Thursday 7 January 2010

Gerald H. Wilson on Job

Gerald H. Wilson, Job, New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody: Hendrickson/Bletchley: Paternoster, 2007).

The publishers make available a few pdf excerpts of this commentary, including the Introduction.

Wilson begins with the title of book and its date (late, rather than early, for the final form of the book – exilic or post-exilic).

He discusses the place of Job in its broader wisdom context. The ‘retributive wisdom’ of Proverbs is balanced by other forms of wisdom, since ‘according to observation and experience, the hallmarks of the wisdom enterprise, wise and righteous persons do not always prosper, and the foolish and wicked often seem to avoid suffering and judgment’ (3-4). Even while Ecclesiastes and Job explore these alternatives, they do not seek to undermine faith in God, but ‘offer their own testimony to a continuing reliance on God and acknowledge the pain and confusion that inhabit the real world of the observant sage’ (4).

He has a short section on the text of the book (‘one of the most difficult Hebrew texts in the OT’, 5), before devoting more attention to the structure of the book (6-11), noting the following components:

• Prose prologue and epilogue (chs. 1-2; 42:7-17)
• Poetic dialogue (chs. 3-31)
• A wisdom poem (ch. 28)
• The poetic Elihu monologues (chs. 32-37)
• The theophanic appearance of God (chs. 38-42)

He argues that ‘although the book of Job contains many distinctive components, some of which may have circulated earlier as independent compositions, there is an intentional editorial unity with a cohesive purpose and message in the canonical final form of the book’ (11).

The book as a whole shows that despite ‘suffering and mystery, the powerless inability to control oneself or one’s world, God is still worth holding onto in a relationship of absolute dependence (which is the fear of God)’ (15).

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