Lesson 15 Job
A Spiritual Interpretation of the Old Testament
As taught by:
Unity School for Religious Studies
Unity Village, MO 64065
I. MAJOR POINTS
- Metaphysical meaning of Job.
- Metaphysical meaning of Jehovah and Satan.
- Metaphysical significance of Job's afflictions.
- Metaphysical futility of trying to justify earthly suffering.
- Metaphysical significance of Elihu.
- Metaphysical significance of conclusion of the story.
- Job 1-14, 32-42
- Let There Be Light Chapter XX
- Metaphysical Bible Dictionary—under separate headings: Job; Bildad; Eliphaz; Zophar; Elihu
- What is the metaphysical significance of the fact that the word "Job" has such a wide range of definitions?
- Are Jehovah and Satan separate beings existing "out there?"
- What is the metaphysical meaning of Satan being "permitted" to afflict Job?
- Can earthly suffering be justified by apologies, accusations, or moral reasoning? Explain.
- What metaphysical lesson can be found in the conclusion of the story?
The book of Job maintains great fame and popularity for obvious reasons — its poetic language, its thought-provoking dilemmas, its drama, its "outrageous" plot. But for many readers it is a troubling book because of its unanswered questions, the seeming injustice of much that occurs in it, the long-winded and rather pointless discussions, and the strangely arrogant tone given to Jehovah's speeches. All in all, the book STRICTLY AS LITERATURE can cause mixed reactions in readers.
But a truly metaphysical interpretation is possible. A metaphysical (rather than philosophical) approach must be on the same basis as that used for all other metaphysical portions of the Bible; and that is that the ENTIRE narrative symbolizes things WITHIN AN INDIVIDUAL.
NOTE: "I believe that if one deals with this book on a literal level -- that is, treating it as a conventional drama and dialogue occuring among many different persons (Jehovah, Satan, Job, etc.) one will miss its metaphysical-Truth meaning. The metaphysical interpretation should be based on a realization that the whole thing symbolizes something WITHIN AN INDIVIDUAL." (Ed Rabel)
Who are Jehovah, Satan, Job, Eliphaz, and all the others? Are they each separate persons who have separate existences? Are they "persons" separate from the reader? Or are they Biblical symbols of different factors within an INDIVIDUAL human being?
JEHOVAH: the indwelling Lord; the spiritual law of our being.
SATAN: the "adversary," the human tendency toward negativity; the existing possibility of error. He represents the as-yet unilluminated, negative, violent aspects still existing in human nature.
JOB: "persecuted; calamitous; afflicted; a coming back; returned to one's senses; converted" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 354) Yes, his name in Hebrew does have all those definitions! So we can see that metaphysically he stands for a WHOLE CYCLE OF EXPERIENCE in an individual human consciousness. His name represents almost the whole gamut of possibilities of experiences in consciousness which can be reflected into outer experiences in life.
Satan is given permission to afflict Job. Some interpreters feel that this fact denotes a desire on the part of Jehovah to "test" Job. But Jehovah is an aspect of Divine Mind, and why should Divine Mind need to test anyone about anything? Divine Mind is all-knowingness.
Jehovah is IN INDIVIDUAL MAN. Satan is IN INDIVIDUAL MAN. Job is IN INDIVIDUAL MAM. Man has relative freedom of choice in most aspects of his nature, from his highest level (Jehovah) to his lowest (Satan) and all that is in between (Job). If an individual chooses to let his lower nature prevail, he can do so. Satan has permission to express. This is part of our freedom of individuality.
NOTE: If you want to be fearful, angry, resentful, who is to stop you? Even though you will suffer for it (be afflicted) Satan (your own negative attitude) has "permission" to afflict!)
It should come as no surprise that Satan in us (our lower nature) takes advantage of this freedom, and dob is afflicted. But Job is US! We all, each one of us individually use this freedom of choice to indulge our own negative tendencies. Who can deny this?
Am I never willingly negative?
Do I never hate?
Do I never lie?
Do I never foolishly boast?
Am I never ruled by vanity?
We all know the answers to these questions. We all do these things at times. We permit our negative tendency (Satan) to have its way, and then we and our life are afflicted.
The first set of afflictions do not cause Job utter despair, because they happen to others in his life. While we do suffer from the misfortunes of others, we can bear it. (Dr. Maurice Nicoll has written in his "Psychological Commentaries": "Nothing in life is easier to bear than the misfortune of others.")
But next, Job himself is afflicted (smitten with boils and deprived of health and possessions) and thus sinks into despair.
Three friends try to comfort him, but are unsuccessful. They are Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. (These three each have metaphysical meanings which can be found in the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary.) In a very general sense, these characters symbolize all unsuccessful efforts of our human intellect to "explain" things with one-sided viewpoints, opinions, incomplete analysis, and moral judgments.
In a more personal sense, these three characters represent our own inner attempts to explain existence in terms of itself, and to try to rationalize and justify on the level of strictly human emotional and intellectual reasoning. Such attempts are hardly ever successful. True, in certain cases it may seem to work. Words can be very convincing when cleverly used--but this does not make them true. Especially is this so when one is trying to explain or justify accidents, tragedies, and sufferine in life ON THE BASIS OF BELIEVING THAT LIFE EVENTS ARE AN END IN THEMSELVES, RATHER THAN MEANS TO OTHER ENDS.
In other words, we should be learning that it is futile to try to explain certain things which happen in our lives IF WE ALWAYS TAKE THE THINGS THAT HAPPEN ONLY AT THEIR FACE VALUE. (Jesus said, "Do not judge by appearances. . ." Jn 7:24) For example: a certain accident may not have any meaning or explanation strictly in and of itself. It may not be justified or explained satisfactorily on its own terms (as a separate phenomenon). We may try to justify or rationalize it, but how successfully?
All through man's history he has gone through this sort of thing, and has really gotten nowhere with it. "Why did this happen to me?" "Why ME--why not someone who is a little worse than me?"
Sickness, rejection, financial setbacks, human relation problems, death; they happen, yes. But why should any of them happen to me_? Then that which is symbolized by Eliphaz, Bi1 dad, and Zophar go to work in us. We ponder, we reason, we justify, we blame, we judge, we resent-- and usually all in vain. Because we look for an explanation for a negative event in terms of negativity itself. It may seem as though this kind of thinking should work, but it doesn't. Something very different is needed in our manner of thinking on these subjects. And this new approach to thinking about negative happenings is symbolized in the book as Elihu.
ELIHU: "My God is that which is; my God is He" Meta.: Elihu of the book of Job represents the Holy Spirit." (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 191)
Strictly within man, Elihu represents spiritual thinking. That is thinking in a dimension which may include, but goes deeper than strictly human reasoning, judging, and justifying. The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary says that Elihu represents the Holy Spirit, it is the Holy Spirit that enables us to experience the only way of thinking which will really lead us to the help we need when we are in the midst of unexplainable and seemingly unjustifiable afflictions in our life.
The help which Elihu brings is not given directly, but indirectly: mostly by turning Job's mind to a different level of thinking. This is typical of the way Truth acts in our minds. Often we are not led by Truth into point-blank answers or "head-on" solutions to our problems. Quite often Truth thinking leads a person to a new awareness of possibilities. Truth thinking may simply quicken positive factors in our consciousness into new activity. This makes it more possible for us to perceive and understand the right answer, or makes us much more receptive to divine help. Thus it is in the narrative of the book.
Elihu says to Job, "... It is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand." (Job 32:8) Can we realize the importance of this idea? Have we ever asked ourselves these questions:
What IS my understanding? Where does it come from?
Do I create it, do I make it?
In fact, can I REALLY explain ANYTHING? (Try to "explain" a thought. Try to "explain" how you move your 1ittle finger.) Of course, we cannot. Spiritual Truth cannot really be "explained," but IT CAN BE SPOKEN AND BE UNDERSTOOD! It is an understanding beyond the human level of explanations. ". . . the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand" refers to intuitive or spiritual understanding. It is only on this higher, more inclusive level of thinking that man can find the sort of help he really needs in the face of mysterious, unexplainable, and seemingly unjust afflictions in life.
Chapters 38-42 of Job consist of long discourses spoken by Jehovah, seeking to impress on Job the fact that ordinary man does not create in the pure sense; but he can only be a witness to that which has been done. Man is a receiving creature, an observer, a producer. It is only in the sense of being productive that he is creative. Man is an arranger and a re-arranger of that which has already been created by God.
Job comes to understand this and agrees with it, and as a result he has an inner experience which is now called "seeing the light." He surrenders his personal being into the living Principle of God, and in so doing he finds himself--his Real Self.
At this point the metaphysical meaning of Job changes. He now stands for that in us which finally comes to the realization that the real answer for anything that occurs in human life is that GOD IS THE ONLY PRESENCE AND POWER THAT IS REALLY ETERNAL. Within God is all meaning. The trials, errors, afflictions, and tribulations of human life will come and go. Some can be partially explained, some not at all.
Man suffers. All men do. Whether one thing causes it or another is not the really important thing. Whether one thinks he deserves it or not is not the really important thing. Man suffers.
In spite of the sad fact that all persons suffer the Truth is always there in spite of it all. Truth is behind everything, before everything, beneath everything, above everything, within everything. And the Truth is: GOD is the ultimate reality. The ultimate reality of all that is GOOD. No matter what may happen (or fail to happen) in the realm of temporary form and passing phenomena, God means it for good.
Metaphysically, the outcome of the book of Job seems to underline this basic teaching: No amount of justifying or explaining gives a person any real satisfaction where human suffering is concerned. The only satisfaction we can have relating to suffering is the OVERCOMING of it. The book of Job tells us that only total recognition and acceptance of the Truth of God and good as the ultimate meaning will overcome human suffering. Nothing else really suffices.
Preceding Entry: Old Testament Metaphysics 14: Lesson 14 The Prophets Part 3
Following Entry: Gospels Metaphysics 0: Gospels Introduction