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Now My Eyes Have Seen You: Images of Creation and Evil in the Book of Job (New Studies in Biblical Theology) Paperback – August 15, 2002
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This book dascinated me. Fyall's study uncovers references to Canaanite mythology that have long been hidden in favour of more naturalistic interpretations of the text. The discussions are quite technical, but the subject matter is well worth the effort. I'll never read the book of Job the same way again. (Stephen Barkley at stephenbarkley.com, August 18, 2008)
"We do not begin to gain a real grasp of the message of the book of Job, and of its contribution to the canon, apart from a more detailed grasp of its imagery and drama. Here Dr. Fyall is a sure-footed guide: not only does he lecture in Old Testament, but he preaches regularly in a church that draws several hundred university students--something that does not usually happen unless the preacher has something to say from the Bible, and says it well. In this book many more can listen with pleasure and profit." (D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, Illinois))
About the Author
Robert Fyall is Senior Tutor in Ministry for the Cornhill Training Course (Scotland). Formerly director of Rutherford House, a research, training and publishing center in Scotland for church leaders, he also taught Old Testament at St. John's College in Durham, England, in addition to pastoring a church there.
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1. Fyall understands that resurrection is a key thread running through the whole book. While Job 19:24-27 is ambiguous in its translation (is it "in my flesh" or "without my flesh"), Fyall shows how the metaphors and symbolism used elsewhere are fundamentally centered on the resurrection. For example, Job uses the metaphor of a tree- a tree can die, but once it is given water, it is rejuvenated and reborn. It is within this context that Job asks God to hide him in the grave- Job wishes to be rejuvenated and reborn as the tree. Resurrection is not peripheral to the message of the book of Job, but fundamental.
2. Fyall points out the theme of an "advocate" or "intercessor" in Heaven. When Job's friends are accusing him, Job is left to plea before the one who can advocate on his behalf. Clearly, this has biblical-theological implications for the idea of the intercession of Jesus.
3. Fyall points out the way in which the agency of Satan is mixed with the agency of God. God gives Job into Satan's "hand" but Job cries out that he is suffering under the hand of God. This theme runs through the book in order to present God as using Satan to accomplish His own purposes in Job's life.
4. Fyall understands that the Dragon Leviathan in Job 41 is the same "Satan" who appeared at the beginning of the book. He connects this dragon (briefly) to the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14, traditionally understood as Satan. Leviathan has eyes "as the dawn" and the king of Babylon is the "son of the dawn." Fyall also points out the way in which the imagery from the speeches comes to be explained and knit together in Job 41.
Now, the bad:
1. Fyall relies much too heavily on Near Eastern mythology. In the introduction to the book, Fyall says that Near Eastern mythology can alert us to things that we have missed, but that exegetical points must ultimately be proven through comparing Scripture with Scripture and applying the images within the unified canon. Unfortunately, he does not follow through with this methodology. For example, Fyall understands Behemoth as Mot, the god of death. There may well be a case to be made for Behemoth as a symbol of death, but Fyall's entire case is based on comparing the description of Behemoth with Ugaritic mythology. Even apart from canonical considerations, there are methodological flaws here. How do we know that the author of Job was acquainted with Ugaritic mythology? On the conventional chronology, Ugarit dates from the 12th century BC, but if you revise the chronology (ala Courville, Rohl, Bimson), then Ugarit is sometime later, anywhere from the 10th century to the 8th century. Did the author of Job believe that his readers would be familiar with Ugaritic mythology? This is the most problematic aspect of the book.
2. Much of the time that Job's speeches actually say "you", Fyall assumes that Job is speaking to God. Sometimes Job is indeed speaking to God, but other times he is likely speaking to the friends. Toby Sumpter, drawing on Rene Girard, sees Job as a king who is facing a coup from the three "friends" (counselors at court). The windy accusations that the friend throw at Job are answered harshly. This is no mere philosophical disagreement, but a struggle for Job's life. This helps bring into sharper focus those passages which would seem truly out of line if Job had spoken completely rightly.
Altogether, the book has some good insights. I only wish that Fyall had spent less time comparing Job with Near Eastern mythology and more time comparing Job with the rest of the canon.
Robert Fyall has done much work for us by focusing on the images of creation and evil in the book of Job, with a particular emphasis on God's divine council, Satan, and the place of Behemoth and Leviathan. He approaches the book of Job with humility so that he, and those he teaches, will not be like Job's three friends who did not speak what was right about the Lord (Jb 42.7-8). In this study Fyall believes that Yahweh's divine speeches (38-41) ought to control how we read the book, he draws numerous comparisons to the rest of the OT to draw out the theology of creation and evil, and he argues for the unity of Job.
According to Fyall, we can see the unity of Job in three ways: structurally, thematically, and theologically. Structurally, the narrative and poetry portions of Job can not stand on their own. Thematically, some try to separate the “patient” Job from the “angry” Job, but to separate the patient from the angry is to miss out on the mixed emotions of a real person. Theologically, the divine council is the controlling theme of the book, as Satan’s role in Job 1–2 is bound together with various references to him and his workings in the preceding chapters. This is especially so in Job 41 where, as Fyall argues, the Leviathan is unmasked as being Satan himself.
This brings us into one of the main points of the book. Who or what is the Behemoth and the Leviathan? Fyall, using intertextuality and Canaanite and Mesopotamian myths, argues that Behemoth represents Mot, the god of death, and Leviathan is Satan. Throughout the book of Job, Job believes that God is against him (6.4, “For the arrows of the Almighty are in me”), when in fact it is Satan himself who is allowed to terrorize Job. Fyall says that “to say that Leviathan has characteristics of the crocodile and the whale is not to say that it is such a creature, but rather to suggest that evil is rooted in the natural world” (27).
While I don’t think Fyall provides a slam-dunk argument, I do generally agree with him, as many of his hooks to other passages in Job seem to guide us into seeing that these two beastly animals are something more than just a crocodile/whale or a hippopotamus, and I recognize that, as Fyall himself admits, his conclusions are based on cumulative evidence, and that is what he presents: a lot of evidence. His arguments can be a bit vague and difficult to follow.
I also have a hard time seeing how the divine council is the controlling theme of Job. Surely, it’s important, but was it really because of Job’s partial knowledge of the divine council and his “continual awareness of a cosmic and supernatural dimension to his sorrows” that God announced Job’s spoke rightly of him (148; Jb 42.7–8)? I find it difficult to accept this, though I don’t want to understate the importance of the divine council in Job.
Those points aside, Fyall does a great service in his book by helping us get a better grasp of Job and his theology through the angle of creation and evil. I think his points should be wrestled with, and, even if you don’t agree with him, his book is especially helpful for those who are studying and will be teaching through Job. There is more to this book (and to Job) than chapters 40–41. throughout his book, Fyall doesn’t eschew Jesus, but instead keeps him in sight. He is the Redeemer (Jb 19.25) we look forward to seeing (42.5) on the other side of life.
Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.