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"Without My Flesh I Will See God": Job's Rhetoric of the Body

From: Journal of Biblical Literature
Volume 132, Number 2, 2013
pp. 295-313 | 10.1353/jbl.2013.0034



While almost all commentators take notice of Job's descriptions of physical suffering, the ways Job uses his body to rhetorical effect have not been fully recognized. This article considers the impact of the legal metaphor on Job's use of body imagery (Job 9:20, 30-31; 16:8; 19:20-23; and 19:25-27) and maintains that Job's speeches draw on the ancient world's understanding of the body to question and invert traditional usage of body imagery, particularly the stock of body images from the Psalms that present the body, the self, and the voice as a manifold unity. Job overturns traditional images of the disintegrated body known from the biblical laments in order to distance his body's appearance of guilt from his testimony of innocence. In contrast to the psalmists, who petition God to restore them to health, Job uses images of disembodiment and bodily disintegration to separate his broken body from his contention that he is innocent. In this way, Job uses imagery of the body to form a counternarrative that testifies to his innocence.

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