Biblical Words 
Through trials and tests, God finds new ways to bring mercy and to lead faithful
people toward a greater city.
. , 10-17 Job 42:1-6
The final reading from the “wisdom” traditions of
the Hebrew scriptures is the conclusion to the Book of Job.
In the first (poetic) section of this reading (verses 1-6) Job makes his
submission to God, first with a declaration of God’s all-powerfulness: “I know that you can do all things, and that
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Then,
in a more elaborate form, Job repeats, in his own words, what he heard Yahweh
say to him at the beginning of the “answer”:
“Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?” (verse 3, quoting 38:2,
Job’s answer to this is abject admission that he, Job, spoke of awesome things that he, poor
mortal, did not understand.
Job’s conclusion here, beginning in verse 5, may be
understood to mean that he has now heard God (in God’s speeches) and now he
“sees” the truth. Carol Newsome
translates this verse, “I have listened to you with my ears, and now my eye
sees you” (The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. IV, p. 628). There is apparently a comprehension of the
vastness of things – and an awed acceptance of them.
The rest of Job’s reply (verse 6) has caused much recent
scholarly discussion of its correct interpretation and translation. (Carol Newsome summarizes five
interpretations, Ibid, pp. 628-29.)
Does Job say, “I despise myself and repent upon dust and ashes”; or does
he say something like “I retract my words and repent of dust and ashes”? On this latter reading he in fact retracts
his repentance before God. This latter
interpretation is important to people who want Job to maintain his defiance to
the bitter end, even if somewhat covertly and subtly.
In general, the import of the whole passage suggests
that Job fully submits and is not whispering something different under his
breath. However, as many scholars have
pointed out, if the writer wanted to make unmistakably clear that Job was
simply overwhelmed by God’s speeches, he could have said so in plain if poetic
language. Instead, we have real ambiguity.
The ambiguity is there because the subject matter
and the vision required it.
(The part of our reading from the prose Epilogue,
42:10-17, omits the very problematic verses 7-9. In those verses God
condemns the “friends” and says that only Job spoke the truth. This passage, accepted at face value by
traditional interpreters, reduces the arguments of the book to complete
confusion: not only is the theory of
rewards and punishments, which the friends defend, overthrown, but Yahweh’s
lengthy and awesome “answer to Job” is reversed. This late pious insertion is out of touch
with what the rest of the book is really about.)
In the prose Epilogue (42:10-17), Job has all his earlier losses restored, the goods
doubled in quantity, the seven sons and three daughters replaced by new
ones. And as was fitting to the
patriarchs of primordial times, Job lived one hundred and forty years and saw
four generations of his descendants. The
happy ending is thus dutifully arranged.
However, those who really sympathize with Job’s
arguments and pleas in the long poetic Debate (chapters 3-27) have to find this
entire ending (including Yahweh’s “answers”) utterly frustrating, and many
scholars have made cases for the “angry” Job as truer than the “patient”
Job. (Among a vast collection, see David
Penchansky, The Betrayal of God:
Ideological Conflict in Job, Westminster/John Knox, 1990.)
Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22).
Perhaps this alphabetic acrostic Psalm (each verse
starting with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet) is thought to be
appropriate as a thanksgiving by the newly restored Job.
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and
delivered me from all my fears” (the fourth letter daleth, in verse 4,
“This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and
was saved from every trouble” (the seventh letter zayin, in verse 6).
With his abundant goods and his wide family around –
clearly the gifts of God to a righteous man – he says, “O taste and see
that the Lord is good…” (the ninth letter teth, in verse 8).
The spirit of the psalm is that the righteous one is
summoned to endure through the hard times and move on toward the fullness of
rewards. “Many are the afflictions of
the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all” (the twentieth letter resh, in verse 19).
And as if a quiet allusion to the sufferings of
Jesus were also needed here, we hear in verse 20, God “keeps all his bones; not
one of them will be broken,” a declaration applied to Jesus in the passion
story of John (
. Hebrews 7:23-28
The reading from the Epistle presents the
climax of the view of Jesus as the unique and divine
high priest “after the order of
Melchizedek.” This divine priest is
always accessible: “He is able for all
time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make
intercession for them” (verse 25,
Last week’s reading from Hebrews emphasized the
humanity of the Anointed One. This
reading emphasizes his heavenly character, the effectiveness of his priestly
activity “for all time,” and not just from day to day or year to year (as with
human priesthoods). Jesus’ priesthood is
not limited by the lifetimes of human priests (verse 27), nor, we may
understand, by the location of their activities at the temple in
This latter point raises one of the most important features of the argument in Hebrews: all actual animal sacrifice is made obsolete.
clearly has never been deeply involved in the actual working temple in
Jerusalem; he (or she) has not collected blood in basins at the alter, has not
cut off hunks of cows or sheep to return to the offerors for their sacrificial
banquet, has not had to oversee the removal of dung, skin, and scraps from the
sacred area in the temple.
knows the sacrificial cult only from reading the Mosaic law in Greek. She (Priscilla? Acts 18:26) or he has studied
details of the Levitical legislation and found profound meanings for God’s new
saving actions in it and in the Psalms, but she has never personally experienced
a deep sense of holiness in the ritual killing of a domestic animal and the
proper disposition of its blood and body parts.
increasing number of thoughtful and reverent people of Hellenistic times, she
sees animal sacrifice as a proper observance for the ancestors, but no longer
required, or even appropriate, for a true “approach” to God.
too, participates in the end of that age of religion (starting in the Neolithic
period, about 10,000 BCE when animals were first domesticated) in which animal blood
was a key bond between humans and God.
. Mark 10:46-52
The Gospel reading
tells the colorful story of the healing of blind Bartimaeus. The narrative gives a strong sense of the
crowdedness of Jesus’ approach to
Bartimaeus is apparently stationed at his usual post for begging on a busy stretch of the road, but a ways back from the actual path of traffic. Thus when he learns from someone in the crowd that Jesus is passing, he shouts loudly to be heard. Because of the crowd, Jesus doesn’t speak directly to the beggar, perhaps can’t even see him where he sits. But Bartimaeus’ shouting gets through; something strikes Jesus’ attention so that he “stood still” (verse 49) and had them bring the blind man to him.
Bartimaeus comes as one long in exile because of his blindness, but hoping and crying out for the mercy of God spoken of so long ago by the prophets (“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened...” Isaiah 35:5). “Let me see again,” he asks, and his faith gives him sight.
blind Bartimaeus is the last event in the Gospel of Mark before Jesus
patriotic meaning of “the Anointed One,” the Messiah, as a designation of
Jesus, rises to a crescendo here. Having
given the poor man sight, Jesus goes to the City of David, where at first he will be acclaimed as the bringer of the Davidic kingdom, then will be betrayed and
denied even by his own, before being tried and executed as “the King of the
Bartimaeus – probably known or remembered by later Christians – was the last work
of mercy before Jesus gave himself as the final “ransom for many” (10:45).