Cosmic Bully Or God Of Grace? The Book Of Job As Māšāl -- By: David R. Jackson

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 78:1 (Spring 2016)
Article: Cosmic Bully Or God Of Grace? The Book Of Job As Māšāl
Author: David R. Jackson

Cosmic Bully Or God Of Grace?
The Book Of Job As Māšāl

David R. Jackson

David R. Jackson is head of Biblical Studies at the William Carey Christian School in Prestons, New South Wales, Australia. This article is a revised version of a paper he presented at the Society of Biblical Literature International Congress in Vienna on July 8, 2014.


In his 2011 commentary on Job 38–42, David Clines masterfully demonstrates the ambiguities of the conclusion to Job’s suffering as expressed in Job 42:6. Clines concludes that the book of Job reveals Job as a hero who will not bow to God as “cosmic bully.”1 Significantly, the one thing on which all the characters in the drama of Job agree is the aseity and autonomy of God. Job’s comment that God “has made me a māšāl to the peoples” (17:6) may reflect more than an offhand remark. In this article we explore the possibility that the ambiguity Clines has so effectively analyzed may be a deliberate rhetorical device in keeping with the extensive use of irony and sarcasm throughout the work, designed to provoke the reader/audience to choose their own conclusion.

I. The Question

A review of the literature quickly demonstrates that the number of Job’s “friends” has multiplied exponentially over the centuries. Given the beginning of the work, the reader would expect Job to persevere in his faith and, eventually, God would vindicate him and prove his accusers wrong. Such expectations would be fulfilled if the reader skipped from Job 1–2 to 42:7–17. What confuses this simple reading of the book is (1) the cut and thrust of the disputes in chs. 3–37, (2) the way the Lord addresses Job in chs. 38–41, and (3) Job’s final words in 42:1–6—did Job repent?

While the use of irony and sarcasm throughout the book has been widely recognized, the possibility that the book of Job, as a whole, functions as dramatic irony, or māšāl, has not been adequately investigated.

II. The Book Of Job As Māšāl

As a literary, and not merely a rhetorical, technique, irony engages the reader or audience in the social dynamics of consensus and dissent with respect to meaning, va...

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