An Existential Analysis of Tropes in the Book of Job
The book of Job in the Old Testament is one of the most esoteric books of Wisdom Literature. The Devil makes a pact with God, that is, servant Job is the most devout and most loyal to God because he has blessed him with prosperity. The Devil challenges God to allow him take away his possessions and also be afflicted. Job will then turn against God. Then God allows the Devil to test Job. Job’s material possessions and his children are taken away and he is afflicted bodily. Yet Job remains steadfastly loyal to God and in then end God restores to Job all what is lost.
The Devil in his conversations with God says: you pamper Job like a pet and make sure nothing ever happens to his family or possessions and bless everything he does. This conversation a simile, notes the nature of the Devil which is envy and hatred. The Devil wants to challenge the possessive belongingness of God. This intentionality is a negative archetype. Christianity and Judaism are religions inherent with the Binary divide of God and the Devil. Hatred, envy, covetousness, lust and murder are possessions of a negative archetype. Atheistic existentialism does away with the concept of evil and exhorts a moral relativism. It’s puzzling as to why God lets to rein a negative archetype in Job’s life.
When Job has lost his children and his material possessions, he replies: ‘naked I come from the Mother’s womb and naked I will return to the womb of the earth.’ The womb of the earth is a metaphor. Here Job puts the earth in a feminine archetype, the earth being a mother, a womb.
When Job is afflicted with sores and ulcers, he laments: ‘blank out the night I was conceived. Let it be a black hole in space.’ It’s true that black holes do exist in space. However used metaphorically it points out to a dismal abyss, a hole of angst where light gets trapped.
Again Job complains ‘may those who are good at cursing, curse the day and unleash the beast Leviathan on it’. The interpretation of this trope is both poetic and apocalyptic. As a poetic trope, it embodies a woe, a pathos of being signified. As an apocalyptic metaphor we find mention of the Leviathan as a beast coming out from the sea in the book of Revelation. A cloned animal-human can be transgenic beast. Leviathan could also signify the entry of warring nations from the sea.
One of the friends of Job asks him: “Will a truly innocent person end up as scrap heap”? Dirt and squalor is manifested in the metaphor. This also an accusation that lays to test Job’s innocence. Job’s friend replies: ‘God the Sovereign trusts no one and then how can he trust humans who are as fragile as moths’? As fragile as moths is an existential simile. Looking at it in a spiritual sense, we are lacking a sense of understanding as to why God allows the Devil to compromise with Job’s integrity. From an existential nihilist point of view, the metaphor conveys a meaningless life. Man can be compared to Camus’ metaphor: the myth of the Sisyphus.
Job replies to his friends: ‘my misery could be weighed; you could pile the whole bitter load on scales; it will be heavier than the sand in the sea. The poison arrows of God are within me’. Scales connote the weighing down of angst. Job is indulging in narcissism of negativity. Angst being heavier than the sea is hyperbolic. God’s decision to be unresponsive to Job’s plight is conveyed in the metaphor: poison arrows. For Sartre, the existential atheist this is incongruous; a nihilist, existentialist should have the power to bear his or her own sorrows.
Job says that ‘God can squash me like a bug. Do I have the nerves of steel? Do you think I am made of iron?’ The existential dilemma of Job being a helpless victim is poignant in this portrayal. Job is grudgingly yielding to God’s will. This makes me ask the question was God, Christ like when he dealt with Job? Why did God of the Old Testament choose to be a different God than the God of the New Testament Christ? Job is succumbing to the pathos of a burden that he can’t bear. For Sartre, the God that you lament is yourself. The tyranny of being in angst is a plight that humans have to experience on earth.
Job raves against his friends that though God has abandoned him, his friends are not sticking with him and they are like ‘gulch in the desert’. The irony of the situation is that all of Job’s friends are fair-weather friends. Job repeats that he is covered with maggots and scabs and his skin gets scales and oozes with puss.’ The inner turmoil is so intense and one wonders at the storms of anguish that Job is undergoing. A reptilian character of Satan being condemned to the lake of fire is inherent in this metaphor. The body for Job becomes an unfriendly, errant machine. Again he says that he is ‘a puff of air.’ Job denigrates himself and points to the insignificance of human life. We have to agree with Sartre: ‘man’s freedom is his condemnation’. He tells that his life is ‘like ship under full sail; like an eagle plummeting to its prey’. A sinking ship and an eagle reaching out its prey depict horrible situations in Job’s life. He mentions that: ‘God has made him like handcrafted piece of pottery. He marvels at how beautifully God has worked the clay. Now God has reduced him to a mud pie.’ Job juxtaposes the marvel of being made and then to be reduced to mud again. Job questions the meaning, purpose and destiny in God’s creation. An existential understanding would be, you have to weather your own storm. Life for an existential nihilist is absurd. Is Job like an existentialist questioning God’s absurdity? He says that his ‘ears are a swamp of affliction’. Pain and sorrow are connoted into a metaphor that is synesthetic. He repeats that: why God kicks him like a tin can and why beat a dead horse. The tentacles of torment for no reason find a passionate plea in Job’s justification of his fate.