The Poetry of Suffering in the Wisdom Book of Job

The biblical book of Job is classified as Wisdom Literature located in the Ketuvim of the Hebrew Bible.  Wisdom Literature as found in Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom of Solomon and Song of Songs deals with the human condition, the mundane trek on the road of life which wrestles with the forces descending like harpies and falling like blessings from above.

In addition Wisdom Literature is poetic in its presentations.  With a mixture of drama and cosmic forces the reader is introduced to people attempting to make sense of their daily existence and the terrible things which befall them on this planet traversing the cosmos.

What happens to Job and Thyatira his wife is a tragedy.  Thyatira is the name given to Job’s wife by Robert Frost in his play—A Masque of Reason which Frost said was the 43rd chapter of Job.

Over the centuries many people, especially men, have heaped a lot of negative criticism on Thyatira.  Let’s view this story from her viewpoint:

I was the mother of ten children. Have you ever experienced the loss, the tragic death of all your children at once?  Have you ever seen all your material possessions reduced to bitter ashes, faded memories, before your tear-filled eyes?  Have you ever known the pain, the hopeless helplessness, of watching your dear husband, suffering moment by moment without hope of understanding why?  Have you ever doubted in the goodness of God?  His mercy?  His justice? His love?  I can answer all of these questions, “yes,” but can you?”  THE IDEAL WOMAN, an One Act Play by G. D. Williams, 1978.

The cry of lament reverberates throughout the narrative of Job.  As the cosmic council watches this human drama of suffering Job and his friends are unaware of their audience.  For they were as Macbeth stated so eloquently,

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing…”

These players in this cosmic drama debated and argued based on their limited comprehension of the mysteries of life without a clue that they were a play, or more like a chess game, as Satan brought disaster after disaster upon Job.  Job was eloquent in defending his righteousness and innocence.

In the skewed theology of the day suffering was the result of sin.  A distorted notion which the Nazarene Teacher encountered thousands of years later.  He dispelled that the fragile condition of suffering was the result of sin by the sufferer.

One cannot read Job’s words without being touched by a man holding onto his last inch of rope as he dangled over the precipice of human understanding and agony.  His fingers are worn to the bone by the ropes of suffering.

His cries and rebuttals go the distance when Job’s God steps into the picture with myriad questions which no mortal could answer in a thousand lifetimes.  Yet Job is never told that he and his friends had been watched by a council of beings to see if a human can remain faithful to his beliefs and his God despite the overwhelming odds of grief and misfortune.

The poetry of suffering ties in with the cosmic ocean as the sufferer searches for answers beyond the confines of this earth.  Somewhere out there a great controversy, a herculean contest, a human chess game, rages between cosmic forces which pits humans as actors in a play, morality play of good versus evil.

Humans are not mere marionettes.  Being born is only a prelude to a life of undetermined vicissitudes with joys tossed in like fresh basil in a tomato soup. It’s the quest for answers beyond the limitations imposed by mortality.

As one gazes into the heavens, the cry for answers and meaning reverberates along the currents of the cosmic ocean.  For we humans are as connected to the cosmos as the suns and worlds swirling above us.

G. D. Williams       © 2012


Michael W. Smith: Place In The World

Feels like I’m
Looking for a reason
Roamin’ through the night to find
My place in this world

Where do I belong?
Is there a vision
That I can call my own?