Friday, May 11, 2018

Son of Earth

Finally getting around to reading Norman C. Habel's Finding Wisdom in Nature: An Eco-Wisdom Reading of the Book of Job, the extended analysis on which shorter essays I've been thrilled by build. Building on the approach of the Earth Bible commentaries Habel helped edit, this reading attends to Job as an "Earth being," and listens further to hear the voice of Earth in a narrative too long read anthropocentrically. While he starts with an account of 28, for him the hinge, the round of a U-shaped structure, I like the way his approach can change the way the story begins. Learn from him to hear what Job's first words are really saying

          Naked I came from my mother's womb
          and naked shall I return there.
          The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away,
          blessed by the name of the Lord (Job 1.21).

Job's response is depicted here as relatively submissive. God seems to be winning the wager. ... The reading, however, is not that simple. ... In his devastating grief, Job identifies with Earth as his mother, the source of his being and the womb to which he will return in death. 
By identifying with Earth, Job hints that his primary allegiance is with Earth not with heaven. Job is an Earth being suffering without cause along with other Earth beings. Job dares to name his mother, Earth, in the moment of extreme anguish. In so doing, Job suggests that his mother too suffers when her children are treated with cruel abandon by their celestial overlord.

Each chapter of Habel's book ends with a poetic "Retrieval," in the voice of the Earth.

          The Voice of Earth

          I am Earth, Job's mother,
          and the source of life for all Earth beings.
          it delights me that Job,
          an Earth bring with genuine integrity,
          a wise man who spurns evil,
          identifies with me as his mother
          after a vicious round of disasters.

          Job blesses a sky being he calls Yhwh,
          his perceived overlord in heaven above,
          but he stays true to me
          with his roots deep in Earth.

          I am insulted by his God
          who is willing to violate an Earth being
          and his family of Earth beings
          for his own celestial pleasure.
          Such cruel folly!

          The disasters that befell Job
          are not disasters that arise from Earth
          as part of my natural order,
          an order that reflects innate wisdom.
          The disasters portrayed
          are unwarranted interventions of God,
          including ferocious fire from heaven.

          These actions are not only acts of
          divine injustice and celestial folly
          against Job as an Earth being,
          they also cause me to suffer without justification.
          I may suffer when humans abuse me.
          I suffer even more when God is the culprit.

          After a second act of divine injustice,
          I felt for Job
          whose flesh was violated with unwarranted boils.
          In his agony Job joins me again,
          sits on the ground surrounded by ashes.
          Through all of this agony,
          Job has been a man of integrity,
          true to himself and true to me.

          How, I wonder, will Job relate to me
          after his seven days of mourning
          when he begins to vent his anger? 

Not great poetry, perhaps, but compelling in its own way. I wonder, too, how this Job, child of Earth, will understand the caprices of the sky being, a being Whose wisdom, too (according to Habel's reading of chapter 28), was found and resides in Earth?
(Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2014), 32, 34

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