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Job is a particularly difficult book (in English, Hebrew, and Greek). Understanding the poetry of Job and his three friends requires having a handle on their worldview, which involves a lot of reading of peripheral material from the ANE world. Robert Fyall has done much of that work for us and focusing on the images of creation and evil in the book of Job, with a particular emphasis on God’s divine council, Satan, and the place of Behemoth and Leviathan. He approaches the book of Job with humility so that he, and those he teaches, will not be like Job’s three friends who did not speak what was right about the Lord (Jb 42.7-8). In this study Fyall believes that Yahweh’s divine speeches (38-41) ought to control how we read the book, he draws numerous comparisons to the rest of the OT to draw out the theology of creation and evil, and he argues for the unity of Job.
According to Fyall, we can see the unity of Job in three ways: structurally, thematically, and theologically. Structurally, the narrative and poetry portions of Job can not stand on their own. Throughout the poetic portion of the book, Job glimpses the divine council aspect that was seen in Job 1–2. In 42.7–17, the final narrative section, God says that Job’s three friends did not speak what was right about him. This wouldn’t make sense unless Job was a unity, for the friends don’t start speaking until Job 4. Thematically, some try to separate the “patient” Job from the “angry” Job, but to separate the patient from the angry is to miss out on the mixed emotions of a real person. Theologically, the divine council is the controlling theme of the book, as Satan’s role in Job 1–2 is bound together with various references to him and his workings in the preceding chapters. This is especially so in Job 41 where, as Fyall argues, the Leviathan is unmasked as being Satan himself.
This brings us into one of the main points of the book. Who or what is the Behemoth and the Leviathan? Fyall, using intertextuality and Canaanite and Mesopotamian myths, argues that Behemoth represents Mot, the god of death, and Leviathan is Satan. Throughout the book of Job, Job believes that God is against him (6.4, “For the arrows of the Almighty are in me”), when in fact it is Satan himself who is allowed to terrorize Job. Fyall says that “to say that Leviathan has characteristics of the crocodile and the whale is not to say that it is such a creature, but rather to suggest that evil is rooted in the natural world” (27).
Fyall’s discussion on the use of imagery and myth is extremely and could be used to explain the Bible’s use of so much imagery (from other ancient Near Eastern sources and it’s own use of metaphor in general). Metaphor “is not merely a means of ‘conveying’ doctrinal positions but an adventurous occasion for deepening doctrine through the play of literary resources…” (24–25). As for myth, which Job makes numerous allusions to both Canaanite and Mesopotamian myths, do not mean “make believe,” but rather is “an attempt to embody in narrative the great truth of good and evil” (27). Instead of speaking of light and darkness, myth embodies these concepts (e.g., Baal and Yam, Marduk and Tiamat).
The Spoiled Milk
Unfortunately I don’t think Fyall provides a slam-dunk argument. I generally agree with him, as many of his hooks to other passages in Job seem to guide us into seeing that these two beastly animals are something more than just a crocodile/whale or a hippopotamus (and it’s hard to go against scholars like Robert Chisholm and my own Hebrew/OT professor Peter Gentry). However, I think many of his points are too vague, though his argument is one of cumulative evidence, and he provides plenty of that. One isn’t required to know Hebrew to read this book (as you’re only given the transliterations anyway), but a working knowledge of it and ANE works is certainly helpful.
I also have a hard time seeing how the divine council is the controlling theme of Job. I know it’s important, but was it really because of Job’s partial knowledge of the divine council and his “continual awareness of a cosmic and supernatural dimension to his sorrows” that God announced Job’s spoke rightly of him (148; Jb 42.7–8)? I find it difficult to accept this, though I don’t want to understate the importance of the divine council in Job.
Those points aside, Fyall does a great service in his book by helping us get a better grasp of Job and his theology through the angle of creation and evil. I think his points should be wrestled with, and, even if you don’t agree with him, his book is especially helpful for those who are studying and will be teaching through Job. There is more to this book (and to Job) than chapters 40–41. throughout his book, Fyall doesn’t eschew Jesus, but instead keeps him in sight. He is the Redeemer (Jb 19.25) we look forward to seeing (42.5) on the other side of life.
Author: Robert S. Fyall
Series: New Studies in Biblical Theology (Book 12)
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: IVP Academic (August 15, 2002)
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Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.