Job’s Despair, by William Blake

Throughout the course of Job’s speeches, both in his dialogues with the three friends and in his final monologue, there is one thing that Job repeatedly says he desires: an audience with God. Job believes that God is punishing him unjustly. Given his commitment to the Principle of Retribution as the mechanism of God’s providence, that’s the only conclusion an “upright and blameless man” like Job could draw. While his confidence that the Principle of Retribution is the comprehensive explanation of God’s governance does begin to waver in his later speeches, Job’s desire to bring his case beforte God does not.

Here’s a selection of these requests for redress with God.

From Job 9-

32 For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him,
that we should come to trial together.
33 There is no[a] arbiter between us,
who might lay his hand on us both.
34 Let him take his rod away from me,
and let not dread of him terrify me.
35 Then I would speak without fear of him,
for I am not so in myself.

From Job 13-

3 But I would speak to the Almighty,
and I desire to argue my case with God.
4 As for you, you whitewash with lies;
worthless physicians are you all.
5 Oh that you would keep silent,
and it would be your wisdom!
6 Hear now my argument
and listen to the pleadings of my lips…

18 Behold, I have prepared my case;
I know that I shall be in the right.
19 Who is there who will contend with me?
For then I would be silent and die.
20 Only grant me two things,
then I will not hide myself from your face:
21 withdraw your hand far from me,
and let not dread of you terrify me.
22 Then call, and I will answer;
or let me speak, and you reply to me.

From Job 23-

3 Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
that I might come even to his seat!
4 I would lay my case before him
and fill my mouth with arguments.
5 I would know what he would answer me
and understand what he would say to me.
6 Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?
No; he would pay attention to me.
7 There an upright man could argue with him,
and I would be acquitted forever by my judge.

From Job 31-

35 Oh, that I had one to hear me!
(Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)
Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary!
36 Surely I would carry it on my shoulder;
I would bind it on me as a crown;
37 I would give him an account of all my steps;
like a prince I would approach him.

In contrast to these repeated desires to see God and talk with Him, it is quite glaring that Job never indicates he wants any of his losses to be reversed. He never asks for his possessions, his health, or even his children – though all of these losses were incredibly painful (29:1-6). Job is singleminded in his desire to make his case before God.

Whatever else we make of these requests by Job, I think it is fruitful to consider them in light of the key question of the book – “Does Job fear God for no reason?” (1:9). And it seems significant to me that at the climax of the book, God gives Job exactly what he wants – a personal encounter with God.