Now My Eyes Have Seen You:
Images of Creation & Evil in Job (NSBT)
Robert S. Fyall (IVP, 2002)Blurb Review by Rev. Graham Beynon
Review by Rev. Graham Beynon
This book is part of the 'New Studies in Biblical Theology' Series, which has already seen many excellent additions. This book focuses on particular images - that of creation and evil - in Job. It is in that sense a much focused and carefully delineated study. However, examination of those images is done within the context of the overall purpose of the book of Job - indeed these themes are chosen because they are believed to be so central to that purpose.
Within this focus, an eye is also cast to other parts of Scripture that speak to these themes, and so the beginnings of a broader biblical theology is built. In addition, the conclusion also contains a valuable discussion of the contribution of Job to the canon and to biblical theology.
The origin of the book was a doctoral thesis and perhaps the main weaknesses of the book stem from this. The first is simply that it is hard work to read because of the level of detail of the discussion. In any one chapter, the argument will include lexical studies, Ugaritic background, and interaction with the secondary literature. This is not to say that such detail is unnecessary or is not done well; it is simply to warn readers what they are going to work through.
A second weakness of the style of the book is that it is not always easy to see the wood for the trees. For example within the discussion of death in Job we have a couple of pages on the image of the 'womb'. However, having discussed the relevant passages, it was not clear to me what contribution this made to the overall argument. That was a feeling I was left with many times. There are summary sections which draw the threads together, but I for one would want them to be enlarged.
The hard work however is worth it. The great strengths of the book are its guiding belief that the book's various parts present a coherent whole, its focus on careful exegesis, and its systematic development of the resulting themes. Fyall argues that the central theme of the book is God's dealing with and overcoming evil in his creation. Central to this is his argument that Behemoth and Leviathan are not simply references to creatures within creation, but rather are powerful symbols of death and Satan respectively.
This means Job presents a doctrine of creation that recognises these forces of evil, which wreak havoc on people like Job in a completely unjust manner. However, this presentation never lapses into dualism. Rather at its heart is an assertion of God's sovereignty over and defeat of such powers of evil. This reading gives great priority to the divine speeches at the end of the book. I think that priority is correct although it does leave one wondering sometimes why so much space is given to the preceding poetic material.
Within this presentation of God's sovereign power and victory over evil Job is led to realise that God is not his adversary as he thought. Rather he sees that there is a complexity to creation he had not appreciated. He had desired to question God over his justice but is led at the end to repent of his presumption in doing so. Along with this recognition comes a deeper knowledge of and relationship with God. The book of Job is therefore not seen as being about suffering per se, but rather about 'creation, providence and knowing God, and how, in the crucible of suffering, these are to be understood.'
The biblical theological reflections in the conclusion are perhaps the best section of the book. I would have loved for them to be expanded, especially with regard to the NT comment on Job and its relationship to Christ. Particularly helpful though was the insight that Job makes to covenant theology. Rather than standing outside the covenantal understanding of OT history Job contributes to it and enables us to see that covenantal promises of cursing and blessing are not the purely mechanical responses to obedience or disobedience they are often thought to be.
This is overall an extremely helpful book on the theology of Job. It will need to be absorbed well in advance of any preaching on Job, but your teaching of the book will be greatly enriched by it. In addition, you may wish to supplement reading this with Fyall's more popular level How Does God Treats His Friends? This would let you see how the author himself moves from his understanding of the theology of Job to teaching it.
- 1 Corinthians
- 1 John
- 1 Samuel
- 1 Timothy
- 2 John
- 2 Kings
- 2 Samuel
- 3 John
- Biblical Theology
- New Testament
- Old Testament
- Old Testament Theology
- Song of Songs
- Wisdom Literature