The Way it Was
I’ve always wondered why God did the things he did, particularly in the Old Testament. Giving it some thought, it becomes pretty obvious. I mean, what else was he going to do? When all you’ve got is an ant hill and a magnifying glass, some folks are bound to start incinerating some ants.
I suppose it’s a little too much to ask that the individual in question just observe the ants and leave their tiny lives in tact.
Omnipotent beings clearly cannot be trusted.
But seriously, the story of Job is probably one of the most confusing and contentious tales told in the hallowed pages of an already pretty confusing and contentious book known as The Bible. The Old Testament bits are particularly confusing in their portrayal of God, a being whose personality nobody seems to really agree on anyway. It’s really when you take the New Testament bits and compare them to the Old Testament that things start to seem a little weird. The story of Jesus and the redemption of mankind through his sacrifice paints a portrait of Yaweh that seems more inclusive and inviting and a little more consistent overall. The Old Testament, on the other hand, is all about a god that is fiery, tempestuous, and very flawed when looked at through the lens of modern morality. No story highlights the dubious Old Testament morality of Yaweh better than Job.
In the tale, Job is a very successful, healthy man with a large family and a great many animals in his flocks. Job is Hebrew and a devout worshiper of Yaweh, who has seen fit to rain blessings down upon him throughout his life for his faith. All of this ends one day when Satan points out that perhaps Job is only faithful because of the wealth he has received and because of the protection that God offers him. God, apparently just to prove a point, removes his blessings and his protections and Job subsequently suffers misfortune after misfortune at the hands of Satan. His crops wither, his animals die, his sons and daughters all perish, and Job himself falls terribly ill but isn’t killed. Job is bereft. He has nothing and no one but his wife who wonders why he doesn’t curse God and though he questions why this has happened to him, he never quite gets around to accusing God of anything. In the end, God answers Job in a rather unsatisfactory way. When Job demands answers for his treatment, God simply tells him about what it is like to be the Creator and then tells him that he need not answer questions from his creation. He restores Job to health and wealth and Job has new children to replace the old dead ones (nice, one God!) and ultimately Job lives on for another 140 years or so.
Scholars differ on what, exactly, this story is about and what it means. There are those who believe it is really about a man maintaining his faith in spite of adversity and being rewarded for it. There are also those that believe that Job’s unquestioning nature is what keeps the punishments coming. There are some that take it just as an explanation for why God does not answer our questions.
If you take the story literally, the whole thing is a bit of a travesty. Just another instance of an omnipotent deity being needlessly cruel to make a point that isn’t even clear in the end. The story of Job is one that makes atheists of former believers and those that were on the fence about the whole God thing.
To me, God’s treatment of Job is clearly an act of boredom from a deity that has nothing better to do. If only he’d had some TV to watch! Maybe then he could have enjoyed the thrilling adventures in Game of Thrones and left poor Job alone.
Who knows, maybe that’s part of why God’s been so silent lately!
Thanks to my brother Jonathan for helping me with this strip idea!