Curse God, and Die (Job)

Monday, August 1, 2022


Art: William Blake's Illustrations of the Book of Job

Thank you to wonderful Mary for working on this transcript!

Channing: [00:00:00] Hi! I'm Channing.

Elise: And I'm Elise. 

Channing: And this is The Faithful Feminists Podcast. 

Elise: [00:00:12] We focus on feminist interpretations of scriptures and follow the LDS Come Follow Me manual as a guide for study. We understand scriptures can be a tricky endeavor for readers, but we also believe sacred texts contain compelling examples of loving and liberating relationships with The Divine, others, and ourselves. We hope you'll join us in exploring the problems and promises of sacred texts with imagination, critique, and celebration to reveal what we feel is the loving and liberating heart of scripture.

Channing: [00:00:41] While Mormonism, with its iconic floral foyer couches, is our background, we follow our faith and our God on the winding path of spirituality over institution, and connection over condemnation.  We are fellow wanderers, weavers, and doubters. If you’ve found yourself feeling a little too faithful for some and not enough for others: Welcome. We've saved you a seat on the soft chairs. This podcast is funded by our listeners’ generous donations. If you'd like to support our work, connect with us on Patreon or on our website at

[00:01:23] Elise: Welcome back everyone. This week, we are working through the entire book of Job for the dates August 1st through the seventh. So just before we get started, here's a little bit of context. We are actually entering a whole different portion of the Hebrew Bible and this consists of the wisdom writings. There's a passage that we wanted to read from the My Jewish Learning website that says, “Unlike the Torah and the books of Prophets, the works found in Ketuvim do not present themselves as the fruits of direct divine inspiration. (Daniel is the one exception.) What makes books like Psalms and Job so remarkable is their humanity, the “I” who dares to voice questions and doubts about God in the face of danger or suffering. Ultimately, each of the Ketuvim affirms a hard-won commitment to God and covenant.”

Channing: [00:02:17] As we kind of move in to focus on the actual book and the actual story of Job, there's a few more details and context that we feel are really important. And the first is that it's important to note that the story of Job has some similarities with a predating Babylonian myth. But we can't say, “oh, it was totally a hundred percent this myth before,” because there are also really significant differences. But we feel it's important to mention this because it provides some evidence or some argument that there may have been some cross-cultural influence. But it's not necessarily the exact same myth. 

Elise: [00:02:57] And in the Britanica it says that, “The Book of Job is often counted among the masterpieces of world literature. The book's theme is the eternal problem of unmerited suffering.” Why do bad things happen to good people? “And it is named after its central character, Job, who attempts to understand the sufferings that engulf him. The Book of Job may be divided into two sections of prose narrative, consisting of a prologue, (chapters 1–2) and an epilogue (chapter 42:7–17), and intervening poetic disputation (chapters 3–42:6). The prose narratives date to before the 6th century BCE, and the poetry has been dated between the 6th and the 4th century BCE. Chapters 28 and 32–37 were probably later additions.” 

Channing: [00:03:52] Right. And I, again, I love, I love knowing this. It's so important to me to be able to kind of understand where the story is. Right. So the story, if you're really only wanting to dig into the narrative of what happens in the book of Job, you can read chapters one through two, and then chapters 38 through 42 and you basically get the whole story. Everything else in the middle of it is poetic arguments and disputations, and sermons-almost on the nature of God and issues of faith and suffering and humanity and divinity. And so there's a lot of goodness tucked in there but for the most part, for our episode today, we will be focusing on the more narrative portions contained in chapters one and two and 38 through 42.

Elise: [00:04:50] In our research, we came across the fact that the majority of rabbinic scholars believe that Job was a real person and like I mentioned before the Ketuvim, which is kind of the wisdom tradition includes the books of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes along with Psalms. 

Channing: [00:05:08] Right. And these are these three books in particular, Proverbs, Jobs and Ecclesiastes are books that are specifically named the “Wisdom Tradition.” And I first learned about this concept and heard about it from Rob Bell who runs a podcast named the RobCast and I really like it and I've enjoyed it for a really long time. And in episode 163, Rob Bell says, “The wisdom tradition is about receiving instruction in the subtleties and nuances of behavior. In the wisdom tradition, it's assumed that there will be situations which are not black and white. There will be situations that are morally ambiguous and situations that are not clear. In the wisdom tradition there is no blind fundamentalism. Wisdom in these moments is about listening and making the decision about what is the next right thing.” We really wanted to include this note about the wisdom tradition, because it places our understanding of the book of Job outside of the actual factual, like, truth, right? Like capital T truth. And we've talked about this concept before. We're kind of moving out of historical accounts in the Bible and into something a little bit more artistic and a little bit more literary. And so we have to change our lens and our interpretations to kind of appreciate and understand what is going on underneath the narrative facts about this story.  

Elise: [00:06:41] Finally, no one knows who wrote the book of Job. Some people argue that Moses wrote it, but others argue that Solomon wrote it. And even more broadly, no one knows who wrote the wisdom books though, it's generally understood that they came out during Solomon's time. Scholars do agree though, that there were likely multiple authors of the wisdom books, including poets and scribes. Amber Richardson, who was on our podcast a few weeks ago, pointed out the plausible possibility of Bathsheba authoring Proverbs chapter 31, which opens the possibility that some of the authors of these books could have been women. We also know that wherever there is ambiguity about authorship, it includes the possibility not only for ciswomen authors but also trans non-binary and gender non-conforming authors as well, which is incredibly exciting.

Channing: [00:07:32] Yes. So always remember that when we don't know who the author is, that means there are infinite possibilities.

Elise: [00:07:41] So let's jump into the story. Here is a kind of summary/walkthrough of the entire book of Job, because it is 42 chapters. So we're covering 42 chapters in this bite size summary. So let's begin, we've pulled a few verses [in italics] to kind of curate the narrative along the way. Once upon a time, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God and eschewed evil.” He had “seven sons and three daughters, seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses. “And the Lord said unto Satan, “Whence comest thou?” Where do you come from Satan? Then Satan answered and said, “From going to and fro in the earth and from walking up and down in it. Then the Lord said unto Satan, “Hast thou considered my servant, Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” Satan says, “Yeah, I know about Job. He's got a house and thousands of animals and seven sons and three daughters, all righteous, every one of them. You've blessed him with these blessings. Of course he fears God. Doth Job fear God for nothing? If you were to take away everything he has, he will curse you to your face. “And the Lord said unto Satan, behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thy hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.”After Job's animals and family are killed and his house is destroyed, God and Satan meet again. And God says, “Hast thou considered my servant, Job, who is awesome and who is still awesome even after all of the losses that he suffered? And still he holdeth his integrity, although thou movest me against him to destroy him without cause”. Satan says, “Yep, but I bet if you afflict his body, he will curse you to your face. And God says, “Well, let's try it out and see. And the Lord said unto Satan, “Behold, he is in thine hand, but save his life.” So Satan ends up giving Job boils. At the end of chapter two, life becomes even more miserable for Job. He's scraping his boils with a shard of pottery and his wife says to him, “Do you still retain your integrity? Curse God and die. Job says, “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God and shall not we receive evil?” In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

Channing: [00:10:13] I love these first two chapters of Job, because they're pretty short, but there's so much going on. And the verses themselves are really potent and there are themes there that we already really have to grapple with. So we'll return back to this and discuss and dig deeper into it. But for now, we're gonna kind of just look really broadly at the middle of the book of Job, which is everything from chapter three to chapter 37. After chapter two, God and Satan totally disappear from the entire text until chapter 38 and all the while in these middle chapters Job and his friends basically have a 36-chapter-long dialogue about faith and the nature of God. Some highlights that we get throughout the text: we see a really beautiful lament from Job in chapter three. In verse 11, he speaks really eloquently saying, “Why died I not from the womb? Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?” Verse 25, “For the thing which I greatly feared has come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.” His friends respond and they really do a lot of back and forth talking. We get iconic quotes from his friend that honestly you'll probably be pretty familiar with if you have gone to literally any gospel doctrine discussion. Some of these answers are answers that I've heard in my own life to really deep questions. So they might sound familiar to you. Some of his friends say, “Whoever perished, being innocent? Or where were the righteous cut off?” as if to say, “Well, if you do bad things, you get bad things. So if bad things happen to you, you probably did something to deserve them.” Again, “Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.” And finally, “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth, therefore despise not the chastening of the Almighty.” As if to say, Hey, you should be happy that these bad things really happen to you cuz it means that God cares about you. So I'm gonna try to keep my sassy comments to myself about that, but we see a lot of, just explanations and answerings and wonderings about why did this happen? And we get so many different answers in the middle portion of the book of Job. 

Elise: [00:12:53] Then as we move toward the last five chapters or so of the book of Job chapters, 38 through 42, here's what happens. In around chapters 38 through 40, God shows up out of nowhere in a whirlwind with big-badiness and bellows, “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee and answer thou me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?... When the morning stars sang together?... Who shut up the sea?... Do you know where the light lives or the darkness, do you know the treasures of the snow and hail?... Who maketh the rain fall? Does the rain have a father? Out of whose womb came the ice?... Who gives the lion and the Raven their food, the peacocks their feathers? Who are you to teach the Lord?… And Job answers saying, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Once I have spoken; but I will not answer:... I will proceed no further”. Again God says, “Gird up thy loins now like a man: I demand an answer. Will you condemn me, that you may be righteous?” God goes on for another two chapters asking some questions. Do you have an arm like God or thunder with a voice like him? Can you catch a multi-headed sea monster on a fish hook? Real questions, real questions asked by God.

Channing: [00:14:24] Literally an entire chapter devoted to a sea monster called the Leviathan. And then the following chapter devoted to a land monster called the Behemoth. And we also get a mention of a unicorn in this chapter. And my own personal favorite that I'm probably, it's probably not funny to original readers of the text, but it is endlessly funny to me. In chapter 39, verse 25, God is talking about the strength of horses and how brave horses are in war and verse 25 it says, “he saith among the trumpets, Ha ha”. I know that's not the context of the words, but every time I read it, that is what I think. 

Elise: [00:15:18] If we move over to chapter 42, then Job answered the Lord and said, “I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be held from thee... I have uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” God says he's mad at Job and his friends and tells them to make burnt offerings, which they do. God forgives them and “gave Job twice as much as he had before.” So Job ends up with 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand she-asses and Job then receives seven sons and three daughters. The daughters are named Jemima, Kezoa, and Keren-happuch. 

Channing: [00:16:14] As we often say on the podcast, when there are big, iconic, popular stories in the text, there are as many ways to read them as there are readers. And I remember just how important it is to think about: how am I reading the text and what moral of the story am I getting out of the text? And how can I allow for differentiation between different interpretations of this text? I was really reminded of that with an experience that I had with my son earlier this week. We were reading a book together, it was a book about Clifford. Clifford goes to the circus. And on the front of the book, very conveniently, it tells the adults what the moral of the story should be. And the moral of the story of Clifford going to the circus was supposed to be about teamwork. But after I had finished reading the book with my son, I had asked him, “Okay, what did we learn from this story?” And I was waiting for him to say teamwork. And he said, “Oh, the story is about being responsible and not leaving home without telling your parents.” And I was like, “I also really like that moral of the story too.” And it was a good reminder to me that every time we approach the text, each one of us is going to get something different. But hopefully something of equal value that influences us for what we need at that point in our lives. So as we go through and work through this book of Job, we'll try to give a couple of different ways to interpret this story. But ultimately we always encourage you to return to the text and read it for yourself and see what comes out because who knows? Maybe something we say here is exactly what you need, but maybe what you need, the treasure you're looking for, is waiting for you in the text. So, as we said earlier, the traditional interpretation of the story of Job is this grappling with the theme of: why do bad things happen to good people? Or why do we suffer even when we don't deserve it? And that's a really beautiful and fruitful way to interpret this story, but it's also not the only way. So one of the things that stuck out to me as I was going through and reading the text is like… my first couple of read-throughs through the text, I was really thinking about this story is about a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz as if I know where this actual land is, and I know this actual man. I was thinking about it as a very actual factual capital T, this really happened, story. And I got a lot of really good questions out of that and really felt confronted by the text doing that. But then as I talked with friends and had different experiences of the story I also realized that, yes, this story is about Job and God, but the story is also not about Job and God. The story can also be about us and our own relationship with the divine as well. So, kind of, keep that in mind as we're going through this story. 

Elise: [00:19:36] Let's take a look at the characters and how do they show themselves to us when we view them as embodied separate beings in this kind of more traditional interpretation, or when we try to take the text at face value. So if we turn to God in the story, I think God comes off as this omnipotent, kind of, chaotic but neutral divine force, who is kind of orchestrating the events of the story. Sometimes, and it's okay if you feel this way too, we have questions like, “Wait God, why are you causing Job so much pain?” But then we also have the character of Satan who comes in and Satan is kind of this provocateur who is questioning God. But also we could read Satan as a kind of hitman. God says to Satan, go after Job and kind of do the dirty work and then see what Job says. That means that we then see Job as this innocent victim who hasn't done anything wrong. And we see Job's wife as the critic you'll remember, or you'll recall her line where she says curse God and die. In some midrash, we also found that Job's wife may be named Sitis, but there's also some connection to Job's wife being Dinah in Midrash tradition, which is the same Dinah from Genesis with the story of Dinah and Shechum. And finally the last group of characters we have are Jobs' friends who are kind of seen as bystanders, onlookers and giving some poor commentary on Job’s situation. 

Channing: [00:21:10] Yeah, absolutely. So this is kind of typically what I would expect if I were to go to gospel doctrine or Sunday school, or you know what I would typically expect to hear the interpretation of Job to be. And yeah, just like you said, Elise, with this reading, I had a lot of questions come forth, specifically questions about the nature of God as well. Right? What kind of God would coordinate punishments for somebody who didn't deserve a punishment. And I'm also like, oh, I didn't know that God and Satan were on talking terms. That's really interesting. And I also had questions like: is Job wrong to have faith in a God who would punish him undeservingly? You know, I was grappling with these really deep questions of: how do I work with a God who, at one point says, God loves Job, and God thinks Job is the best, but then God punishes Job and then gets mad at Job at the end of the book for complaining about what God did to Job. And so a lot of really deep and rich and complex questions about faith. Who's deserving of faith? Characteristics of God. And so if you have those questions too, just like Elise said about the text, specifically reading it through this lens of taking the text at face value. Those are absolutely really deep and deserving questions of your time and your wrestle, for sure. 

So if we allow ourselves to open and look at the story from a different perspective, one of the ways to look at the story or a different perspective came to me as I sat with the story and thought about it for days and days and thinking about, “oh, what else can I understand from the Book of Job?” And late, late in the game, as I was sitting down to prepare my final notes for the episode, I had a thought and I thought about, okay, what if each of the characters in the book of Job is not necessarily four different characters, four different separate people. But what if I looked at each of the characters of the book of Job as aspects of myself? What if I read the story through Job's eyes and recognized how sometimes do I approach the world through the view of Job? How do I sometimes approach the world through the view of his friends or his wife, or, you know, whatever it is. And I was really compelled by this perspective to kind of look at the different ways or the different lessons that we can learn from each of these perspectives. And I also think studying the text this way allows us to have a really awesome vantage point of this inner transformation process that we see Job go through through the arc of the entire text. So I also wanna explore that a little bit as well. With full transparency, I have been in love with the story of Job for many, many years. I haven't talked a ton about this on the podcast, not because I haven't wanted to just cuz I don't think it's ever really come up, but a couple of years ago, about four or five years ago I received a clinical diagnosis for OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder. And that year was the same year that we were reading the Hebrew Bible and I came across the story of Job and it was really fascinating to me as I was going through and reading the text all the different ways that I could see, or I think I could see, symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder show up in the story of Job. And a couple years ago, I wrote out my feelings about Job and just all of these different symptoms that I was seeing. And I do think that there is precedent in the text, for this, especially if we look in chapter one. I'm opening my scriptures to get there right now. We kind of have this opening scene of Job having his perfect life with his perfect family and everyone thought that he was just perfect and righteous and amazing but then as we get into the chapter a little bit more we see that Job is very worried and very concerned about his spiritual status and very worried about offending God and maybe accidentally doing something unrighteous to the point where he would receive a punishment. We have a scene in chapter one where Job's children who were all righteous gathered together for a little party, a little dinner party and, you know, celebrated, ate, drank together, which is, honestly, I think, actually pretty exceptional in the Hebrew Bible. I feel we come across a lot more stories of sibling rivalry than we do sibling dinner parties. But after this dinner party Job says, “Oh, well, my family got together, so I better go make a sacrifice, in case they did something at this dinner party that God would be upset about.” And in the text it says, “and thus Job did continually.” Job was constantly repenting and worrying about his status with God. And so through this interpretation of the text, I just could really see a lot of these same obsessive compulsive tendencies show up in this character. And I think traditional interpretations would say that Job is this ultra super very faithful kind of guy. But from my perspective, I question, what kind of faith, right? Is it this compulsive concern about, oh, if I'm not perfect, then I'm going to be punished or is it this true, not even true, faithfulness or instead is it the kind of faithfulness that relies on God through a sense of trust, that is established in a healthy relationship? And so that's kind of the perspective and the transformation arc that I think I see Job going through in the text. 

Elise: [00:28:00] Another thing that we really appreciate about the different characters of this story is the way that we get kind of snapshots of how these characters grapple with, or deal with grief, uncertainty, loss, and suffering. Because for the majority of this story, it does grapple with many of those concepts. And I think we first want to look at Job's wife under these understandings of grappling with grief. And so we see Job's wife presented in the story as someone pretty pessimistic. And I think, like we talked about earlier, Job's wife often gets read as a critic, someone who says, “Job, why don't you just, kind of, denounce God, give up on God and just die. Like, it would be better for you to die than to continue holding out faith for God when God has taken literally everything away from you, nothing matters.” And so we have this very critical pessimistic and almost nihilistic conception of Job's wife. There's a poem that we wanted to read that kind of gives us maybe more of a peek behind the curtain of maybe some of the grief that Job's wife was also grappling with during this time. And this is a poem titled “Job's Wife” by Barbara Holender. The poem reads, 

“Day after day he asks the same question.

He holds it in his mouth like a salt stone

He can’t spit out, and rasps and rasps

And scrapes his boils. A practical man,

He wants a practical answer. A palpable truth.

Funny, he never asked why the children died.

He was so strong - a wall

I hurled my grief against.

I don’t care what they say,

You never get over losing a child.

But we shared it. Now his life’s complete

With his body and his question.

His friends know all the reasons

He had it coming. They’re fortified with answers

So they don’t catch anything mysterious from him.

Its not your fault, I tell him, you’re a good man.

Its not his fault…

Sometimes I get so tired

I don’t want to think about it

I don’t want to watch it anymore.

That’s when I scream at him

Curse God, Job, Curse God.”

I appreciate this poem so much because it really does humanizes Sitis or Job's wife. Especially that last kind of stanza that says, “This is so tiring, this constant state of misery, this constant state of loss and grief. I don't wanna talk about it anymore. There's no way I can carry on. Just curse God, Job, so we can put this all to rest”. That feeling of, kind of, hopelessness, I think is one that we can resonate with, especially in modern times. The other group of people that shows up under this category of how we might learn or how we might be dealing with grief are Job’s friends. Some of the friends show up as incredibly optimistic during times of grief. We also see other friends who are really judgemental, right? “Surely you brought this on yourself. That's why you're being cursed.” There's also the friends who are trying to make meaning out of Job’s suffering. Again, maybe that could be something like, “Did you do something wrong? What's happening here?” As if there needed to be a catalyst for God's punishment. And I think all of this meaning-making… we've said in other episodes, but we haven't said it for a while. I think that at least in my experience, the people who are qualified to make meaning out of their suffering are the people who are presently suffering. Not people outside of the situation. Yeah, but I think oftentimes people do show up and they think that they're making it better somehow by offering their advice or their commentary or their explanation for suffering that they're not really a part of. And oftentimes I don't think that's very helpful.

Channing: [00:31:52] Absolutely. Yeah. I remember when you had said that, I think you said it first in the episode in the year we were doing the Doctrine and Covenants about the chapters where Joseph Smith was in Liberty jail. And I just remember that being incredibly important for me to hear as somebody who is a survivor of childhood abuse and sexual assault. It's really helpful actually to hear someone say, “Hey, meaning-making is the privilege of people who have survived rather than the responsibility of people who are trying to make it better. Right?

Elise: Yeah, absolutely. 

Channing: So we've talked a lot about the human characters that we see in this story. We've talked about Job's wife and Job's friends, but the characters that we haven't discussed quite yet are God and Satan. So, kind of these divine or larger characters that we also see show up in this story. And so I wondered what if we use the same approach that we've used with the human characters, you know, identifying these different characters as aspects of our own self, seeing how we play through the world, through these different characters. What if we applied that same perspective to God and Satan in this story? What if, just offering this to you in, in case it feels helpful, what if instead of God and Satan, or good and evil being personified in these two separate beings, what if these personifications are actually two different aspects of a single divine figure? Right? So God and Satan are actually the same person, but are playing out different parts of themselves in this story. So for example, in chapters one and two, we really see God as kind of a questioner, kind of very playful. Elise actually, this really reminded me, chapters one and two really reminded me of that portion in Octavia Butler's book that you told me about. Will you share that with our listeners? 

Elise: [00:34:01] Yeah, absolutely. I just finished reading Octavia Butler's “Parable of the Sower” and in this book, the main character Lauren is kind of rehearsing all of these different questions or hypotheses or ideas that they have about God and the character is reflecting about God and they're kind of thinking, “I don't really know if God even cares about me. God seems to be really kind of capricious and really chaotic.” And they're saying to themselves, “You know, when my brothers are playing with dolls, my brother kind of takes on the role of god and he sets up all of his dolls and different families.” And then as the God or orchestrator of this doll scenario, her brother just comes in and wipes out all the families, you know, with one swoop of the arms will kill off all the dolls or will kind of mix and match dolls with new families or start playing a whole different game in the middle of this game. This really kind of chaotic and unstructured, and yeah, capricious nature of God. And so the main character Lauren thinks, “Well, maybe what if God is like that too, especially in the story of Job. What if God is kind of up there, wherever in heaven, just kind of setting up these families and then wiping them out with one foul swoop of God's arm and is more chaotic and playful and destructive than we think at first glance?”

Channing: [00:35:31] Right, yeah. And that, I remember when you first told me that I was like, well, I don’t like that at all. That triggers me majorly. And you're like, that's fine. This is an idea. But then as I was going through reading the book of Job, I was like, oh, I actually see that showing up here. So that was really important. I also think too, we see in the character of Satan in the first chapters, as well as kind of this instigator or this initiative and destructive force that shows up as well. Right? God has all the ideas, but Satan is the one that's like, okay, here, I'm gonna bring this giant whirlwind out of heaven. I'm gonna slam the house down on all the children, kill all the animals and give Job the worst boils he's ever had in his entire life. And I think it's really easy or it's really tempting, right…it's really easy to separate what happens in this story in good and bad, or we want to do that. But the story actually really does kind of blur the lines between who is good and who is bad, at least for our modern definitions of those terms.

And then finally, in the final chapters of the book of Job, we also see God as a creator, as a divine orchestrator, somebody who knows everything and can see into the future and is able to anticipate all of the needs and be able also to forgive and restore what was lost. Something else that was really powerful that came out of the text, especially in chapters 38 and 41 was the incredibly strong and specific ecofeminist presentations of God in the text. There's a lot of really strong feminine imagery that comes in as we're going through and reading the texts. For example, in chapter 38 versus one and four, we hear from the Lord. It says, “then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind.” I just wanna stop there. That one sentence: “God answered Job out of the whirlwind.” And Elise loves this about me. I always get really nerdy about particularities. So I was like, “What is the whirlwind? And is it like a tornado?” And in my quick Google research, I discovered whirlwinds are not tornadoes, tornadoes originate out of the sky. The trajectory is from the sky downward, but whirlwinds actually originate from the earth. So their trajectory is from the earth upwards. And I find this, for anyone else, who's equally as nerdy. I'm like, of course this is ecofeminist imagery, the whirlwind came out of the earth. But it feels very important to me. Also in verse eight we hear “who shut up the sea with doors, when it break forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?” In verse nine, “When I made the cloud the garment thereof, a thick darkness a swaddling band for it,” In verse 28, “Hath the rain a father? who hath begotten the drops of dew?” And 29, “Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?” And these are all questions that God is asking to Job, kind of through this long very long rant about look how amazing God is. And I absolutely have to give credit for this eco feminist reading to Kate Mauer, our friend. Kate was actually like, “Wwow, Channing, I'm surprised you didn't come up with this one yourself.” And I'm like, “Honestly, I really am too.” So deep, deep gratitude for Kate bringing this eco feminist reading forward for us.

And this ecofeminist reading, I think really lends itself to an understanding of God having different aspects and also God moving through these different aspects throughout the text and even throughout our lives. Right? Just like in the book of Ecclesiastes says, there's a time and a season for everything. Perhaps there's a time and a season for all of these different aspects of God to show up in the world or even in our personal lives. Right? We can ask questions like: When has God questioned me? When is God playful with me or playful with the circumstances of my life? When has God initiated me into something? Or seemingly destroyed everything around me and forced me to grow or learn something new? When have I felt cared for, like everything is behind me and I know that everything is working in my favor? When I can trust God and God's goodness toward me? When have I felt God's forgiveness? When have I felt God restoring back to me what has been lost?

So I think Job brings forward this reading of understanding the seasonality and the cyclical nature of God's different aspects. And I think that this is a really potent reading and understanding of God because it frees us from this static understanding of God as an unchanging eternally, present being only in the way that we ever imagine this one type of God to be right. And I think this is really exciting because it liberates us from a static understanding of what divinity or what the universe should or could look like, and instead moves us into a deeper acceptance of the circumstances of our reality and our lives around us.

Elise: [00:41:32] In the framework that Channing just outlined, we also see the possibility that Job's wife could be on the same team as God. Right? Job's wife says, “The life you were leading before isn't working for you. And so you need to…” I think we see Job's wife encouraging Job to kind of take a new initiatory step or Job's wife encouraging Job to move him toward the initiatory phase of death: “curse God and die.” Let's get into this new phase and kind of mix or change things up. There was a really, really fantastic essay that we recommend everyone go read if you're in love with the story. It's titled, “I Had Heard of You, But Now My Eye Sees You: A Revisioning of Job’s Wife” by Roger Sholtz and a passage from this essay says, “The references to Job’s wealth, social status, children, daughters and his agonised outburst at the start of the poetry section all point to the pervasive influence of Job’s wife within the book. The picture that emerges is of a woman of strength and insight who shaped the lives of her husband and children in significant ways, drawing them into a transformed perspective of the world in which the beauties and ambiguities of life can be celebrated. Such a re-visioning of Job’s wife enables a fresh hearing of her words, in which she emerges as a key character in the interpretation of the book. Indeed, she can be seen as none other than the forerunner of God as she courageously sows the seeds of a bold new understanding of faith that will be fleshed out in the divine speeches in all its vibrant, stirring glory, and will finally lead to Job’s transformation.” I appreciate this passage because it really does kind of support the argument that Channing and I were outlining that perhaps Job's wife plays a crucial, kind of, catalystic role in Job's transformation and in that way, she's working hand in hand with God. 

Channing: [00:43:32] Absolutely. And I think at the end of the book of Job chapters, 40 and 42, we really get kind of the resolution or the finishing out of the story that has a lot of the evidence of Job's transformation that he's experienced throughout this entire book. We see Job embrace humility and reembrace, perhaps, a sense of wonder and an understanding that: yes, the world is chaotic and it's also okay that it's chaotic. We also see Job kind of let go of this compulsive approach to righteousness and this idea that: if I do everything right and perfect, God is going to bless me. And instead just says, “okay, I know God.” I love the verse that Job says, “I had heard of you. I had heard of you. But now I see you.” As if this transformation from simply a faith that is based on the stories of others and instead, now, it's an experience, a personal experience that allows Job and God to enter, you know, enter into a new way of being in relationship.  

Elise: [00:44:48] Ellen Davis is an Old Testament theologian and professor of Bible and practical theology at Duke Divinity School. Davis writes, “The clearest expression of the renewal of Job’s mind is not anything he says. It is his willingness to have more children. I have heard it said in modern Israel that the most courageous act of faith the Jews have ever performed was to have babies after the Holocaust, to trust God with more defenseless children. The note at the end of the book that Job had seven sons and three daughters is often considered to be a cheap parting shot – as though God could make it all up by giving Job another set of children to replace the ones who were lost. But that is to judge the last scene of the book from the wrong side. This book is not about justifying God’s actions; it is about Job’s transformation. It is useless to ask how much (or how little) it costs God to give more children. The real question is how much it costs Job to become a father again.”

And from another essay, I think there's another passage that really kind of showcases Job's transformation by the way that he embraces his daughters at the end of the text. It says, “The curious detail about Job’s daughters in 42:14-15 provides a key interpretive clue as to the change that Job has undergone and the influence of his wife in that change. It comprises three aspects – the naming of his daughters, the description of their considerable beauty and his granting them an inheritance along with their brothers. Job breaks with biblical norms by naming his daughters – the only instance in the Hebrew Bible where this occurs. Clearly, Job’s eyes have been opened to see his daughters in a whole new light. Unconstrained by cultural convention he goes public with his broadened perspective of who they really are, recognising their individuality, celebrating their beauty, affirming their importance, redefining their place and honouring their rightful entitlements within his reconfigured world. This newfound capacity to see his daughters in fresh ways is perhaps the most compelling evidence of the transformation that Job has undergone. “

Channing: [00:47:08] I really loved this quote because I feel it's, kind of, the ultimate seal on the deal of this concept of Job's transformation. We get to kind of walk through his process with him and are thereby blessed by the lessons that we can possibly learn from watching his transformation happen over 42 chapters.

Elise: [00:47:31] I wanted to add a few quick thoughts about the ways that we could zoom out even further from this story and move away from the individual characters in the story of Job and start thinking about some questions or themes in regards to privilege, and the ways that we participate in oppressive systems. Some of the questions we might ask ourselves as we read through this story would be things like: What systems do we participate in because they benefit us? How might our participation in these systems cause unintended harm to others? What did, or will it take for us to wake up and realize the impact our oppressive politics and ideologies have on our community? How much conversation do we have with others under the guise of understanding while lacking real empathy or compassion? What will it take to convince us to change our approach and trust that we don't always have all the answers? Finally, how can we make reparations and restorative action as we return to our community with a healthier approach?

Channing: [00:48:32] We wanted to close the episode with a few thoughts about Job and whirlwinds and dervishes. There's a poet that I read a lot of their work from. It's probably, probably people are really familiar with it. It's Rumi. He is an old, old poet. And focuses a lot of his poetry on spiritual natures. His spiritual tradition was Sufism, which is a mystical tradition originating out of the Middle-east. And in Sufism, there is a tradition or practice known as the whirling dervishes. And the whirling dervishes are people who spin and spin and spin over and over and over as kind of an embodied spiritual practice, because it's believed that during this spinning that the person, the soul of a person is eventually able to meet God, kind of through this like chaotic embodied experience. And I really find this imagery of a spinning person meeting God in the whirlwind meeting God and the divine and the crazy chaos that is just all around. And there's a line from one of his poems that I think just sums up the message of the book of Job so beautifully. Rumi writes, 

“Dance when you're broken open.

Dance if you tore the bandage off.

Dance in the middle of the fighting. 

Dance in your blood. 

Dance when you're perfectly free.”

And that's it. I just love that. And I think this image of dancing in the chaos with God is literally the most beautiful picture that I could walk away from the story of Job with.

Friends, thanks so much for joining us for this episode about Job. We really hope that you'll read through the text and enjoy all of the moments that are waiting there for you. Leviathans, Behemoths, and unicorns and even a little bit of “ha ha.” We love you. And we'll see you next week.

Elise: [00:50:57] Friends, thank you so much for joining us today for another episode of The Faithful Feminists podcast. We know your time and space is sacred and we are so grateful to have spent ours with you. If you enjoyed this episode, we'd be so happy if you left us a loving rating on iTunes and Spotify so other seekers can find us. 

Channing: [00:51:16] Financial donations support the many hours of research, work and devotion to each episode, as well as the everyday cost of creating and publishing the podcast. You can support us on Patreon or through a simple Venmo donation and help us create a world where creators, artists, activists, and beauty makers are valued and paid for their labor. Find us on those platforms and on Instagram as The Faithful Feminists. We're deeply grateful for your kindness and encouragement. We love you so much, and we hope to spend more time with you again soon.

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