Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Righteous Job

The righteous Job is an uncertain biblical person and according to this, he bears also an uncertain name, which seems not to be Jewish. Some scholars think that it may signify “opposite”. The saint has gained his popularity from the omonime biblical book, being a symbol of saintness and patience.
Job is also quoted in the Book of Ezechiel (14, 14-20) together with Noah and  Daniel, as a very saint man. Also the book of Ecclesiast (49, 9) mentions that he has always followed the paths of the righteousness, and the book of Tobias  (11, 12-15), also suggests that Job suffered a  lot and his story is notorious. The Epistle of Jacob (5, 11) mentions also the patience of Job, recommended to be followed by the Christians.

The Story about St. Job

The very life of Job is known exclusively from the poetical Old-Testament book which bears his name. From the first verse there is known that he lived in a land named Hus (or Uz), identified somewhere in northen Arabia, not far away from Palestine, eastern from the river of Jordan and the Dead Sea. He was a “pure and righteous man who feared God and turned away from evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. His possessions included13 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys; in addition he had a very great household. Thus he was the greatest of all the people in the east” (Job 1,1-3). This prologue makes us thinking to the richness but also the righteousness of Abraham. The following verses of the book record indirectly that he was not a Jew, because he was offering sacrifices to God in another matter as the mozaic tradition. There is also told to us that his sons and daughters were faithful and philantropists as their father.
Job lost suddenly all that he had, after a dialogue between the devil and God, who tried the faith of this righteous. So in a short time all his sons and daughters died, because a house has fallen down on them, the cattle were killed by “a fire from God” but Job himself reacts incredibly: “then Job got up and tore his robe. He shaved his head, and then he threw himself down with his face to the ground. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. May the name of the Lord be blessed!” (1,20-21) Shortly after, “Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and he afflicted Job with a malignant ulcer from the sole of his feet to the top of his head” (2,7), but the righteous man still didn’t loose his calm, despite of his wife’s urge to curse God and to die. He just stand on a pile of garbage, where he was found by three of his friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, who met together to come to show sympathy for him and to console him.
Job has a long dialogue with his “friends” (chapters 3 to 41), on the theme of the theodicee, that is the origin of the pain in the world, putting questions about the God’s justice, sense of living, happiness and unhapinness.
Job begins to lament himself, curses the day of his own birth and asks himself why the life is given to the human beings, if they are meant to suffer. Of course, he doesn’t know that all his unhappiness is provoked by Satan, who was allowed by God to do whatever he wants, unless to take his life.
After lamenting, only 7 days later the three friends begin to speak with Job. Eliphaz is the first one who reproaches that his bad destiny is maybe provoked by his unrighteousness (chapters 4/5; 15; 22), and the other two friends, Bildad (chapter 8; 18; 25) and Zophar (chapter 11; 20) are also harsh with him, but Job defends himself everytime, showing that their accusations are without substance: he didn’t make any harm, from which he is accused. The accusations of his friends follow the traditional theology of the Old Israel, according to which God is good and righteous, he rewards the good deeds and punishes the bad ones. If Job was punished so harsh, that maybe because of a great (maybe a hidden) sin. The repeated dialogue between Job and his friends finishes, when the friends spend all their arguments, and Job still believes he is righteous: “So these three men refused to answer Job further, because he was righteous in his3 own eyes” (32,1). The position of Job is a very interesting one: he accepts the justice of God, though he doesnt’t understand it. But he dares to oppose this unright faith and makes use not of the virtue of humility, but of another one, called in Greek “parrhesia”, that is boldliness.
The attitude of Job is totally shocking for his interlocutors, who simply aren’t able to criticize him anymore. That is hard to believe that he convinced them of his righteousness, simply they refused to speak with him, thinking that they cannot change a thing in him. Then, a person, until that moment not mentioned, “because he was younger”, Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite became angry “on Job for justifying himself rather than God” (32,2) but also angry on the three friends. His four discourses show to Job that the justice of God is beyond the human knowledge and the divine wisdom mustn’t respond to the human questions. Elihu seems to be a kind of precursor of God’s himself speech.
Finally God himself reveals from a storm to Job and show his wisdom and power. He advices Job only to be humble, because he cannot change a thing in the whole world, if there’s not allowed from God. Finally job repents for his atitude towards God. His friends also offer sacrifices, in order to be forgiven by God, because of their false judgement.
The life of Job after this event is resumed in only a few verses (42, 11-17). He becomes rich again, receives from his wife seven sons and three daughters and he is able to see his nephews until the fourth generation, shortly he lived other 170 years and was even richer and full of virtues than before.
The judaic apocrypha called the Testament of Job describes more about his death, but the christian tradition received from all these stories the example of virtue and human faith for God. Several Churchfathers, like Clement of Rome (1st Letter to the Corinthians), Cyprian, Tertullian and others remind about him as an example of virtue to follow.

The veneration of the Righteous Job

The modern scholars tend to believe that Job is simply the main character of a poetical book. There’s hard to say if they are right. But the biblical mentions from the prophets and late writers of the Old and New Testament cited at the beginning of this article makes me to believe that Job was more than a simple person in a beautiful tale.
 The Spanish pilgrim Sylvia Aetheria (or Egeria), who traveled in Palestine, Edessa and Constantinople at the ending of the 4th century wrote in her journal about his stop at the grave of St. Job. According to her, in that time there was already a church built, somewhere in Carneas, at the borders between the Roman provinces of Arabia and Idumeea. Apparently the bishop of this town received a monk who told him about a dream. Following it, they carved in the land and found a cave, inside of which they found the grave of Job. So they have built a church on that place.
There are at least two other locations that claim to be the place of Job’s burial places, such as  Urfa (formerly Edessa) in southeastern Turkey or Jabal Qara near Salalah in southern Oman.
Tomb of Job in Oman
Additionally, the Druze community also maintains a tomb for the Prophet Job in the El-Chouf mountain district in Lebanon.
The Tomb of Job in Lebanon

Saint Job is venerated in the Western Church, and there are several churches built in his honour in Venice, Bologna and some hospitals and hospices from Belgium. The Roman Martyrology remembers him on 10th May. In the Eastern tradition, he is celebrated on 27 April in Ethiopia, 29 august in the Coptic Church, 22 May in the Church of Jerusalem and in the Calendar of saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on August 30.  The Greek-speaking Churches (byzantine rite) celenrates him on 6 May. He is commemorated also as a patriarch by the Lutheran Church on May 9.

Troparion of the Saint

“Seeing the richness of the virtues of Job, the enemy of the righteous plotted to steal them; yet though he broke down the tower of his body, he could not steal the treasure of his spirit; for he who, having stripped me naked, took me captive found the soul of the blameless one fully armed. Wherefore, anticipating my need before the end, O Savior, deliver me from the deceiver and save me!’

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