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The Prosperity of the Wicked

A Theological Challenge in the Book of Job and in Ancient Near Eastern Literature


Does Job convincingly argue against a fixed system of just retribution by proclaiming the prosperity of the wicked—an assertion that distinctly runs contrary to traditional biblical and ancient Near Eastern wisdom? This study addresses this question, giving careful consideration to the rhetoric, imagery, and literary devices used to treat the issue of the fate of the wicked in Job’s first two rounds of dialogue, where the topic is predominantly disputed. The analysis will glean from related biblical and non-biblical texts in order to expose how Job deals with this fascinating subject and reveal the grandeur of the composition.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-4632-4424-8
  • *
Publication Status: Forthcoming
Publication Date: Nov 30,2022
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 358
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-4632-4424-8
$114.95
Your price: $68.97

The book of Job has long been considered the biblical text that is most relevant to the question of theodicy. Therefore, much of its interpretational history has focused on considering theological explanations for the problem of innocent suffering. This emphasis on the “righteous sufferer” motif, though reasonable, has caused scholars to overlook what considerable sections of the first two rounds of dialogue communicate about the characters’ perceptions concerning the fate of the wicked.

To Job’s friends, justice comes in the form of the wicked consistently suffering divinely appointed consequences for their sins, which is an outcome they eventually apply to Job as the conversation intensifies. According to Job, human experience blatantly contradicts his friends’ claims about uniformity in retribution. Job’s overt allegations about the inconsistency of God’s justice, coupled with the assertion that the wicked prosper with no divine restraint, are revolutionary when compared to other sections of the Bible. As one branches out from the Bible to other ancient Near Eastern compositions (i.e., from Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Egypt), it is readily noticeable that several of the “righteous sufferer” compositions similarly exhibit the prevalence of the doctrine of just retribution, utilizing comparable language and imagery to communicate corresponding ideas to those in Job.

Does Job convincingly argue against a fixed system of just retribution by proclaiming the prosperity of the wicked—an assertion that distinctly runs contrary to traditional biblical and ancient Near Eastern wisdom? This study addresses this question, giving careful consideration to the rhetoric, imagery, and literary devices used to treat the issue of the fate of the wicked in Job’s first two rounds of dialogue, where the topic is predominantly disputed. The analysis will glean from related biblical and non-biblical texts to illustrate that Job specifically counters five recurring arguments of his friends’ speeches that are based upon traditional wisdom.

The book of Job has long been considered the biblical text that is most relevant to the question of theodicy. Therefore, much of its interpretational history has focused on considering theological explanations for the problem of innocent suffering. This emphasis on the “righteous sufferer” motif, though reasonable, has caused scholars to overlook what considerable sections of the first two rounds of dialogue communicate about the characters’ perceptions concerning the fate of the wicked.

To Job’s friends, justice comes in the form of the wicked consistently suffering divinely appointed consequences for their sins, which is an outcome they eventually apply to Job as the conversation intensifies. According to Job, human experience blatantly contradicts his friends’ claims about uniformity in retribution. Job’s overt allegations about the inconsistency of God’s justice, coupled with the assertion that the wicked prosper with no divine restraint, are revolutionary when compared to other sections of the Bible. As one branches out from the Bible to other ancient Near Eastern compositions (i.e., from Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Egypt), it is readily noticeable that several of the “righteous sufferer” compositions similarly exhibit the prevalence of the doctrine of just retribution, utilizing comparable language and imagery to communicate corresponding ideas to those in Job.

Does Job convincingly argue against a fixed system of just retribution by proclaiming the prosperity of the wicked—an assertion that distinctly runs contrary to traditional biblical and ancient Near Eastern wisdom? This study addresses this question, giving careful consideration to the rhetoric, imagery, and literary devices used to treat the issue of the fate of the wicked in Job’s first two rounds of dialogue, where the topic is predominantly disputed. The analysis will glean from related biblical and non-biblical texts to illustrate that Job specifically counters five recurring arguments of his friends’ speeches that are based upon traditional wisdom.

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ContributorBiography

Dominick Hernández

Dominick S. Hernández (PhD, Bar-Ilan University) is associate professor of Old Testament at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, in La Mirada, California where he teaches an assortment of classes in Biblical Studies and ancient Near Eastern languages and literature. Visit his website at: www.domshernandez.com.

Table of Contents (v)
Acknowledgments (ix)
Abbreviations (xiii)
1. The Prosperity of the Wicked and Divine Injustice (1)
   Job in Light of Ancient Near Eastern Compositions (4)
      A One-Sided Theodicy (6)
      Retributive Justice and the Prosperity of the Wicked (15)
      The Other Side of Theodicy (20)
   Raison d’etre and Trajectory (22)
2. The Conflict over the Fate of the Wicked (27)
   The Lions, the Wicked, and the Retribution: Eliphaz—4:10–11 (28)
      Lion Imagery as a Trope for Judgment upon the Wicked (31)
      Eliphaz the Instigator (40)
   Crushed Hope, Ruined Households, and Restored Happiness: Bildad—8:8–22 (41)
      Traditional Wisdom as a Literary Technique in the Bible and Ancient Near East—Job 8:8–10 (42)
      Malnourished Plants—Bildad in Job 8:11–14 (45)
      The Ungodly, the Unwise, and an Unsteady House—Bildad in Job 8:15, 22 (47)
      Well-Watered and Wicked?—Bildad in Job 8:16–19 (52)
      Assurance of Retribution and Restoration—Bildad in Job 8:20–22 (53)
   The Whimsical God: Job in 9:20–24 (54)
      The Destruction of the Blameless with the Guilty in Job and the Ancient Near East (55)
Job’s Righteousness—vv. 20–21 (59)
      The Wicked vs. The Righteous: Identical Outcomes—vv. 22–23 (60)
      A Problematic Issue for the Sages (65)
      God is the “Unjust Justice”—v. 24 (65)
   God’s Hostilities to Job—Job in 10:2–3, 7–8, 14–16 (70)
      God Swallows Job—10:8 (72)
      God the Lion Hunts Job the Prey—10:14–16 (74)
   Job Cannot Be Guiltless—Zophar in Job 11:7–8, 20 (75)
      God’s Immeasurable Wisdom—11:7–8 (76)
      The Consequences for the Wicked—11:20 (78)
   Conclusion (79)
3. “Unequivocal Reiteration”: Eliphaz in Job 15:17–35 (81)
   The Demise of the Deranged Wicked—vv. 20–21, 24 (83)
      Terror, Torment & Delusion (83)
      Terror for the Wicked in Biblical Literature (87)
      Terror for the Wicked in Extra-Biblical Literature (88)
   Darkness & Violence—vv. 22–23 & 30 (90)
   Reason for Retribution: The Wicked Challenge God—vv. 25–26 (93)
   The Loss and Futility of Possessions, Again—15:27–29 (96)
   Botanic Imagery & the Wicked—vv. 30–33 (104)
   Godless: Sterile Procreators—vv. 34–35 (110)
   Conclusion (115)
4. “Woe is the Way of the Wicked”: Bildad in Job 18 (117)
   The Light of the Wicked Will Wane—vv. 5–6, 18 (119)
   Light/Life/Land vs. Darkness & Death in the Bible (121)
   Darkness & Death in Ancient Near Eastern Literature (123)
      The Ballad of Early Rulers (123)
      The Descent of Ishtar to the Netherworld and Nergal and Ereshkigal (124)
   The Way of the Wicked—vv. 7–10 (126)
   Terrors and Trouble in the Way of the Wicked—vv. 11–12 (130)
   Definite Death—vv. 13–14 (133)
      The Firstborn of Death—v. 13 (134)
      The King of Terrors—v. 14 (139)
   Terror Resides in the Wicked’s Estates—vv. 15 (142)
   Eradication of the Wicked’s Progeny—vv. 16–17, 19 (147)
      Progeny as a Problem in the Bible (150)
      Progeny as a Problem in Ugaritic Epics (152)
   Making an Example of the Wicked—vv. 20–21 (159)
   Conclusion (160)
5. “The Destitute, the Dispossessed, and the Dead”— Zophar in Job 20:4–29 (163)
   Zophar: Job’s Agitated Companion—vv. 1–3 (164)
   Traditional Appeal to Traditional Wisdom—v. 4 (164)
   Ancient Near Eastern Affiliation (165)
   Ill-Gotten Gain and its Consequences in Job (166)
      Job: The Exploitation of the Weak/Poor—vv. 5, 10, 19 (166)
      Job: The Imagery of Swallowing—vv. 12–18, 20–21a (170)
      Job: The Ephemerality of Possessions—vv. 21b, 26–28 (178)
      Job: The Terror and Death of the Wicked— vv. 6–9, 11, 22–26 (188)
   Zophar’s Imagery in the World of the Ancient Near East (206)
      Amenemope: Cautions against Exploiting the Disadvantaged (208)
      Amenemope: The Temporary Nature of Illicit Possessions (213)
      Amenemope: Imagery of Swallowing (214)
   Zophar’s Imagery in Context: Two Observations (215)
      Job’s Wealth (216)
      Just Retribution in Job (217)
   Conclusion (219)
6. The Prosperity of the Wicked According to Job—Job 21 (221)
   Job’s Appeal to Experience—A Superior Standard of Reality (223)
   Job’s Intertextual Considerations (224)
   Job’s Introduction: An Appeal for Quiet Consolation—vv. 2–5 (226)
   The Prosperity of the Wicked—vv. 6–34 (230)
      Job’s Alarm at the Life of the Wicked—vv. 6–7 (230)
      The Wicked Experience Prosperity in Life and a Normal Death—v. 13 (236)
      Does the Lamp of the Wicked Wane?—v. 17 (237)
      How often are the Wicked Blown Away?—v. 18 (241)
      The Offspring of the Wicked—vv. 8–9, 11–12, 19–21 (243)
      Financial Prosperity of the Wicked—vv. 10, 16 (252)
      From an Alienated Life to an Arbitrary Death— vv. 14–15, 22–26 (259)
      All Meet the Same Fate: A Case Study on Death as the Common Fate—vv. 22–26 (262)
      The “Honorable” Wicked—vv. 27–33 (270)
   Conclusion (281)
7. Conclusions (285)
   Recurrent Themes Related to Retribution (287)
      The Appeal to Traditional Wisdom (287)
      The Temporality of Wealth and Impending Poverty (287)
      The Absence of Offspring and Infertility of the Impious (288)
      The Wicked are Terrorized by Perpetual Fear (290)
      The Ephemerality of the Existence of the Wicked and their Public Demise (290)
   The Imagery of Job’s World (291)
      The Dichotomy between Light and Darkness (292)
      Botanic/Agricultural Imagery (293)
      Swallowing and Vomiting (294)
   Moving Forward (294)
   Reconciling Job’s Honesty with God’s Response (295)
      True Wisdom in Job: A Diatribe against Existing Values? (295)
      Tracing the Retribution Principle through Second Temple Judaism (296)
Concluding Remarks (297)
Bibliography (299)
Index (311)

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