Commentary Magazine


Job's Expectations

To the Editor:

Rabbi Weiner’s scholarly critique of J.B. (“Job on Broadway,” February) begins with the remark: “I wonder, Mr. MacLeish, if you realize how unlikable your character J.B. really is?” The same criticism may be made of the central figure of the Biblical Book. Job’s expatiation upon his own righteousness in Chapter 29 shows his arrogance, in the past as well as now, for he had expected reward: “Then I said: ‘I shall die with my nest, / And I shall multiply my days as the phoenix; / My root shall be spread out to the waters, / And the dew shall lie all night upon my branch; / My glory shall be fresh in me, / And my bow shall be renewed in my hand.’”

But good works are involved in human relations; an attitude of cheerful acceptance, of submissive piety, whatever one’s lot and whatever one does, is required. In the words of Elihu (and whether Elihu’s speeches are later insertions or not, is here immaterial): “Then He declareth unto them their work, / And their transgressions, that they have behaved themselves proudly.” There would be ample evidence to suggest that Job has been punished for overweening pride. But our author has stacked the cards. And it is not, after all, an “amazing thing” that God who says to Satan, “Thou didst move Me against him to destroy him without cause,” should also be depicted as accepting Job’s view that there is no moral order in the universe.

Vivian Jacobs
East Orange, New Jersey

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