Job’s Advocate: A Tempting Suggestion -- By: Michael D. Oblath

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 09:1 (NA 1999)
Article: Job’s Advocate: A Tempting Suggestion
Author: Michael D. Oblath

Job’s Advocate: A Tempting Suggestion

Michael D. Oblath

Graduate Theological Union
University Of California At Berkeley

An analysis of the Advocate Passages in the book of Job indicates that Satan may be proposed as that advocate. This, in turn, opens the door to another look at the prologue of this text. With an analysis of the roll Satan plays in Yahweh’s heavenly court, a different translation is proposed for Job 1:5, 11, and 2:5, rendering the root ברך as “blessing” rather than the euphemistic “curse.” The resulting revision of the relationship between Yahweh and Satan also leads to an interpretation of Job as a human at the mercy of an indifferent God and world.

Key words: Advocate, witness, protector, messenger, haśatan, oath formula, indirect question, divine retribution, literary construct

This investigation developed out of a somewhat light-hearted comment made during a discussion of the Advocate Passages in Job (9:33-35; 16:19-22; 19:25-29). The initial question was: how to approach a search for the identity of Job’s advocate? The only method which seemed reasonable as a starting point was a detailed analysis of the passages themselves. This analysis involves a thorough understanding of the pertinent Hebrew texts: definitions and relationships of words, phrases, and sentences within the context of their verses.

When working with the book of Job, and in particular when dealing with Satan, we must peel away the centuries of biblical interpretation that cover and influence most analyses. As much as possible, it is of primary importance to permit the text to speak for itself, out of its own historical and contextual period. It is assumed that, although the book of Job may be the work of several authors/editors/contributors, the final text was arranged in the postexilic period. In addition, the composition of the Advocate Passages may have originally had absolutely nothing to do with the basic framework of Job. Nevertheless, in the final text we are presented with a unified story. The individual parts are assumed thus to be connected to the same overall narrative.

The possibility of identifying the advocate is very interesting. The possibility of rendering new understandings of the prologue are, in addition, fascinating.

The Texts

(a) 9:33-35

32. For there is not a person like me to whom I could answer:

“let us come together in judgment.”

33. Would that there were a

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