Job 23:1-9, 16-17 - Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?

Updated: Sep 5, 2021

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[1] Job said:

[2] "Today also my complaint is bitter;

his hand is heavy despite my groaning.

[3] Oh, that I knew where I might find him,

that I might come even to his dwelling!

[4] I would lay my case before him,

and fill my mouth with arguments.

[5] I would learn what he would answer me,

and understand what he would say to me.

[6] Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?

No; but he would give heed to me.

[7] There an upright person could reason with him,

and I should be acquitted forever by my judge.

[8] "If I go forward, he is not there;

or backward, I cannot perceive him;

[9] on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him;

I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.

[16] we-el has made my heart faint;

the Almighty has terrified me;

[17] If only I could vanish in darkness,

and thick darkness would cover my face!"


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This is the Track 1 Old Testament reading choice to be read aloud on the twentieth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 23], Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. If a church is on the Track 1 path in Year B, it will be companioned with fifteen verses from Psalm 22, one of which sings, “He trusted in Yahweh; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, if he delights in him.” That pair of readings will precede one from Hebrews, where Paul wrote, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” All will accompany the Gospel selection from Mark, where we read, “A man ran up and knelt before [Jesus], and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”


You will note that I have numbered the verses, which I see as important, simply because there is a skip between verse nine and verse sixteen. There are thirty verses in Job’s twenty-third chapter; so, this reading does not attempt to address everything said by Job, in his response to a visitor [Eliphaz]. Also, in verse sixteen is the one reference to “God,” according to the NRSV translation. I have restored the Hebrew text to ”we-el,” which translates as “for god,” in the lower case. I will explain more about that later.


I wrote my observations about this selected reading the last time it came up in the lectionary cycle (2018). I published those views on my website at that time. That commentary is available now on this website, which can be read by clicking this link. I did a good job dealing with the background materials and the translations of the Hebrew, relative to the response made by Job. I stand behind what I wrote then; so, I will not attempt to restate that already said. I welcome all readers to read that article and then compare those findings to what I will soon add here now. I have recently had new insight about Job, which I stated in my analysis of the past Sunday’s optional reading from Job 1 & 2, which I will address in this much later chapter’s soliloquy. I will also add insight that connects this reading to the other readings for this Sunday.


Based on what was read last week, where Satan appeared before Yahweh (as one of the “sons the elohim”), that had to be prior to the war of the angels and Satan [call him Lucifer or Azazel]. When the association of Job is made to Adam, such that “adam” is Hebrew for “man” and Job is believed to mean “Returning,” neither are proper names. In that regard, “satan” in Hebrew means “adversary” or “accuser, withstand,” meaning “satan” is not truly a proper name, in the same sense that neither is “adam.” Still, based on Yahweh saying, “he is in your power; only spare his life” [literally, “he is in your hand; but soul is preserved”] says Satan was not only responsible for causing Job to have sores all over his skin. Satan had everything except death at his disposal, to use against Job.


In a book I published in 2014, about Genesis 4, entitled The Cain & Abel Story,” I saw the Hebrew listing of names that descended from Cain as an unseen story that told of the creation of all religions that pretended to serve gods, of all kinds, giving the impression that there was One God in common with all others. I surmised that Cain and his sons [the sons of Cain, being all his descendants listed] beget all the false religions in the world. As such, the ‘friends’ who came to visit Job to offer him advice were demonically possessed by elohim, which Yahweh said Job feared and turned away from. This now is seen to be where Elipaz has come from; as Satan not only caused Job’s skin to bring pain and suffering, he also came like human ‘serpents,’ whispering ideas designed to defeat Job’s “integrity.”


In chapter 22, which the NRSV entitles “Eliphaz Speaks: Job’s Wickedness Is Great,” Eliphaz made five Hebrew references that state “god” in the singular, but none worthy of capitalization. Had he said, “Yahweh,” that would be worthy of capitalization. By his making references to an “el” [as “hal-el, ‘el, and elowah” – all in the singular], this is Eliphaz attempting to have Job be influenced to reduce himself from a “Yahweh elohim,” by shunning Yahweh. Satan appeared in the form of Eliphaz, which was a deception designed to trick Job.


In this regard, when one finds Job responding to “we-el,” he is not blaming Yahweh, but the “elohim” that had brought the skin disease upon him. By saying, “for god made weak my inner man, and the almighty terrifies me,” this attests to Yahweh telling Satan that Job “fears elohim and turns away from evil.” The “heart” or “inner man” [also “mind,” from “leb”] of Job was a Yahweh elohim, which meant he feared losing the presence of Yahweh from his being. Already being an “el” of Yahweh, Job was saying he knows his complaints and questions were being influenced by an “el” like Satan, who possesses the almighty strength to penetrate Yahweh’s protective Spirit.


In David’s Psalm 22, which is the companion song for this reading from Job, verse one sings classically, “My God, My God, why have your forsaken me!” Jesus cried that as he died on the cross, with Matthew not stating those words in Greek, but Aramaic. Matthew wrote that Jesus said, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” The Hebrew of David is [transliterated], “’ê·lî ’ê·lî lā·māh ‘ă·zaḇ·tā·nî,” from the roots “el, mah, and azab.” In the same way that Job did not blame Yahweh [he would have named Him specifically if he were doing so], Jesus was not blaming Yahweh, who was his Father. Jesus was quoting David, who also was not blaming Yahweh for pains and suffering, but his own inner man [“leb” or “heart”] that was an “elohim” of self-protection, which was not doing a whole lot of protecting when times are difficult. That verse speaks of the meaning of “el” used by Job.


The alternate Old Testament reading from Amos goes to the last days of the two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, when those leaders had been misled by those who serve evil elohim. Thus, his writing, “you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground!” was Yahweh speaking through him [as a Yahweh elohim] telling them they worshipped false gods [elohim]. Yahweh spoke through Amos, telling the King of Israel, “For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate.” That says the “affliction of the righteous” is what evil elohim did to Job; so, that waywardness was nothing new to Yahweh.


In verse fifteen, Amos wrote of “Yahweh elohe-ṣə·ḇā·’ō·wṯ,” which told of “Yahweh’s host of gods,” which can be seen both as “angels” and “Yahweh elohim” in the flesh [like Amos, Job, Jesus, David, et al]. That says Yahweh has an “army” of divine creatures at His command; and, they can all turn bad times around, simply by killing their self-egos and submitting to His Spirit in marriage. Amos delivered that element of redemption, in order for Salvation to come; but he found no takers. Job would not be buying into the influence of evil elohim, those sent by Satan to change him, leading his soul in the opposite way as Amos tried.


In the reading from Hebrews, Paul wrote, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” Certainly, his words were referring to Jesus of Nazareth; but they likewise fit the end of Job’s story. When Paul says “we have a high priest,” he was not talking about someone dressed in fine robes and wearing fancy hats. The outerwear does not define a Saint. It is the “inner man” – the soul-heart – that is where Yahweh lives in His prophets that are “high” because they are Yahweh elohim. For Job to be a “blameless and upright man,” his soul was married to Yahweh, making him also be a high priest of Yahweh.


In the Gospel reading, when the rich, young ruler [a Pharisee, probably Nicodemus] came to Jesus and asked about the kingdom of God, Jesus told him, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” That implication says a man of many material means is more distracted by the worldly elohim that turn one’s eyes away from Yahweh, than to stay focused on the goal of Salvation. Job had plenty of things [land, animals, family], prior to Yahweh allowing Satan to play games with him. Job lost everything. When his wife said to curse the elohim and die, Job told her, “Yahweh gives and Yahweh takes away. Can we accept only the good and not also the bad?” That says people will sell their souls for the illusion of wealth, which is why Jesus said it was harder to get a camel through the eye of the needle than to get a rich man into the kingdom of Yahweh. The “eye of the needle” was a very small gate into Jerusalem, which a fully loaded camel could never get through. It would have to be off-loaded and then re-loaded once through the gate, which means there would be a lot of work involved, with desire for getting on the other side of the gate necessary. For a rich man to do that, it would mean losing all the distractions of wealth first. The story of Job tells of his having lost everything because of Satan’s first attack; but then, he got more back, after proving his faith.


As an optional reading choice to be read aloud on the twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s own personal ministry for Yahweh should already be well underway, the lesson here is to look within when one’s life has become miserable. Things like deaths often affect one’s faith, where the blame is placed on Yahweh [God above], rather than seeing how Yahweh always tests His faithful. Most fail that test miserably. We are called to be like Job and ask why one’s own inner servant to Yahweh has failed – one’s own “el” in the harem of Yahweh’s wives that are His elohim. Before one can serve Yahweh by ministering to others’ needs, one has to prove one’s worth to Him. That proving is a test of fire that makes one hard and strong, while also pure and refined.

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