Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars The rain will fall..., 2 Jan 2013
This review is from: At the Scent of Water: The Ground of Hope in the Book of Job (Kindle Edition)
I reviewed another commentary on Job written by Gerry Janzen, and in that review I mentioned that Janzen told me in conversation an interesting idea - that one might do a lot of research on something, and then throw away all the notes, and begin again. Janzen has to some extent been doing that with Job for much of his life - Job has been a special interest, a special (perhaps sacred) study, and this latest commentary has a particular meaning for him.

In the period between writing the basic manuscript here and its publication, Janzen was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and recounts part of what he went through, with reflection upon Job, as part of the epilogue. He includes his struggle to find meaning and connection in Teilhard and Job, as well as his work to craft in the midst of this a funeral homily for another person dying of cancer, who nonetheless had been an inspiration to him.

The story of Job is basically a familiar one - bad things happen to good people. How and why becomes a perennial question for humanity. The answer in Job, depending upon one's interpretation, is not always satisfying. Job has "a primal trust in the God who gave and gives him breath." Thus, Job can maintain his innocence and at the same time trust in God's judgement. However, as Janzen states, when we have God as both the accuser and the judge, the courtroom image that so often is used as a paradigm for Job breaks down, at least for the typical modern Westerner, accustomed to at least the idea if not the reality of an unbiased adjudication. There is a deeper connection between God and Job, one that permits the element of the law and logic on the surface, but one that also connects the two (and, by extension, all the rest of us as God's creation) that puts us in a family relation.

Janzen argues that there are two strands of relationship here - one is the political, and one is the familial. Both have communal aspects to them, and both serve different needs and purposes. It is the familial, however, that Job finds his greatest comfort. Job has friends who arrive, but their comfort is flawed - they are in fact better as being of aid to Job before they start talking, when they are present in silence, than when they begin to expand theologically upon why this might be happening to Job. Even God's own theological pronouncements fall short of giving the whole story to Job, who knows through his deeper connection, his whole physical being as connected to God and creation. The God of the whirlwind brings the scent of the water from the sea into the barren, dry land that renews more than any words could do, and sustains even in the event of difficult pronouncements.

God comes in many ways. Sometimes, blueberries. Sometimes, tufts of flowers. Janzen recounts near the end the tale of the man who is the sole surviving member of his family from the Holocaust. He marries a woman who similarly is the sole survivor of her family. He lives what in a typical Western sense would be considered happy and successful, building a professional life and happy family life. "Dare anyone speak of his life as enjoying a Hollywood ending?" Janzen asks. I am reminded here of the end of the film of Schindler's List, where the survivors and family members dramatically (in Hollywood form, now in colour, whereas the rest of the film was in black and white) present a picture of hope, that can be easily deceptive - remember that Schindler's list had hundreds, whereas Hitler's list had millions who did not make it. And yet both of these allow us to see the ending of Job with a new context. "If, despite all that has happened, life can resume itself and go on, and even, now and then, give rise to singing, it is to be embraced, though from now on life is even more unfathomable than Job and his friends could previously have imagined."
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