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3 1 . T H E JUSTICE OF GOD Israel's Sages displayed two attitudes toward the quest for wisdom. According to some, wisdom—when based on the fear (awe) of Yahweh—is not limited to instruction on the right course of action,- it can also provide some understanding of the divine order of things. Even though a great gulf is fixed between the holy God and the human world, the chasm is bridged by God, who gives faithful per­ sons the power of discernment. Other sages, however, insisted that Wisdom (cap­ italized) eludes human grasp completely. Wisdom is the supreme prerogative of the Holy One, the Creator, whose ways are impenetrable. Divine Wisdom is beyond the human ken. Skepticism and Faith In some wisdom circles the inaccessibility of God's wisdom led to skepticism about the power of human reason. This is evident in a passage that comes from an appen­ dix to the book of Proverbs, which may be regarded as a sage's dispute within him­ self,1 or with someone else, about the search for wisdom. Note the movement of the poem (Prov. 30:2-9, NJPSV). Failure oj Human Wisdom (30.2-3J. The sage feels weary, even drained of human resources, after a search that has led nowhere. / am brutish, less than a man, I lack common sense. / have not learned wisdom, nor do I possess knowledge of the Holy One. The Elusive God (30.4). A series of ironic questions call for the answer "God," but the Creator is inaccessible and eludes human knowledge. Who has ascended heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in ffce hollow of his hand? Who has wrapped (fee waters in his garment? Who has established all the extremities of the earth? What is his name or his sons name, if you know it? God's Revelation (30.-5-6J. Discordantly another voice interrupts, saying that it is unnecessary, indeed wrong, to engage in a struggle to know God rationally, for God has revealed divine wisdom, presumably in the Torah ("every word of God is pure"), and shields those who have faith (cf. Eccl. 12:9-14). I. Compare the ancient Egyptian tale of the dispute with one's soul (self) over suicide in ANET, 405-7. 275 2 7 6 Contours of Old Testament Theology Every word 0} God is pure, A shield to tbose who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, Lest He indict you and you be proved a liar. Accepting tfce Limitations of Human Wisdom (30.7-9J. At this point the sage seems to be in agreement with the final editors of the book of Ecclesiastes: 'The sum of the matter, when all is said and done: Revere God and observe His commandments" (Eccl. 12:13, NJPSV). God has given enough light by which to live, so one should live modestly—free from illusions and with sufficient income to enjoy a good life. Two things I ask of you, do not deny tkm to me before I die: Keep lies and false words far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches, But provide me with my daily bread, Lest, being sated, I renounce, saying, "Who is the LORD?" In some respects this wisdom discourse displays affinities with the dialogue of the book of Job, though in the latter case the dialogue moves eventually from a conversation on the human level, between friends, to a word from God. Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations? Speak if you have understanding. Do you know who fixed its dimensions Or who measured it with a line? Onto what were its bases sunk? Who set its cornerstone When tfce morning stars sang together And all tbe divine beings shouted for joy? —Job 38:4-7 (NJPSV) This questioning echoes that of the skeptical sage discussed above (cf. Prov. 30:4), with this major difference: in Job's case, it is God who puts the questions that rebuke the presumptions of human wisdom. ]ob and the Issue oj Theodicy Unlike the dispute of the sage found in the appendix to the book of Proverbs, the reader of the book of Job is told plainly why God is a problem. It is because of undeserved human suffering. Why do the righteous suffer in a world created and ruled by the God of justice and mercy? Here we run straight into the problem of theodicy, the justice of God. In...


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