约伯与苦难的问题-Job and the Problem of Suffering
Now, some 45 years following the first deportation from Judah, God’s chosen nation continues to be a dispersed people. By this time many of them must wonder if there is still a God—not a “state God” attached to a nation which has been virtually destroyed, but a personal God who knows their personal misery and still cares. Even the wicked and rebellious exiles, who by now must have bent their knees in prayer for deliverance, are surely thinking that God no longer hears them. For a nation in suffering, there are many questions to be asked: how can they believe in a God who would allow such suffering? On the other hand, how can they curse God in times of adversity when he has previously brought such prosperity? Is their faith to be contingent upon economic well-being?
The ones who must be the most perplexed, however, are the faithful ones who never understood their personal involvement in the first place. After remaining true to God while almost everyone else chased after idolatry and wickedness, their reward has been the same—and sometimes worse. They too were taken captive. They too saw swords enter their children’s bodies. In the siege of Jerusalem they had starved and been victims of pestilence and plague. Here in captivity they still often go hungry and are poorly clothed. Whatever happened to the promise that the righteous would be blessed? Why were some of the wicked not taken into exile, but rather allowed to prosper under the same government that has enslaved their fellow countrymen? Where is the justice of God in these circumstances? And if punishment is for the wicked, what sin has led to the suffering of the righteous?
Of course these are the same questions which every generation asks about death, sorrow, pain, and suffering. But because his people are suffering so greatly at this time, it may well be that God chooses this context in which to give at least some insight into both the thorny theological issues and the intense emotional feelings of individual sufferers. Although there is a wide difference of opinion about its date, one of the most outstanding masterpieces in all of literature is possibly written during this period. The writing is in the form of a historical poem. It is historical in that it is based upon the life of one of the early patriarchs named Job. Job’s steadfastness following more adversity than most people will ever face has been legendary. Even the prophet Ezekiel referred to Job, along with Noah and Daniel, as a man of great righteousness. And yet Job apparently struggled with the reasons for his adversity before coming to peace about it. Therefore it is altogether fitting that this poem addressing the problem of suffering be based upon Job’s personal struggle.
There is still another reason why Job is a most appropriate choice. At this time when people are in search of a personal God, the writer takes them back before their own prophets, before the teaching of the law, before the promises made to Abraham, to a man who is not even one of the children of Israel. He is just a lone human being who finds himself in terrible suffering for no apparent reason.
The first scene of the poem opens with a picture of Job’s enviable prosperity, then turns quickly to a conversation between God and Satan. When God points to Job as an example of a righteous man, Satan suggests that Job remains righteous only because of his prosperity. God permits Satan to test this theory by removing Job’s prosperity. Job’s faith remains intact. So Satan next suggests that his personal suffering will bring curses against God. Once again Job disappoints Satan.
In the second scene, Job still does not curse God, but he does put some hard questions to God. Why must he, a righteous man, suffer? What sins have brought on his pain? Why is God so inconsistent in his punishment of the wicked? Throughout the presentation of Job’s case against God, three of Job’s friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—argue against him. They try to convince him that the answer lies in a simple syllogism: God always punishes sin; suffering is the result of sin; therefore Job is more of a sinner than he is willing to admit. Throughout it all, Job maintains his innocence and demands to know God’s rationale.
The third scene introduces a young man named Elihu who claims that neither Job nor his friends are correct. God does not act capriciously, as Job claims, and suffering is not necessarily the result of sin, as Job’s friends claim. Elihu argues that suffering is often used by God to teach lessons and to strengthen a person.
In the final scene God himself speaks to Job and demands to know what right Job has to question the Creator of the universe about his ways. Job’s humble response demonstrates the depth of his righteous character, and his prosperity is restored.