your righteousness” have to do with Eliphaz’s argument? The reason for the first part of Eliphaz’s argument is to accuse Job of operating under the emotion of trying to satisfy God with his actions. Eliphaz maintains, “Because you did not give a poor widow her needs, for this you are punished.” Eliphaz maintains Job’s sin to be that he did not do more, and he should have. He also feels that Job possessed this corrupt feeling that all the good he performed would build up a debt for God to reward him.
There is one thought Job is expressing until verse 7: that he is right. Verse 5: “I would know His words,” meaning, I know God would agree with me. Verse 6: “He would listen to me.” Job is stating that there is no way that he is wrong. Verse 7: “There the upright reason with Him, so I should be delivered from my Judge.” Meaning, Job is akin to the upright. Verse 10: “When He has tried me, I shall come forth like gold.” Job is convinced that he is perfectly guiltless. The question is in verse 5, how can Job say that he is going to understand everything that God says? Even a fool does not utter this. What Job means is that everyone must be judged according to his or her own level. Job states that he has thoroughly examined himself and has found no flaw. Since he found nothing lacking, he knows God cannot either. The reason why God cannot show Job wrong in this area is because the area we address is the ‘extent of Job’s knowledge’. Job is stating that in this area, he has as much knowledge as God, because this is an area, which Job experienced totally.
If Job were to say that he knows how God would answer him in biology or astronomy, then he would be making a mistake because there could be something, which Job wasn’t witness to in its creation, and hence, he would be ignorant. However, regarding his life’s experiences, Job states that he remembers everything and found no flaw.
Job’s reasoning is sound: he feels that he has perceived the level required of himself during his life, and that he had reached that level. For if one says God demanded Job to reach an unattainable level of perfection, this would not be just. Job felt certain that he has done all that is possible – according to his make up – to search for any error. He has done all he can to live as best he could. Now, since Job has this knowledge, he feels God cannot add anything in this area.
One might perhaps suggest, that only God knows when any person has reached his true potential, so Job’s claim that he reached this potential is inaccurate. This may be answered from another example, when one learns Torah: one may feel tired after learning for an hour or two, but thinks, “Maybe I can go on a little longer?” So he does, and is even more exhausted. He feels that since God alone knows man’s true limits, perhaps he should learn for yet another hour. Following this course, he will soon perish. For there is only so much that an organism may tolerate. We conclude: man must be aware of his limitations. This must be God’s design. Job was in the right to assess himself, claiming with certainty that he did all he could. (This view of “always being to go a bit further” is the view belonging to Eliphaz.) From verse 8 until the end of this chapter, Job changes his argument from one of security in being right, to one of fear of God. Why did he change?
Job follows his argument to its logical conclusion: since he feels correct in his assessment, also convinced that God desires justice. Hence, God must be avoiding him, since justice would demand that Job’s innocence release him from his travails. Since he is still tortured, it must be due to God avoiding him altogether. Otherwise, God should step in to rescue him. Job states this in verse 23:13, “But He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? And what His soul desires, even that He does”. Job was faced with two possible explanations; 1) that he was not just; 2) or he was in fact completely just, but God was not concerned with his specific justice. Meaning, “God has His own will - He does what He wills.”
In 24:1, the word “ittim” (times) refers to “chance occurrences.” Here, Job asks why chance occurrences are hidden from God. Job premises the following: God created the world and all existing causes. It follows that God created all chance occurrences, the very results of His creation. If this is so, how does He hide from me, “The righteous never witness His acts.” With this, Job moves from the argument of “God’s lack of concern with him”, to, “All creation – including chance occurrences – should partake of God’s justice.”
In this entire chapter (24), Job describes the success of the wicked. But verse 20 presents a problem:
“The womb shall forget him; the worm shall feed sweetly on him; he shall be no more remembered; and wickedness shall be broken as a tree.”
This verse implies that the wicked do in fact suffer, against Job’s current tone. But in fact, this verse is no problem. For Job is stating that even in death, the wicked die suddenly, and with no pain. Again, the wicked escape mishap. This is a direct refutation of Bildad’s argument of “retribution of the wicked. “