This session deals with the ideas of test and hero by comparing and contrasting two narratives - Job and Avraham.
The same questions we had before regarding the midrashim [who is being tested? for whom is the test? what is the purpose of the test?] apply to the Book of Job as well.
In this class we want to understand better the concept of "hero" as applied both to Avraham and Job.
Judy Klitsner does an incredible job indicating how the two narratives relate to each other. In part, the goal of this class is to push the participants to find the connections by themselves, and come out with a better understanding of how narratives in the Tanach [Bible] reflect one another.
Who is Avraham? Why is Avraham important? What type of hero is Avraham?
Avraham: Avinu – we follow in his footsteps. Invented Judaism with his personality / Har Sinai gave the content, Avraham Avinu gave the personality of what it means to be a Jew. Here are a few reminders, with notes and sources the facilitator might bring to the discussion.
Genesis 12:1 - Go to the land I will show you: God does not show, Avraham goes to Eretz Cna'an. (Just like al echad haheharim). See Midrash Rabbah Bereshit 39:8 – not just the value of work vs. laziness, but also knowledge and moral judgment on the part of Avraham Avinu.
13:8 - Avraham puts Lot before himself and gives Lot first choice.
14:14 - Avraham goes on a military rescue mission for Lot: no speaking to God first - וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָם כִּי נִשְׁבָּה אָחִיו וַיָּרֶק אֶת-חֲנִיכָיו יְלִידֵי בֵיתוֹ
Yarek – strange word: explained as “made their faces green” with shame, they did not want to go. God at no point says “I’ll take care of you” (Just after – I will take care of you. Take care of what? The war is over by then). Midrash: al kidush hashem, to do the right thing, even though this looks like a suicide mission. Going to fight - knowing it was the right thing to do. Avraham Avinu chooses to do that, God approves / gives kudos afterwards. See Midrash Rabbah Bereshit 43:2
14:23 - Avraham refuses his right to war booty.
17:1 הִתְהַלֵּךְ לְפָנַי וֶהְיֵה תָמִים: - walk before Me, before I have to tell you what to do. Uncharted territory, God will be behind you.
18:2 - The hospitality of Avraham.
18:19 - For I know him [Avraham], that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of Ad-nai, to do mishpat (justice/salvation) and tzedakah (righteousness).
18:23 - Avraham crying out to save sinners.
These aren’t the character traits of a man willing to throw out all sense of justice and morality. Avraham’s argument for Sodom seems to imply that the God isn’t independent of moral justification.
~ Why no attempt to save Isaac, his one and only beloved son, like he did for people of Sodom – strangers?
~ What type of hero is Avraham, in the Akedah? What type of hero was Avraham before, for you?
Based on: Judy Klitsner – Subversive Sequels in the Bible
One of the answers might be found in the Book of Job.
In search of responses to some of the issues identified in the previous sessions, one possibility is to reach beyond the scope of the passage itself and into to the realm of intertext. Intertext is what we do when we seek out literary relationships between different books. Intertext in terms of Biblical studies is done seeking connections between passages inside the canon.
If your students are conversant with the Book of Job, feel free to skip to the next session.
The Book of Job tells the story of an extremely righteous man named Job, who is very prosperous and has seven sons and three daughters. The "sons of God" and satan(ha-satan, literally "the adversary/accuser"), among them, present themselves to God, and God asks the satan for his opinion on Job. The satan answers that Job is pious only because "blessed" with prosperity, but if God were to take away what Job has, then he would surely curse God. God gives the satan permission to test Job's righteousness.
All Job's possessions are destroyed: 500 yoke of oxen and 500 donkeys carried off by Sabeans; 7,000 sheep burned up by 'the fire of God which fell from the sky'; 3,000 camels stolen by the Chaldeans; and the house of the firstborn destroyed by a mighty wind, killing Job's ten children. Still Job does not curse God, but instead shaves his head, tears his clothes, and says, "Naked I came out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return: Lord has given, and Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."
Satan then solicits permission to afflict his person as well, and God says, "Behold, he is in your hand, but don't touch his life." Satan, therefore, smites him with dreadful boils, and Job, seated in ashes, scrapes his skin with broken pottery. His wife prompts him to "curse God, and die," but Job answers, "You speak as one of the foolish speaks. Moreover, shall we receive good from God and shall not receive evil?"
Three friends of Job come to console him. The friends spend seven days sitting on the ground with Job and through dialogues make clear that they believe that Job must have sinned to incite God's punishment. As the speeches progress, Job's friends increasingly berate him for refusing to confess his sins, since Job is firm in his conviction that he did not sin. The friends’ theology assumes that God always rewards good and punishes evil, with no apparent exceptions allowed. There seems to be no room in their understanding of God for divine discretion and mystery in allowing and arranging suffering for purposes other than retribution.
God responds saying that there are so many things Job does not know about how this world was formed or how nature works, that Job should consider God as being greater than the thunderstorm and strong enough to pull in the leviathan with a fish-hook. God then rebukes the three friends and says, "I am angry with you... you have not spoken of me what is right." The story ends with Job restored to health, with a new family and twice as prosperous.
 A fourth, Eliahu ben Barakhel begins talking in Chapter 32, plays a significant role in the dialogue, but his arrival is not described
Please read the following excerpts from the Book of Job and find linguistic connections between them and the passages below, from narratives of Avraham.
Now try to find thematic connections (ideas or concepts) between those two stories, Avraham and Job. Are they different types of heroes? The same? How so?
Our search is guided by the anticlimactic epilogue to the Akeda story in Genesis:
Some time later, Abraham was told, “Micah too has borne children to your brother Nahor: Uz the first-born, and Buz his brother and Kemuel the father of Aram; and Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Betuel” – Betuel being the father of Rebekah. (Gen. 22:20-23)
These few verses at the end provide a key to the intertextual link. If we look closely at these names, we note that they serve as a point of departure for another text, one that appears much later in the canon, and that will engage in a literary interpretive dialogue with the story of the binding of Isaac. Specifically names of the characters in the Book of Job. These similarities are especially noteworthy in that the names in question rarely appear elsewhere in the Bible. Moreover the sheer number of cross-references of such obscure names between these two biblical books renders them worthy of comparison.
The first such link takes the name of Nahor’s first born, Uz, and recasts it in the Book of Job as the name of the title character’s place of residence: There was a man in the land of Uz named Job” (Job 1:1).
Another character from the end of the Abraham narrative that finds his way into the Book of Job is Buz, brother of Uz, Buz is listed as the place of origin of one of Job’s friends: “Then Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, was angry – angry at Job because he thought himself right against God” (Job 32:2).
Still another brother, Kesed receives a literary nod: “This one was still speaking when another came and said, ‘A Chaldean formation, Kasdim (plural of Kesed), of three columns made a raid on the camels and carried them off and put the boys to the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you’” (Job 1:17).
These are echoes from one story to the next that invite us to a broader comparison of the two narratives. Looking closer we will note that the linguistic interconnections extend much farther than names of people and places – they extend to basic concepts.
For example, the climax of the story of the binding of Isaac comes when God bestows a rare accolade upon Abraham: Now I know that you are God fearing - יְרֵא אֱלֹקִים yere Elohim” (Gen.22:12). Similarly, at the beginning of the book, Job is described as “blameless and upright; he was God-fearing, יְרֵא אֱלֹקִים yere Elohim, and shunned evil” (1:2). Abraham and Job are the only two individual biblical characters to be defined either by the text’s narrative voice or by God as יְרֵא אֱלֹקִים yere Elohim.
Another clear connection between Job and Abraham is found at the book’s end, when Job claims that he is but dust and ashes, עָפָר וָאֵפֶר afar va-efer (42:6). This is a self-reference employed by only one other biblical figure: Abraham. “Abraham spoke up saying, ‘Here I venture to speak to my Lord, I who am but dust and ashes, עָפָר וָאֵפֶר afar va-efer’” (Gen. 18:27). Moreover, despite their suffering, both men find peace at the end of their lives. “And Abraham breathed his last, dying at a good ripe age, old and contented, זָקֵן וְשָׂבֵעַ zaken v-savea‘ (Gen. 25:8).” Similarly: “So Job died old and contented, זָקֵן וּשְׂבַע יָמִים zaken u-seva‘ yamim” (Job 42:17).
 Aside from the Akeda story, Uz appears as a name in two other places in the Torah; two of these names are then repeated in Chronicles. Uz is the name of a place in two verses outside of Job. Uz appears as a name in three places outside of the Akeda and Job narratives. As a name, Kesed appears only in the Akeda story; the nation Kasdim appears many times.
 In the Bible, it is common for names of people to reappear as names of places. For example, see Gen. 10:4,6, in which the names Yavan, Mitzrayim, and Canaan refer to individuals. Later, they will all become well known as the names of nations.
 The plural form of Kesed points to another Abraham-Job comparison: Abraham’s birth place is Ur Kasdim (pl. of Kesed). Gen. 11:28.
 Abraham and Job are two of only four biblical characters for whom this formula is used. Isaac and David are the other two.
If the number of linguistic similarities between the two stories is striking, the rare nature of the shared terms and concepts is yet more impressive. But what are we to make of all these connections?
In the stories of Abraham and Job, some basic similarities are obvious, such as the featuring of God-fearing men who face a mortal threat by God to their offspring. But the two stories play upon each other in more complete ways as well. For example, while the Akeda ended with God’s faithful servant receiving the title “God-fearing,” the Book of Job begins by bestowing this distinction upon its hero. This sequencing suggests the presence of a sequel in that the Book of Job begins where the story of the Akeda ended.
But the Book of Job is no ordinary sequel to the Abraham narrative. While the conventional sequel extends the original, bringing it to its logical conclusions, the biblical sequel, which is often subversive in nature, takes the original story back to its beginnings. It then challenges the very premises on which the story is built and reworks many of its conclusions. As we have seen, the Akeda left us with an uneasy equilibrium. Although God threatened to overturn the divine system of justice by demanding the death of an innocent youth, in the end, God restores order as His angel instructs Abraham to spare Isaac. The subversive sequel refuses to accept this unnaturally sanguine conclusion, instead demanding further analysis. This type of sequel poses a series of “what if” questions: What if - as is frequently the case in the real world – the evil decree is not miraculously repealed at the last moment and the innocent actually suffer? We wonder what the God-fearing human hero might say, were his mouth to be unsealed and he could protest the injustice. Would God tolerate his objections? Might God reverse, or even apologize for, underserved human anguish?
The Book of Job takes up these questions by placing its hero in circumstances that are similar to those of Abraham, but exacerbated. As we have seen, both stories feature the suffering of righteous men as their children are imperiled by God. But the story quickly spins in a radically new direction when, in the Book of Job, God actually allows the blameless children to die. Moreover, ratcheting up the injustice, the hero loses not one, but ten children.
These differences lead to the most striking point of contrast between the two stories, which is Abraham’s silent compliance with God’s plan to kill the innocent as opposed to Job’s outspoken objections to God’s injustice. Abraham proved his ability to call God to task in Sodom when he boldly insisted that a just God must act justly (Gen. 18:25). But at the Akeda, Abraham’s assertive stance gives way to an unquestioning compliance with God’s morally perplexing decree. In the end, God is pleased with Abraham’s willingness to obey Him (22:12) and seemingly with Abraham’s silence as well. In contrast, as Job’s life is unjustly shattered, the hero rejects all attempts to accept God’s actions as justified and instead demands answers from God with ever-increasing audacity. Yet despite his contentious words, so antithetical to the wordless obedience of the God-fearing Abraham, God upholds Job’s responses over those of his friends, God’s apologists. God instructs Job’s friends to bring sacrifices and to have Job pray for them, “since you have not spoken to Me correctly as did My servant Job” (42:8). In this, the subversive sequel to the binding of Isaac narrative, to be God’s beloved servant no longer requires voiceless acceptance of all God’s actions and decrees. Rather it is to protest God’s injustice and to demand a quality of life commensurate with one’s deeds.
The subversive sequel adds a dimension of exegesis that is inaccessible through close readings and ordinary intertextual comparisons alone. By focusing not only on similarities between texts, but on the ongoing revisions of the Bible’s stories, the subversive sequel measures the dynamic movement that takes place between one story and another. In the example of Abraham and Job, this type of analysis tracks the hero as he evolves from God’s stalwart soldier into an unrelenting critic of the divine right to wreak injustice upon the world.
 Abraham’s compliance may be detected in the string of action verbs (in Gen. 22:3), unaccompanied by questions or objections, that constitute his response to God’s command. “Abraham arose early in the morning and he saddled his ass and he took his two lads with him as well as his son Isaac and he split the wood for the burnt offering and he arose and he went to the place of which God had told him” (22:3).