Answer to Job Part 1
King David in Prayer, by Pieter de Grebber (c. 1640)
564 Job answers Yahweh thus:
Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer thee?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
twice, but I will proceed no further.
565 And indeed, in the immediate presence of the infinite power of creation, this is the only possible answer for a witness who is still trembling in every limb with the terror of almost total annihilation. What else could a half-crushed human worm, grovelling in the dust, reasonably answer in the circumstances? In spite of his pitiable littleness and feebleness, this man knows that he is confronted with a superhuman being who is personally
most easily provoked. He also knows that it is far better to withhold all moral reflections, to say nothing of certain moral requirements which might be expected to apply to a god.
566 Yahweh’s “justice” is praised, so presumably Job could bring his complaint and the protestation of his innocence before him as ijob 40:4-5. the just judge. But he doubts this possibility. “How can a man be just before God?” “If I summoned him and he answered me, I would not believe that he was listening to my voice/’ “If it is a matter of justice, who can summon him?” He “multiplies my wounds without cause.” “He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.” “If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent.” “I know,” Job says to Yahweh, “thou wilt not hold me innocent. I shall be condemned.” “If I wash myself . . . never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch.” “For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.” Job wants to explain his point of view to Yahweh, to state his complaint, and tells him: “Thou knowest that I am not guilty, and there is none to deliver out of thy hand.” “I desire to argue my case with God.” “I will defend my ways to his face,” “I know that I shall be vindicated.” Yahweh should summon him and render him an account or at least allow him to plead his cause. Properly estimating the disproportion between man and God, he asks: “Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? and wilt thou pursue the dry stubble?” God has put him in the wrong, but there is no justice. He has “taken away my right.” “Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. I hold fast to my righteousness, and will not let it go.” His friend Elihu the Buzite does not believe the injusticeof Yahweh: “Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice.” Illogically enough, he bases his opinion on God’s power: “Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked? and to princes, Ye are ungodly?” One must “respect the persons of princes and esteem the high more than the low.” But Job is not shaken in his faith, and had already uttered an important truth when he said: “Behold, my witness is in heaven, and he that vouches for me is on high … my eye pours out tears to God, that he would maintain the right of a man with God, like that of a man with his neighbour.” And later: “For I know that my Vindicator lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth.”
567 These words clearly show that Job, in spite of his doubt as to whether man can be just before God, still finds it difficult to relinquish the idea of meeting God on the basis of justice and therefore of morality. Because, in spite of everything, he cannot give up his faith in divine justice, it is not easy for him to accept the knowledge that divine arbitrariness breaks the law. On the other hand, he has to admit that no one except Yahweh himself is doing him injustice and violence. He cannot deny that he is up against a God who does not care a rap for any moral opinion and does not recognize any form of ethics as binding. This is perhaps the greatest thing about Job, that, faced with this difficulty, he does not doubt the unity of God. He clearly sees thatGod is at odds with himself so totally at odds that he, Job, is quite certain of finding in God a helper and an “advocate” against God. As certain as he is of the evil in Yahweh, he is equally certain of the good. In a human being who renders us evil we cannot expect at the same time to find a helper. But Yahweh is not a human being: he is both a persecutor and a helper in one, and the one aspect is as real as the other. Yahweh is not split but is an antinomy a. totality of inner opposites and this is the indispensable condition for his tremendous dynamism, his omniscience and omnipotence. Because of this knowledge Job holds on to his intention of “defending his ways to his face,” i.e., of making his point of view clear to him, since notwithstanding his wrath, Yahweh is also man’s advocate against himself when man puts forth his complaint.
568 One would be even more astonished at Job’s knowledge of God if this were the first time one were hearing of Yahweh’s amorality. His incalculable moods and devastating attacks of wrath had, however, been known from time immemorial. He had proved himself to be a jealous defender of morality and was esspecially sensitive in regard to justice. Hence he had always to be praised as “just/* which, it seemed, was very important to him. Thanks to this circumstance or peculiarity of his, he had a
distinct personality, which differed from that of a more or less archaic king only in scope. His jealous and irritable nature, prying their secret thoughts, compelled a personal relationship between himself and man, who could not help but feel personally called by him. That was the essential difference between Yahweh and the all-ruling Father Zeus, who in a benevolent and somewhatdetached manner allowed the economy of the universe to roll along on its accustomed courses and punished only those who were disorderly. He did not moralize but ruled purely instinctively. He did not demand anything more from human beings than the sacrifices due to him; he did not want to do anything with human beings because he had no plans for them.Father Zeus is certainly a figure but not a personality. Yahweh, on the other hand, was interested in man. Human beings were a matter of first-rate importance to him. He needed them as they needed him, urgently and personally. Zeus too could throw thunderbolts about, but only at hopelessly disorderly individuals. Against mankind as a whole he had no objections but then they did not interest him all that much. Yahweh, however, could get inordinately excited about man as a species and men as individuals if they did not behave as he desired or expected, without ever considering that in his omnipotence he could easily have created something better than these “bad earthenware pots.”
569 In view of this intense personal relatedness to his chosen people, it was only to be expected that a regular covenant would develop which also extended to certain individuals, for instance to David. As we learn from the Eighty-ninth Psalm, Yahweh told him:
My steadfast love I will keep for him for ever,
and my covenant will stand firm for him.
I will not violate my covenant,
or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
Once for all I have sworn by my holiness;
I will not lie to David
And yet it happened that he, who watched so jealously over the fulfilment of laws and contracts, broke his own oath. Modernman, with his sensitive conscience, would have felt the black abyss opening and the ground giving way under his feet, for the least he expects of his God is that he should be superior to mortal man in the sense of being better, higher, nobler but not
his superior in the kind of moral flexibility and unreliability that do not jib even at perjury.
571 Of course one must not tax an archaic god with the requirements of modern ethics. For the people of early antiquity things were rather different. In their gods there was absolutely everything: they teemed with virtues and vices. Hence they could be punished, put in chains, deceived, stirred up against one another with ut losing face, or at least not for long. The man of that epoch was so inured to divine inconsistencies that he was not unduly perturbed when they happened. With Yahweh the case was different because, from quite early on, the personal and moral tie began to play an important part in the religious relationship. In these circumstances a breach of contract was bound to have the effect not only of a personal but of a moral injury. One can see this from the way David answers Yahweh:
How long, Lord? wilt thou hide thyself forever?
shall thy wrath burn like fire?
Remember how short my time is:
wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?
Lord, where are thy former loving kindnesses,
which by thy faithfulness thou didst swear to David?
572 Had this been addressed to a human being it would have run something like this:
“For heaven’s sake, man, pull yourself together and stop being such a senseless savage! It is really too grotesque to get into such a rage when it’s partly your own fault that the plants won’t flourish. You used to be quite reasonable and took good care of the garden you planted, instead of trampling it to pieces.”
573 Certainly our interlocutor would never dare to remonstrate with his almighty partner about this breach of contract. He knows only too well what a row he would get into if he were the wretched breaker of the law. Because anything else would put him in peril of his life, he must retire to the more exalted plane of reason. In this way, without knowing it or wanting it, he shows himself superior to his divine partner both intellectually and morally. Yahweh fails to notice that he is being humoured, just as little as he understands why he has continually to be praised as just. He makes pressing demands on his people to be praised and propitiated in every possible way, for the obvious purpose of keeping him in a good temper at any price.
574 The character thus revealed fits a personality who can only convince himself that he exists through his relation to an object. Such dependence on the object is absolute when the subject is totally lacking in self-reflection and therefore has no insight into himself. It is as if he existed only by reason of the fact that he has an object which assures him that he is really there. If Yahweh, as we would expect of a sensible human being, were really conscious of himself, he would, in view of the true facts of the case, at least have put an end to the panegyrics on his justice. But he is too unconscious to be moral. Morality presupposes consciousness. By this I do not mean to say that Yahweh is imperfect or evil, like a gnostic demiurge. He is everything in its totality; therefore, among other things, he is total justice, and also its total opposite. At least this is the way he must be conceived if one is to form a unified picture of his character. We must only remember that what we have sketched is no more than an anthropomorphic picture which is not even particularly easy to visualize. From the way the divine nature expresses itself we can see that the individual qualities are not adequately related to one another, with the result that they fall apart into mutually contradictory acts. For instance, Yahweh regrets having created human beings, although in his omniscience he must have known all along what would happen to them. ~Carl Jung, Answer to Job, Section 1, Psychology and Religion.